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Okra recipes that celebrate summer

An assortment of dishes featuring okra, including braised chicken with okra and crunchy roasted okra with labneh.
Roasted, stir-fried or grilled, okra is summer’s best vegetable.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Though notions of seasonality can feel precious at times — especially in our grocery stores where you can get most anything you want throughout the year — I still like to punctuate the seasons with a binge on certain fruits or vegetables to really drive home the feeling of where we are in the year. And since it’s summer, that means, for me, it’s an okra bonanza.

I already eat the vegetable year-round — as I wrote in an ode to my favorite green vegetable — but during the months of August and September, it moves from side to main dish.

For an easy, one-skillet dinner during the week, I love this chicken and okra dish, both components braised in a rich tomato paste-enriched broth spiked with slices of caramelized lemon and pops of briny olive. Or, if I want to switch the ratio of veggies to meat, I make my charred okra and corn salad, which gets extra flavor from a spicy sausage vinaigrette, and then gets toppled over salted fresh heirloom tomatoes for a contrast of hot-and-cold and spicy-and-sweet.

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When it’s a veggies-only kind of night, a quick stir-fry of okra with fresh corn fits the bill. It comes together in less than 20 minutes and is exactly the type of thing you want to pile into a bowl and eat while relaxing with a cold glass of wine on your backyard patio.

For a dinner party dish that can be prepared ahead of time, I’ll make my crunchy roast okra with golden labneh. You coat the okra in a sweet and smoky spice rub and let it roast until it’s caramelized and crisp. The labneh — imbued with a golden hue thanks to turmeric, as well as serrano chiles, garlic and ginger — can be made days ahead and the two brought together at the last minute before serving.

And if you have a surplus of pods after all that cooking is done, the best thing you can do with them is to make this tart relish with tomatoes. It’s a condiment I grew up eating by the spoonful on cornbread, peas, chicken, steak — you name it, the relish goes well with it. Make it this summer and you’ll see that okra always gives you exactly what you wanted it to give.

Braised Okra and Chicken With Caramelized Lemon and Olives

Sephardic cooking traditions of Morocco, as well as North African tagines and Mediterranean stews, influence this braised dish of chicken and okra. Often such dishes are flavored with preserved lemons but here, regular lemons, caramelized in the chicken’s rendered fat, add brightness to the sauce, thickened with tomato paste.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

Braised Okra and Chicken With Caramelized Lemon and Olives
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Charred Okra and Corn Salad With Spicy Sausage Vinaigrette

This dish is fantastic hot, but it still tastes great after a couple of hours sitting at room temperature. The heat and spices in the sausage add a ton of flavor to the sweet corn, peppers and green, toothsome okra. Use the ripest tomato you can find for the best flavor. And if you like, add chunks of mozzarella, feta or goat cheese to the salad at the end before serving.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

Okra and corn salad with tomato and fresh basil leaves
(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)

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Stir-Fried Okra With Corn and Red Chiles

Hot oil blisters okra and wicks away its slime almost instantaneously in this quick stir-fry. The okra combines with another late-summer staple, corn, and fiery red chiles, scallions and garlic. A touch of brown sugar highlights the sweetness in the corn, while soy sauce and toasted sesame oil enhance the okra’s umami depth.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 25 minutes.

Blistered Okra and Corn Stir-Fry
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Crunchy Roast Okra With Golden Labneh

This dish uses the high heat of the oven to rid the okra of its moisture and hydrate the brown sugar and spice rub, which cools to a crunchy, crackling shell. It’s served over labneh colored gold by turmeric and flavored with chiles, garlic and ginger for a spicy contrast to the sweet, smoky okra.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 50 minutes.

Roasted Okra With Spiced Labneh
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
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Okra and Tomato Relish

Although this relish makes the most of the summer bounty of okra, I use canned tomatoes here, as my mother did, for their bright red color and intense flavor. But you can absolutely use fresh heirloom, vine-ripened or even cherry tomatoes instead; simply swap them out for the same weight as the canned ones.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

Okra and Tomato Relish
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times; prop styling Nidia Cueva / For The Times)

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