Okra is often boiled or fried and served as a simple side in soul food restaurants, but in Charleston it often comes as a luscious vegetable soup with tomatoes, onion, and celery. This recipe first appeared in our May 2011 issue, with the article Specialty of the House.
2 tbsp. canola oil 3 strips bacon, finely chopped ½ tsp. dried thyme 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped 1 rib celery, finely chopped 1 bay leaf Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 2 tbsp. tomato paste 1 lb. okra, trimmed and cut into 1″ slices 6 cups chicken stock 1 28-oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
Heat oil and bacon in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; cook, stirring, until fat renders, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, garlic, onion, celery, and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste; cook, stirring, until caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add okra, chicken stock, and tomatoes; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, until okra is very tender and soup thickens slightly, about 45 minutes.