NEXT TIME ON OKRA
I’ve gotta admit, I’m not as experimental as I’d like to be in the cooking department. Maybe it’s laziness. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s the all-too-real time limits that occur when failure means dinner doesn’t hit the table right in the narrow window after work and before bedtime, bath, mandatory book reading, etc. Whatever it is, I’m just not galivanting around willy nilly with the spice jar and ingredient list. Maybe it’s fatherhood—you never want to see your dad doing anything willy-nilly. God forbid he galivants. All that said, sometimes the best things happen by accident.
Recently a good friend of mine asked me to watch his garden while he was out of town. It was an easy enough task—a little watering, some picking, crushing a few leaf-footed bugs. In return I got to keep whatever was ready to be picked. Which is good because my garden isn’t doing much this year. Which is my fault, between impending birth, work and everything else I half-assed it, planted late, under-amended the soil and just let nature take it’s course. Thus far that course has led to one shitty cucumber, a handful of tomatoes and overall sense of failure that looms outside my new son’s bedroom window reminding me that while I might be able to achieve the miracle of life, tomatoes are reserved for the guys who mean business… asshole.
Somehow tomato plants really know how to cut a guy down when they want to.
And don’t think I didn’t have all this in mind as I walked through my buddy’s 45 San Marzano plants. It was enough to cause paranoia and low levels of outright resentment. Granted, asking a friend to watch over your stuff is about as far from gloating as you can get. But still, here he is up to his balls in fruit and I feel like the tender of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree and it’s only June. I suppose no good deed goes unpunished.
In addition to the obscene number of perfectly shaped, insanely good sauce, BLT and salad-making tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants. I picked some early pods of okra that were ready to come off.
I’ve always liked okra quite a bit, even when I was first visiting Texas, living in the northwest and it was what you might call an alien vegetable. The bottom line is, it’s tasty shit. It makes a fine pickle (which in turn garnishes a spicy Bloody Mary like nobody’s business). It completes a gumbo. It also fries, stews and sautés incredibly well. But I literally only had 2 pieces of okra. So I did what was perfectly reasonable: tossed them with a little oil and threw them on the grill for a ‘que side snack as I was cooking up something else. Holy hell it was good.
Slightly blistered over hot coals and tossed with a little tobacco salt it tastes like a down-home version of asparagus and costs about a tenth as much. It cooks up quick enough to serve as an appetizer while you attend to longer grilling steaks, chops and burgers. Should you be eating solo, it grills perfectly in the time you need to rest your steak. Not only that, it washes down a beer just about as good as anything. All of which lead to an all-to-rare experimental success story.
Several pods of okra
Olive Oil (although I suppose you could use bacon fat if you wanted to, which could be interesting)
Coarse kosher salt
To make the tobacco salt put salt in a plate and inundate with tobacco, leave in a warm dry place a few hours, overnight or till it dries. With a hot grill going, toss the okra in the oil. Blister okra on all sides on the grill. Toss with tobacco sauce. Eat and feel like the brilliant innovator you are.