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Creamy Okra Casserole

Creamy Okra Casserole
Susan Russo for NPR

This humble casserole is pure comfort food. Underneath the buttery, golden crumb topping is a medley of fresh vegetables baked in a rich, creamy cheese sauce. Pair it with a biscuit or slab of cornbread for a vegetarian meal, or serve it alongside grilled chicken, steak or pork. Frozen, unthawed okra may be substituted.

Makes 6 servings

Cooking spray

2 tablespoons butter, divided

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 1/2 cups sliced fresh okra, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup red bell pepper, chopped

1 1/2 cups corn kernels, preferably fresh from the cob

1 jalapeno pepper, with seeds, finely diced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons whole milk

2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

A generous sprinkling of salt

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar or smoked Gouda cheese

1/3 cup bread crumbs

1/3 cup cornmeal, medium or coarse grind

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch round ceramic or glass baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add onion, and saute until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add okra, red bell pepper, corn and jalapeno. Saute until vegetables are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in cherry tomatoes.

In a small bowl, whisk milk, flour, baking powder, parsley and salt. Pour over the vegetables and stir. Add the cheese, and stir until just melted and mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

In a small bowl, melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Add bread crumbs and cornmeal, and toss until butter is absorbed. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the casserole.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden brown and the sauce is bubbling around the edges of the dish. Cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve hot.

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