Loving the Lowly Okra -- recipes?
- ChristinaMason Oct 12, 2011 10:27 AM
I've only just recently caught on to all the wonderful ways okra can cooked besides being deep fried (hey, I went to college in the South). Okra seems to be something of a nutritionist's dream---high in soluble and insoluble fiber and very low in calories, too!
Do you like okra? What are your favorite preparations? Do you have a recipe you can share?
Pickled Okra is my fave but I also slice it into 1/2 " slices, roll it in cornmeal with some Cayenne mixed in and pan fry it in an iron skillet.
I love the okra preparations I've had at Indian restaurants - generally involving tomato and onion with lots of combined herbs and spices. Other than that I am pretty unfamiliar with it. I bought a packet of dried sliced okra on a whim. Included it in ordinary vegetable soup with sausage. I liked that use, so I bought some fresh okra at a local farm but did not know at the time that the pinky-finger sized ones are the best. So I bought mostly large ones, which didn't tenderize evenly in the next pot of soup. When they say insoluble fiber, they mean it! The slices broke down but left chaff-like bits of skin. The soup version of Prairie Home Companion's infamous cereal, Raw Bits.
My absolute favorite method is to slice it or split it lengthwise, toss in olive oil and s&p, and broil it. With fresh-from-the-garden okra, this is tops.
I'll fry it once or twice a summer just for kicks. Pickled is good (it freezes well also).
Of course it is essential for gumbo. It also makes a great soup (try it with black eyed peas)
It is great in any kind of stew, so look for Greek/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern/North African recipes, such as my first link:
Another favorite, a salad:
I adapted something I saw on a cooking show several years ago (no idea who), for a quick stir fry of shrimp (or chicken) with okra, fresh hot chilies, garlic, ginger, fish sauce (or soy sauce), plus anything else I fancy (onions, fermented black beans)... The "secret" is to do a quick stir fry on the sliced okra and sprinkle very lightly with a tiny bit of sugar just at the point the okra wants to get sticky, then dose liberally with lime juice. Stir back in with your other ingredients. I think I made it sound way more involved than it is, but the method makes okra delicious without frying.
I love okra. Obviously it is a natural in gumbo or stewed with tomatoes and bacon in a Creole sauce. I've also taken to pickling okra okra in a coriander and habanero brine.
But if you want to go beyond our shores, looking up recipes for bhindi will expand your horizons to India and the dead simple okra curries that are popular there. Typically I make mine by frying cumin seed, ground coriander and turmeric with the usual onions and ginger-garlic paste, then adding the okra and chilies and finishing off with lemon juice or amchoor powder and garam masala. Sometimes I'll also add chopped tomatoes if they're in season. The spicy, sweet and sour taste is irresistable and it all comes together in under 30 minutes.
If I feel like something a little more substantial, I make the Arab stew known as bamia. It is popular across the Middle East and has variations with and without meat. My preference is to season the tomato-based sauce with plenty of garlic, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander, cardamom, bay leaf and chili and use it to braise lamb stew and then the okra until both are tender. Finishing the stew with lemon zest gives the sauce a vibrant flavor, though you could also use sumac and alter the seasonings to your taste. It is very forgiving (and terrific with dilled rice and lima beans).