How to Make It
For the vegetable base: Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 6 minutes. Remove from the stove and set aside.
For the rice: Combine the water, salt, white pepper, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and stir to be sure the salt has dissolved completely. Reduce the heat to medium, add the rice, stir once, and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain.
Transfer the rice to another medium saucepan, discarding the bay leaf, stir in the butter, and cover to keep warm.
For the okra: Heat the butter in a large skillet over high heat until foamy. Add the vegetable base and okra and cook, gently stirring often, until the butter begins to brown and the okra is just tender, about 6 minutes. Season lightly with salt and black pepper and stir in the pepper vinegar.
To serve: Put the rice in a serving bowl and spoon the okra mixture on top. Drizzle with the okra seed oil and sprinkle with the fines herbes and benne seeds.
Excerpted from South by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019. Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards.