10 Ways Tuesday: Okra

Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe for Okra with Tomato, Lemon and Cilantro (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with okra:

1.  Roasted Okra Mezze with Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Olives, and Preserved Lemons

Mezze is to Middle Eastern cuisine what tapas is to Spanish cuisine- sexy little plates of appetizers with bold flavors to stimulate the appetite. In Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi shares a recipe for Okra with Tomato, Lemon and Cilantro that’s not just good – it’s entertaining good, it’s give me more good, it’s I love okra good. For the recipe, he stews onions, bell peppers, red chile, tomatoes, and cilantro with coriander seeds and sweet paprika. While the vegetables simmer away on the stove, whole okra pods are tossed with olive oil and salt, then roasted in the oven for a few minutes until tender. To serve, stir the okra into the stewed vegetables, along with black olives, preserved lemons, and mint. I served the dish as a mezze with flatbread, but Yotam suggests it would be fantastic atop steamed bulgur wheat or couscous. This recipe is guaranteed to change your mind about okra.

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Ingredient of the Week: Okra

Okra (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

“What kind of peppers are these?” the cashier at the grocery store asked me. “Those aren’t peppers, they’re okra,” I replied. I couldn’t fault her. Growing up in the south, fried okra was a big part of my diet, but I had never actually seen the whole pod, naked, without a crisp coating of cornmeal or cloaked in stewed tomatoes. It wasn’t until I left home and began buying my own groceries at farmer’s markets that I saw the fresh pods, shaped like a “lady’s fingers” (as they’re called in India), covered in a fine fuzz and colored green or purple. Okra is such a staple in southern cooking that it’s hard for me to fathom how you feel about it, though I’m willing to bet you either love it, hate it, or have no idea what it is.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s sentiment, “Vegetables are never rightfully hated, merely misunderstood.” especially rings true for okra. It’s human nature to fear things we don’t understand, such as okra, which doesn’t look like any other vegetable, nor does the flesh cook like any other vegetable. Okra is not easy to love; it requires thoughtful preparation and responds well only to very specific cooking techniques. Learning to love okra is no more difficult than eggplant, beets, or kale; it’s a matter of focusing on the vegetable’s positive attributes rather than trying to make it behave like something it’s not. Okra will never be easygoing like a tomato, or refreshing as a cucumber. To really get to know okra is to discover a taste reminiscent of asparagus, with a delightful texture that is both crunchy and juicy at the same time.

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Cook in the Moment: Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Shrimp, and Chili-Lime Vinaigrette

Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Shrimp, and Chili-Lime Vinaigrette (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

In Boulder, Colorado, the farmer’s market is at its peak for summer. I can’t believe my eyes – such a variety of produce! Our short growing season means it takes us awhile to catch up with the bounty everyone else is enjoying across the country. Up until August it’s all kale and swiss chard, salad greens and beets. For the few weeks in August when I can find every kind of chili pepper imaginable, beans (green, yellow, and purple!), tomatoes, corn, peaches, plums, okra, carrots, apples, and melons, I think, “This must be what it’s like to live in California.” Seeing all the colors, shapes, and textures is a major boost to my mood and I greedily fill my basket. At home, the challenge is to carefully store everything in the fridge and make plans for enjoying the glut before it starts to deteriorate. Salads are easy and satisfying, cherished during these last days of summer. Like Cinderella, I know the clock is ticking and soon the party will be over.

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10 Ways Tuesday: Sweet Corn

Elote Asado (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with sweet corn during summer:

1.  Elote Asado

I just discovered Elote Asado this summer, and I’m completely obsessed with it. This traditional Mexican street food is simply grilled corn on the cob slathered in thick cream, coated in grated cheese, and sprinkled with ground red chile pepper. Rick Bayless includes the recipe for Elote Asado in his book, Authentic Mexican (a must for your cookbook collection). Many versions of this technique can be found across the web, but I’ve found my favorite method is to buy the freshest corn I can get my hands on at the local farmer’s market, remove the husk, brush the ears with olive oil and toss them on a grill for about 12 minutes, turning occasionally, until it’s nicely caramelized. Brush the corn with mayonnaise, roll in grated parmesan, then sprinkle with a mixture of smoked Spanish paprika and cayenne (I like it spicy). The combination of sweet corn, tangy mayo, salty cheese and spicy chile is just fantastic.

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Ingredient of the Week: Sweet Corn

Peaches and Cream Sweet Corn from Munson's Farm in Boulder (c)2012 LaDomestique

If you’ve been watching the news you may think there will be no sweet corn harvest this year due to extreme heat and drought across the “corn belt” of the United States. When I turn off the tv and head to the Boulder Farmer’s Market, I find Munson’s farm stand overflowing with large, vibrantly green ears of fresh peaches and cream corn. I asked one of the farm stand workers how their season is going, and he said it’s going to be a bountiful harvest. Though our dry summer in Colorado has been marked by fires and drought, Munson farm reports their access to irrigation water and the warm weather ensured a “long fruitiful season.” This makes me wonder, are big agriculture is feeling the devastation of parched crops more than the smaller operations selling at farmer’s markets? Corn prices at the farmer’s market in Boulder are unchanged from last year, and the corn is just as gorgeous as ever. So this week at la Domestique, we celebrate sweet corn as ingredient of the week.

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