Most people think of okra as being slimy and stewed, but when cooked quickly over high heat, it has a delightful texture without any of the sliminess. In this recipe, the okra is grilled, then added to a pasta salad with smoked mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil. The pasta salad gets tossed with garlic-infused olive oil and fresh lemon juice. It's bright and acidic, yet deeply savory and very satisfying. —Josh Cohen
4 to 6
garlic cloves, minced
red pepper flakes
the juice of two lemons
okra (the smaller ones if you can find them; they will be more tender)
freshly ground black pepper
smoked mozzarella, cut into bite-size pieces
cherry tomatoes, halved
fresh basil, leaves picked and washed, stems discarded
Add the olive oil to a large skillet. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the room temperature skillet. Place the skillet over medium heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle, lower the heat slightly. You want to gently sizzle the garlic for 5 to 10 minutes until it just begins to brown and caramelize. When the garlic begins to brown, remove the skillet from the heat.
While the garlic is cooking, you can boil your fusilli. Make sure your boiling pasta water is salted so that the water tastes like the ocean. Undercook your pasta by 1 minute. Toss the cooked pasta with the garlic oil that you made in Step 1, and add the lemon juice. Stir to combine. Set it aside.
Toss the okra in just enough canola oil to lightly coat them, and grill over very high heat, using a grill or a stovetop grillpan. Grill the okra in a single even layer. Cook the okra in batches if you need to. If you're grilling outdoors, consider using a grill basket so the okra doesn't fall through the grates of the grill. The okra should be nicely charred on both sides. Don't overcook the okra, they shouldn't be too soft and mushy. Cook the okra for a minute or two, until they have nice grill marks or char, then flip the okra and cook for another minute or two. As you take the okra off the grill, season it with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cut off and discard the top stem of each cooked piece of okra. Small pieces of okra can be added directly to the pasta. Large pieces of okra should be cut in half and then added to the pasta. After adding the okra to the pasta, add the smoked mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. Stir gently. Tear the basil leaves into bite-size pieces and add them to the pasta. Stir gently again. You can serve this pasta salad warm, room temp, or you can refrigerate it and serve it cold over the next few days.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, I’m perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer’s market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta. I learned how to make fresh pasta in Italy, where I spent the first 6 months of my career as a chef. I've been cooking professionally in New York City since 2010.