Smoky Okra with Rustic Tomato Coulis

Okra and tomatoes are a "match made in heaven". The flavor of each ingredient compliments the other and even enhances it. I kept that in mind when developing this recipe for my cooking demonstration last weekend at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I wanted to showcase an updated version of a classic Southern okra and tomato dish.

The smoky flavor of the okra comes from smoked paprika. This spice is made by smoking, drying and grinding Alma peppers. I recommend cooking the okra in a cast iron skillet because it maintains a consistant high heat, which helps to caramelize the edges of the okra. The result is great flavor and a non-slimey texture. Coulis is simply a fancy word for a pureed sauce. I call this coulis "rustic" because the skin, core and seeds of the tomato are not discarded. Instead they partake in the thick, yet smooth, texture of the blended sauce. 

Servings: 4


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¾ pound roma tomatoes, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 pound okra, sliced into ½ inch rounds


  1. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan.
  2. Add garlic, constantly stirring, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add tomatoes, sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and the tomatoes are broken down, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, mix smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, cayenne, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt together in a small bowl.
  5. Heat canola oil in a medium cast iron skillet. Add okra to the skillet and cook over medium high heat for about 2-4 minutes, undisturbed. Stir the okra and cook undisturbed for an additional 2-4 minutes.
  6. Turn the heat down to low. Add the spices and toss with the okra; constantly stirring, until fragrant; about 30 seconds.
  7. When the tomatoes are done cooking, blend with an immersion blend until smooth.
  8. To serve, place a spoonful of rustic tomato coulis on a plate and top with smoky okra. 

Recipe Developed by: Chef Ashley R. Van Cise, RDN, LD