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.
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
- 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
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Wash and dry the okra.
- Trim the tips off the okra and cut in half lengthwise. Put into a large bowl.
- Cut the peppers into strips about ½-inch wide and 2 inches long, discarding stem and seeds.
- Cut the guanciale into ¼-inch batons.
- Add the peppers and guanciale to the okra.
- Season with salt and toss with about a tablespoon of oil.
- Spread out on two sheet pans, and turn the okra so it’s cut side down.
- Put on the floor of the oven to ensure the okra gets some color. Roast until tender and golden brown, 10-12 minutes.
- 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.
- Drizzle the garlic sauce over the roasted okra and sprinkle with herb leaves.
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!
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.