No recipe better combines the pronouncements of “Chacun à son goût” (each to one’s own taste) and “Have no fear!” Originating in Tunisia, this colorful dish of onions, tomatoes and peppers seasoned with spices, topped with eggs, and, in this instance, okra, exemplifies the abundance of a Texas summer. For a vegan version, omit the eggs. Serve anytime for any meal with crusty bread, pita or lightly charred corn tortillas. The dish will fall on the sweet side when using a bell pepper alone or range from “a touch of heat” to “just darn hot” when made with smaller, feistier peppers. You’re the Pepper Master —choose at will, à son gout.
½ pound okra
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided use)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, julienned
1 large red bell pepper, stems, seeds and ribs removed, julienned
1 to 2 chiles (such as jalapeños or habaneros), stems, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
2 to 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sweet Spanish smoked paprika or Hungarian paprika
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (or home-canned equivalent), chopped or crushed by hand
4 farm-fresh eggs
Garnish: handful of finely chopped cilantro, parsley or chives
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Line a 9½x13-inch sheet pan with foil. Rinse the okra and dry well with a lint-free kitchen towel. Remove stems and slice on the diagonal into ½-inch pieces. Transfer the okra to a medium bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to prepared sheet pan and arrange in a single layer. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden-brown.
Place a large cast iron skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. When oil shimmers, add onions and arrange in a single layer, stirring infrequently to allow onion to color and begin to char, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add bell pepper, stir to combine, let soften and char, 4 to 5 minutes. Add chiles and sauté, 1 minute. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cumin and paprika and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds (for a more intense avor, clear a spot in center of pan by pushing vegetables aside, then add spices to the open spot to toast them until fragrant). Add the tomatoes, stir, bring to a strong simmer, then drop heat to low and let simmer gently, 10 to 15 minutes, until slightly thickened and flavorful. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Using the back of a large spoon, make 4 wells near the perimeter of the pan and crack an egg into each well (or crack each egg into ramekin or custard cup and gently tip egg into well). Spoon a bit of sauce over edges of egg whites to curb them (prevent them from feathering out into sauce), leaving the yolks exposed. Season eggs with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the egg whites are set and yolk is still runny, or until desired degree of doneness. Pile roasted okra in center of skillet, garnish with cilantro, parsley or chives, and serve immediately
It was Rebecca Allinson’s boundless curiosity and generosity that landed her home-grown produce at Chad Houser’s Café Momentum, a restaurant in downtown Dallas where at-risk youth learn to be cooks and servers. For Allinson, gardening, cooking and the art of life are entwined. At her home in Plano, where she lives with her husband and three cats, and where three grown children swing through periodically, the back, side and front yards are her personal wonderland of growing things, niched in 500 square feet.