I am always looking for new ways to use ground cherries, those golden globes of farmers markets across the Midwest. I’ve been developing recipes for these one-of-a-kind berries (Actually they are a member of the tomatillo family!) since I started this blog way back in 2015. My first recipes were a pie and a salad; it’s been love at first bite from then on. One of the ground cherry favorites is my Rhubarb and Ground Cherry Chutney. I always make sure I’ve frozen enough ground cherries and rhubarb to make this at the holidays—just like Christmas in a bowl.
This year, I decided to try them as a base for a marinade, using fresh basil from my garden and a fresh blonde habanero pepper (just one, as they are HOT). This is one of these go-to recipes you will make over and over because once you make it up, it will keep in the fridge for about a week and a half, allowing you to have a different vegetable on the dinner table each night, if you wish. For purposes here, we are using okra. My CSA farmer Bruce Haas, owner of Daydream Farm, came up with this idea, and he really scored a big one. Despite my dislike of okra slime, it actually works to your advantage here. So follow the recipe and be sure to journey to the end of the post for other vegetable ideas.
- Two cups ground cherries, husks removed, washed and dried
- One blonde habanero pepper or hot pepper of choice, seeded and chopped
- One teaspoon each: mustard seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
- Four large cloves garlic, chopped
- Two tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- Juice and zest of one large lime
- Two tablespoons honey
- One-half cup rice vinegar
- One-half cup fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
- Dash pure sesame oil (Be generous.)
- Coarse sea salt to taste
- One pound okra, washed and dried
- Begin the marinade 24 hours before you plan to use it, so that the flavors marry well. In the bowl of a food processor, coarsely purée the ground cherries, garlic, habanero and ginger. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Store in the refrigerator in a tightly fitting screw top jar.
- To marinate the okra, allow for at least eight hours and up to 12.
- Cut the tops off of the okra and place them in a glass dish that has a cover. Pour enough marinade over the okra to adequately coat them. Stir well, allowing the okra slime to help the marinade adhere. Cover and refrigerate for eight to 12 hours. Longer is ok, too, but because the okra is cut it may get a bit soft.
- When ready to roast, preheat the oven to 450 degrees (425 degrees if using a convention oven). Give the okra one last good toss in the dish and then line up on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Do not crowd the okra.
- Roast for 35 to 40 minutes. A watchful eye, regardless of type of oven, is advised. This vegetable can burn easily. That said, you want the okra to roast until slightly crunchy, when all that slime will have magically disappeared. Check halfway through and stir as necessary.
- This marinade recipe makes about three cups, more than you will need for the okra dish featured here. So read below the recipe for more quick and easy ideas.
Here is how I calculated the prep and cook time: prep includes preparing the marinade and marinating the okra for 8 hours. It does not include the overnight chill for the marinade to develop its flavor. Cook time assumes 40 minutes in the oven.
Note that I’ve given the okra lots of room, both in the marinade and in the oven. This is important so that the okra is full of marinade flavor going into the oven and develops a crispy texture by the time it comes out of the oven.
Why Stop at Okra?
I have tried this sweet/hot marinade with green beans, trimmed and left whole, with great success. I just increased the marinating time to 24 hours. Roasting time at 450 degrees was about 45 minutes—test with a fork so that green beans are crunchy tender.
I also tested thick carrot strips to everyone’s delight—keep the carrot strips pretty thick and marinate between eight to 12 hours. Roasting time at 450 degrees was about 40 minutes.
Don is up for trying the marinade with shrimp, which I’ve yet to tackle. Thinking your marinating time would be reduced to about 20-30 minutes because its acid component will begin to cook the shrimp. Also, I’d suggest the grill for the shrimp rather than the oven. Just think: one marinade gives you shrimp on the grill and okra in the oven! Dinner is served!
I’ve done quite a bit of vegetable roasting this summer. How about you? Let us know what are you roasting this fall.