It’s no surprise when kids beg for gummi bears. But at the farmers market last year, a grade school-age girl pleaded, “Please, Mom, please. Let’s get some okra!”
Pity the poor okra, hers may be a fan club of one. Recognizing my surprise, the mother rolled her eyes and mouthed, “Fried okra,” then tucked large handfuls of fresh pods into a sack. I followed suit and came home to experiment.
For most of us, okra has an undeserved reputation for gummy texture. When okra pods are small and unblemished, they are not slimy and cook up quick-quick. Look for three-inch or shorter tips and cook them within 24 hours. Do trim off the tough stems but leave a slice of ‘cap’ intact to capture flavor and moisture.
Okra may need re-branding. From here on, the word ‘okra’ is banished in favor of the sweet simplicity that okra cooks into, familiar favorites like popcorn and fries. Only then will the okra fan club overflow with members, headed by a ten-year old president.GARDEN POPCORN (Fried Okra) Cut trimmed okra cross-wise into half-inch lengths, then shake in a paper bag with cornmeal and seasoned salt. Fry in a shallow pool of hot peanut oil for 4 minutes, then scoop into a colander lined with paper towels. Season with salt, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and enjoy while hot.
FISH with GARDEN 'FRIES' &
Time to table: 30 minutes
GARDEN FRIES (Roasted Okra)
- Olive oil or cooking spray
- 1 pound small fresh okra, trimmed
- Salt & pepper
- 1 pound good tomatoes, chopped
- 1 bulb fresh fennel, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
- 1 tablespoon good vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chive
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
- 4 filets (1 pound) mild, white fish
- Ground fennel
- Salt & pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
FRIES Set oven to 450F. Spritz a baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray. Add okra in single layer and spritz again. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in oven, even if not yet heated. Roast about 25 minutes or until browning, stirring occasionally.
SALAD Mix ingredients. Set aside.
FISH Rub both sides with fennel, salt and pepper. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet til shimmery. Add fish and cook til done, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plates, top with salad, serve with okra.
My roasted okra 'garden fries' were entirely inspired by Fatfree Vegan Kitchen's roasted okra.
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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences.
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