by Norm Budnitz
I’ll say it flat out, “I like okra!”
Some people say it’s too slimy. Others simply say, “Yuck!” The methods of cooking okra for long periods of time that result in a mucilaginous goo leave me wanting something different. I don’t mind stewed okra and tomatoes, just like I’m willing to tolerate eating other veggies that are cooked for a long time, if there’s nothing else available. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are quick and easy ways to cook okra that are simply delicious. As it is, I spend enough time with my okra in the field; I want short and sweet and eat in the kitchen. Read on, recipe at the end.
Okra is a tropical plant in the mallow family, related to cotton, cacao, and hibiscus. I’ve seen it growing profusely in roadside ditches in Madagascar. It thrives in our North Carolina clay soils and hot, hot, hot summers, so long as it has sufficient water. By summer’s end, some plants will be 10-12 feet tall with stems as big around as your wrist! Frost, of course, does them in. They are tropical, after all.
Okra flowers are beautiful. They are 3-4 inches across, bright yellow, with deep red or purple centers. The plants typically bloom in the morning, the flowers fading as the day wears on. One flower lasts one day and results in one okra pod. My job is to pick them before the pods get too big. Perhaps one of the reasons for the tradition of cooking okra so long is because when the pods get big, they get tough and fibrous. I don’t like that. So I try to pick our okra no longer than 3-4 inches. The problem is that the plants seem to know that. They seem to wait till I’m not looking and suddenly produce pods that go from about an inch to as long as an ear of corn in almost no time at all. I argue with the plants, but they don’t seem to listen. They just grow taller and make bigger pods as soon as I turn my back.
Though they make those pretty flowers and growing stunningly quickly, the plants have a dark side. It seems that they don’t like people. I learned this the hard way. I had one of those one-trial-learning experiences. On a hot, sunny day, I decided to pick okra bare-handed in a short-sleeved shirt. May I humbly recommend that you DO NOT do this. The pods are often deep inside the plant near the stem, so I dove in with my bare hands, bare arms, and bare face. Okra leaves are covered with tiny hairs (I guess you could call them bristles) that cause many humans to itch, particularly me. The stinging and itching were unbelievable—on my arms, hands, cheeks, forehead, and even my neck. Now, even if it’s 90° and 90% humidity, I wear my long-sleeved ‘picking shirt,’ rubber gloves, and a hat. And I do not stick my head into the okra patch.
In spite of okra’s defensive tactics, I love these plants. When they are young, I have to bend over to harvest them. Oh, my aching back. When they are old and 10 feet tall, I have to reach up and pull the tops down in order the clip the pods. Oh, my aching shoulders. But still, I love them. And here’s why:
Roasted or Grilled Okra
by Bryan Christopher
2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2" cubes
4 cloves garlic*
2 tsp salt
crushed red pepper, to taste
1 big can of diced tomatoes or 2 cups Christopher Sauce or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced
12 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 pound roughly-grated ricotta salata**
1 box short, tubular pasta, like penne or rigatoni
*If you're using a premade sauce (that already includes garlic) instead of tomatoes, consider reducing or omitting the garlic
**Ricotta salata is salted sheep's milk ricotta cheese. It's much more firm than regular ricotta. Substituting ricotta produces a smooth, creamy sauce that's different in texture but equally raucous. Another option is to substitute another firm, salty cheese like pecorino romano.
1. Placed the diced eggplant and salt in a strainer with a bowl underneath, then put something heavy on top. Let the eggplant sit for an hour. During this time, the salt will pull the bitter juices from the eggplant pieces into the bowl underneath the strainer.
2. Fill the bottom of a saucepan with 1/4" of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot (test it), add the eggplant.
3. Stir the eggplant frequently as it fries, being careful not to break the pieces. Add more oil if necessary. When the eggplant has turned golden brown, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate lined with paper towel to dry.
**Note: now would be a good time to begin boiling your pasta water
4. Discard the vegetable oil from the pan. Wipe the pan clean and return it to medium heat.
5. Add 2 tbs olive oil to the now empty saucepan. Just before the oil begins to smoke, add the garlic. As the garlic begins to brown, add the crushed red pepper and let simmer for 30 seconds.
6. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the sauce thickens, 5-10 minutes.
7. When the sauce has reached its desired consistency, add the eggplants and fresh basil and let the sauce simmer on low heat for 5 more minutes.
8 Serve the sauce over pasta and garnish with grated cheese and additional basil.
This was originally posted on Bryan Christopher's blog. He was kind to share it with Four Leaf Farm.
by Zach Schreiber
2 cups dices raw potatoes (red or russet)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 leeks washed and chopped into 1/2 inch rounds
3 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 ¾ cups of cream or sour cream or a mix of both
3 pieces of crispy bacon
1. Boil potatoes in salted water until soft, then drain.
2. Sauté leeks in butter on medium heat until soft.
3. Combine remaining ingredients with potatoes and leeks and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Garnish with chopped bacon or some delicious Pea Shoot Pesto (see recipe below).
Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Pea Shoot Pesto
2 packed cups pea shoots (from Four Leaf Farm, of course)
¼ cup mint leaves (we’ve got these too)
¼ cup pecans
3 medium cloves of garlic
1 ½ lime, juiced
1 cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup grated parmesan
Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy.
Tempura Squash Blossoms
For the Tempura batter combine:
1 cup flour
1 cup ice cold club soda
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon salt
1. Heat vegetable fryer oil to 375 F (2 inches of oil if using cast iron pan).
2. Dredge blossoms in tempura batter and fry until lightly browned (about 3 minutes) turning after 1-1.5 minutes.
by Greg Midgette
Well, the leaves can be quite bitter and may be an acquired taste for some but are extremely nutritious, being high in vitamin A, vitamin C and iron. They’re also low
in calories, fat and cholesterol, and are a natural diuretic. You can reduce some of the bitterness by first parboiling them in boiling water for a couple of minutes before making
your favorite recipe. One way we like to use dandelion greens is in the following recipe, it is rustic, country cooking at it’s best.
Sautéed Dandelion Greens with Garlicky Croutons and Parmesan Cheese
1 large bunch of Dandelion Greens
¼ cup good quality Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic
1 small onion (chopped)
2 slices Stale Country style bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
3 Tbs. chopped Italian Parsley
Salt & Pepper
Dash of Red Pepper Flakes
1. In a heavy frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, one garlic clove minced, and the
2. Cook the croutons, stirring often until they are lightly browned and crisp.
3. Remove from the heat, set aside, refraining from eating all of these delicious cubes before
they hit the sautéed greens, which we will do next.
4. Rinse the greens well, remove any tough stems (if you purchased these greens from
someone other than Four Leaf Farm, we, of course, will never sell you old, overgrown
tough stems). Cut into 3 inch pieces. Dunk the greens in boiling water for just a couple
of minutes – NO more. Remove from the water, placing them in a colander to run cold
water over them to stop the cooking.
5. In that same heavy frying pan you used for the croutons, add the onion and remaining
olive oil and sauté for a couple of minutes until the onions are just beginning to sweat
and take on some browning and then add the last 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped) and the
6. Sauté this mix for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat - salt & pepper to taste and add the
red pepper flakes to your desired level of heat.
7. Add the croutons and either shaved or shredded Parmesan Cheese, mix everything together and prepare to be swept away with this amazing dish.
by Greg Midgette
2 cups Greek Yogurt
1 cup Lemon or Lime Basil (from your garden plants sold by Four Leaf Farm)
½ cup sugar (more to preference)
1 cup whipping cream
1. Place basil and sugar in a blender and mix until the two are completely incorporated,
about a minute.
2. Add Greek yogurt and whipping cream and mix briefly, just a couple of
seconds to bring all ingredients together.
3. Pour mixture into an ice cream freezer and freeze according to freezer’s directions.
Serve immediately or freeze up to 1 month.