Pan-Roasted Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes

Pan-Roasted Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes
Rate it!

Okra, corn, and tomatoes

Sometimes everything just comes together perfectly. Take this dish, for example. We modified it from the recipe in The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, by Matt Lee and Ted Lee. The week we’d it checked out of the library, we also happened to get a bunch of okra and three ears of corn in our weekly CSA share. If that weren’t enough, we had almost exactly two pounds of frozen tomatoes (the precise amount called for in the original recipe) left from the  flat of CSA tomatoes we picked up last month. I think the Fates were just daring us to make this dish.

We did. And, we can tell you that we’re glad we did! But, before we get into how it turned out, we have to let you know that if you’re planning to make the Pan-Roasted Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes, you’ll need a large cast-iron skillet for the roasting part. But, perhaps, just perhaps, you might be able to get by with the judicious use of the broiler or a grill, although the corn might be a little tricky.

Serves 3-4 as a main, 6-8 as sides.

Pan-Roasted Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes

Pan-Roasted Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes


  • 3-4 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 12 ounces okra, halved lengthwise
  • 2 1/4 cups corn kernels (cut from 3 ears)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 pounds (about 6 large) tomatoes, peeled and cored, halved
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 tsp red or white wine vinegar
  • Generous pinch smoked paprika, optional

Abbreviated Instructions

Toss okra in 1 Tbs oil and 1/4 tsp salt.

Heat cast-iron skillet until very hot. Wipe with oil.

Add okra in two batches, cooking for 3-4 minutes on each side without stirring, or until charred and tender. Remove to bowl and set aside.

Toss corn in 1 Tbs oil and 1/4 tsp salt.

Cook corn in skillet until lightly charred and tender, about 3-4 minutes between stirrings, with a total cooking time of 10 to 15 minutes. Remove to bowl and set aside.

Cook onion and garlic in skillet with 1 Tbs oil until tender, but not browned.

Add tomatoes, cut side down, and cook until collapsed, 3 to 4 minutes.

Return corn and okra to pan, turn heat to high, and cook until heated through.

Stir in vinegar, taste, and adjust salt and pepper.

Ingredient discussion:

We tried to go with the freshest vegetables, but all we had were frozen tomatoes. Next time!

This uses all of what we have begun calling the summer triangle: corn, okra, and tomatoes. So named because each is a star in its own right, and together they make up a constellation of flavors. So, if possible, use fresh vegetables. Now, we did have to use frozen tomatoes, but they were tomatoes that were fully ripe and bursting with flavor when we popped them into the freezer, but, if we had fresh, we would definitely have gone that route. You might not think the vinegar is needed in this dish, but it is. It improves the flavors in a subtle way, making this go from a mish-mash of flavors to something outstanding. Finally, we suggest using extra-virgin olive oil, primarily because it’s an oil we always have on hand. It doesn’t impart any flavor (olive oil loses its flavor during cooking), so, if you want or need to substitute another mild oil, it’ll work just fine.

Procedure in detail:

Mmm! We just love okra, regardless of how it’s prepared.

Toss okra in oil. In a bowl, toss the okra with about a tablespoon of oil, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt, and toss again.

Heat skillet, then oil. Here’s where a cast-iron pan is essential; you want that skillet really hot. We heated ours on medium-high for a good ten minutes, pretty much until it started to smoke just a bit. Any hotter and we would have stripped off the seasoning. Once hot, toss in a splash of oil and swish it around. If you’re brave, you might try using a paper towel to spread it out. We weren’t brave.

charring okra
We don’t know what people do to okra to make it slimy; we never have that problem, especially if it’s charred like this.

Char okra. Working with half the okra at a time, char it by placing it in a single layer in the pan and cooking it for about 3-4 minutes before turning. Yes, it will smoke, but not too much. If you think you have an excessive amount of smoke, back off on the heat.

charred okra
Once the okra is charred, place it in a bowl while you char the corn and cook the tomatoes.

Set okra aside. Once the okra is charred, put it in a bowl and set it aside while you work on the other ingredients. We tried a small bite of okra at this stage. Quite good!

Toss the corn kernels in oil and salt, too. It’ll allow the corn to char without burning.

Toss corn in oil. Just like the okra, toss the corn kernels with a tablespoon of oil, sprinkle with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and toss again.

charring corn
We stirred the corn every 3 minutes or so. The idea is to blacken some of the kernels for flavor.

Char corn. Add the corn to the hot empty skillet. Listen to it sizzle, and cook it for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring about every three minutes or so. You want to char the corn, just like you charred the okra.

corn and okra
Once the corn is charred, set it aside in the same bowl with the okra, while you work on the tomatoes. Yes, you can try a corn kernel.

Set corn aside. Once charred and cooked, transfer the corn from the skillet to the bowl with the okra. Feel free to try a corn kernel, too.

cooking onions and garlic
Now, you don’t want the onion or the garlic to char, especially not the garlic, as that will make it taste bitter. Ugh!

Sauté onions. Add a tablespoon of oil to the skillet, swish it around, and add the onions and garlic. Don’t char these, as the garlic will taste bitter; instead, stir them around continuously, until they are translucent and tender, about 3 minutes.

cooking tomatoes
Place the tomatoes in the pan, cut side down, and cook until collapsed. In retrospect, we would drain the tomatoes before cooking, or remove the seeds as the Lee Bros. suggest.

Add tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in the pan, cut side down, and let cook, stirring just a bit until the tomatoes collapse, about 5 minutes. If, like us, you used frozen tomatoes, they’ll release a lot of juice. We aren’t so sure that fresh would be better.

adding okra and corn
Add the corn and okra, and, since they’re already cooked, just heat them through

Add corn and okra. Return the corn and okra to the pan. These have been cooked, so just warm them in the bubbling sauce until they’re heated through, about 3 minutes.

Taste and season. Now, give it a taste, add a bit more kosher salt if needed, and bit of pepper, and the vinegar. Taste again, and adjust. If you’re using smoked paprika, add it now.

Okra, corn, and tomatoes
Delicious! More liquid than we expected, but delicious anyway. We ate it all!

Serve immediately. We just dished this up in bowls and went to town.

We have to say right up front that the Pan-Roasted Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes is a five-star dish. When those Lee Bros. get a recipe right, it is awesome and well worth trying. Of course, this one had the help of some of the best-tasting vegetables on the planet, so it’s not as if it would taste bad. Plus, the charring gave this dish a slightly smoky flavor that seems right at home with okra and corn. A few things that we’d recommend: drain the tomatoes if you’re using frozen (or canned), serve the dish with rice, and, even though it might be more trouble, consider roasting everything on the grill (cut the kernels off the cob after roasting, and roast the fresh tomatoes very briefly so they don’t fall through), and just combine everything in individual bowls. Of course, with the addition of that real wood smoke, we might just end up with our first recipe worthy of six stars!

Worth the trouble?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *