Hello again, everyone. I hope your summer is treating you well. One of my favorite things about summer is the bounty of fresh fruits and veggies just bursting out of every garden, field, tree, and, luckily for me, farmer’s market bin. One of my absolute favorite vegetables has got to be okra. Love those emerald pods! I talked about okra here and here. Boy did I feel like I won the lotto when okra was on offer recently at my local farmer’s market. I bought a pound and cooked it that very same day, using today’s recipe.
And I promised to eventually share the very recipe for okra that my mom taught me back in the day. In fact, when I went to Texas recently, it was quite possibly the most delicious thing I ate my entire time there. That’s saying a lot, considering what deliciousness abounds in the Great Lone Star State. As Mom made it for me, I hovered around like a hungry baby bird, but an observant little bird, because I was mentally noting how she made the stuff so I could execute it perfectly and smoothly back in New York.
Speaking of New York, it’s been hot, hot, hot here. I was lucky enough to get to cool off in the Hamptons a couple of weekends ago at my friends Denise and Rich’s engagement party. Here’s a snap of my friend Jenny and I partying it up:
So back to the okra convo. The Persian and Arabic okra methods are generally stewed. The typical Southern method is deep fried. Neither sound like appealing cooking techniques for hot summer days. Plus, I know fried vegetables are delicious (I enjoy from time to time, I can admit it), but it’s kinda like, “What’s the point?” So that’s another way my mom’s recipe is brilliant–it’s on the lighter side. It lets the okra’s true flavor shine.
It also has a bit of poignant story behind it. Growing up in rural Texas, my mom and her siblings were sort of latch-key kids. Well, latch-key kids long before the term was coined. And actually, I dunno if they locked their doors back then, but you get my drift. Sometimes they had to make their own meals. Okra was plentiful, but they didn’t really know how to fry it. (Thankfully; can you say safety hazard?) So they developed this stir frying technique that gives it some crunch, takes away the dreaded sliminess of okra, and preserves that gorgeous emerald color. It’s fast, satisfying, and not at all heavy on the belly. Brilliant, I tell ya!
Mom’s Quick Stir-Fried Okra
A simple, fast, and lighter way to enjoy okra. Cornbread mix can be substituted for cornmeal. If you do use cornbread mix, use less salt when seasoning the okra pods.
- 1 pound fresh okra pods, washed and excess moisture dabbed away with a towel
- 1/4 of a medium onion
- 3 ounces of cornmeal OR 3 ounces (about half a package) of dry cornbread mix
- 2 Tablespoons oil for (I used coconut oil, but use whatever neutral oil you have on hand. I’d skip olive oil here–too dominating of a flavor. The coconut oil smells coconutty at first, but the flavor disappears).
- 1 or 2 fresh tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Chop okra into bite size pieces. They’ll look like cute little stars.
2. Heat oil over medium low heat in a ten to twelve inch skillet. Chop onion into bite-sized pieces as well.
3. As oil heats, bust out a paper or plastic bag. Dump cornmeal or cornbread mix into it. Add okra and onions. Close the bag firmly, and give it a good shake/toss to coat the okra and onions with the cornmeal.
4. Add okra to oil in a single layer in the skillet. You might have to do this recipe in two batches. Do NOT overcrowd the pan. That way we can get an actual stir fry, rather than steamed okra. Increase heat to medium and let the pods cook for about two minutes. As the pods cook, resist the urge to hover and overstir. In fact, go cut up that tomato into whatever types of slices you fancy.
5. Gently stir the pods to flip them (don’t be a perfectionist and try to flip them one at a time!), and cook another minute or two. Take a pod and test for doneness. The raw taste should be gone. The pod should be tender, with maybe the slightest hint of crisp. In other words, not mushy. The cornmeal will give it a nice crunch. Salt and pepper the okra to taste.
6. Plate, and served with the fresh tomato slices.