My granddaughter was celebrating her birthday before going off to Ole Miss and asked if we could have her favorite shrimp and okra gumbo for her birthday dinner. That was during the record-breaking, scorching days we had a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn’t imagine serving hot bowls of gumbo.

But it was her birthday, and she was leaving. I invited all the family, lowered the thermostat and no one complained that it was 100 degrees outside.

When I add okra to gumbo, I first cook it with onion, tomato and seasoning until it’s tender and no longer stringy. My Mama always called it “smothered okra.”

This recipe makes more okra than you need for a pot of gumbo, so freeze the rest in two or three plastic freezer bags for later. Serve it as a side dish or use it in shrimp gumbo during the cooler months.

There is no set amount of cooked okra you should add to gumbo; it’s pretty much according to taste. I don’t like a thick gumbo, so I usually start with a cup of smothered okra and add more as I need it. It all depends on how much gumbo you’re making.

Corinne Cook is a columnist for The Advocate. Reach her at