“Having cast iron at home is the best way to achieve professional results at home,” says Chef Kevin Johnson of The Grocery in Charleston, SC. At his restaurant, Kevin employs the wood-fired oven as much as possible, but at home, he translates that style through cast iron cooking. He was a vegetarian for a decade, and although he once again consumes meat, he is still known for — and has a passion for — cooking vegetables.
“The cast iron can get so hot, and with lots of vegetables, you need that heat to give them a quick roast, not a steam,” he explains. “My main tip when it comes to cast iron is to coat the food with the oil, not place the oil in the pan,” the chef explains. “You’re not going to get a crazy flash fire that way, and tossing food in oil first means a more consistent char as well.” This goes for meat and seafood, too, including delicate seafood such as scallops.
This dish highlights the southern staple of okra and tomatoes in a new light. Often stewed, this recipe allows the small, tender pods of late summer to shine. The skillet offers a nice char while also cooking the okra quickly so it is still tender but toothsome.
what you need
1 ½ pounds okra (choose small pods), spilt in half lengthwise
6 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
2 tbsp. canola oil
6 ounces cherry tomatoes, quartered
6 scallions, slivered
3 tbsp. benne seed, toasted
¼ cup parsley, chiffonade
Kosher salt to taste
Heat a large cast iron skillet on stovetop until extremely hot.
In a large bowl, drizzle oil on okra, season with Kosher salt and toss with thyme leaves.
Working in batches if necessary, add okra to skillet in a single layer. The pods can be crowded, but it is important that all of okra is in contact with the skillet.
Allow okra to sear, without disturbing, for 2 – 3 minutes.
If all of okra did not fit at once, remove and place into another bowl. Repeat steps 3 and 4 with remaining pods.
When last round of okra is almost finished, add cherry tomatoes.
Allow tomatoes to cook in pan with the okra for about 30 seconds in order to break down slightly and create a little bit of juice.
Combine all of okra and tomatoes in a serving bowl. Mix in scallions, parsley and benne seed.
Squeeze the lime over the mixture, season generously with a Espelette pepper, and finish with a sprinkle of Maldon salt. Serve warm.
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Smithey Ironware Company, LLC
1175 Machinist St 43A
Charleston, SC 29412