Okra. On the gill? Yes, and it’s amazing! Loose all those notions that okra is a slimy mess. This is possibly my latest grilling favorite and I hope you will give this recipe a try this summer.
I first saw grilled okra on the appetizer menu of gastropub in Laguna Beach. I actually really like okra, but I ordered this more as a mild curiosity. It came to the table with beautiful char marks and served with a thin lemon aïoli. The restaurant’s grill used mesquite hardwood charcoal which imparts an entirely different flavor than smoking with mesquite. The smokiness was subtle and and the okra, perfectly cooked, gave way to a burst of those little round seeds like caviar in a pod. I ordered another plate.
Since I had only really had southern preparations of okra – in gumbo or sliced and fried – I did a little research on the best way to prep okra for cooking to eliminate the sliminess. Turns out it’s pretty simple, give the pods a good scrub to remove the fuzz and then soak them in a little vinegar for a half hour to cut the slime. Easy! I wanted to give them a little earthy, smoky flavor but wanted to make it convenient for the gas grill. A little ground cumin and smoked paprika did the trick. The green chile aïoli, honestly, was from another recipe that I’m still working on. However, I liked it better with the grilled okra than for what it was originally intended. There you have it.
Grilled Okra with Green Chile Aïoli
serves four as a side or six to eight as an appetizer
2 pounds okra
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Green Chile Aïoli, for serving (recipe follows)
Scrub okra pods with a vegetable brush or terrycloth washcloth to remove the fuzz. Pat dry and place in a non-reactive shallow baking dish or bowl. Toss with the vinegar and let set for 30 minutes: toss occasionally. After 30 minutes, drain and rinse the okra and pat dry. Trim the cap of the okra pods with a paring knife, but don’t cut into the pod itself – this way the whole vegetable is tender and can be eaten. Dry the bowl and return the okra to the bowl. Stir together the oil and spices and pour over the okra and give them a good toss to coat.
Set up grill for direct grilling over high heat. Brush and oil grates and grid before cooking.
Skewer or cook directly on the grill grid. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes per side until tender with a little charring. Serve hot or at room temperature with dipping sauce.
Green Chile Aïoli
makes 1 cup
3/4 cups good quality mayonnaise
3 tablespoons canned diced green chilies
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Combine all of the aïoli ingredients in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Best if made a couple hours ahead. Green Chile Aïoli will keep covered in the refrigerator for one week.
Cheers and Happy Grilling!