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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Non-gumbo uses for okra

As much as I enjoy cooler weather, I sure do miss the Farmer’s Market being open. Often when I walk past the tables, I get ideas for columns like this one. At the last market I went to, there were plenty of fresh okra being sold. I’m not a big fan of okra in gumbo. I prefer file powder to thicken it up. I do feel that okra is great in vegetarian entrees and side dishes.

With this in mind, I found two recipes that use the pods other than in gumbo. The first one is great as a main dish or side one, Roasted Okra and Peppers. The second one lends itself better as a side dish, Stewed Okra and Tomatoes. Since the Farmer’s Market is done for the year, a trip to the grocery store is on the list. So gather up your ingredients, and Let’s head to the kitchen!

Roasted Okra and Peppers

Here’s a quick and delicious way to serve okra. It’s a vegetarian’s delight. The brown sugar adds sweetness to the peppers that really completes this dish.

1 pound fresh okra, halved lengthwise

4 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips

4 orange bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips

1 red onion, halved and cut into 1-inch-wide strips

5 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise

2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and quartered lengthwise

2 shallots, peeled and quartered

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon firmly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Preheat oven to 400℉.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine okra, bell peppers, onions, garlic, jalapeños, and shallots. Pour olive oil over mixture and stir well to coat. In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Sprinkle mixture over vegetables, stirring to combine. Spread vegetables onto prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

Here’s a great side dish. This recipe also is great with fresh tomatoes. Just make sure that the tomatoes cooked enough before serving.

4 slices bacon

1 cup chopped sweet onions

2 tablespoons sliced garlic

8 cups fresh okra, halved lengthwise

2 (14.5-ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes, drained

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Hot cooked rice (optional)

In a large saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until browned. remove bacon; crumble and set aside, reserving 2 tablespoons bacon dripping in pan. Add onion and garlic to pan, and cook, stirring often, over medium-high heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add okra, tomatoes, chicken broth, sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add crumbled bacon. Serve over hot cooked rice.

From time to time I think it would be nice to grow some of my own vegetables. The problem is I have a black thumb. I can kill a fern. I’m glad we have the Main Street Farmer’s Market. It’s a great way to start your Saturday. When it opens back up next spring, make it a habit. Not only are you getting the freshest product, you are also supporting the local farms. It takes a lot of time and effort for them to bring their products to the Courthouse Square every week. I support them every chance I get. I just wish they were open all year-round.

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