The quickest and easiest preparation for this vegetable is roasting. After washing, if you’ve got small pods, just cut the stem ends off. You don’t even have to slice them. Otherwise, cut them lengthwise (medium sized pods) or if all you’ve got is large pods, cut them in thirds. Throw them in a bowl and drizzle olive oil over them. Give them a quick toss to coat and pour them out onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper to taste, and roast in a 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, you want them roasted, not burned!
Okra lends itself well to stewing with tomatoes. Throw in a little bacon and onion and you’ve got Southern magic.
Here’s what you need:
4 slices bacon
1 onion, chopped
3 cups sliced okra
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot, cook the bacon and render until crisp. Remove from the pot and reserve. Throw in the onion and cook until tender. Add the okra and the tomatoes, including the juice. Season with salt and pepper, and then simmer 15 minutes or so until tender. As this is cooking I like to roast an ear of corn or two until it gets a nice char on it. I then strip the kernels from the cob. Just before serving I add the roasted corn to the tomatoes and okra, giving a stir to ensure everything is warmed through. I pour it in a bowl and crumble the bacon on top. This is delicious served over rice, or alone with a side of cornbread.
Fried okra is awesome, and is on the short list of veggies that my son will eat. I’m sure the ranch dressing he dips them in helps out a lot! I cut my okra (same rules as before, only cut across the pod if they are large) and soak in buttermilk for 10 minutes or so. Drain well in a colander. I then sprinkle the okra pieces in salt, and dredge in seasoned cornmeal. Old Bay seasoning is a terrific addition to your coating. Fry in about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch vegetable oil until brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.
Okra is the mainstay of gumbo, and while I’m not from Louisiana, I can certainly appreciate the flavors of the region. Gumbo is one of those dishes that is personal to the cook. Some contain chicken, some have andouille sausage, others have seafood or are completely vegetarian. I usually make mine with chicken and smoked sausage or jumbo shrimp. Here are some recipes to start with:
Pickled okra is easy and delicious, and definitely a change from cucumber pickles! Pickle your okra with chiles, or garlic, or even other vegetables like baby carrots or little cauliflower florets. My main man Alton Brown has a sample recipe here.
Finally while doing a little research for this blog post, I came across a recipe for Okra Rellenos that I HAVE to try. Obviously I’ll have to modify the frying batter to use gluten-free flour, but I figure okra stuffed with cheese and deep fried HAS to be good.
I hope you’re inspired to pick up some okra on your weekly trip to the farmer’s market.