One thing I have grown accustomed to over the years is a reliable and steady source of free homegrown okra from my mom's garden every summer... and that makes me a very happy gal considering it is one of my top two favorite vegetables My other favorite vegetable is Brussels sprouts, which pretty much means most people hate my two favorites. I get that. There are things I just don't appear to like no matter how hard I try... beets for example. And really, I have tried and tried and tried on beets, preparing them in a vast variety of ways—but there is a smell/flavor thing that goes on that I just have not been able to overcome—no matter how much I would like to like beets. So I get it. I do. But honestly I think okra gets a bad rap.
Most people who do not like it say it's due to the slime factor. I think they've just been eating okra that hasn't been prepared in a way they would like it because there are plenty of ways to avoid the slime. Personally, I will eat it any way I can, slimy or not, but if that's been the thing that has kept you from enjoying okra, please try these suggestions before you totally write it off.
- Cut off the stem ends. The slime is actually called mucilage, a substance which is thought to help plants with water storage (maybe that's part of why okra is the king of drought tolerant crops). The cone at the stem end secretes a lot of the mucilage. It is also secreted from entire okra pod (with the exception of the seeds), so leaving it whole will actually reduce the slime a bit more.
- Opt for fresh (and avoid discolored or battered pods) okra. Frozen okra will inevitably be slimier due to the ice crystals that build up on it, which leads to the next point...
- Water will release more slime, so work with thoroughly dried okra, and avoid cooking methods like steaming or boiling.
- Roasting, quickly sautéeing or stir-frying, and deep-frying, are the best cooking methods to try if the slime bothers you. Slow cooking it in a stew or gumbo can also be a good choice as it will allow the slime to dissipate into the mixture and act as a thickener.
- Pair it with an acidic ingredient such as citrus, tomatoes, or vinegar. As luck would have it, these flavors all go really well together too.
Adapted from this recipe found on Food.com
Yield: 2 servings
- 2 T peanut oil
- 1 1/4 C okra, cut into small pieces or whole depending on preference
- 1 C chopped yellow onion
- 1/2 C seeded and chopped banana peppers (okay to substitute another mild pepper)
- 1 1/4 C chopped tomato
- 5 cloves garlic, diced
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
- 1 tsp yellow curry
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (okay to increase depending on heat preferences)
- 1/3 C toasted and chopped peanuts
- Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add spices (mustard seeds through the red pepper flakes) and toast, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds then add the peanut oil and stir until combined.
- Add the tomatoes and garlic, reduce heat to low, and sauté for about 10 minutes or until the texture begins to form a paste.
- Add the onions, peppers, okra, and lemon juice and stir well. bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork. Be careful not to overcook or it will become too mushy.
- Serve over saffron Basmati rice with mango chutney. Sprinkle with peanuts. Please don't omit the chutney or the peanuts! They put it over the top.
What the heck is Meatless Monday? It's a world-wide movement to reduce meat consumption for personal health reasons and for the health of the planet. See more info here.