About the same time that I moved back to South Carolina and started a food writing career, I was asked to do some personal chef work for one of America’s wealthiest women. What a great person she was too. She loved good food. And, she was just plain nice.
My client, who shall remain anonymous, had traveled around the world many times over. At one time, she kept an apartment in New York, and had standing reservations in some of the city’s finest restaurants. But, her home was in South Carolina and when she was here, she ate local food.
In fact, there was a vegetable stand of a local farm just down the road from her estate and when she was up to it, she would drive down to the stand and buy fresh vegetables. She loved collard greens, okra, corn, you name it and she liked it, which brings me back to the okra that she really liked.
Among the many ways that my anonymous client liked okra was steamed, so I would wash the pods, leave them whole, and steam them until tender. Occasionally, I would put the whole pods in a pot of fresh butterbeans, or peas. But, there were also times that I made a tomato, okra stew, and it’s a great dish with cornbread. For some reason, the two- cornmeal and okra- just seem to fit well together, whether it’s serving the okra fried in cornmeal or serving cornbread with the okra.
As you can imagine, when you are cooking regional food for someone almost every day, it is a challenge to come up with new ideas. When I ran out of ideas, I’d consult a cookbook and change the recipe to what else I had on hand in the kitchen that day. The Farmer’s Market Okra, Tomatoes, Corn and Ham recipe below was one of those recipes. I always had a little ham around so it was easy to use and make this a tastier dish.
Another dish that my client liked was an okra appetizer that was made with pickled okra. The recipe below is very tasty, but I’ve used this particular recipe with jarred pickled okra. Below that is a recipe for making your own pickled okra that is very tasty.
I hope you’ll enjoy the recipes and if you have a question or something you’d like to see us use, then by all means let me know. www.cheflindaweiss.com.
Farmers Market Okra, Tomatoes, Corn and Ham
1 (6-ounce more or less) thick slice ham, cut into small dice
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups sliced okra
1 cup fresh corn from the cob
2-3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
*If you like fresh herbs like I do, add a tablespoon or 2 of fresh basil just before removing from the heat
Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the ham and sauté until the ham is lightly caramelized. Add the okra and sauté for about 3 minutes, and then add the remaining ingredients. Simmer, stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.
Make your favorite cornbread to serve with this dish.
Texas Okra Ham Rolls
1/2 pound thinly sliced red or black pepper ham
1 (8-ounce) container cream cheese with chives whipped if available
1 jar pickled okra- from Texas! Or your own pickled okra (see recipe below)
Lay the ham pieces on a flat surface. Spread with cream cheese. Trim the ends of the okra. Lay the okra end to end on the ham slice. Roll up tightly. Chill. Slice into 1-inch pieces to serve. Serve on a bed of watercress or red leaf lettuce.
2 pints (2 to 3-inch long with 1/4 inch stem) Enough okra, 2 to 3-inches long with ¼ inch stem, to fill two pint jars?
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons dill seed
4 garlic cloves
2 pods of hot pepper
Boil two pint standard canning jars for 15 minutes. Wash okra with a vegetable brush. Bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. Remove hot jars and place washed okra in each jar. To each pint jar, add 1 teaspoon dill seed, 2 garlic cloves, and 1 pod of hot pepper. Pour boiling liquid mixture into jars and cover okra. Remove any air bubbles. Adjust jar lids and bands. Process in a boiling water bath canner (212°F.) for 5 minutes or per the manufacturer’s directions. Wait one month before using.
Avid gardeners who know how to get their hands dirty tend the beautiful gardens featured in this article. Special thanks to Betty Norris & Laura Lander, Publicity Co-Chairs from the Cape Fear Garden Club, for the tour of many wonderful gardens during the Azalea Festival Garden Tour in Wilmington, North Carolina. Read more...