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okra with red onions and tomatoes, with homemade sausage

Posted Jun 05 2009 5:07pm

Not too long ago, I complained that I never see okra at the farmer's market, which is just silly because if you can grow tomatoes and peppers in Utah, you can certainly grow okra - and suddenly, while visiting one of my favorite stalls on Saturday, there it was. Awesome!

I use okra semi-frequently, probably once a month, because I really love Southern-style cooking. The okra I use is almost always frozen, because I don't like buying it fresh. It might be in season in Mexico, but that doesn't mean it's in season in Utah.

The texture of fresh okra is still quite different from the frozen stuff. The outside of it is soft and supple, like microfleece or that fake mink stuff you find on couches. The inside is kind of gooey, almost slimy, and herein lies why many people do not like okra. I admit that the texture is a bit off-putting, but I still really enjoy it. I am planning to pick up a few extra pounds for freezing myself.

I first saw homemade sausage on VeganDad, and I was definitely intrigued. We almost never eat packaged fake meats, because that crap ain't healthy for anybody. I do sometimes make exceptions for Tofurkey's sausages, because they are based on tofu instead of isolated soy protein and a bunch of unpronounceable ingredients, and they actually taste pretty good. I am definitely a from-scratch kind o' girl, but it wouldn't really occur to me to try to make something like this on my own, because I can't really afford to experiment and have a lot of failures end up in the trash. Luckily, most of the experimenting has been done for me, so I took my favorite features from various recipes around the Internet and gave it a try.

Plenty of veg*ns have ethical objections about eating food that is meant to look or taste like animal products, but I'm not one of them. I didn't give up meat because I don't like it. I gave up meat to be more healthy, compassionate and gentle on the earth. I don't think that eating plant food that tastes like animal food sends the message that I really need animal foods to feel healthy or satisfied. I think it says that I grew up on a really crappy diet and I can't really do anything about the tastes that developed as a result. I can only be grateful that I've developed much healthier tastes since then, and that my desires for meat-flavored plant food are few and far between. I am feeling very grateful that my kids' comfort foods, at 2 and 3, are foods that even adults pull a face at because they're "too" healthy. In any case, it's been about four years since I've eaten meat, and after a certain point, these foods stand alone and not simply as substitutes. That's why I don't use stupid names or bizarre spelling to let you know they're fake.

Perhaps all that you really need to know is that these sausages were really excellent, easy to make, and I will definitely never be buying Tofurkey's again. We're going to try them on a pizza tomorrow. Don't be intimidated by the ingredient list because most of it is just spices, which can easily be substituted or even omitted.

1 red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 t. coriander seeds
1 t. mustard seeds
1 lb. okra, trimmed and sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 T. red wine vinegar
salt and black pepper to taste

4 c. cooked brown rice
cilantro, to garnish

2 1/4 c. vital wheat gluten
1/3 c. nutritional yeast
1/4 c. chickpea flour (I actually used soy flour, which I have never used before, but I couldn't find chickpea flour and my hand grinder won't process beans)
2 T. bird-free seasoning (I use this recipe, minus the protein powder, which is the devil)
1 T. granulated onion
2 t. black pepper (preferably coarse-ground)
2 t. paprika
2 t. mustard powder
1 1/2 t. fennel seeds
1 t. crushed red pepper (I used chipotle peppers for the smoky flavor, but you can use something else)
1 t. salt
1/2 t. thyme
pinch of allspice

6 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. olive oil
1 T. Bragg's or other soy sauce
2 1/4 c. cold water

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Put on your rice to cook. Combine the dry ingredients for the sausage.

2. Stir in the garlic. Add the water and then add the Bragg's and the oil before stirring. Stir together all of the ingredients, mixing very well.

3. When a hard dough is formed, use your hands to fully incorporate all of the seasonings, then knead the dough for about 5 minutes.

4. Slice off pieces of the dough that are the size you would like your sausages, keeping in mind that they will expand a bit as they cook. (I just made a bunch of different sizes because I'm lazy like that.)

5. Roll the pieces into a ball and then roll them out like a log. Lay inside a piece of oiled aluminum foil or parchment paper. Roll up the sausages and twist the ends.

6. Place on a cookie sheet in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. Then remove the foil or paper, oil the cookie sheet and place the bare sausages on the sheet. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, then flip the sausages and cook for another 5 minutes, until well-browned.

7. While the sausages are cooking, heat 1 T. of oil in a large skillet and add the onion and garlic. Cook until just softened, about 5 minutes.

8. Add the spices and cook them for about 3 minutes.

9. Add the okra and the tomatoes and cook, stirring regularly, until the okra have softened slightly and the juice from the tomatoes has cooked off. Add the vinegar and allow that to cook off as well.

10. Slice a sausage for each plate and arrange the rice and okra side by side with the sausage over the top. Sprinkle each plate with cilantro and serve hot.
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