Pumpkins, pears, pomegranates, apples, Brussels sprouts..... It must be fall.
BUT WAIT A COTTON-PICKIN' minute, you guys. It's still Indian summer down south and our fields, and markets, are still full of late summer-season favorites, like fall tomatoes, eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, squash, and OKRA.
My early distaste for okra is well-documented. I was stubborn about the stuff. No matter the preparation, I was just not interested.
Until, that is, I grew my own. Okra loves this dry, intense Texas heat, and I began to love anything that would flourish in the
It may be poor for eating chips with,
It may be hard to come to grips with,
But okra's such a wholesome food
It straightens out your attitude
Song of Okra Roy Blunt, Jr.
I pickled it. I stewed it. I canned it. I sold it. I roasted it. I grilled it. And today....I frittered it!
I'ma be honest with you. This, right here, is how this recipe was developed:
Once a month, I have the honor of being the guest chef for a cooking demonstration for fresh, seasonal, local produce at the Cedar Park Farmers' Market and the Mueller Farmers' Market. The idea behind my appearance is to prepare a seasonal dish, using the market's bounty and little of anything else. It's about helping real, live, home cooks to come up with ideas and dishes around the fresh fare they see at the market that day. I arrive at the market without even knowing, for certain, what will be offered by the farmers and vendors that day. Just like most market-shoppers arrive. So I'm often doing some fast pedaling in my head, coming up with the day's meal, dish, bite, demo of the day.
Organicare Farms, whole milk and cheeses from Mill-King and Dos Lunas, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Texas Hill Country Olive Company, all market vendors, I gathered what was most in abundance at the market this weekend:
Okra-- from Tecolote Farm and Bernhardt Farm
Mixed Peppers & Onions--from Johnson's Backyard Garden
Tomatoes-- from Engel Farms
Elephant Garlic-- from Hairston Creek Farm
This was an impromptu, casual dish, just like the impromptu, casual meals I might make for dinner. Depending upon the number of diners in your world, adjust quantities to best fit your needs. For our demonstration, the following casual measurements were employed:
Pepper Tomato Saute
Approximately 1 bulb elephant garlic, 3 yellow onions, 1 pound of mixed sweet peppers, 5 large tomatoes, 1-2 Tablespoons coriander seeds, (I crush, slightly, with the help of a mortar and pestle. They can be left whole, as well.), 1-2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Approximately 1 pound of okra to yield 30 small fritters, one package gluten-free cornbread mix from Organicare Farms, 3 whole eggs, 1 pint whole milk, 2-3Tablespoons of your favorite seasonings (I used a leek garlic dried seasoning mix with celery salt and a little dill. Herbes de Provence would work, as well as anything with cinnamon and ginger, like, perhaps, a 5-spice powder blend).
About a cup of cooking oil (grapeseed oil would be ideal for the high heat of fritter-frying).
Pepper Tomato Saute
Warm 2T cooking oil in a heavy skillet until shimmering. Add garlic, sliced thinly, and stir frequently to avoid scorching. Remove from oil. Add onions and peppers, coriander and thyme,and saute until limp. Add chopped tomatoes (I tossed in skins, seeds, and all. No fussy preparation for market demos, weekday meals, or Meatless Mondays, whatever the case may be.) Continue to saute until tomatoes release juice, return reserved garlic to the mix, add vinegar, and continue to simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes over medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
Prepare fritter batter: To make a thin fritter batter without a lot of fuss, I added 3 whole eggs and 1 pint of whole milk to one package of Organicare gluten-free cornbread mix(which instructed 1 whole egg and 1/4 cup milk for cornbread preparation.) Season batter, as suggested, above.
Clean and dry okra with paper toweling. Slice crosswise, thinly, and add to prepared batter. Stir to coat, avoiding 'over-stirring', which will make the batter dense and a bit soggy-- a waste of the leavening ingredients. We want light and airy, here, so don't overwork the batter. Leave. Well. Enough. ALONE.
Remove from heat and allow to drain on paper toweling.
Top Okra fritter with warm Pepper Tomato Saute, garnish with crumbled cheese. Serve warm.
Once a month, I have the honor of being the guest chef for demonstrations at the Texas Farmers' Markets, Cedar Park and Mueller locations. If you find yourself in the Austin area, looking for a market nearby, chances are these markets are close! And if you'd like to drop by for a visit with me, I'd love to see you and I'll save you the best samples!