Okra is abundant in Virginia this time of year, which means shoppers at regional markets can score deals on a lot of this vegetable at a low price. We have had it at our market over the last month and I have done a little experimenting with the vegetable to figure out my favorite ways to eat it. Whenever we have okra at the Chef Demo tent at the South of the James market, people always want to know how to prepare it. Most people complain about the “sliminess” of the vegetable, as okra is a mucilaginous plant. It produces a gooey substance that, while unappetizing for some, contains a great amount of soluble fiber. Although the okra goo can be helpful in thickening soups and sauces, some people prefer to minimize it. Hence the popular question at the market, “how do you keep it from getting slimy?”
Here are a few ways you can try okra at home; some are slimy but most are not. If you can get past the goo factor, you may find that you enjoy this popular Southern cooking ingredient, which happens to be high in calcium, fiber and Vitamins C and K.
As we head into cooler months, gumbo will rejoin my dinner menu rotation. Right now, gumbo is a great way to slow cook your dinner without heating up the kitchen stove or oven. You can stock up on fresh okra now, then slice it and freeze it to toss into soups and stews all throughout the Fall and Winter. Traditional gumbo features chicken and sausage and it cooks for a very long time. If you prefer a healthier version with less fuss, check out my simple recipe for vegetarian gumbo in my BYOBB Lunch posts from last year.
The most popular way to prepare okra might also be the least healthy way. Fried okra is delicious, and breading and frying okra tends to make it less slimy than other cooking methods. There are even oven “fried” okra recipes that shave some calories if you like your okra crispy but are watching your waistline.
For a more traditional fried okra, try Paula Deen’s recipe here.
For a lighter version, try this one from Cooking Light.
Indian Style Okra
Okra, or bhindi,is a common ingredient in Indian cuisine. This recipe for Indian Style Okra produces a dish that is flavorful with a very nice texture. Paired with another Indian dish like Baingan Bharta and flatbread, this okra gives a very different vibe than the Southern dishes, and it is totally non-slimy. Also try Bhindi Masala for a spicier, saucier version.
Pickled okra makes a nice side dish, or if you’re feeling adventurous, a delightful garnish for your Bloody Mary. I quick pickled mine in a brine that contained distilled white vinegar, water, salt, garlic, crushed red pepper, fresh dill and ground mustard. There are a lot of recipes for picked okra, and you can change the amounts of ingredients depending on how sweet, spicy or sour you want your okra to turn out. Here are a few that I found helpful:
If you have spent any time at all in the kitchen with me, you probably know that roasting is my favorite way to prepare just about any vegetable. Why should okra be an exception? This method maintains the tender-yet-firm texture of the okra, while mellowing out the goo and adding a nice brown crispiness to the edges. I use this simple recipe, then add spices according to my mood.
I am still experimenting, but I think my favorites so far are Roasted Okra and Indian Style Okra. Kyle loves the Indian Style Okra and has always been a fan of gumbo. Next I will try roasting some chickpeas along with the okra and I bet that will be a real treat.
So, I’m dying to know. Have you tried any of these methods before? What is your favorite way to prepare okra?