Okra and tomatoes
Thursday was a day off. A day filled with rambunctious (almost) 3-and-4-year-old boys, an arthritic black lab, and a bag of farmer's market okra. My sister drove down from New Jersey with her sons and dog last week, staying with my parents in Winston-Salem. I don't see them often, so a quick day trip was mandatory. After dropping off Gus Monster with a friend, I high-tailed it to Winston for the day, hanging out with crazy kids for the afternoon.
The day included play time at the pool, big wheel races down a steep driveway, and an early birthday celebration for the soon-to-be-3-year-old, complete with a bunny cake. When it was time to go, my parents insisted that a bag of fresh okra go with me. They said they wouldn't eat them before they went bad, and though I'm not certain that's true, I happily brought the green pods home.
Growing up in the South with Mississippi-raised parents, okra was a regular part of summer suppers. Dredged in four and cornmeal, the sliced pods were fried in vegetable oil until crisp, drained on piles of paper towels, then sprinkled with salt. Brown and crunchy, the fried nuggets appeared next to sliced tomatoes, field peas, butterbeans and cornbread.
I love fried okra, but I've experimented with other cooking methods since leaving home. Grilling has become a favorite, one that allows the vegetable's gentle nature to come forth. Shunned by some for a gooey interior, the fuzzy pods are really very mild. Okra pairs well with acidic players, like lemon and tomato — I combined them with Indian spices for a change of pace from the (delicious, comforting) Southern-fried version.
Between Sunday night thunderstorms, I raced to the grill with CSA cherry tomatoes and the gorgeous green okra from my parents. I tossed them all with oil, salt and pepper, tumeric, cumin and coriander, threaded on skewers, and cooked until tender. A squeeze of acid livened things up — lemon wedges were the perfect garnish.
Grilled Okra and Tomatoes
1/2 pound young okra, pods no more than 4 inches long
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling. Preheat the grill.
Rinse the okra and tomatoes. Trim the tops of the okra pods, but leave them whole. Toss the vegetables with oil, cumin, coriander, tumeric, salt and pepper. Thread the okra pods onto skewers; repeat with tomatoes. (The tomatoes will cook more quickly then the okra, so keep them separate).
Grill over direct, high heat, turning once. The tomatoes will be done within 2-4 minutes, depending on size. Remove from the heat when the skins begin to split. The okra will take roughly 6-8 minutes to cook. Remove from the heat when the pods are lightly charred and they are easily pierced with a knife.
Serve with lemon wedges.