Nov 25, 2012

Okra's Slimy Slimy Goodness!

Dill Pickled Okra
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Okra is another one of those vegetables that people either like or they don't because they can't stomach its slimy texture when cooked. The trick to cooking okra successfully, if you don't like it slimy, is to cook it over high heat and long enough to remove its slimy texture. Actually cooked okra tastes similar to eggplant. In fact, foods that go well with eggplant also match up nicely with okra. Okra complements tomatoes, peppers, corn, lamb, ham, bacon, and other smoky meats–and is enhanced by spices such as coriander. It is also delicious with shellfish and fish. When buying fresh okra, look for young pods free of bruises, tender but not soft, and no more than 4 inches long. I was raised in the southern part of the U.S. I ate okra regularly, boiled, fried with cornmeal, in gumbo, you name it, but it wasn't until I moved to Hawaii that I realized how many other nationalities also love okra. The word "okra" comes from Africa and means "lady's fingers" in Igbo, one of the languages spoken in Nigeria. Although okra originated from Africa, it is now available around the world. If you're not a fan of okra, give it a second chance with one of these tasty international okra recipes:

Dill Pickled Okra
Most people seem to like pickled okra. When I have room in the pickling jar, I usually like to add a few green beans to keep the okra company. They are great in a bloody mary.

Ingredients:
2 pounds young, small to medium okra pods, rinsed
4 small dried chiles, split in 1/2
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
12 sprigs fresh dill or 4 teaspoons dried dill
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 cups rice wine vinegar
2 cups bottled water
Special Equipment: 4 pint-sized canning jars, sterilized

Procedure:
Wash okra well, removing fuzz and stems. Leave the caps on; do not cut into the pods. In each of 4 pint jars, place 1 chile, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, 3 sprigs of dill or 1 teaspoon dried, 1/4 of the minced garlic and 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns in the bottom of each of 4 sterilized pint canning jars. Divide the rinsed okra evenly among the 4 jars, standing them up vertically, alternating stems up and down. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the salt, vinegar and water to a boil. Once boiling, pour this mixture over the okra in the jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space between the top of the liquid and the lid. Seal the lids. When the metal lid pops down, you know it's sealed properly. Set in a cool dry place for 2 weeks, and try not to eat them if you can until they are ready. Makes 4 pints.


Pickled Okra, Shrimp & Avocado Salad
This is a chance for you to use the recipe above in this delicious salad.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon pickling spice
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined, medium-size raw shrimp (31/40 count)
1/2 cup sliced pickled okra
1 (4-oz.) jar diced pimiento, drained
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons minced red onion
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large avocados, sliced

Procedure:
Bring 8 cups water to a boil in a 3-qt. saucepan; add pickling spice, and cook 5 minutes. Add shrimp; cover, remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Drain and cool 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine pickled okra, diced pimiento, and next 6 ingredients. Add shrimp, and serve immediately with avocado slices, or cover and chill until ready to serve. Makes 6 servings.


Southern Fried Okra
This is football food around my house. I grew up with this recipe and now I am passing it down to you. It's kind of a Southern thing, like hush puppies and black bottom pie. This is NOT a "slimy" recipe.

Ingredients:
1 egg
2 cups buttermilk or regular, or low fat
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 to 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper depending on your taste
2 -3 cups cornmeal
canola oil
1 pound fresh okra, cut into 1/2" pieces (remove stems but keep the caps)
salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:
In a large bowl beat egg with a fork, pour in milk, garlic powder and cayenne pepper and stir to combine. Pour the cornmeal in another big bowl. Pour enough oil in a big skillet, halfway up, or you can use a deep fryer. Set heat to Medium-high. Put some okra pieces in milk mixture and then coat in cornmeal batter. Fry in skillet 10-15 min, occasionally turning/stirring them around. They are done when crispy and golden brown but not black! Drain on paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat with rest of okra till all gone. Go Niners! Makes 6-8 servings.


Okra Tempura with 
Buttermilk Dipping Sauce
I am a big fan of tempura, but using okra along with other fresh vegetables like onion rings, string beans, red bell pepper and of course shrimp... it's a winner!

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
16 ounces soda water
Canola oil, for frying
2 pound fresh okra stem removed and halved
Tempura batter, recipe follows
3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt, for seasoning
Buttermilk Dipping Sauce, recipe follows

Procedure:
Whisk tempura ingredients together and let chill. Heat canola oil in wok, deep-fryer or a large Dutch oven to 375˚F. In a shallow pie plate, add flour and 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning and mix well. Season okra with 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning. Dip okra in seasoned flour and then in tempura batter and place in oil, 1 at a time and fry until golden, about 4 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined sheet tray. Season with salt. Serve with Buttermilk Dipping Sauce. Makes 6-8 servings.

Buttermilk Dipping Sauce
Ingredients:
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce, optional
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:
To make the dressing, in a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, lime juice, and hot pepper sauce, if desired. Add the green onions, parsley, and garlic. Adjust the seasoning, to taste, with salt and pepper. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


Japanese-Style Grilled Okra
Grilling okra lets you enjoy the texture and flavor without the sliminess. The Japanese rub each pod of okra with salt, taking off the okra fuzz on the skin with their fingers.

Ingredients:
okra
sesame oil
soy sauce
lemon wedges

Procedure:
Drizzle the okra with sesame oil and soy sauce. Heat grill to medium-high heat and space okra apart on grill (you may need to skewer the okra to hold it in place). Turn after about 4-6 minutes and baste with a little more soy sauce. Grill another 4-6 min. Squeeze lemon juice on top; serve immediately.


Fried Okra with Parmesan Cheese
Ingredients:
1 pound fresh okra, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Greek seasoning (which is 1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1/2 tsp. dried basil, 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram, 1/2 tsp. dried minced onion and 1/4 tsp. dried minced garlic, if you want to make it yourself, but it's easier just to buy it already made)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Procedure:
Sauté okra in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5 to 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and seasoning, and cook, stirring often, 3 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.


Simple Oven Roasted Okra
Stewed okra is great, but roasting keeps all of the flavor in, and the okra tends not to be slimy.

Ingredients:
18 fresh okra pods, cut in half lengthwise
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoons Kosher salt, or to taste
1 teaspoons black pepper, or to taste

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Arrange whole fresh okra in one layer, cut side up, on a foil lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 3 servings of 6 okra.


Microwave Okra Fries
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups okra, slit lengthwise and then cut into 1 inch pieces
a pinch turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
salt to taste
1/2 tablespoon chickpea flour
1 tablespoon rice flour
1-2 teaspoons canola oil

Procedure:
Wash and dry the okra. Discard the top and bottom of the okra. Cut it lengthwise. Again split each half lengthwise, so you would have 4 finger like pieces. If the okra is big cut the pieces half midway (so 8 pieces from each okra) or use it as it is. Transfer the okra pieces to a bowl. Add oil so that the seasonings would stick to the okra. Then add all the other ingredients and mix it thoroughly with your hands. Make sure the plate in the microwave is clean and place the seasoned okra on it directly. Set the time for 5 minutes, then stir it and cooked it for another 2 minutes. Be careful while stirring because the plate will be hot. Microwave oven settings vary, so chose the time considering the type of oven you are using. From then on I increased the time by 30 seconds each time until I got the crispy texture. Don’t forget to stir after every 30 seconds. Do this 3 times, being careful not to burn the okra.Taste it after cooling for 1 minute. It should be crispy. Repeat the same for rest of the okra. Makes 2 servings.


Curried Okra
This traditional recipe for Okra (or Okro, as it is called in some parts of Nigeria) is one that can be created anywhere in the world, as it uses ingredients that can be found in most grocery stores.

Ingredients:
5 cups okra, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 onions, finely sliced
1/4 cup canola oil
3 plum tomatoes, chopped and seeded
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of curry powder
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
pinch of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Procedure:
Gently saute sliced onions in oil. When translucent, after about 10 minutes, add tomatoes and garlic. Add the spices. saute gently for five minutes. Top and tail the okra and cut into pieces about 1/2 inch thick. Add to the spices and cook gently for 10-15 minutes. Makes 6 servings.


Sautéed Pork Chops with Tomatoes,
Okra and Black Olives
This Portuguese okra recipe is delicious served with a spicy red wine and crusty bread.

Ingredients:
4 boneless pork chops, around 3/4-inch thick
1 lemon, juiced
1 onion, thinly sliced
5 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped (or 1 32-ounce can of chopped tomatoes)
1 pound okra
1/2 cup black pitted olives, such as Niçoise
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal

Procedure:
In a large bowl, marinate the pork chops in lemon juice with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion slices and cook until soft, around three minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and continue cooking until the tomatoes have softened and broken down into a chunky sauce. Add the whole okra and the black olives and cook until the okra is tender, around 10 to 12 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Remove the pork chops from the marinade and pat dry with a paper towel. Dredge the pork chops in the cornmeal and then season with salt. In a large sauté pan, heat two tablespoons of cooking oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops to the pan and cook until browned on one side, then flip, lower the heat to medium, cover and continue to cook until the pork chops are done, around 2 to 3 minutes a side. Remove the pork chops from the pan and serve immediately with the okra and tomato sauce mix on the side. Makes 4 servings.


Okra with Tomato and Cucumber
A delicious side dish from India.

Ingredients:
4 cups fresh okra
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 (whole) red chillies
1 onion, sliced
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 small cucumber, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste
coconut, grated, for garnish

Procedure:
Slice the okra diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Heat the oil in a large, nonstick frying pan and when hot add the mustard seeds. As they begin to 'pop', add the dried red chillies and onion. Stir-fry and cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes until the onion has softened and then stir in the tomatoes, cucumber, garlic, ginger and turmeric. Stir-fry for another 3-4 minutes and then turn the heat to high and add the sliced okra. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, season and remove from the heat. Sprinkle with grated coconut and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.


Crispy Okra & Potatoes
A south-indian crispy okra dish. Okra is known as Bhinda in Gujarati.

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh okra, cleaned and sliced to 1/2 inch rounds
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut in small pieces
1 large frying pan
1/4 large onion, finely chopped
canola oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tsp Dhania-Zeera powder or 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 plum tomatoes, chopped and seeded
salt to taste
Chopped cilantro leaves and lemon juice for garnishing
fresh lemon juice

Procedure:
Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in a frying pan. When well heated, add the sliced okra. Stir-fry, without mashing the okra, on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Then, put a lid on the frying pan and allow to fry till golden brown and no longer slimy, stirring occasionally. This should take around 15 – 20 minutes. Take care not to burn the okra. When cooked, remove the okra to a paper towel to drain. Heat about 1 tablespoon oil in the same pan and fry the potatoes in it, till they are golden brown. Remove and place on paper towel to drain. Now heat about 1/2 tablespoon of oil, and when heated, add the cumin seeds.

When the cumin seeds begin to crackle, add the onions and let them soften on low-to medium heat. When the onions are translucent, add the dry spices. Mix well and add in tomato paste and chopped tomatoes, the fried okra & potatoes. Mix well and add salt to taste. Finally, garnish with a handful of chopped coriander or cilantro leaves. Add lemon juice if desired. Makes 2 servings.
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