Well, the odds were good that it would happen… after spending many tortured years in Art School together, writing music and playing in a band together: we got a bit “synced up”. We have always had complimentary creative processes, and we understand each other’s’ thought patterns.
Totally independently of one another, and while both striving for something unique:
WE BOTH WORE THE SAME DRESS TO THE PARTY!
Oh, Horror of Horrors!
This week, in the Militant Foodie vs Somerland Farms Throwdown, YOU DECIDE!
Who wore it Better?
Okra without the slime? You bet! My second dish was a twist on the Western India recipe for Bharwan Bhindi. Basically, Cheese stuffed okra grilled over mesquite coals.
8 pods of okra
8 slices Morning Star Farms “Bacon” Strips (or thick, real bacon for the carnivores)
1 8-ounce container chive cream cheese, softened
½ cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
onion powder & sea salt.
Half okra lengthwise and hollow out the seeds.
In a bowl, mix cream cheese, shredded cheese & season to taste.
Stuff cheese mixture into okra and wrap with 1 slice of “bacon.”
Place on grill over medium flames and cook until the okra is tender, being careful not to burn the bacon.
Serve as an appetizer with a dip of your choice or as a side. This dish compliments any entree with which it’s served.
*Don’t forget to Check out all the Amazing things Sherry is bringing to fruition at Somerland Farms: Your Personal Gardener!
I went almost 20 years without ever giving Bacon a thought. I never missed it. However, with its (weird) rise in pop-culture dominance, not just on the breakfast plate, but on t-shirts, memes, air fresheners & wrapping paper… I decide to experiment with some vegetarian bacon substitutes.
It was then that I realized how much I desperately craved salty, smoky, crunchy elements in some of my dishes! Vegetarian Bacons totally refreshed my tired-old veggie sandwiches, vegan mac-n-cheese, and breakfast quiches.
Emboldened by my recent Eggplant successes I decided to use Japanese Eggplant to make a “Facon” for grilling with fresh okra. In fact, the prep for Eggplant Facon is so similar to the prep for making low-carb-lasagna-“noodles”, that it would be a fantastic time-saver to make enough to use in both recipes!
AmbeR’s Grilled Okra Wrapped in Eggplant “Facon”
1 tsp real maple syrup
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp Braggs Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
1 dash smoked paprika
2 japanese eggplant (peeled)
10-12 fresh okra pods
¼ cup sea salt + 6-8 cups water (for brine)
In a large pot/bowl, stir the salt into the water until it is dissolved. This is your “brine”.
Cut the peeled eggplants into long, thin strips, approximately 1/8 inch thick (if you have a mandolin and a ridged blade, this is a wonderful time to use it. Neglect the guard at your own risk. Nobody likes a bloody eggplant!)
Submerge the eggplant strips in the brine for at least 20 minutes.
Spread the eggplant strips out on an absorbent surface and allow to air-dry for several hours (*you can also sandwich the eggplant strips between layers of absorbent material and press the moisture out. You are not trying to make the strips thinner, just dryer).
**if you intend to use a portion of the eggplant strips to make eggplant lasagna, set those aside now and do not follow any more of these instructions with them.
Combine the paprika, maple syrup, liquid smoke, olive oil, liquid aminos (or soy sauce) and apple cider vinegar. Marinate the eggplant strips in this mixture for at least one hour, or until you are ready to grill.
Wrap a strip of eggplant “Facon” around each okra pod and secure with a toothpick. Grill over medium coals/ flame, turning periodically to keep from burning.
***grilling tip: I soak wooden toothpicks and skewers in water before assembling this type project. The saturated wood is less likely to catch fire and drop the food.
“Art School Buddies and Former Band-Mates ReUnited!”
My inner monologue joyfully exclaimed this latest development like a tabloid headline.
Sherry and I have been out of contact for several years, only to be rejoined when a Militant Foodie post caught Sherry’s eye on Facebook.
What’s she been up-to, in addition to art and music, during the years since we last caught up? Oh, she’s been energizing and educating the community by providing whole foods from her organic farm, of course!
I asked Sherry to join Militant Foodie as a guest contributor in order to promote her “Somerland: Your Personal Farmer” business; and she graciously agreed!
Then, as old friends are wont to do… we decided to honor our reunion with a little friendly competition.
Each contender must create THREE unique vegetarian recipes using a predetermined ingredient from Sherry’s farm.
At least one of the recipes will be prepared on a GRILL.
At least one of the recipes can be eaten by hand.
The common ingredient? OKRA.
For the next three weeks, Militant Foodie (aka AmbeR) and Somerland Farms (aka Sherry) will go toe-to-toe with our Okra themed creations. All criteria of the challenge will be met AND there will even be an Okra Dessert!
Sherry might have the advantage, but I’m bringing my eagerness to learn and ability to improvise to the table 😉
Check out all the amazing work Sherry is doing and contact her via facebook to learn more about Somerland Farms.
“SomerLand Farms has been in my family over 110 years. At only 640 acres, it may be considered small by agricultural standards but, our mission is huge… To provide the best quality, organic fruits and vegetables available to our local communities. Somerland Farms- Your Personal Farmer!”
Okay, I admit it… “Okra Bundt Pan Stuffing” was NOT my original plan for this recipe.
The ORIGINAL plan was to make a Salsa Verde using Pickled Okra instead of Tomatillos (Yes, I made the fermented okra and experimented with the seasonings which I could have submitted as an entry, but-it-seemed-too-simple-and-obvious-so-I just-HAPPENED-to pickle-it-as-an-element-in-the-Bigger-Picture [*breathe*]).
My Okra fermentation turned out nicely salty and pucker-y and I felt confident it would be a wonderful base.
I diced the onions, chopped the cilantro, minced the garlic, roasted-peeled-seeded-and-chopped the jalapenos and tossed it all together with the lime juice.
It seemed like this recipe was going to be a Big Winner, until I chopped the okra into bite-sized chunks and threw it into the food processor with the fennel.
Okra is creepy and disgusting and should be the star of a horror film!
I COULD NOT believe the gelatinous gooey substance that the okra became (*spunky blog writer throws-up a little in mouth*).
While letting my stomach settle I amused myself by sending playfully accusatory texts to Sherry about her choice of ingredient (one message read “So, it occurred to me that I’ve never actually worked with okra before… What is this?!? The a**hole of the vegetable kingdom? It’s being highly rebellious and uncooperative 😉 ”)
I gathered my resolve to refuse culinary defeat and decided this uber sticky-yet-flavorful blob would be the perfect healthy binder for bundt pan stuffing. I just happened to have a package of stuffing in the pantry, so this unexpected recipe actually came together quite easily.
I baked this dish ahead-of-time and stored it in the refrigerator overnight. Shortly before traveling to Somerland for the duel, I released the bread from the pan, brushed the whole thing with a generous coat of coconut oil and returned it to the pan. While we were grilling the rest of the meal over mesquite coals, I set the bunt nearby to reheat and absorb the mesquite smoke smell.
IT WAS FAN-F*CKING-TASTIC!
In a scene very reminiscent of the old “How did You Two Meet?” commercials promoting a certain Chocolate and PeanutButter Cup; once Sherry’s Ground Nut Stew bumped uglies with my Okra Corn Bread, they made beautiful, beautiful food babies!
AmbeR’s Okra Bundt Pan Stuffing (aka Okra Cornbread)
2 cup pickled okra (if you don’t already have a tried-and-true family recipe, this one is nice)
½ white onion, diced
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 roasted jalapenos, peeled, seeded and diced (refresher instructions here)
3 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup lime juice
½ Tsp fennel seed
1 14oz package of pre-made cornbread stuffing (read the label carefully if you are preparing this recipe for strict vegetarians/vegans or people with food allergies. Most of the stuffing mixes I found had some kind of chicken stock/fat in them. I ended up using a Classic Cornbread Stuffing by Pepperidge Farms that was vegetarian, but not vegan.)
Oil and flour-of-choice for preparing small (7 ½ inch) bundt pan
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease 7.5 inch bundt pan (or pan of choice) with flour of your preference.
Thoroughly blend/food process the pickled okra and the fennel (this will quickly become a creepy gelatinous blob. Try not to panic.)
Stir together all ingredients until evenly distributed.
Press mixture into prepared pan.
Bake at 350 degrees approximately 45 minutes, until edges are starting to brown and it is firm yet springy to the touch.
Remove from oven and allow to cool before turning it out of the pan onto serving plate.
Turn the bread out of the mold, apply coconut oil or butter to the exterior of the bread and the interior of the pan, and return the bread to the pan.
Bring the pre-cooked dish to a camp-out or bbq and set on a rock or grate NEAR the coals (but not directly over the heat) to allow the coconut oil/butter to absorb and crisp the bread, and the smoke to enrich the flavors.
The first dish in our challenge is a ground nut stew. A creamy and filling soup with West African origins. Since dairy products are scarce in Africa, ground peanuts are used to give the dish its signature velvety texture.
Sherry’s Ground Nut Stew in Somerland
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 stick of butter
1 yellow squash
1/2 egg plant
1/2 bell pepper
2 garlic cloves
7 pods of okra
water and salt.
Chop all vegetables to bite size and add all but the okra to the melted butter.
Sauté until translucent then add enough water to cover the vegetables.
Stir in peanut butter and stir until smooth.
Season to taste. Once half the water is cooked out add the okra & cook until your desired consistency.
*This stew may be vegetarian fare or you can add the traditional meat, chicken, to give it an extra bump.
**I would never have thought that okra and peanut butter would taste good together, but let me tell ya, It’s good!