Got a lot of tomatoes in the garden? Hit the farmer’s market recently? Went on a Whole Foods run? Found a random can of Trader Joe’s pickled green tomatoes in the pantry? None of the above but always wondered what to even do with green tomatoes? Good. I have a bit of a passion for green tomatoes, so get your serrated knives out.
After all this time living in the South, I still don’t say “y’all,” I don’t like or drink sweet tea, and I don’t root for any SEC teams (sorry…Roll Tide…please keep reading). But I have found that I am head-over-heels in love with Southern cuisine and cooking.
As a Jewish vegetarian from New Jersey, there has been some conflict with this forbidden love, but I have developed a kosher, vegan bacon grease and a chicken-fried tofu that even kids will eat. When kosher-keeping visitors come to town over Shabbat, they aren’t able to eat at any of the restaurants in Birmingham (aside from the JCC snack bar, none are kosher), so I get creative with what’s local and in season and give them a full Southern spread.
Sometimes these cultural experiences can be caricatures. Updating recipes and adding personal spins while not warping the classics too much is the tricky part.
This week, Knesseth Israel is hosting 8 SEED Program participants, a Jewish community outreach program that sends yeshiva students all over the US and Canada to encourage Orthodox leadership in towns and cities with very small Jewish populations. This week’s SEED team is mostly from New Jersey. And like me for the first few years of Southern living, they had never seen, heard of, or tasted okra. Green tomatoes were completely alien.
At the end of Shabbat dinner, there were some new fans of Southern food. There were recipe requests. Also, where can one acquire okra?
If you don’t live in Alabama, there’s always frozen okra, perhaps, but what’s the fun in that? Wickle’s Pickles will send you a jar of Alabamian pickled okra, right to your door! And they’re OU certified (they’re kosher).
Then you can use those pickled okra to make this salad:
Pickled Okra Salad
- Neutral cooking oil
- 1 ear of corn
- 1 bell pepper the more color, the better! Use a bit of ‘em all!
- 1 ripe tomato any kind, whatever you like
- 1 green tomato
- Pickled okra 5 spears will probably do the trick unless you hate okra, then any other pickled green vegetable will work.
- 1 half purple onion
- Kosher salt to taste
- White or black pepper to taste
- Vinaigrette to coat I used a basic dijon vinaigrette but use whatever kind you like
- Juice from 1 lemon
- Fresh herbs- I used a handful each of basil mint, parsley, chives, and scallion. Use the finely chopped stems for some crunch and texture. You could add cilantro, replace the lemon juice with lime, and add a serrano pepper or add oregano, black olives, and feta. Everyone at the party will love you!
- Remove the corn kernels from the cob, toss in some oil (I used a bit of canola), and let roast in a 425 degree oven until they are starting to get a bit crispy and dark. I used an industrial convection oven and this took 10 minutes. You can, of course, grill your corn. You should probably grill your corn, honestly. That’s what summer is made for, right? Now, if you do roast your corn, you will want to dice up your bell pepper and mix it in with the kernels. The bell pepper should remain crunchy, but not completely raw. 10 minutes in the oven should do just fine. If you are grilling your corn because you’re a summer superhero, then go ahead and give the peppers the same open flame treatment. When they’re done cooking, set them in a bowl and let them cool.
- Dice your tomatoes as big or small as you see fit. Put the tomatoes AND their juices in a mixing bowl. Chop the pickled okra into about four pieces per spear, or use a couple more and halve them and add them to the bowl. Add your diced or thinly sliced purple onion (a shallot would also be good). Sprinkle with kosher salt, give it small mix, and let it hang out there for about 5 minutes.
- Now is a good time to make a vinaigrette if you decided to go for homemade. I usually just use what I have on hand when doing dressings, so use what you have and like. I use around 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, about a tablespoon of dijon mustard, ⅓ cup of olive oil, some dried thyme, and red pepper flakes for a speck of color. Whisk it all up with a fork, and voila! For this salad, the colors and flavors of the produce are the star, not the dressing. Yes, the dressing should taste good, but save any creamy, dark, or overpowering dressings for the romaine and crouton salad your aunt insisted on bringing. If you love balsamic and cannot be parted, add a splash of white balsamic to the vinaigrette. The only reason the salad should be dark with an interesting aftertaste is if your aunt spills her wine in it.
- Once the corn and pepper are cool, add them to the tomato mixture. Add some salt and pepper until it’s almost unbearably delicious, then add the vinaigrette to coat the vegetables. Use any leftover vinaigrette for a rainy day. Cover it and let it sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
- Take the salad out at least 30 minutes before serving. While it comes back to a more pleasant eating temperature, chop up your herbs. Throw the herbs in, sprinkle the salad with the lemon juice, add a pinch of salt if needed, and toss. I add a glug of sesame oil and a dusting of smoked paprika. You don’t have to.
- Put your salad in whatever bowl you would like.