Saturday, May 7, 2011

'Southern' Caramelized Garlic Vegetable Risotto

Almost any Southerner or anyone who grew up in the South love okra in different forms. Some like it fried, boiled, baked, grilled or mixed in with other vegetables.
My preference is the small tender pods so I can either stir-fry it with other vegetables or add it to soups or black-eyed peas.

'Southern' Caramelized Garlic Vegetable Risotto
Ingredients
1 1/2 lb fresh small-sized okra (3 inches or less)
12 oz frozen mixed vegetable bag (corn, green beans, carrots, peas)
1 cup Italian Arborio rice (large grained)
8 large garlic cloves caramelized in olive oil
2 Tbsp freeze dried garden herb mix (several brands on market)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp coarse grind black pepper
1/4 cup grated garlic white cheddar cheese, optional
3 tbsp olive oil, divided (includes the oil from the garlic)

Procedures
1. Wash and trim okra, removing any remaining stem. Cross-slice okra to 1/2 inch wide. Set aside
2. Wash the Arborio rice, drain.
3. Place the caramelized garlic along with a tablespoon of the oil from the garlic into an iron skillet. Turn heat on high. Add the rice and sauté for about a minute until the water has dried, stirring constantly. Add 2 cups broth or water. Cover and turn heat to low.
4. Microwave the vegetables 5 minutes - can be done at same time as the next step.
5. Place 1 tbsp olive oil in large iron skillet or Dutch oven, heat to hot.
6. Pour okra into skillet and stir (wooden spoon best) for about a minute on high.
7. Add mixed vegetables and all of the seasonings. Stir and cook on high for about 3 minutes, continuously stirring.


Cover and turn heat to low.
8. Rice takes about 15 minutes, so check the rice at that point or it could become over-cooked. If soft, fluff with a fork, remove from heat as you check for done-ness of the vegetables.

Vegetables will be slightly crunchy, not soggy. If you want softer vegetables, turn heat to medium for a couple more minutes after stirring.

9. Dump the cooked rice into the cooked vegetables and stir just to mix.



Optionally stir in cheese.
10. Serve immediately

Servings: 6
Yield: about 6 servings

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 251 calories, 8.8g total fat, 5.4g monounsaturated fat, <1g polyunsaturated fat, 2g saturated fat, 4.9mg cholesterol, 223.3mg sodium, 286mg potassium, 37.8g carbohydrates, 4.1g fiber, 33.7g net carbohydrates, &lt;1g starch, <1g sugar, 6.6g protein, 1.1mg iron.

Tips
How to caramelize garlic - simple
Peel garlic and remove skins from cloves. Heat oven to 350F. Spray the cloves with olive oil or at least dip them in olive oil.
Bake on a large baking sheet until starting to turn golden brown in color. Do not burn.
After completely cooled, store in olive oil in a glass, air tight  jar in refrigerator.
I do about 2 pounds at a time, refrigerate it and never run out of garlic.

A little info about Okra

Okra supposedly originated in Ethiopia. It arrived in American South in the 1700’s along with the Slaves. It is reported that the seeds are toasted and ground, and used as a coffee substitute in North Africa and the Middle East.

The name okra derived from the West African nkruma, and was in use by the late 1700s.

Common names for okra are Lady’s Fingers and Gumbo. The French call it Gombo, in Spanish it’s known as Quibomo, and in India it’s called Bhindi. Okra is a good source of vitamin C and A, also B complex vitamins, iron and calcium. It is low in calories - 1 cup is 33 calories, fat-free, and a good source of dietary fiber.

Okra is in the same plant family as hibiscus and cotton.

Okra can be served raw, marinated in salads or cooked on its own, and goes well with tomatoes, onions, corn, peppers, and eggplant. Whole, fresh okra pods can also be pickled.

I like to sauté okra with other vegetables such as corn or mixed vegetables. This meal uses mixed vegetables and rice. Large grained Arborio rice works really well, because it tends to hold the shape and does not get mushy as quick as regular white rice.

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