Walking around the farmer’s market, I noticed some wonderful looking fresh okra. With the weather starting to get cooler, my thoughts turn to making gumbo. In Africa, okra is also known as gumbo. I know that my wife is waiting for that first pot to come off the stove.

I then started thinking of other dishes that you can put okra in. I have seen it used in salads, as a side dish and included in a entrée recipe. Often, I have found a pickled okra as a garnish in a Bloody Mary, a spicy tomato juice drink made with or without alcohol. So, to take advantage of this versatile plant, here are a couple of non-gumbo dishes highlighting okra.

This dish can be served as either a side dish or as a entrée. As a side dish, there is no need for the rice. Either way, it is a tasty dish that is welcomed on my dinner table anytime.

Smothered Okra with Shrimp and Andouille

1/2 cup Vegetable Oil, divided
1 pound fresh Okra, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup Onion, choppednju
1/2 cup Red Bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons Garlic, minced
1/2 pound Andouille, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 (12 ounce) jars Roasted Red Peppers, drained and puréed
2 cups Seafood Stock
1 ( 6 ounce) can Tomato Paste
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne
1 pound medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 cups cooked Rice

In a large saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of the oil over medium-high heat. Add okra, and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes, remove okra, and set aside. In the same pan, add remaining 1/4 cup of oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add sausage and cook until the sausage is browned. Stir in puréed peppers, stock, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture boils. Stir in okra, simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Add shrimp and cook until pink and firm. Serve over rice.

This is a take on a classic New Orleans recipe. I think that okra and tomatoes are a match made in heaven. The addition of okra to Chicken Creole brings this dish to a whole new level in flavor.

Chicken Creole with Okra

1 stick Butter
6 Chicken Leg or Breast Quarters
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 bunch Green Onions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
1 large Onion, finely chopped
5 cloves Garlic, minced
1 (8 ounce) can Tomato Sauce
4 cups Water
2 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme, chopped
2 pounds whole fresh small Okra
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Hot cooked Rice or Noodles for serving

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven. Add the chicken and cook over medium-high heat until golden brown on each side. Remove from the pan.

Stir the flour into the drippings over low heat. Cook for approximately 10 minutes until you have a light brown roux. Add the green onions, onion and garlic, and continue cooking over low heat until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the water, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the liquid simmers. Add the chicken to the pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Lay the okra across the top of the chicken. Continue cooking for about 30 minutes, or until both the chicken and okra are tender. Stir lightly with a fork to avoid breaking the okra. Remove the bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper and serve over rice or noodles.

Okra is a wonderful addition to many dishes and remember, It’s not just for gumbo.