Stewed Okra and Tomatoes (serves 4 as main, 8 as side)
I've always thought of Thanksgiving as an important holiday for Americans to celebrate our "meltingpot" cultural heritage, and okra is an amazing food that does just that. Originating in modern-day Ethiopia, okra was most likely brought to our country by enslaved Africans (like most delicious southern food). It's also called "gumbo" although it's more likely that you've heard this word in context of soups thickened with okra rather than references to the vegetable itself. Aggie Horticulture writes of the name, "Both of these names are of African origin. 'Gumbo' is believed to be a corruption of a Portuguese corruption, quingombo, of the word quillobo, native name for the plant in the Congo and Angola area of Africa." This dish definitely has its roots in the Cajun and Creole traditions of the south... plus, a version of stewed okra and tomatoes recipe found in Indian cuisine as well. What's more meltingpot than a vegetable and recipe that immigrated to the US from multiple parts of the world? Definitely a contender for a new Thanksgiving side dish tradition.
Confession: Okra's hairy-sliminess isn't always palatable to me... but this recipe breaks down the okra and makes it a smooth texture, plus the flavor of it and the tomatoes comes out beautifully. My grandmother used to make this and for a long time it was the ONLY way I'd eat this vegetable.
What You Need:
2 cups of quartered/cored fresh tomatoes (2 cans of whole tomatoes will do..if you use canned, the Neely's, who I LOVE, of Food Network say to add in the tomato juice from the can, too)
2 cups of sliced okra (I had fresh but a bag of frozen works, too)
1 diced yellow onion
4 slices of bacon + the bacon grease
salt and pepper to taste
if you're feeling frisky... a tsp of red pepper flakes
What To Do:
Start by frying your bacon in your heavy bottomed dutch oven or cast iron pot. While it's cooking, chop the onion, okra, and tomatoes.
Remove the bacon, and sautee' the onion in the bacon grease until it's transluscent. Add in the okra and sautee for about 2 minutes, adding in the tomato and sauteeing for 2 more minutes. Chop the bacon into small pieces to be added back into the dish.
Pour in the chicken stock or water, add in the bacon, and let simmer for 1-2 hours until the flavors have combined adn the vegetables have broken down considerably. It will be thick and smooth in texture, with some okra pieces still in tact. Salt and pepper to taste here, and add in the red pepper flakes if you're going spicy.