Warm weather means a bounty of fruits and summer vegetables, like apricots, peaches, and fresh okra. Though okra is actually available year-round if you’re willing to pay the price or buy it frozen, okra has a peak season and the best taste during summer months.
If okra is a new vegetable for you, let me give you some tips on how to shop for the best okra at your produce market or grocers.
Though there are many different types of okra grown, the one most commonly sold around the United States is the Clemson variety. Clemson okra is medium to dark green in color, slightly fuzzy to the touch, and shaped like an elongated sphere with a narrow tip. The tastiest okra pods range in size between 4-6” in length.
Don’t buy your okra pre-bagged or boxed – you want to be able to pick each pod individually. Make sure there are no dark marks, bruising or discolorations on the exterior. Each pod should be firm and dry to the touch.
It’s best to purchase your okra on the day you plan to use it. You can store it wrapped in paper towels in a paper bag in the warmest (and driest) part of your fridge for a day or two at most. Do not try to “save time” by pre-washing the okra, as the water not only speeds decay but encourages okra’s well known mucilage.
Yeah, you read that right – okra forms a mucusy looking, slimy substance that can be a real turn off to eaters. Though okra is a favorite vegetable all through the Southern U.S., many people refuse to eat it because of the slime factor. Can’t say I blame them, but in reality if your okra is slimy it’s due to human error in cooking technique, and not the okra’s fault! When properly prepared, okra has little to no slime – just deliciousness and lots of nutrition like the Okra Corn and Tomato gumbo we’ll be making.
My grandmother taught me several techniques to use which will produce slime free okra dishes and gumbos which I’m going to share with you:
(1) Cooking technique: Fry in cornmeal, roast it in the oven, or saute it in a little oil at high heat to eliminate slime. Boiling it in water, steaming it, etc. puts the okra into contact with too much liquid and produces lots of slime.
(2) Cutting technique: Another tip that helps is cutting it in thicker pieces or even leaving it whole. In this recipe we cut off just the hard tips and the very tip of the cap, and slice the okra with a very sharp knife into pieces no smaller than 1/2” in width (I prefer about ¾” as you see in the photo). Remember, the smaller the pieces, the more slime you’ll have to contend with.
(3) Drying technique: Rinse the okra and let it completely dry before cutting. In other words, if you cut your okra right after rinsing it, you’ll have major problems. The instant the interior flesh comes into contact with water, you’ll get slime. I usually wash the okra in a colander, let it drain for about 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a clean towel and pat it dry. Then I let it sit for another 30-60 minutes or even longer while I do something else.
(4) Acid is your friend: Be sure to cook your okra with something acidic – lemon juice, vinegar, wine, or as we’re doing, with tomatoes.
(5) Use the right pot: Do not use cast iron, brass or copper, as a chemical reaction with the metal turns the okra black. We want to maintain it’s bright green, fresh looking color.
(6) Salt at the end: For some reason adding salt too early in the cooking process increases the amount of slime released from the okra. In this recipe you cook the dish, then add salt and pepper in final minutes on the stove.
Okra, corn and tomatoes is a family favorite dish that we had at most holiday dinners, though it was cooked in bacon grease, and usually included shrimp. I’ve done away with the animal component and kept all the flavor.
Begin by prepping your vegetables. Wash and dry the okra as stated above. Chop your other vegetables and put them in separate containers.
Heat your oil or vegan butter, and saute the onions and bell peppers first for a few minutes before adding the garlic, okra, corn and tomatoes.
Once you mix everything together, you’ll add your vegetable broth. I used about 1 Tablespoon of this diluted into hot water. It’s my go-to favorite if I’ve run out of my own or only need a small amount.
Once everything is mixed together, you’ll get this fabulousness in your pan.
Usually I serve my okra, corn and tomatoes with Jasmine or Basmati rice, but today I felt like having Quinoa instead.
The vegetable broth provides a light, clean taste, and compliments the deliciousness of fresh tomatoes, sweet onions, and fresh crisp sweet corn and okra.
I think you’ll love it and become as much of an okra fan as I am! Be sure to rate and review the recipe, and post a picture of your okra, corn and tomatoes dish.
- 2 teaspoons vegan butter or olive oil
- ½ large Vidalia sweet onion, minced
- 1 lb fresh okra, washed, dried, hard tip trimmed and cut into ½”-3/4” rounds
- 1 ear fresh corn, kernals removed with sharp knife
- 4-5 Roma tomatoes, chopped large
- ½ red bell pepper, chopped small
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon Better Than Bouillon vegetable seasoning paste, dissolved in
- 1-1/2 cups hot water
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
- Cajun seasoning salt or sea salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Cooked rice, Quinoa or other mild grain
- Several hours before preparing dish, rinse okra and drain in colander. When no more water drips, turn okra out onto a clean, dry towel and pat gently to remove all traces of moisture. Let sit out to continue drying until you are ready to cook.
- Prepare remaining vegetables and place each in a separate container.
- When ready to cook, place vegan butter or oil in large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Make sure you pan is large enough that all the ingredients fit without crowding.
- Add the chopped onion and bell pepper, and saute about 4-5 minutes until softened.
- Add the garlic and okra and stir fry about 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and corn and mix well.
- Pour in the vegetable broth water and the cayenne pepper. Stir well.
- Simmer together, uncovered, about 6-8 minutes. Watch pan carefully to avoid overcooking! Vegetables should be crisp-tender, not mushy.
- Remove pan from heat. Add seasoning salt and pepper to taste, stir to mix, and serve immediately over rice.
Get exciting new soul food, Cajun/Creole and classic American recipes done vegan! Check out WHY VEGAN IS THE NEW BLACK: More than 100 Meat and Dairy Free Meal Ideas Your Whole Family Will Love.
Category: Side Dishes