Ok all you okra lovers, here is one for you. I know okra is not for everybody and that's ok, that leaves more for me. In this recipe I am combining two of my (many) favorite things: okra and smoked paprika. Smoked paprika, or pimenton, is a spice I feel should be in every pantry. You can get sweet or spicy varieties of this, though often they are not labeled as such, so just get what you can.
This ground, smoked paprika imparts a strong signature taste to foods, so for those with a sensitive palate who have not tried it, feel free to reduce the amount in this recipe. I really like it to stand out. For some recipes that usually call for pork or smoked meats as a flavor element, like split pea soup, it is a wonderful spice to add that missing flavor, but I encourage all to become familiar with it. It is also lovely to add a little to the olive oil when making a nice crispy fried egg. Smoked paprika adds a twist to potato salad. Try a dash in gazpacho, or sprinkled on sweet corn with butter and pepper too.
As tomatoes and okra come into season in your area, snatch up some small, tender okra and some meaty tomatoes. Roma style tomatoes work really well, but I have used other firm fleshed tomatoes. What you have on hand will do, though softer tomatoes will melt into this dish more, and that is just dandy too. I am picky about my okra. Sometimes larger okra can still be tender, but your best bet is the smaller ones. Feel the outside and avoid any that feel too firm or are woody. The okra I choose are usually around three to four inches long and even the top part above the pod are tender enough to eat when cooked.
This is a recipe that does benefit from cooking in a large heavy bottomed saute pan or wide heavy bottomed pot, both with tight fitting lids. This allows the okra room to fry a bit in the oil during the saute process which will decrease the "slimy" texture the okra can produce. There, I said it! Yes, okra can sometimes be slimy, and it is actually prized for it's thickening ability in soups and stews. But.....I find that this recipe does not have that texture at all. The okra are simply soft, tender and flavorful. So, look for a large pan, or in a pinch, split the recipe into two pans.
This is a great side dish for a cook-out, pot luck, or as a simple dinner with rice and fried eggs. Actually, it's one of my husbands favorite dinners. And don't knock it for breakfast either!
Smokey Stewed Okra and Tomato
- 2 1/2 to 3 C okra, 1/3 inch bias cut
- 4 to 6 Roma tomatoes, depending on size
- 1 small yellow or white onion
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 Tsp smoked paprika, sweet or hot
- 1/2 Tsp sea salt
- 1/4 Tsp fresh ground pepper
Wash and dry the okra and tomatoes. If your okra are larger or a little tough, consider removing the top ends right where the pod starts. If the okra are fairly tender, leave the tops on and slice all the okra to 1/3 inch thick bias cut. Any length of cut is ok, but I cut mine about 1 inch long. Chop the tomatoes into roughly 3/4 inch cubed chunks. If you have large Romas, use about 4, if they are smaller or really small use 6 or more. You need enough tomato to produce the stewing liquid. Mince the garlic and measure out the smoked paprika, pepper and salt. Combine these in a small dish to add to the pan together.
Heat a large, heavy bottomed saute pan with a lid, or a heavy bottomed pot with a lid over medium high heat. A 12 inch saute pan or a pot with a width of at least 8 inches will help the okra fry in the oil initially, reducing the viscous texture. If the pot or pan is too small, the ingredients will steam more. When the pan or pot is hot, add 2 Tbsp plus 2 Tsp olive oil, the onion and the okra and stir continuously. After about 5 minutes the onion and okra start to soften and get a little brown on the edges. Now clear a small space in the pan, add the remaining Tsp of olive oil, the garlic, smoked paprika, pepper and salt and fry the spices for about 15 seconds before mixing into the okra and onions.
Reduce the pan to just below medium heat, cover tightly and allow to stew for 15 minutes. Stir a couple of times in the first few minutes to make sure the heat is low enough, the contents are not sticking, and the juice is coming out of the tomatoes. You should not need to add any water but if you see the mixture is too dry, add a few Tbsp at a time.
After 15 minutes, check the okra to see if it is tender. If you would like it slightly more done, cook for 5 minutes more. Serve hot. The okra will be best for 5 days refrigerated.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings