Tuesday, September 11, 2007

O is for Okra

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Forget singles columns or online dating sites, vegetables are the next big thing in making relationships. Okra has generated more conversations, more new friendships for me than any other vegetable. I am presuming that the okra's long slender shape gave it the name lady's finger.It beckoned at me from the supermarket shelf and then pointed at the first of many people with whom I found myself discussing cooking methods. My first introduction, in the supermarket aisle, was to a woman from Syria. She insisted that the best okra are the smallest ones.Later at Shepherd’s Bush Market, a Nigerian man insisted that the worst crime is to overcook them. I made a mental note of his tip and went home with my bag of okra.
The trouble is that slime has got in the way of making a dish that the family like. The okra feels the need to dribble this clear gooey secretion as I cook it. I made a sauce with bacon and onions and tomatoes and the okra then spoilt it. Not even my husband,with an iron stomach, enjoyed it. So I am appealing to all of you out there in cyberspace to lend me your expertise with okra. Is there a simple, fool proof way of enabling the lady's finger to entice Freddie and Alex into enjoying it?

27 comments:

  1. I LOVE okra, and have never had slime issues! I buy the baby okra from the farmers market. Trim the stems off, and cut the larger ones in half.

    Heat a little olive oil at a medium-high heat, toss in the okra and some sliced onion and cook for about 5 mins.

    Throw in a can of drained diced tomatoes, some jalapeno pepper (if you like heat), maybe some garlic, lower the heat and let simmer for about 10 mins. Delicious!

    Seriously -- try it!

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  2. What a coincidence as Ed from theslowcook has just posted a delicious looking recipe:
    http://theslowcook.blogspot.com/2007/09/smothered-okra.html

    Mind you, he would probably not like the look of the bruised horrible okra that you have been buying.

    Best of luck with this Veg, keep up the good work!

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  3. I'm a New Yorker living in the US South, and in my opinion the only two things one should ever do with okra is fry it and make it into gumbo.

    To fry it, cut it into smallish sections, batter it with egg, flour, and cornmeal, and fry until crispy. This will hide all the slime, and if your pieces are small enough the okra will disappear almost completely. Salt liberally.

    In gumbo okra cooks down completely and turns into more of a thickener than a vegetable. You could try this with any stew recipe. Just cook the okra until it falls completely apart. (Incidentally, okra came to our country from Africa, and there the words gumbo and okra are synonyms for the vegetable. You can't make gumbo without okra.)

    You'll notice that both of these recipes work for me because the okra ceases to be recognizable, so if your goal is to showcase okra then you might want to ignore my suggestions!

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  4. You must fry it!! I am a Southern Gal (USA south) and I LOVE fried okra. But frankly in any other dish it is too slimy for me too.
    Here's a good simple recipe:

    Fried Okra

    * 1 pound okra
    * 1/2 teaspoon salt
    * 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
    * 2 cups self-rising cornmeal
    * vegetable oil

    Wash okra and drain well. Remove tip and stem end; cut okra into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle okra with salt; add buttermilk, stirring until well coated. Let stand at least 15 minutes; then drain okra well. Dredge in corn meal. Deep fry okra in hot oil at 375F until golden brown; drain on paper towels.
    Serves 4 to 6.

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  5. Slice it, dredge it in breading, and fry it quickly. That's the only way I know to cook it to all but elminate the slime. I'm afraid I don't have a recipe to share, but a quick internet search for fried okra should give you lots of choices.

    Otherwise a traditional Southern American gumbo kind of uses the slime to thicken itself.

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  6. I, too, despaired of ever getting okra to be anything but gooey...until I found this incredibly simple method:
    Wash okra but don't cut it, don't even cut the tops off. Combine okra with enough olive oil to coat generously, sprinkle with paprika and salt, and roast in the oven until soft. Only when it's cool enough to touch, slice and serve, either alone, or over some pasta. It NEVER lasts long in my house like this, mostly because I eat it all before my family even has a fair chance at it...

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  7. Anonymous3:29 PM

    You might try following this link, which has a recipe for fried okra. I've tried it, and the slime does seem to disappear.

    http://www.crazyauntpurl.com/archives/2006/07/fried_okra_1.php

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  8. Dipped in buttermilk. Coated in cornmeal. Fried. The crunch almost makes up for the slime. We use very small pods. I've heard that the more intact the pod is i.e. whole, the less slimy it is.

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  9. Oh yes! It is the integral ingredient in gumbo. The slime becomes an asset as it serves as a thickening agent, plus in the soup form you never even notice that things are slimy.

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  10. Anonymous5:05 PM

    Ah, yes, the slime issue.

    The best way around the slime that I've seen is:
    -- Cut into disks.
    -- Bread them.
    -- Fry until crunchy.

    I've also eaten okra in Indian curries, and I like it that way, but I don't remember how Freddie feels about curry.

    Jen M. in Seattle

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  11. Anonymous5:14 PM

    heavens, yes.

    in the southern part of the united states, frying it is probably the most common way to eat it. its easy to do too. when done right, its crunchy greasy goodness.

    this is a basic recipe i just googled for.

    http://southernfood.about.com/cs/okra/ht/fried_okra_ht.htm

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  12. Ooops. First thing, you get fresher and small okra than appear in the picture. The least gooey ones - they're likely to be a challenge - are no bigger than a Freddie-size thumb. That said, at the farmers market in July, I overheard a girl Alex's age beg her mum for okra. "Please, Mom, please!! Let's get some okra." I must have had that surprised look on my face because her mother looked at me, rolled her eyes and grinned, saying, "Fried okra".

    Good luck! You can do it!!

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  13. y'all did what to that okra? honeychile, the only way to eat it is fried. look at crazy aunt purl's guide to southern fried okra goodness:
    http://www.crazyauntpurl.com/archives/2006/07/fried_okra_1.php

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  14. Frying the okra definitely eliminates all the slime issues. The only time I've experienced the slime problem was eating it raw. I posted about smothered okra today, but I will also e-mail you some recipes.

    http://theslowcook.blogspot.com/2007/09/smothered-okra.html

    http://theslowcook.blogspot.com/2007/09/ode-to-okra.html

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  15. Fried Okra. Really everything is better fried. Of course I am from the South (USA's version), so we fry a lot of stuff. Here you can buy it in the frozen vegetable section already prebreaded, but I bet that they don't have that in the UK. So I am sure there is a great recipe out there for frying it up. Good luck.

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  16. I've never quite liked the idea of okra, eaten it once and didn't like the taste, always felt I should give it another try ... and was on the point of it until I read your post. But the thing that had been making me want to give it a second chance (it's about the only thing I d/won't eat), is that lately, several American blogs have been writing about how good it is ...

    I'm awaiting developments here with interest

    Joanna
    joannasfood.blogspot.com

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  17. Okra varies quite a bit based on how it is cooked, so you may want to try a few different ways of serving it. I personally love it grilled or broiled.

    Here's some basic grilling instructions. You can also "grill" it under a broiler (but put the pods on a pan instead of skewers).

    http://www.lifescript.com/channels/food_nutrition/recipes/sides/grilled_okra.asp

    Instead of sesame oil in that recipe, I prefer to use 2 parts olive oil, 1 part lemon juice and a dash of cayenne. I also let the pods marinate for 5 to 10 minutes before cooking.

    Grilled okra causes the seeds inside to swell up making them fun to pop and eat.

    Okra is also great fried, but I don't have a good recipe handy.

    -Rebecca

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  18. This is the most amazing response.
    Thank you thank you thank you.
    I normally like to reply to each comment but I can't - other than to say I am off again to the supermarket to buy some more better looking okra and I will try out some of your suggestions.
    Thank you so much!
    Charlotte and Freddie

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  19. What a classy blog! Have only eaten okra once, isn't it also called 'ladies fingers'?!!
    Pigx

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  20. Did the tip I give you about cutting it and drying it not work? I got an email yesterday from a reader in Australia who said she cut it and put it in the oven to dry and then cooked it and it was not slimey. Sorry you're having so much trouble with it. The column I wrote also had some info on how to deal with it in terms of not adding salt until the dish is cooked completely.

    It gets tricky when being cooked with other things as often you'd need to cook them separately and them marry them for the last couple of minutes.

    Please let me know if I can be of further help.

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  21. Anonymous11:06 AM

    Hello:
    I had posted this link for you
    earlier, when you were still on
    "N"; but maybe it got lost?

    Anticipating your move
    to okra, I suggested you look
    at the options on:
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/436604

    You can bread and fry okra rings;
    or saute them on medium heat
    (first they will release 'slime'
    then they dry out - at that point
    add other 'wet' ingredients like
    tomatoes);
    or try something Indian (forget
    about 'curry' - sure you know there's more to Indian food than that). Here is one Indian style
    suggestion (and most Indian
    kids love okra because it's cooked
    in a yummy way):

    cut okra (fresh or frozen)-1lb
    chilly powder-1tsp
    coriander powder-1tsp
    turmeric powder-1/4tsp
    salt to taste
    any cooking oil-3 0r 4 table spoon
    METHOD: Heat the frying pan put the oil when it is very hot add the okra to it.stir it care fully. After 5 mins.mix all the dry ingredients to it.When it is mixed well just add 1 tsp of curd or yogurt or lemon juice to it,cover it with lid and reduce the heat to medium.after 5 mins.remove the lid and change the heat to high and stir it slowly by which it shouldn't stick to the bottom.U can see the oil coming out in the pan,when it is done.Try this:

    okra (fresh)-1/2 kg, sliced into
    1/4 inch rings
    cumin seeds 1/4 tsp
    cayenne powder-1/4 tsp (less if desired)
    coriander powder-1 tsp
    turmeric powder-1/8 tsp
    salt to taste
    lemon juice
    cooking oil ~ 2 tablespoons
    METHOD: Heat oil in the frying pan. When it is very hot add
    the cumin seeds. When they sizzle, add the okra.
    Stir well.
    After 5 mins,mix all other spices in and stir.
    Reduce the heat to medium.
    Stir gently often. First it will
    release slime, then it will become dry. At the end, sprinkle
    lemon juice (just a little).
    Serve hot (maybe stuffed into a
    pita; or with rice and something else as a main dish).

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  22. Thank you for this - I had lost the link. Much appreciated

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hiya

    I HATE slimy Okra. However, like many on here, I love them fried, just as the Indians have them as a snack with a cold beer (no beer for Freddie of course!). So take some plain flour, season it with salt and pepper, as well as chilli, ground coriander, cumin and turmeric. Slice your okra into rounds, drench in the spicy flour and deep fry in vegetable oil until crispy. Drain, then serve perhaps with a little yoghurt to dip in or a spicy tomato sauce.

    Cheers
    David

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  24. schmoof10:28 AM

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbfood/F2670471?thread=3970524&show=100

    Here is a thread about the sliminess of okra. Personally I like it stir fried with aubergine, garlic, and green beans in an oyster sauce.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Anonymous12:19 PM

    Hi again:
    Glad you found the link
    helpful. Also, I goofed
    up when posting the Indian okra
    recipe and posted it twice.
    The first iteration is not helpful - frozen okra is terrible
    use only fresh;
    use only the second recipe (if you
    can delete the first one then
    please do so).
    Bon appetit!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thank you Anon - much appreciated.
    Charlotte

    ReplyDelete

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