Okra is a vegetable that is far too misunderstood and often skipped over in mainstream cooking because of its consistency when cut open (it can only be described, generously, as "slimy").
I find, though, if you slice the pods longways, from stem to tip, the gooey liquid is reduced, and this natural goo is turned into an advantage when roasting, as it helps caramelize all of okra's natural goodness. Roasting transforms it into a satisfying and craveable vegetable, especially when finished with kosher salt. This recipe does just that, with the help of a trusty sheet pan and the addition of two more colorful and beloved Lowcountry staples — tomatoes and black-eyed peas — for a gloriously easy and satisfying vegetarian meal.
The Glory of These Lowcountry Staples
Okra is a prominent member of the Southern vegetable canon. It is used in many soups, stews, and gumbos, as well as fried in cornmeal as a stand-alone vegetable side dish, or preserved and "put up" alongside bread-and-butter pickles to make a traditional Southern pickle tray.
More arguments for okra: Fried, Pickled & Stewed: 5 Recipes To Make You Love Okra
This recipe takes a new look at okra in the form of a sheet pan dinner. The veggie gets roasted to deepen its flavor and blended with juicy whole tomatoes and black-eyed peas to create a very cozy, Southern-rooted one-pan meal. It melds two Southern garden staples, okra and black-eyed peas, with rich tomatoes and ground cumin and coriander. It's a simple one-pot dish that bursts with flavor and comforts the soul — especially on cold, brisk nights.
For ease and simplicity, the whole meal is cooked on a rimmed sheet pan and can be served directly from the pan at the dinner table.
Cook It Faster on a Sheet Pan
While usually cooked all together in a pot and left to simmer and settle a few hours on the stove, I have given this version a modern update, combining the ingredients on a single sheet pan and roasting in the oven for convenience and efficiency's sake. The result is still the homey, cooked-down goodness Southerners love to make and share – just in less time. A generous shower of fresh orange zest just before serving is a simple and contemporary twist that brings out the best in the dish's ingredients.
How to Buy the Best Okra
Some supermarkets carry fresh okra year-round, either in bulk or one-pound packages, so check the produce section first. But assuredly you will find okra in the frozen section, which works just as well. Frozen okra is usually cut into 1/4-inch pieces, and with the higher water content will require eight to 10 minutes more in the oven.
One more okra recipe to make you a believer: Grilled Okra with Spicy Chipotle Dipping Sauce
Make It a Meal with Rice
Stewed okra and tomatoes are traditionally served over Carolina Gold rice, which is deeply rooted in Lowcountry cuisine. The buttery, chewy indigenous rice provides an exceptionally tasting bed for the vegetables to rest on. Carolina Gold rice is found in specialty stores. I buy it online and keep a few sacks on hand. It is more expensive than long-grain rice found on the shelves at your local grocery, but worthy of its "gold" name and reputation.
During the summer months, I liven this dish up by cutting the kernels off two cobs of fresh corn. It's a lighter, sweeter seasonal succotash that goes well with chicken or pork off the grill.
Sheet Pan Roasted Okra, Black-Eyed Peas, and Tomatoes
Serves 4 to 6
- For the okra and tomatoes:
okra, halved lengthwise (see Recipe Notes)
frozen black-eyed peas
garlic, finely chopped
extra-virgin olive oil
(28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper
Finely grated zest of 1 medium orange
- For the rice:
Carolina Gold or long-grain white rice
1 1/2 to 3 cups
low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F.
Place the okra and black-eyed peas on a rimmed baking sheet. Scatter the garlic over the top and drizzle with the oil.
Put the tomatoes and their juices in a medium bowl. Crush slightly with the back side of a wooden spoon. Stir in the cumin and coriander. Pour evenly over the okra and beans. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
Roast, stirring halfway through, until the edges of the okra begin to brown, 30 to 35 minutes total. Meanwhile, cook the rice.
Rinse the rice with water and place in a medium saucepan. Add the broth (3 cups for Carolina Gold rice or the amount of liquid listed on the package directions for the rice) and salt. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cover. Simmer until the liquid is evaporated and the rice is fluffy, 12 to 15 minutes.
When the okra is done, sprinkle with the orange zest. Serve with the rice.
Okra: If you can't find fresh okra, use 3 cups frozen chopped okra instead. Roast for an extra 8 to 10 minutes since it contains more liquid than fresh.
Rice: If you can't find Carolina Gold rice, use long-grain white rice and add a little butter at the end of cooking.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.