10 Ways Tuesday: Okra

Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe for Okra with Tomato, Lemon and Cilantro (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with okra:

1.  Roasted Okra Mezze with Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Olives, and Preserved Lemons

Mezze is to Middle Eastern cuisine what tapas is to Spanish cuisine- sexy little plates of appetizers with bold flavors to stimulate the appetite. In Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi shares a recipe for Okra with Tomato, Lemon and Cilantro that’s not just good – it’s entertaining good, it’s give me more good, it’s I love okra good. For the recipe, he stews onions, bell peppers, red chile, tomatoes, and cilantro with coriander seeds and sweet paprika. While the vegetables simmer away on the stove, whole okra pods are tossed with olive oil and salt, then roasted in the oven for a few minutes until tender. To serve, stir the okra into the stewed vegetables, along with black olives, preserved lemons, and mint. I served the dish as a mezze with flatbread, but Yotam suggests it would be fantastic atop steamed bulgur wheat or couscous. This recipe is guaranteed to change your mind about okra.

2.  Corn and Okra Pudding

I found this gem in the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, in which they write, “A pod of young okra plucked straight from the plant and popped in your mouth has a flavor like honeysuckle nectar.” The brothers note that okra’s “gentle sweetness” pairs well with fresh corn, which led to the inspiration for this pudding. Okra is sliced and toasted in a dry pan and then set aside. The pudding base is made by heating butter, half-and-half, and sugar in a saucepan and adding whisked eggs. The okra and fresh corn are tossed into a baking dish and the batter is poured over top. After about 40 minutes the pudding is set and ready to serve. I think it would be fun to do these as individual puddings for a party.

3.  Grilled Okra

One of the easiest, most delicious ways to cook okra is noted by Mark Bittman in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: make kebabs and cook them on the grill until caramelized and tender, about five minutes. Before tossing the okra on the grill, Bittman suggests drizzling them with either regular olive oil or herb-infusing olive oil and seasoning with your favorite spice blend- like a curry powder or jerk seasoning. Serve the grilled okra with tomato chutney.

4.  Lamb Tagine with Quinces and Okra

Whole okra pods are often added to tagines (meat stews) in Morocco. Paula Wolfert, the expert on Moroccan cooking, shares a recipe for Lamb Tagine with Quinces and Okra in her latest cookbook, The Food of Morocco. Lamb shoulder is cut into chunks and stewed with cinnamon, ginger, saffron, and onion. The okra is tossed with olive oil, salt, and lemon juice, then left to sit for a couple of hours, then added to the tagine during the last few minutes of cooking, along with the quinces. Lamb, quince, and okra come together with the spices for a deeply flavored stew that’s the perfect transition into fall. For a similar recipe, check out this one from Saveur.

5.  Fried Okra

John Besh is passionate about Louisiana, and his book, My New Orleans, is an in-depth look at the food, the festivals, and the farmers that make Louisiana cuisine unique. I was taken off-guard by how much I love this book; the attention to detail and storytelling really paints a picture of life in the Bayou. I looked to him for a fried okra recipe that would be true to what I remember from growing up in the South. The okra is sliced into rounds, dipped in buttermilk, and tossed in a mixture of cornmeal, flour, and Creole spices before frying in hot oil for a few minutes. There’s just nothing like that gritty cornmeal texture paired with juicy okra- so good! Martha Stewart has a similar recipe here.

6.  Stewed Okra, Greek Style

Okra stewed in tomatoes is a common preparation no matter where you go across the globe, but something about this recipe from Saveur excited me. It started with the picture – rather than slices of okra overwhelmed by chunks of tomato and sauce, the visual is all about the okra. Long pods are coated in a rich and vibrant tomato paste that looks very Mediterranean and not so much like stew. Again, the technique of soaking the okra in water, lemon juice, and salt is used to tenderize it. Meanwhile, onions, pureed tomatoes, parsley, sugar, and lemon slices are simmered together in a pot. After a few minutes, the okra is tossed in and stewed until tender. The combination of earthy okra with brightly flavored ingredients like tomatoes, lemons, and parsley really works. I think this would be so attractive on a platter served alongside roast pork, lamb, or beef.

7.  Creole Spiced Rice with Sweet Potatoes and Crispy Seared Okra

After trying every technique for cooking okra I finally settled on a favorite: crispy seared okra. Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil, then slice the okra in half lengthwise and sear it in the hot pan for a couple of minutes until crisp and caramelized. The okra provides a nice texture and flavor to aromatic jasmine rice and sweet potatoes seasoned with a Louisiana spice blend of paprika, garlic, onion powder, cayenne, and dried oregano. Spoon the rice onto a platter with crispy okra and a garnish of fresh red chilies and green scallions. Look for the recipe later this week on la Domestique.

8.  Steamed Okra Crudités

I can always count on Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone for simple yet genius techniques which let a vegetable’s true flavor shine. The idea to steam okra until crisp-tender (about 4 minutes) and serve it as a crudités. Deborah arranges the steamed okra pods on a platter with clarified butter for dipping or lemon wedges, just like you might serve asparagus or artichokes. She also suggests serving the okra cold with a lemon vinaigrette or mayonnaise flavored with curry powder.

9.  Pickled Okra

With its asparagus-like flavor and crisp texture, okra makes for a fantastic pickle that can stand up to some serious spice. Liana Krissoff includes two recipes in Canning for a New Generation: Hot Pickled Okra and Creole-Spiced Okra.  The hot pickled version is a brine flavored with dill seeds, crushed red pepper flakes, dried hot red chiles, and garlic. Creole-Spiced Okra is flavored with a mixture of classic Creole spices: cayenne, paprika, coriander, cloves, garlic powder, and dried thyme. Liana writes, “You know about open-refrigerator door pickles, right? The pickles you eat one after another while standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open? This is one of those.” For a pickle-lover like me, they are irresistible.

10.  Okra in Coconut Curry

Throughout Asia and India, whole okra pods are commonly added to stewed vegetables with coconut milk and spices. This recipe for Coconut-Vegetable Curry by Susan Feniger involves sautéing each vegetable separately to maintain its flavor and texture, then setting the vegetables aside to make the sauce. Onion, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, mustard seeds, turmeric, fenugreek, and cayenne are toasted in the pan, then the coconut milk is stirred in. The browned vegetables (onions, okra, carrots, tomatoes, and eggplant) are returned to the pan and simmered in the fragrant broth for less than ten minutes, until just tender. Serve the curry over rice with a wedge of lime. A similar recipe for Prawn Caldeen can be found in The Complete Book of Indian Cooking, by Suneeta Vaswani. In this version, the okra is sliced and tossed into the broth for the last ten minutes of cooking.

 What is your favorite way to cook with okra? Share it in the comments section. Click Here.

 

14 Comments

  1. I heart those tiny okra pods up there. The only time I’ve ever cooked it myself is in vegetarian gumbo (I know, not very creative) but it was delish.

    Reply
    • That’s more than most people have cooked with okra, Elizabeth. I think vegetarian gumbo sounds delicious! Thanks for piping up. :)

      Reply
  2. I’m so glad you’re featuring okra! I tried buying them once at the farmer’s market and pickling them, but they were too chewy and fibrous. I later heard that finding smaller, tender okra is important. Can’t wait to see the crispy seared technique!

    Reply
    • Nicole,

      It really sucks that you got burned with the okra pickling! You’re right that smaller okra are more tender- generally buy less than 3 inches long.

      Reply
  3. Love, love, love fried okra. Haven’t had that in a long time. Intrigued by the last one…the coconut/okra combo. That sounds good.

    Reply
    • Sarah,

      It’s funny, before I started researching okra I had no idea it was part of Indian, African, and Middle Eastern cuisine. Adding it to a coconut-based curry does sound good.

      Reply
  4. I don’t cook much wit okra, but you’ve inspired me to give it a shot! Saw some at the farmer’s market last weekend, so I’ll pick some up when I go next.

    Reply
    • Nicole,

      I look forward to hearing what you make with it. Have a great weekend!

      Reply
  5. I’m a big fan of Deborah Madison’s cookbook too! Can’t wait to try Yotam’s stew with some leftover okra :)

    Reply
    • Adrienne,
      I can always find inspiration in her recipes. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Reply

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