Cherry Tomato, Okra, Bacon & Breadcrumb Bake
Those 4 words above can only begin to describe how yummy this dish was! I am a big fan of okra, something that we eat much too seldom here in Europe- and from the comments I usually hear from others, I can understand why... they are describing okra that has been overcooked and ruined!
Okra has a lovely, mild flavor, which can be combined wonderfully with many other ingredients and spices. This evening I decided to pair it with cherry tomatoes- always a good match and a great way to add some fruity and juicy flavor. I could have kept this dish vegetarian... but those little piggies should not go to heaven without having dies for a good cause... 'cause bacon is always good!
I started out by cutting the ends off half of the okra and by cutting the rest into bite-sized pieces. I sautéed them in a little olive oil, with a hint of chopped garlic for 2-3 minutes, then added 1 chopped Spring onion and little tomato paste. Once the paste had coated everything, after 1-2 minutes of constant stirring, I deglazed the pan with just enough water to cover the surface and continued stirring until everything became well mixed and the water evaporated away again... and at this point I added the finely chopped bacon.
Next, I added the cherry tomatoes, which I cut into quarters, a drizzle of olive oil, some salt, pepper, nutmeg, oregano and a hint of chili... a little more water and a pinch of sugar, to make sure the tomatoes lost any bitterness they may have had. I stirred everything together, turned on the broiler, turned off the stove and picked up my little baking dish, ready to put everything together!
So, at this point, the okra was cooked but still firm (not slimy!), the onion and bacon tender and the tomatoes still intact... and everything was "just swimming" in a spicy and herb-infused light broth of water and that hint of tomato paste... but thats all it took to make this all come together- because next, I sprinkled over bread crumbs and stirred them in until the moisture was almost completely absorbed- careful not to make it end up being too dry!
I poured everything out carefully into a baking dish and added just a little grated cheese- I didn't want this to end up all sticky and gooey... you know my opinion of melted cheese already! Haha! So, into a hot oven it went, but as it was still hot in itself, all it took was 10 minutes of regular baking at the top temperature and 2-3 minutes under the broiler to brown off the cheese and crisp up the crumbs on the surface... delicious!
What happens is that the bread crumbs absorb the juice of the tomatoes and okra, as well as the flavors of the herbs and spices... and the combination of everything together is something rather marvelous! If you already like okra- you should love this! And if you think you don't... maybe this will change your mind!