Okra is one of those vegetables about which people tend to have opinions. I happen to like okra-on occasion and in moderation (and I even like the slime)-which is why I am very pleased to have a freezer in which I can store okra when it is season and parcel it out to myself if I am in the mood. The only way Richard will eat okra is dusted in cornmeal and fried in a hot skillet with oil -- because that is about the only way to cook okra without the oozing slime (cooking okra in liquid seems to make the slime worse) but Richard does not want me to cook with a lot of fat. so I don't.
I was given a nice quantity of okra on Friday, and decided to cook some of it and take it to the pitch in dinner at church on Sunday, which would have ham as the meat. I have two favorite okra recipes, both are from the Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant cookbook, which is a vegetarian cookbook. One of them is West African Groundnut stew, which can be found here and perhaps elsewhere as well, and the other is jambalaya, of which there are probably a jillion versions.
West African Groundnut stew is absolutely delightful (and I think it would taste even better with coconut milk instead of the juice, which I have used anyway) but Richard has opinions about what it reminds him of after it is cooked and in the bowl. I thought jambalaya would taste good with the ham and and might not look quite so much like something that had erupted unexpectedly from the digestive tract. I chopped all of the okra and froze about half of it and the rest I used in the jambayala.
And yes, there was a bit of slime on the cutting board and the knife, but not bad. Just as the jambayala was finished, and I had just started to clean up the mess in the kitchen, Richard shot a squirrel. So, I moved outside on the back porch with the cutting board and the knife and worked on fixing the squirrel so it could go into the crock pot.
Finished with that task, I took bleach solution outside to clean the cutting board and left it to dry while I came back to finish cleaning up the mess in the kitchen. I forgot about the cutting board though, and this morning when Richard brought it in after being outside for 2 nights, it had several meandering slime trails from slugs, which is a heck of a lot harder to get off than okra slime.
And for the record, the jambayala was a hit at the church meal. People ate it. They actually ate it. (this is a major deal or me: I have a history of making things that nobody will eat). And someone actually said "This is good. Can I have the recipe?" You might like it too... and it is good without the okra if you don't have any of that; or if you want to add meat (sausage, shrimp, catfish, ham) you can do that too.
3 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 cup carrots, sliced diagonally, 1/8 inch thick
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups coarsely chopped red and green bell peppers
2 tsp dried basil (2 tbsp fresh)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
10 ounces frozen whole baby okra, 2 cups fresh whole baby okra (I used 2 cups chopped okra)
3 cups vegetable stock (use juice from canned tomatoes as part)
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 - 1/2 tsp cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup unbleached white flour
Chop all of the vegetables before starting to cook because you have to do the stew and the roux at the same time, and the roux needs to be stirred almost constantly.
Start the stew in a large stew pot by heating the oil and add the onions, garlic, and bay leaves and sauté, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent.
Start the roux by heating the vegetable oil in a heavy cast iron skillet. The oil should be hot but not smoking. Whisk in all the flour to form a smooth paste. Lower the heat so the roux gently simmers. Stir almost constantly, stopping only to attend to the stew. The roux will very slowly darken. Cook the roux for 20 - 30 minutes, which is about as long as the stew will take to cook. The roux will turns a nutty brown. Don't let it burn.
Once the onions are translucent, stir in the carrots, celery, bell peppers, basil and thyme. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, okra, stock, and remaining spices. Cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
When the stew vegetables are tender, adjust the seasonings and stir in the roux. Simmer the stew on low heat for about 10 minutes more, taking care not to scorch. Remove the bay leaves before serving.