Summer Foods, Okra

By Virginia Willis Special to CNN | 8/14/2013, noon
In this series for the Southern Foodways Alliance, I am examining iconic Southern foods that so completely belong to summer ...
Okra lovers passionately love okra in all manners of shapes and forms. Boiled, fried, steamed, grilled (seen here), broiled, pickled, whole, sliced, julienned. (Photo by Virginia Willis).

1/4 cup pure olive oil

2 teaspoons Creole or Cajun seasoning, plus more to taste

1/4 cup ketchup, warmed

4 green onions, white and pale green parts only, chopped

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Hot cooked rice, for serving

Prepare a charcoal fire using about 6 pounds of charcoal and burn until the coals are completely covered with a thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread the coals evenly over the grill bottom, position the grill rack above the coals and heat until medium-hot (when you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds). Or, for a gas grill, turn on all burners to high, close the lid and heat until very hot, 10 to 15 minutes.

Combine the shrimp, sausage, tomatoes, okra, onion and bell peppers in a large bowl. Add the oil and Creole seasoning, and toss to coat the ingredients. Thread the shrimp, tomatoes, okra and pepper onto separate skewers. (The onions can go directly on the grill.) Or, use a grilling basket instead of skewers for the vegetables.

Place the vegetables on the hottest part of the grill. Arrange the sausage over slightly cooler heat and the shrimp at the edges of the grill. Cook, turning once or twice, until the shrimp is opaque, the sausage is heated through and the vegetables are tender and slightly charred, 8 to 10 minutes (the shrimp will take less time to cook). Slice the sausage, onion and bell peppers into bite-size pieces, then transfer them, along with the other ingredients, to a large bowl.

Toss the meat and vegetable mixture with the warmed ketchup and green onions. Cover the mixture tightly with plastic wrap and let the vegetables steam and wilt slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning to your liking. Ladle over cooked rice in warmed serving bowls. Serve immediately.