Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sauteed Okra with Quick Tomato Sauce

Tomatoes and okra are a classic combination. This juicy side dish, served with rice or pasta, makes a perfect accompaniment to chicken or fish, such as halibut or catfish.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound small okra (no more than 3 inches long), stems removed
Salt and ground black pepper
4 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the okra and cook, stirring occasionally, until the okra is bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer the okra to a bowl.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the empty pan. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and sugar, bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in the okra and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the basil and adjust the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Personal Note: This is from The Best Recipe cookbook series from America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated. It's in the Perfect Vegetables volume. My mom gave me a zillion of them when I went away on my own to college. Robert loves okra, being all Southern and whatnot (he also likes grape soda and white gravy, ee), and I admitted when I first visited Memphis that it was palatable fried. However, I'd only ever seen it fried or in that snotty monstrosity people who hate okra are familiar with, boiled or whatever in a slimy pile. This is great though--it's ridiculous how easy and quick it is, and now that I've made it a few times I know it's totally foolproof. The okra has this snap or "bite" to it that is just ! It's my favorite way to eat okra now, even more than goes so well with the tomato and the spice of the red pepper. Yum.

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