By Melissa Clark, The New York Times
Up against the wide-ranging appeal of sweet corn and juicy, ripe tomatoes, okra will probably never be crowned summer’s most popular vegetable. But those of us who love it do so passionately, whether it’s stewed until silky, fried until crunchy or, as this recipe showcases, broiled until the edges crisp and the center softens — and without any of the gooeyness that gives some people pause.
Okra has a long growing season, from early summer until the first frost. The smallest pods — preferably shorter than your thumb — are the most tender, and best for roasting and broiling. (Save the bigger ones for stews, soups and braises.) Look for okra pods that are grass green (or red tinged or even slightly purple, depending on the variety) but without any browning or dark streaks, which indicates they’ve been sitting around for a while. The longer they sit, the tougher and woodier they can become: Like ears of fresh corn, the sooner you can cook okra after picking, the sweeter and plumper it will be.
Okra doesn’t need much by way of preparation before cooking. Just give it a rinse and trim off the tops. Then, use it whole or sliced — in this case, lengthwise right down the middle. A toss with olive oil and salt, and it’s ready for a quick stint under the broiler. Ten minutes or less should do it.
Since okra plays well with spices, I like to season the charred pods with ground cumin as soon as they come out of the broiler; the heat from the pods brings out the cumin’s earthy flavor. Often, I’ll stop there, and pair my broiled and spiced okra with a dollop of yogurt seasoned with grated garlic and salt. To me, it’s a perfect light and speedy dinner, or even a hearty working-from-home lunch. It may be more work than the fruit, yogurt and granola bowl I usually have, but only slightly.
But for this recipe, I plop the crispy okra on top of a mix of greens, vegetables and herbs, then drizzle it all with a yogurt dressing. A topping of quick-pickled red onions adds color and a kick of lime juice.
Tangy, creamy and caramelized, this is the kind of salad that may win over any okra doubters in your circle. And if it doesn’t, well, that means there will be even more for you.
Recipe: Charred Okra Salad With Garlicky Yogurt
By Melissa Clark
Yield: 3 to 4 servings
Total time: 30 minutes
- 2 limes, halved
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne, plus more to taste
- 1 1/4 pounds okra pods (about 7 cups), washed, stem ends trimmed, pods halved lengthwise
- 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup whole-milk plain yogurt
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated or minced
- 2 cups baby lettuces, Little Gem or Boston lettuce, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup arugula or radicchio, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup coarsely chopped mixed herbs, such as cilantro, basil and dill
- 3/4 cup thinly sliced cucumber
- 3/4 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
1. Squeeze the juice of half a lime into a bowl and add the red onion slices, then stir in honey, a large pinch each of salt and pepper, and cayenne. Let sit at room temperature while preparing the other ingredients (or for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld). Stir occasionally. Before serving, taste and add more salt or squeeze in more lime juice, if you like.
2. Heat the broiler and line a sheet pan with foil. Add okra to the pan, drizzle with enough oil to coat the pods and sprinkle with salt, tossing well. Arrange okra into one layer. Broil until tender and charred, 5 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with cumin right out of the oven while still hot. Taste and add more salt or cumin, if you like. Let cool slightly.
3. While the okra broils, make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine yogurt, garlic and a squeeze or two of lime juice. Slowly whisk in 3 to 4 tablespoons of oil until the dressing has the texture of heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, combine lettuce, arugula, herbs, cucumber and tomato. Season to taste with a squeeze of lime juice, a little more olive oil to coat the vegetables, and salt and pepper, tossing well.
5. To serve, plate salad individually. Top with okra. Drizzle with yogurt dressing, and garnish with some of the cayenne onions. Serve immediately.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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