Ahh okra, a quintessential Southern vegetable, and one that I’m embarrassed to say had never tried before this summer. Maybe it’s the rumor I’ve heard that okra can be slimy. Or that every recipe or potluck dish I’ve come across deep fries it until it’s almost unrecognizable. Or for some reason, I’ve thought they’d be tough and tasteless if roasted or grilled. Since these petite pods taunt me every week at Josh’s Farmers Market, I finally decided to take the okra challenge and see how I fared.
Really, how can vegetables this pretty not taste just as good?
Frying vegetables just doesn’t make it for me (too much effort, fat, and calories to lose all of the real taste of farm fresh produce) so I needed to find an alternative cooking method. I just love roasting heartier late summer/fall vegetables such as beets and squash in the oven, so I thought this would be a good bet for the okra too. I combined this gorgeous purple and green okra with super-sweet cherry tomatoes and red onion. A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, a splash of lemon juice, and few cracks of salt and pepper was all that was needed to create an amazing late summer Southern side dish.
To really amp up the gourmet factor, I served the veggies alongside an awesome sheep’s milk Hungarian feta cheese and fresh seared tuna steaks.* (From none other than The Shrimp Connection seafood stand at Josh’s.) For the cheese, most of our local grocery stores only sell the mass-produced cow’s milk feta crumbles. I suggest searching out a higher-quality sheep or goat’s milk feta (I found this Hungarian feta at Whole Foods). It comes as a block in a salty brine and is actually priced lower than the mass-produced crumbles. It’s extra creaminess and salty bite is the perfect complement to the tangy vegetables and seared tuna steaks.
After this meal, it’s safe to say I’m officially on the okra bandwagon. By the way, at no point in the prep, cooking, or eating stages did I witness or taste (gross!) any slime. Maybe that whole slime thing is just a myth, or the okra from Josh’s is incredibly fresh. Either way, I’ll be adding okra to my weekly vegetable list!
*Tuna steaks may look fancy but they are incredibly easy to prepare. Dress the steaks with just a little olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, or your favorite seasoning mix. (This Orange-Ginger Seasoning Shak’r from Wegman’s is my go-to for meats/seafood in Asian meals). On an extra-hot grill, sear each side of the tuna (no longer than 1 minute per side). This will yield a perfectly seasoned steak crust and a beautiful pinkish-red raw center. Don’t be squirmish about raw tuna – high-quality steaks like these are meant to be raw; overcooking will make them tough and dry.
- 1lb fresh okra, rinsed, stems removed, and sliced lengthwise
- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, larger ones halved
- 1/2 red onion, sliced
- ~2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- ~1-2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- Salt and Pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
- 1/4 cup high-quality feta cheese (made with sheep or goat milk),diced
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- While the oven is warming, rinse and de-stem the okra, halve tomatoes, and slice onion. Spread veggies evenly on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Gently toss mixture to coat. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until okra and onions have slightly browned and tomatoes have burst.
- Remove baking sheet from oven. Serve veggies family style in a large, shallow bowl or on a platter.
- If serving in a bowl, you can gently toss the feta cheese with the veggies. I served the feta alongside the vegetable mix and fresh tuna steaks on a large platter.