Okra

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I never really understood okra outside it’s role in gumbo. So when I came across them at Wegmans I did a double-take. The cute bright green pods looked so innocent and inviting that I took them home to nurture…in my belly. 

Everyone’s first time with okra is the same, you start slicing it and suddenly viscus strings of slime pull from your knife. You think the okra has gone bad, but that’s not the case! That totally normal gooey substance is called mucilage, and it’s the water source for most, if not all, plants. The only time you’ll taste the goo is if you eat them raw. Once cooked, that goo disappears, leaving you with a regular vegetable. But if you ask me, okra that’s battered and deep-fried takes it to a whole new level of YUM! 

While not common in American kitchens, okra has culinary roots in other regions of the world—a perfect opportunity to cook new dishes with an open mind to ethnic influence.   

T <3 

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BASICS

AKA: ladies fingers • bhindi • ochre • gumbo

Origin: Africa • South Asian 

Plant: Abelmoschus esculentus

Varieties: green • red

About: Okra is a signature ingredient in African, Asian, and Southern-American cooking. It’s often used in stews but can be enjoy like any other vegetable. While its gooey texture can shy consumers away, okra becomes crisp when deep-fried, roasted, or grilled. And with its slew of health benefits, okra will intrigue any wellness junky.

In Season: summer to early fall 

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HEALTH

Nutrients: antioxidants • fiber • protein • vitamin C & K • magnesium 

Benefits: may reduce risk of cancer • decrease inflammation • supports immune system • may lower cholesterol and blood sugar 

Substitutes: zucchini • green beans • eggplant 

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SHOP

Store: your grocery store’s produce section • local farmer’s market

Online: Balford

Selection: Choose bright green okra pods that are firm and at most 4 inches long. Avoid pods with discoloration, bruised, or soft spots. 

Other Products: frozenchipspickledcanned 

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PREPARE

Cut: Trim off the tip and stem ends then slice crosswise or lengthwise. 

Cook: Cook okra as you would any vegetable—stewed, sautéed, fried, or roasted. The notorious slime works as a thickening agent, making thick, luscious soups and stews. 

Storage: Keep fresh okra in a paper bag or wrapped in paper towels. Refrigerator for up to 4 days. 

Freeze: Blanch the okra by placing the pods (whole or cut) into boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain and cool in ice water. Dry completely before placing in ziplock bags and into the freezer. 

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EAT

Taste & Texture: mild • fibrous • green • vegetal • slimy • crisp when raw • soft when cooked

Suggested Uses: soups & stews • stir-fries • sauces • raw in salads 

Recipes: 

Curried Okra Breakfast Hash

Okra Nachos

Fried Okra (via Taste of Home)

Okra Fritters (via Martha Stewart)

Bourbon-Pickled Okra (via Munchies)

Okra Lamb Stew (via Taste Cooking)

Okra Potato Salad (via NYTimes Cooking)

Chicken Okra Gumbo (via Serious Eats)

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~*~ MORE ~*~

Okra Cookbook

Tyler, The Creator

 

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What do you know about Okra? 

Food for Thought

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