Roasted Okra with Guanciale, Peppers and Anchovies

Squint at this dish of roasted okra with guanciale and peppers and you might mistake it for an Italian bagna cauda. Except that okra doesn’t register on Italian culinary radar. Which is not to say that it can’t work with an Italian sensibility. Think of this as American trying on an Italian sport coat. Unexpectedly, things fit. The okra is packed with flavor from roasting with guanciale, (just as it’s packed with flavor when braised with pork in the South). And while the Italians would dip their vegetables in warm olive oil bath flavored with anchovies, lemon and garlic, here it’s just drizzled over the roasted vegetables. Less fuss.

  • If you roast a couple of whole fish while you make this you can brush the sauce over everything.
  • Roasted okra’s good enough to stand on its own with a thick slice of sourdough bread and a glass of beer or wine for a weekend lunch (my choice).
  • A fried egg dusted with Urfa or Aleppo pepper transforms this into a great brunch (Jody’s choice).

We’re just at the point when the parade of summer vegetables can begin to seem like too much of a good thing. A little extra attention here and there keeps everyone appreciative.

Ken

P.S. If the word okra cannot enter your brain without the word slime immediately materializing behind it, take a look at Jody’s notes for a little culinary therapy.

Roasted Okra with Guanciale, Peppers and Anchovies

Ingredients

  • 1 pound okra
  • 2 medium peppers, about 2½  ounces each
  • 2 ounces guanciale or pancetta
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sliced garlic
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • A tablespoon or so of fresh thyme or oregano leaves

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash and dry the okra.
  3. Trim the tips off the okra and cut in half lengthwise.  Put into a large bowl.
  4. Cut the peppers into strips about ½-inch wide and 2 inches long, discarding stem and seeds. 
  5. Cut the guanciale into ¼-inch batons.
  6. Add the peppers and guanciale to the okra.
  7. Season with salt and toss with about a tablespoon of oil.
  8. Spread out on two  sheet pans, and turn the okra so it’s cut side down.
  9. Put on the floor of the oven to ensure the okra gets some color. Roast until tender and golden brown, 10-12 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil with the garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until the garlic is tender, about 6 minutes. Add the anchovies, honey, lemon juice and Aleppo pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt if necessary.
  11. Drizzle the garlic sauce over the roasted okra and sprinkle with herb leaves. 

Jody Notes

For those of you who think okra is slimy, you have my sympathy. Neither Ken nor I have ever been people who are bothered by texture (okay except for that time Ken tried to eat a cold pickled pigs face in the Languedoc). Here a few tips for dealing with okra.

  • Some cooks claim that smaller okra have more slime than large ones, a fact you may want to bear in mind if you’re able to select your own okra at grocery or farmer’s market.
  • Hot fast cooking – like high-temp roasting, deep frying and stir frying – keeps slime from forming.
  • Acid inhibits slime, which is why some recipes encourage cooks to soak okra in vinegar as well. I have no idea why this works, but I do know that okra pickles are crunchy and delicious.
  • If you absolutely can’t stand the thought of eating okra, but you’re okay with the other ingredients, do the recipe with string beans. It will be great!

For more explanation about the chemistry behind okra slime, and what to do about it, check our these articles from the Washington Post and the Huffington Post.

One final note. If you don’t want to include guanciale or anchovies, feel free to skip them. You may have to add more salt and lemon to kick up the flavor and a little hot sauce wouldn’t hurt either.

 

15 thoughts

  1. Yum! I have only just started making okra at home, this is a must try. Is there a substitute for the anchovies? Or can I leave them out as they are not easy to find here?

    • Hmmm… anchovies are a kind of umami bomb here. You might try adding a bit of fish sauce – a few drops… taste… a few drops more. If you’re really stuck, just leave them out. The sauce won’t have quite the same punch, but it will still be good. Ken

    • I just noticed that you’re from Uganda. Two things. Would you mind telling me the Bantu word for okra? And, also, aren’t there lots of tiny dried fishes that are sold in Kampala markets? If so, what do you think about adding a couple – just for seasoning, to the olive oil as it simmers, then you could scoop it/them out before drizzling over the okra? Good luck. Let know how it goes. Ken

  2. Wow, this looks amazing! Got okra coming out my ears. Definitely will give this one a whirls.

    Nice work!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • This is really good, rivaled only by deep-fried okra with a cornmeal crust, but way more Mediterranean. Jody had it with an egg (a soft-boiled one would work great too) and the combo of the okra, guanciale, and runny egg yolk – oh, man. Weird fact – French and Italians almost never cook okra, but the word in both languages is “gombo,” and since okra came here with slaves… you can figure out the rest of the story. Stay safe – things are starting to go up here again, possible shut-down of interior dining coming up. Ken

  3. Sounds delish. To any regular Japanese okra is one of the most Japanese ingredients and a lot of our food can be slimy, the most notable being fermented soybeans (natto) and maybe mountain yam (yamaimo) and we often mix them with okra (and also seaweeds). Many of us think the word “okra” is Japanese as well. ^^ Aya

    • Wow! That’s so interesting. I’ve never encountered natto, but I’ve heard enough about it that the thought of tasting it does give me a shiver. I was pretty much immune to challenging tastes and textures after experiencing casu marzu (maggoty cheese in Sardinia), then I was introduced to a plate of Chinese stinky tofu, and I had to concede I’d met my match. Slimy okra, which I have had, seems like a very minor challenge. Intriguing that the name okra might be Japanese. Thank you, Aya. Ken

      • Compared to Chinese stinky tofu which I have had in Shanghai and though not the tastiest of foods, did appreciate, natto would seem bland. It’s not part of my mother’s family’s diet as we come from the west of Japan, so I am not used to eating it but you would find shelves of natto next to tofu in any supermarket in Tokyo. “Magotty” cheese does not sound inviting to me 😆

    • Boy, that’s a tough one. My first instinct would be to simply omit the guanciale, keep the anchovies, and call it a day – most bagna cauda that use cooked vegetables don’t use guanciale and everyone still seems happy. We included it because of okra’s affinity with pork. The appeal of guanciale is the flavor you get when the fact renders. If you can’t leave well enough alone, and if you already eat vegan bacon, you could add a bit of that. Cured smoked fish (bluefish or boned herring come to mind) might also work. Guanciale is almost never smoked (in this country) but smoked fish might give you an equally strong umami effect. In either event, I’d cut the alternatives into small pieces and add them as a flavor accent AFTER you’ve roasted the okra. Good luck. If you try one of the smoked fish let us know how it goes. Good luck. Ken

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