Love it or hate it, okra has its place in the kitchen

features@beaufortgazette.comOctober 10, 2012 

Okra. You like it or you really, really don't. Some cannot tolerate the vegetable's sliminess, but it really is the perfect ingredient for stews and soups. It's also good fried or pickled.

Okra is known as "lady's fingers" in England because the young pods are small and delicate.

In the New World, the word "okra" reflects the vegetable's African origin and rings with a drum-like sound.

This has been a plentiful season for okra, which gives a cook some time to explore recipes. It can be prepared in a variety of ways, and Western cooks long have labored to avoid the slipperiness it is sometimes known for. But I think it's best to let the okra be itself and just allow it to play its part with color and taste.

FRIED OKRA

1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds okra

Cornmeal

Vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Wash okra and drain well. Cut okra crosswise into slices. Sprinkle okra well with salt, pepper and cornmeal. Pour enough vegetable oil into to frying pan to fry okra. Fry until golden brown and drain on absorbent towels.

PICKLED OKRA

1 hot pepper

1 clove garlic

1 pound small okra pods

1 teaspoon dillseeds

2/3 cups white vinegar

1 1/3 cups water

1/2 cup salt

Place hot pepper and garlic in hot sterilized jar. Remove part of the stem from each okra pod. Pack okra into jar. Add dillseeds.

Combine vinegar, water and salt in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Simmer about 5 minutes. Pour over okra. Adjust lid; process in boiling water bath at simmering temperature (180 to 200 degrees) for 10 minutes. Let pickles stand several weeks before opening.

OVEN-BAKED OKRA

1 pound fresh okra or 1 package frozen okra

1/3 cup white or yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using fresh okra, trim the ends and slice into 1/2-inch pieces. If using frozen okra, let thaw slightly and break into pieces.

In small bowl, stir together cornmeal, salt and pepper. In medium bowl, beat egg whites with fork until frothy. Toss okra in egg whites until well-coated.

Pour cornmeal mixture into okra mixture and stir until okra is well-coated. Use paper towel or napkin dabbed with butter or margarine to lightly grease baking sheet.

Place okra in single layer on greased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Turn okra with spatula. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until okra is golden brown and crisp.

OKRA AND ONION MEDLEY

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small onion, minced

1 pound fresh okra

1/4 cup water

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a saucepan and add the onion; cook until it is translucent, not brown. Top and tail the okra. Add okra and the water to the onion; cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, checking to be sure that the okra does not stick.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve warm.

Columnist Ervena Faulkner is a Port Royal resident and a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at features@beaufortgazette.com.

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