If I could save time in a bottle, I’d save these summer days. The colors
are just so vivid and the flavors, so simple and true.
I know there will come a time, too close in the future, when I won’t have a giant bowls of tomatoes at my fingertips. (Tiny tear trickling down cheek.)
When the okra is no longer coming out of the ground by the barrel full,
and the inspiration for each day’s cooking adventure may not be so blatantly obvious…
(Sign hanging from a table at a local farmer’s market.)
The peaches are already gone from Georgia and so is the corn. That’s how you know we’ve moved into late summer. But the tomatoes, okra and beautiful peppers keep rollin’ on in,
and I am going to celebrate every last moment of this summertime goodness while it lasts.
I can actually remember this feeling from one year ago, summer slipping away. My business had only been official for a month, and I had just started writing recipes for Turtle Bend Farm. In preparation for my weekly piece in Mecca’s newsletter, Adam and I worked our cast iron skillet and stuffed ourselves to the brim with the most amazing fried okra. Here’s the beginning of that column, “Today I write you with a happy mouth full of okra. I’m not kidding. Cornmeal Crusted Southern Fried Okra. Holy deliciousness!” Big smile. I was so new to the world of sharing my thoughts about food with an audience, and so thrilled to have fresh, local ingredients at my finger tips.
And here I am today, still in awe of the local wonders I am able to play with, photograph, devour, reflect upon, and share with my clients and with you. Thinking of time in terms of the seasons as the fruits and vegetables shift and change. I have grown so much as a person- as a business owner, a cook (with the tell-tale signs to prove it), a writer, even as a picture taker, and as a student and lover of food. I became the luckiest wife in America and a food fairy. And a blogger! I am so pleased with my place in the world these days, and very thankful.
Ah, memory lane…you are so sweet and it’s good to look back. But let’s get down to business.
Today, I offer you a summer stew of the season’s gifts: tomatoes, okra, peppers, and pink-eyed peas. We served this side dish with blackened Cajun turkey breast and grilled corn on the cob- the last of our Georgia corn. Cajun cuisine seemed to be the natural route to take, because when I think of okra, I conjure up images of dark, rich, comforting New Orleans gumbo. Cajun music, sounds, and flavors come to mind.
It also seemed natural, or maybe required, to start this dish with BACON! My favorite beginning.
I cut three slices of bacon into strips and fried them over low heat in a big pot. Once the bacon was crisp,
I removed it to a paper towel lined plate and spooned out all but a thin layer of oil from my pot.
I added my peas, which I had washed and picked through first,
and let them cook for about 2 minutes, just to let them roll around in the flavah and begin to soften. Then, I added 1/2 Cup of broth to my pot and let the peas cook another 5 minutes while I made sure everything else was in order.
I like to cut my okra last minute to avoid any sort of slime factor. I’m afraid of okra slime. I guess I’m actually afraid of most slime.
Next, I slid my pretty local pepper into the pot, along with two bay leaves.
You can use a bell pepper or an Anaheim pepper, or whichever kind of pepper you’ve got on hand.
Next, I added my garlic, okra, and tomatoes to the mix along with a splash of red wine vinegar.
Beautiful!!! I tossed all of those lovelies together and then added about a tablespoon of Cajun seasoning.
We made our own, raiding the cupboard for a stack of spices- namely paprika, dried thyme, cayenne, mustard, chili powder, celery salt, granulated onion and garlic, and salt and pepper.
You can get crafty and make your own, or grab some off the shelf the next time you’re at the grocery store.
I stirred it all together,
added some salt and pepper for good measure,
and set the pot to simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes. When the okra and peas were just tender and the tomatoes had thickened to transform all of these individual ingredients into one tasty stew, I added the crisped bacon back to the pot. Yay!
I removed the bay leaves, and we were ready to serve.
A sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves was the finishing touch. Yum! Such a flavorful, hearty stew, full of summertime with a Cajun kick. The sweetness of the tomatoes played off the spiciness so well. The okra was tender and delightful- no sign of slime. I loved the pink-eyed peas, not mushy or over-done, they provided lovely texture. And the bacon brought a little crunch, a little saltiness, a little richness to this lean, veggie packed meal.
I hope that you are savoring the colors and flavors of summer and enjoying the edible delights that come with it. If you’re looking for another way to utilize the pods and pods of okra that are staring you down, go ahead and mix up this summer stew. It’s sure to tickle your palate and brighten up your dinner table.
Happy cooking and eating,