Recipes for okra, the unheralded star of summer

I love okra. Like, in an “I’m in a deeply committed relationship with okra” kind of way. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating every end of August, when the weather is steadily, stagnantly hot and all you want to do it gather with friends in their outdoor patio at sunset with a cold glass of rosé. That feeling always leaves me craving okra, fresh out the deep-fryer, sizzling and crunchy from a light cornmeal coating and piled high on a paper-towel-lined plate. If you come over to my place at any point during this time of year, that’s what you’re getting served — even if we have to enjoy it at a table by my apartment complex’s pool instead of a private backyard.

My partner shares this devotion to okra, so we’re eating it at least three nights a week. It plays well with so many ingredients — any meat, fish or other summer veggies — so it’s always welcome at our table.

One of my favorite one-pot-ish meals to make with it is my Braised Okra And Chicken with Caramelized Lemon and Olives. Think of it as an okra-fied tagine-like dish and serve it with couscous or rice or tear into it with some hot flatbread. If you want to stay in that region of the world but want something vegetarian, try my Crunchy Roast Okra with Golden Labneh, which you could easily make vegan by swapping the yogurt for a plant-based substitute. A coating of brown sugar and smoked paprika lend the okra some smoky sweetness to contrast with the spicy chile-and-ginger-laden yogurt, but forgo the dry spice mix on the okra if you don’t have everything in your pantry.

Another all-in-one winner (I’ve heard this from several friends who make it repeatedly) is my Charred Okra and Corn Salad with Spicy Sausage Vinaigrette, which combines seared okra, fresh corn, burstingly ripe tomatoes and sweet Jimmy Nardellos (or regular red bell peppers) with a vinaigrette made with the rendered fat from spicy Italian sausage. It’s a way to highlight all the peak summer produce you love with meat as a background player.

For a similar but fully vegetarian recipe, try my Stir-Fried Okra with Corn and Red Chiles, which comes together in less than 25 minutes. Spicy Fresno chiles perk up the okra and corn here while soy sauce, brown sugar and toasted sesame oil bring out all the umami, sweet and nutty flavors of the vegetables.

And when I’ve overbought okra at the farmers market, I make a batch of Spicy Quick-Pickled Okra with any stragglers left in my fridge at the end of the week. A traditional pickling brew spiced with dried chiles, mustard seeds and garlic flavors these pickles, which keep for weeks but never last that long in my house since they go so well with wine and chips, which is a nightly affair during these last, long summer evenings.

Braised Okra And Chicken with Caramelized Lemon and Olives

Sephardic cooking traditions of Morocco, as well as North African tagines and Mediterranean stews, influence this braised dish of chicken and okra. Often such dishes are flavored with preserved lemons, but here, regular lemons, caramelized in the chicken’s rendered fat, add brightness to the sauce, thickened with tomato paste.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

Crunchy Roast Okra with Golden Labneh

This dish uses the high heat of the oven to rid the okra of its moisture and hydrate the brown sugar and spice rub, which cools to a crunchy, crackling shell. It’s served over labneh colored gold by turmeric and flavored with chiles, garlic and ginger for a spicy contrast to the sweet, smoky okra.
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Cook time: 50 minutes.

overhead shot of okra on labneh

(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

Charred Okra and Corn Salad with Spicy Sausage Vinaigrette

This dish is fantastic hot, but it still tastes great after a couple hours sitting at room temperature. The heat and spices in the sausage add a ton of flavor to the sweet corn, peppers and green, toothsome okra. Use the ripest tomato you can find for the best flavor. And if you like, add chunks of mozzarella, feta or goat cheese to the salad at the end before serving.
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Cook time: 40 minutes.

Okra and corn salad recipe by Ben Mims.

(Ben Mims/Los Angeles Times)

Stir-Fried Okra with Corn and Red Chiles

Hot oil blisters okra and wicks away its slime almost instantaneously in this quick stir-fry. The okra combines with another late-summer staple, corn, and fiery red chiles, scallions and garlic. A touch of brown sugar highlights the sweetness in the corn, while soy sauce and toasted sesame oil enhance the okra’s umami depth.
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Cook time: 25 minutes.

bowls of stir fry

(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

Spicy Quick Pickled Okra

Okra works wonderfully as a pickle, the brine helping to rid some of the sliminess of the pod while allowing it to retain a hearty crunch. These pickled pods are a fun replacement for green olives in martinis for “Southern-style” spin.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 15 minutes.

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