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Options for okra are plentiful – just like yield

Published 12:01am Saturday, July 27, 2013

It is that time of the summer when the okra is plentiful and you either freeze it (I like to have it in the winter for gumbo when local fresh okra is not available.) or look for the many ways to use it. Aside from being an important ingredient in gumbo and frying up beautifully on its own, okra is equally at home simmered with tomatoes and when pickled with plenty of spices in a Mason jar.

Very drought and heat resistant, okra is believed to be native to an area that includes modern-day Ethiopia, and it is documented as far back as the early 1200s in Egypt. Okra arrived in the United States in the 18th century as a result of the slave trade. Although okra’s liquid is a superb thickening agent for gumbo, its “slime” factor has also worked against its popularity. “Okra is a very tricky

Okra with ginger is a delight on the tongue.
Okra with ginger is a delight on the tongue.

ingredient,” says Chef Donald Link, owner of Cochon (one of my favorite New Orleans’ restaurants). “The way to take the slime factor out of okra is to cook it a little bit first in some hot oil and lay it on napkins in a pan, even if you put it in gumbo,” he says.

Try to pick the small, bright green pods that are no longer than around 3 inches since the larger ones are not as tender. The big hard ones can be used for Christmas decorations once painted red. These recipes go beyond frying, but I really love fried okra. There is really nothing better that some fried okra to add to your beans and corn for dinner, but give these a try for a change.

My husband loves this recipe for okra. There is an Asian twist in this recipe but it is easy and tasty.

Okra with Scallion, Lime and Ginger

Serves 4

1 lb. small to medium okra, trimmed, leaving tops and tips

1 cup chopped scallions (about 1 bunch)

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 (2-by 1-inch) piece peeled ginger, cut into very thin matchsticks

Lime wedges

Steam okra in a steamer over boiling water, covered until just tender, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish.

Cook Scallions in oil with ½ tsp. salt in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring until softened, one to three minutes. Pour over okra and toss with ginger. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over okra.

The next two recipes are from Louisiana Cookin’ August 2013:

 

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

Serves 6

4 slices bacon

1 cup chopped Vidalia onion

2 tablespoons sliced garlic

8 cups fresh okra, halved lengthwise

2 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, drained (Might as well use fresh this time of year.)

1 ½ cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat, until browned. Remove bacon; crumble and set aside, reserving 2 tablespoons bacon drippings in pan.

Add onion and garlic to pan, and cook, stirring often, over medium-high heat; until tender, about five minutes. Add okra, tomatoes, chicken broth, sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add crumbled bacon. Serve with hot cooked rice, if desired.

 

Corn and Okra Cornbread Sticks

Makes about 1 ½ dozen

¼ cup butter

1 cup thinly sliced okra

½ cup fresh corn kernels

1 ½ tablespoons chopped shallot

1 ½ teaspoons chopped garlic

1 (6-ounce) package cornbread mix

1 (14.5-ounce) can creamed corn (Why not use fresh. Corn is in season too.)

½ cup whole buttermilk

3 tablespoons corn oil

1 large egg, lightly beaten

½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray three (6-well) cornbread stick pans with nonstick cooking spray, and place in

oven while preheating. Frank Stitt uses bacon grease for his corn sticks which makes them special. So if you want to kick these up a notch.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add okra, corn, shallot, and garlic.

Cook, stirring often, until tender, about eight minutes. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine cornbread mix, creamed corn, buttermilk, oil and egg. Stir in cooked okra mixture. Remove pans from oven, and fill each well about three-fourths full with batter.

Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes; remove corn sticks from pans, and serve warm or let cool completely on a wire rack.

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