Red Okra Soup

A soup with Southern flavors and warming heat that takes advantage of summer’s bounty of fresh red (or green) okra.  A tip for those opposed to okra’s texture: Refrigerate the fresh okra for 24 hours to keep it from getting that gummy, slimy texture.

3 slices pepper bacon

2 tablespoons butter

5 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 large onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 fresh red or green jalapeno

1 pint (about 2 1/2 cups) fresh red okra, sliced into rounds
 (Refrigerate the okra for 24 hours to keep it from getting slimy when cooked.)

1 tablespoon paprika, preferably half of it smoked and the other half sweet paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 tablespoon oregano, dried

1 tablespoon thyme, dried

1/4 cup wine (white, rosé, red, whatever you have that’s dry)

4 cups vegetable broth

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 cup crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Mexican crema* or yogurt, for topping

In large stockpot, cook bacon until crispy. Remove bacon strips from pot and set aside. Reserve bacon fat in pot.

Add butter. Saute celery, onion, garlic and jalapeno and sauté until softened. Add okra and stir to combine. Add paprika, cayenne, oregano, thyme and sauté a minute or two longer. Stir in  wine, let simmer 2-3 minutes, Add broth, tomatoes and brown sugar. Simmer about 45 minutes, until okra is soft-tender. Crumble bacon back into pot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve topped with a drizzle of crema or yogurt.

*Similar to sour cream or creme fraiche, crema is vailable in Latin specialty food stores and some major supermarkets.

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