ES Okra, Okra ES – An Introduction
A couple of weeks ago, I finally decided to try the 3-dollar-per-pound okra that is sold in decidedly environmentally-unsound styrofoam packaging at the local Latino corner store, Bestway. I grew up eating okra. I’m not sure which branch of my mother’s family tree the okra eaters were on, but it was apparently a staple food of mother’s childhood and thus it became a staple of my own.
My mother typically made her okra smothered in a mixture of: hot peppers, tomatoes, chili/cayenne powder, caramelized onions and garlic. I wanted to try something a little different so I looked to ES, hoping someone had blogged about venturing into uncharted territories with okra dishes. In short, I looked to ES for inspiration (as I often do) and made a startling discovery….
Not one ESer has ever written about okra. Not one! Okay, maybe you aren’t as surprised as I am. My housemates have admonished me for my shock, telling me that they have only tried okra pickled (ew! I’ve never even heard of that abomination) and that all other ways of eating okra aren’t exactly common in the U.S.A….. Alright. I guess.
But okra is absolutely delicious when prepared correctly (and if you live near Bestway Market in Mt. Pleasant DC it’s an absurdly cheap vegetable). Okra is a vegetable (actually a fruit as in the ripened ovary of a flower) that makes regular appearances in subcontinental, Latin American, Creole, Ethiopian and West African dishes.
Now I know some people are afraid of okra. They tell me that okra they’ve had is slimy or not very flavorful. While I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where okra was cooked in the correct way, I have sampled a slimy slice of okra or two in my day. Now, FYI, okra does ooze a bit when it is sliced, but if you pat it dry and avoid introducing water-heavy ingredients to the recipe until after the okra has had a chance to firm up and crisp a bit, slime need not be synonymous with okra.
Let my babbling not stand in the way of introductions: ES community, this is okra, okra, this is the ES community. I just know you’ll grow to love each other and be life-long friends.
Please find my slime-free okra recipe below.
First, rinse 1/2 pound of okra and pat dry.
Slice off the tops of the okra fruit and discard. Cut the okra into 1/4 inch thick medallions. If your knife gets a little goopy, simply wipe it clean on a towel.
Place one large pan and one medium-sized frying pan on the stove. Rub olive oil on the medium-sized pan and sprinkle with caraway seeds, coriander seeds (or crushed corriander), cumin powder and salt (Combination sound familiar?). Toast this mixture lightly.
In the other pan caramelize one large red onion. Once the onion caramelizes, add cilantro, four cloves of crushed garlic, 5 diced tomatillos, a bit of shaved ginger and turn up the heat to medium to really let the juices come out of those ingredients (at this point my mother would usually add some oil and sliced, peeled red tomatoes and a little salsa as well making the onion and tomato mixture really saucy).
Add an obligatory dash of red pepper flakes or curry powder (but just a dash, because your bf/gf is probably a wimp like mine and will whine endlessly if you put too much razzle-dazzle zing zong into the dish.)
Place okra medallions in the the pan with the spice mixture and shake the pan to make sure the slices get covered in the spice. Turn the heat up to medium. Let the okra brown in the spice mixture.
Once okra has browned and crisped somewhat, fold the okra into the onion/tomato sauce. Cook on medium for a few minutes
Serve with a fresh cilantro leaf on top. Yummmmm… So now balls in your court ESers, do you have any other okra cooking secrets? Slime-free please!