Food often reminds me that I’m a Yankee living in the south.
Where I come from, chicken cutlets and eggplant are about the only reasons to break out the breadcrumbs and pans of oil. And with my focus on a healthier way of eating, I don’t even fry those favorites anymore.
But when your partner-in-cuisine-crime is as Southern as sweet tea, which I don’t drink, sometimes you have to cave and pay homage to your surroundings.
I mean, I made fried pork chops for dinner last night. I didn’t eat them, but I still made them. Doesn’t that count?
At the farmers’ markets right now it’s hard to avoid okra. I love it, and I really can’t pass it up. It’s a gorgeous green color and it reminds me of a witch’s nails or nose. You know how much I love Halloween, right? Right? Problem is, okra is usually fried in these parts. It’s delicious that way, don’t get me wrong. It’s just not my favorite way to treat fresh produce.
Stewing is another popular way to treat okra in the south. As you know, if you’re a loyal reader, I don’t do anything the simple way. My way of stewing okra is to add lots of spices.
To keep me happy and turn okra into something that’s reminiscent of my partner-in-cuisine-crime’s childhood, I created an Okra and Eggplant Cobbler.I stewed the eggplant and okra with tomatoes and gave them a cornbread crust.
Here’s what you need:
For the filling:
- 1 pound of okra
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 small onion cut into thin half-moons
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
- 1 tsp. onion powder
For the cornbread crust:
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (preferable stone-ground whole-grain)
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup buttermilk (I made my own: a hair under 1/3 cup of whole milk + 1 tsp. vinegar)
Here’s how you do it:
When the oil starts to slide around, add the onion. Stir. Add a pinch of salt and some pepper. Stir.Let the onion cook for about 4 minutes or until it softens, then add the okra and the eggplant. Stir.
Let the mixture cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the can of tomatoes and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any brown bits that have formed.
Add all the spices and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir.
In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, garlic powder, salt, and baking powder. Whisk it all together.
Add in the melted butter, egg, and buttermilk. Whisk together. Taste the okra and tomato mixture. Add salt if necessary. If it’s ready to go, pour it into a casserole dish (9×12 or 9×9) and then drop big dollops of the cornbread batter on top.
This can be lunch or a side dish.I love the texture of the soft, stewed okra and eggplant with the crusty cornbread. The eggplant satisfies my Italian roots. You don’t know how hard it was for me to not add garlic. I just didn’t think it would work here.
What I really love about this savory cobbler is that you could put zucchini or squash in the filling with or instead of the eggplant. You could also add diced bell pepper or minced jalapeños for some heat. If you don’t like okra, I feel bad for you, but you could certainly double the eggplant or use zucchini and squash in its place.
You could also try adding some browned and drained ground beef or turkey to make this a stand alone meal. If you do that, let me know how it works out. Celebrate summer, and the south, by making my cobbler!
Tip: Sprinkle sliced green onion on top of the cornbread batter before baking. You could also add minced jalapeños and shredded cheddar to the batter before baking.