Grilled Okra with Lemon and Heirloom Tomato Sauce

A South Florida chef finds inspiration at his own farm

Photo: Alpareno Restaurant Group

Chef Niven Patel only has to stroll around the fertile grounds of his two-acre South Florida farm, Rancho Patel, to spark an idea for his next culinary creation. Located in Homestead, Florida, about an hour outside of Miami, Rancho Patel serves as the primary source of produce for his four restaurants, Mamey, Orno, Ghee Indian Kitchen, and the soon-to-open Erba. The four-time James Beard–nominated chef chooses what fruits, vegetables, and herbs to plant each season based on what he wants to see featured on each restaurant’s menu. Eager to share his farm-to-table methods, Patel welcomed guests to the property this spring for a hands-on dining experience that transformed into a rustic, family-style meal. Visitors picked their own rosemary for a craft cocktail and plucked carrots from the ground for a side dish.

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Patel’s menus evolve depending on the daily harvest, and with summer weather in full swing in southern Florida, tomatoes and okra are ideal crops to highlight. “Okra has always been one of my favorite foods since I was a child, so I love preparing it in our restaurants to share my renditions with guests,” Patel says. In the recipe below, he accents the vegetables with a saffron-scented lemon and garlic sauce.

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  • Grilled Okra with Lemon and Heirloom Tomato Sauce (Yield: 4 servings)

    • 1 lb. okra

    • 1 pint fresh heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped

    • 2 cloves garlic, sliced

    • 1 pinch saffron

    • ½ shallot, diced

    • 2 tbsp. olive oil

    • Pinch regular Kosher salt

    • Pinch black pepper

    • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

    • Dash fleur de sel


  1. Prepare okra: Trim okra and cut in half. Line on a pan and leave at room temperature overnight. This will help dry out the clamminess of the okra.

  2. Prepare roasted tomato and lemon sauce: Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, add tomatoes, garlic cloves, a pinch of saffron, and shallot, along with two tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and cracked pepper. Toss and put on a sheet pan. Roast for 25 minutes. When it’s done, add zest and juice of one lemon onto tomato mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  3. To serve: Take okra left overnight and put in a mixing bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill both sides of okra until charred. Place the tomato sauce at the bottom of the plate and gently pile the grilled okra atop the tomato mixture. Once the dish is plated, finish off with fresh torn basil and a dash of fleur de sel.