The hot, sticky, okra-pickin'-every-day, dog days of summer clearly are at hand.
In a predictable ritual now, each late afternoon Hubby exits carrying his paring knife, gloves, and plastic bag and heads to the garden to see what's ready on the okra rows.
To be usable for cooking at all, new okra pods must be removed quickly from the plant. Let them stay a day too long, and they're tough as leather; the knife can hardly hack its way through the pod to slice the okra to prepare for a meal. (When this happens, hubby throws the hardened okra on the ground, knowing the pod will leave seeds for the next year's garden.)
At this point many gardeners let their okra go to seed or chop down the mighty plants that by now are as tall as a person. Okra-pickin', at this stage, is not necessarily a joyful task. Sweltering days combined with the itchy okra leaves can make for some unpleasantness. Many okra-pickers find they must wear long-sleeves to avoid succumbing to the itchiness. Interestingly, cutting the okra is like deadheading a rose or a geranium--removing the new pods simply makes more grow in their place.
But I have far too many favorite as well as untried okra recipes remaining in my file to turn my back on this harvest. (As I mentioned in an earlier blog, on years that we don't grow okra, we always regret the lack thereof.)
Plus in my refrigerator I had some ears of fresh corn that needed to be used up in a recipe. Hubby's most recent trek to the garden gave me reason to prepare Okra Creole, a divine veggie combination (okra, corn, tomatoes, onion, green peppers) that holds a place of honor in my new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden. (In the Vegetable Side section of the cookbook it is the first one listed.)
Hubby and I used it to top some leftover pasta we had in the refrigerator. The next night (we loved it so much, we prepared it two nights in a row--with fresh okra each night) we served it over crumbled (low-sodium) tortilla chips. For tonight's leftovers we may serve it over brown rice, but it's wonderful on its own without using it as any kind of extras.
With more dog/okra days undoubtedly ahead, many more trips to the okra "grove" undoubtedly are in Hubby's future.
3 or 4 slices bacon (I use turkey bacon)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 green pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons bacon drippings (I use 3 tablespoons olive oil)
18 okra pods, sliced
2 fresh tomatoes, sliced, or 1 cup canned tomatoes, undrained (if canned, I use the no-salt-added variety)
1 cup fresh corn
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon cajun seasoning (I use salt-free, such as Mrs. Dash)
In large skillet fry 3 or 4 slice bacon. Reserve 3 tablespoons bacon drippings and let it remain in skillet. Crumble bacon. In skillet saute onion and pepper. Return crumbled bacon to skillet. Add sliced okra pods, tomatoes, corn, and seasonings. Simmer covered for 15 minutes.