In the spirit of cooking with good, fresh local produce this summer, I picked up one of my favorite summer vegetables, okra, at the Rainbow Grocery Co-op in San Francisco. Rainbow has become my new favorite place to go grocery shopping. You will find an amazing produce section, an unparalleled selection of bulk goods including oils and nut butters, and all things fresh, healthy, and sustainable. What you will not find there, however, is meat. No bother; the plethora of goodies found at Rainbow easily make up for not having a meat counter. Really, Rainbow is probably the next best thing to a farmers market.
Anyway, back to the veggies. I don't cook with okra very often, although I'm not sure why. Okra is a strange vegetable, a cross somewhere between a pepper and a zucchini, with a tacky exterior and sticky paste that oozes out when cut open. One of these days I am going to have to find out what that goo is all about.
That sticky interior makes it perfect for clinging to other things, like breading, which is probably why it is so often found coated in corn meal and sizzling in several inches of oil. For this dish, I was going for something slightly less fattening than the southern classic fried okra. I think these veggies might just make it on our list of regular favorites in the Tiny Kitchen, and it reminded me of just how much I love okra. And tomatoes. Oh, and garlic and corn.
The recipe below is pretty adaptable; add, subtract or change for your tastes, or for what's in season. Remember, they're just vegetables.
Broiled Okra with Tomatoes, Corn and Garlic
12 - 18 grape tomatoes
6 - 8 okra stalks, cleaned and cut into rounds
8 - 10 cloves of garlic, peeled
Kernels from 1 ear of corn
6 basil leaves, roughly chopped (for garnish)
Slice tomatoes in half and place halves and garlic cloves on a jelly roll pan. Drizzle in olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Broil about 5" from heat for 5 minutes. Toss corn and okra with about 1/2 tbs of oil, season with salt and pepper. Add to jelly roll pan, and return to oven. Broil for another 5 minutes, or until veggies start to brown. Sprinkle with basil, and serve.
Note: If grape tomatoes aren't your thing, use a regular tomato, halved, and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Or whole cherry tomatoes. Or add some red onion. Or whatever. What am I, your mother?
The pork chops were really just so we would have a meat to go with these yummy veggies. The greenish sauce on top is my feeble attempt at a light tomatillo salsa, and it could use some tweaking. But the chops, for what it's worth, went a little something like this:
Season pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper.
Pan sear the chops for a few minutes on either side, until both sides are browned. Put chops in a 375 deg oven with some olive oil and garlic cloves for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until cooked through.
My Rough Tomatillo Salsa:
12 tomatillos, halved
6 - 8 cloves of garlic
1 poblano pepper, chopped
A handful of cherry or grape tomatoes
The juice of one lime
A handful of basil leaves
1 tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Throw all ingredients into a food processor, pulse until it becomes a sauce.
So the sauce was good, very fresh tasting and light. But it was just a wee bit too spicy. Maybe not so much pepper next time. Maybe an onion. This is what makes cooking fun, right? But the veggies were the real point of the dinner, and they were perfect. The bright, fresh flavors really mixed well together, and the only real problem was that I didn't make enough for leftovers.