We came home from a few days out of town to find the okra and tomatoes taking over the garden, so last night I made up a bunch of good old-fashioned stewed okra and tomatoes to keep us ahead of the tide.

A couple of observations:

  • When okra pods grow too big, they get woody and fibrous, and no amount of cooking will soften them. This was only a minimal problem at this point, but next time I'll pay more attention, and if a pod is at all resistant to the slicing knife during preparation, I'll discard it.

  • Continued investigation reinforces that okra's bad reputation as "slimy" is a non-consideration as long as you cook it sufficiently. This unfortunate character disappears completely if you sautee the sliced vegetable for 10 minutes before simmering it with tomatoes, in a gumbo, or whatever.

    Here's the simple procedure for okra-tomato stew, loosely based on a couple of recipes:

    Slice a couple of dozen okra pods into roughly 1/4-inch rounds. Peel, seed and roughly chop 3 or 4 fresh tomatoes, enough to make about as many tomatoes as you have okra. Chop 1 medium onion, and mince 3 or 4 garlic cloves.

    Cook 3 or 4 slices of bacon in a big black-iron skillet until it's crispy. Take out the bacon, drain and crumble, and set aside. Using the bacon grease in the skillet, sautee the garlic with a shake of dried red-pepper flakes until it's golden, then add the chopped onions and continue cooking, adding a little water if necessary to keep it from cooking, until it's soft. Stir in the okra and sautee over high heat for 10 minutes or so, until the "slime" has completely disappeared and it's starting to brown. (Again, add a little water from time to time to keep it from sticking and burning, but you want to keep it on the dry side so it will brown.) Add the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and (optional) eight or 10 fresh basil leaves sliced fine. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for another 10 or 15 minutes or until the okra is soft; at that point, there's no need to overcook it. Add salt and pepper to taste and top with the crumbled bacon.