If there was ever a veggie I hated when I was a kid, it was okra. Okra and parsnips, the latter of which I could still go without. But that’s another story.
Okra is a strange character. A little seedy and a bit of slimeball, it’s the kind of veggie you don’t want to mess with on the wrong side of the stove. Treat it wrong, and likely it will treat you wrong back.
Handle it right, however, and I’ve learned it can actually become a new friend. One you may just fancy inviting onto your plate.
Human friends and veggie friends alike, they say you get less narrow-minded as you get older. Perhaps that’s been the case with okra. I’m not entirely sure if my change in opinion is primarily a result of my little kid tastebuds growing up, or the new cooking methods I’ve been using. Regardless, I don’t think I’ll ever mess around with any steaming or stewing of okra again. My parents did this one too many times for me to conclude I’m not a fan, even in my old and tastebud-mature age of 23. (Right.)
Okra releases slime when it cooks. Makes it sound so appetizing, right? However, there are ways to reduce this, including cooking them whole and roasting them in the oven. Frying isn’t a bad option either, and as Ree Drummond reveals, you could even eat okra without cooking the pods at all. Who knew? I can’t wait to try a raw version the next time they’re in my kitchen.
Here, I threw the okra in the oven with some garlic to sweeten things up and tomatoes, since ’tis the season for those. It’s a simple preparation that makes a nice meal or side with the addition of bulgur wheat, a traditional tabbouleh staple.
- -1 1/2 cups okra, tops removed
- -1 cup cherry tomatoes
- -7-8 medium cloves of garlic, halved if smaller, quartered if large (you want the pieces to be uniform in size)
- -3/4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
- -1/4 tsp. red chili pepper flakes
- -1/4 of large lemon
- -1/2 cup bulgar wheat
- -1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
- -Salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Place okra, tomatoes and garlic on baking sheet. Whisk together olive oil, red pepper flakes and generous pinch of salt. Drizzle over veggies, and toss to combine. Bake 25-30 minutes, until garlic is soft and tomatoes near bursting. (Check at 20 min. marker. If any garlic pieces are finished, remove and set aside.)
- Meanwhile, place bulgar wheat with 1 1/2 cup of water in a medium pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer, and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until water is absorbed and bulgar is fluffy and tender. Keep covered, and remove from heat. When ready to use, place in large bowl and toss with olive oil, to lightly coat, and season with salt and pepper.
- Cut okra into bite-size pieces. Add roasted okra, tomato and garlic to bowl with bulgar wheat, and toss. Squeeze lemon wedge over top and finish with basil. Serve.