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New Ingredient: Okra

August 1, 2011

There are certain foods that you automatically associate with sweltering summer days in the south: pulled pork, collards, fried chicken and okra.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — despite growing up technically in the south (below the Mason-Dixon Line), I didn’t grow up in the south. Maryland/Northern Virginia/DC are squarely in the mid-Atlantic, where you’re as likely to find restaurants serving clam chowder and crabs as one serving grits.

So okra, that traditional southern staple, was never even on my radar until it showed up in an Indian stir-fry I ordered. Random, right? I loved the dish but didn’t give okra much attention, until talking with Sarah last week and hearing her rave about making easy okra fries fresh from the farmer’s market.

What is okra?  Okra is a plant that produces an edible pod that is eaten as a vegetable. It originated in Africa, perhaps Ethiopia, and was brought to the Americas with the slave trade. The pods are green, have a ridged skin, and generally a narrow, tapering shape, although some can be almost round. (It’s also a little slimy, a term known as mucilaginous, which sounds grosser than it is.)

I filled up a bag of okra from the bin of ‘seconds,’ so-called because the okra was slightly discolored and imperfect. But since I was cooking the okra just a few hours later, I decided a few blemishes were no big deal. Check out the huge range of sizes!

The okra went into a pan with CSA potatoes, all of which was tossed with olive oil. The okra got a few shakes of salt and pepper, the potatoes a little parsley sage rosemary and thyme.

The okra was done after 20 minutes at 400*, the potatoes took an extra 10 and by the time my house filled with the incredible aroma of roasted vegetables, it was time to eat.

Friends, we have a winner!

I loved the okra. It took a lot of restraint not to finish off the entire batch, instead setting aside half for lunch leftovers. Yes, the slightly gooey center and plentiful seeds are there, but they don’t distract from the incredible flavor of the vegetable, set off by the simple addition of EVOO+S+P.

To give you an idea of what the insides look like:

So easy to cook, so fresh and healthy, so inexpensive from the farmer’s market -= okra is becoming a regular part of my summer meals!

Of course, it wouldn’t be okra fries without one important thing.


Ahhh, now we’re talking.

What’s your favorite way to cook okra? Know any new-to-me foods I should try?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Angi permalink
    August 1, 2011 9:36 am

    Oh, yum, okra! How I miss it!!! I grew up in mid-Illinois, so not the south, but my dad always cooked it for us (he actually grew some, too), and I learned early on how delicious it was! In fact, it was always part of the meal I requested for my birthday! He always fried it for us, which is very good, but not exactly healthy…

  2. August 1, 2011 11:59 am

    Yay! So excited that okra fries were a winner. I actually picked up some okra yesterday to make some “fries” and ketchup is by far my favorite dipper for them!

  3. August 1, 2011 12:22 pm

    I like to skewer small okra pods and put them on the grill after brushing them with a little olive oil.

  4. August 1, 2011 11:37 pm

    I’ve never tried okra! It looks good though!


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