Okra is an underutilized vegetable. It is abundant and usually low-cost, and can impart flavor and texture to many dishes. It can be used to thicken stews and is popular in Caribbean, Brazilian, Indian, Vietnamese, and American Southern cooking. It originated in Africa and grows in warm temperate to sub-tropical regions around the world. Its most famous use may be in the Creole dish, Gumbo, where it is paired with fish, shellfish, or fowl, spices, tomatoes, and stock.
Okra is prized by vegetarians and allergy-conscious diners who use it to create thick stews without the use of animal products and/or flour. Tender and flavorful, it is deserving of center stage in its own recipes. Here are some recipes starring okra:
1 lb okra
salt and pepper
lard, olive oil, or peanut oil
Slice okra 1/4" thick. Salt heavily and cover with very cold water. Refrigerate one hour. Rinse and drain well. Roll in cornmeal seasoned with salt and pepper. Fry in deep skillet with 1/2" of fat till brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Enjoy.
Combine 3c lukewarm water with 1&1/2 T salt and 1&1/2T yeast. Mix in 5c white flour and 1&1/2c fine cornmeal. Mix thoroughly, but do not knead. This should yield a cohesive but wet and sticky dough. Let rise for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. When fully risen, flour surface of dough liberally and dust hands, rolling pin, and work surface with flour. Pinch off a grapefruit-sized piece of dough and pinch into a ball, drawing ends toward a single point until most of dough is smooth. Place on floured work surface and flip, flouring both sides. Press into a pizza shape, then roll into a circle. Dust baking sheet with cornmeal and put crust onto baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden and puffy. Spread with sauce and top with sliced okra, green pepper, onion, shrimp, tomato, and monterey jack cheese. Bake ten minutes more or until cheese is browning and bubbly.
1/2c sliced okra
1/4c chopped onion
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2T vegetable oil
1 can tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
1T water combined with 1T cold water
Cook okra in boiling salted water for ten minutes. Drain. In a skillet over medium heat, cook onion, green pepper, and okra until lightly browned. Add juice from can of tomatoes and cook 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook to heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve along rice or meat.
To use okra to thicken a soup or stew, simply slice and add the vegetable. Cook until okra is tender. Okra has a mucilaginous quality similar to oats, slippery elm, and tapioca/manioc. It is best when used concurrently with a roux of flour, oil, and water or soup stock. This makes the texture of the stew less slippery and more familiar to western tastebuds. To make a roux, brown 1T flour in 1T oil for 2-5 minutes or until as dark as you like it. Add 1c water or soup base to flour mixture while stirring and allow to come to a boil. Add this roux back into the soup and bring entire pot of soup to a boil. The soup or stew should thicken within a minute of boiling.
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