Okra — the quirky veggie

Published 12:04 am Saturday, August 2, 2014


Shown is a fried okra dish with remoulade. | Connie Anderson/Star-News

Our okra is finally coming in and I have waited a long time, but everything is late this summer. Okra is really a quirky and misunderstood vegetable. Brought here from its native Africa on slave ships, okra is thoroughly at home in the intense heat, inconsistent rainfall and humidity of the South.

We were in Wilmington this past week and had a treat to visit a new restaurant at the beach called Pembroke. (The name comes from Pembroke Jones whose Wilmington home was in the area. He was the wealthy turn–of-the-century gentleman who inspired the phrase ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’) The restaurant had an interesting appetizer of fried okra served with a remoulade sauce. This was good enough to repeat. On returning home I did a take off of this recipe and found some more interesting recipes for okra. No matter how okra is cooked it should be cooked until just done and bright green or a tad beyond, which is good for getting the most from its flavor and texture. Cook it too long and it will be too soft. Whether treated gently with steam to coax out its delicate flavors, or manhandled with high heat and assertive flavors, okra is a worldly addition to the Southern table.

Fried Okra with


1 lb. okra

Oil for frying

Small okra is better but split the okra down the middle. Before frying you can put the okra in a small bowl of flour and then into a bowl of egg and milk and then back in the flour before frying. I do a tempura fry by adding the okra to a bowl of flour mixed with part of a beer. This makes the okra a little lighter. Fry in hot oil for a few minutes. (3-4)

Remoulade Sauce

4 tablespoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons vinegar

4 tablespoons prepared mustard

4 tablespoons prepared horseradish

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons paprika

Dash cayenne

2 tablespoons catsup (optional)

1 cup salad oil

½ cup celery, chopped fine

½ cup green onions, minced

Combine lemon juice, vinegar, (tarragon, if you have it) and seasonings. Gradually add oil. Stir with fork or rotary beater to blend well. Add celery and onion. Makes 2 cups.

Indian-Spiced Okra with


4-6 servings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 ½ pounds okra, any tough stem ends trimmed off and discarded

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 ½ cups chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup water, or less as needed

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and cover as the mustard seeds will start to pop. Shake the pan 1 to 2 minutes, or until the popping subsides. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the okra and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste (which may spatter, so be careful) and stir to coat the okra and to toast the tomato paste on the bottom of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chickpeas and enough water to coat the bottom of the pan; season lightly with salt and pepper, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes, or until the okra is bright green. Uncover the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, another 2 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and the okra is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roasted Okra with Olive oil, Lemon and Sea Salt

4-8 servings

2 pounds okra, and tough stem ends trimmed away and discarded

3 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt

Lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a bowl, toss the okra with the olive oil to coat. Arrange the okra in a single layer on a large sheet pan. Roast 8 to 10 minutes, or until bright green, barely tender, and brown in spots. Serve immediately with the sea salt and lemon wedges.