Okra, a staple in Southern cooking but often uncommon or underappreciated elsewhere, is a small, green tapered pod with a fine fuzz. Okra plants have beautiful hibiscus-like flowers. Okra is a member of the mallow family, which also includes cotton, cacao, and hibiscus. It is often used as a soup thickener, including in gumbo. One unique characteristic is its sliminess, which can be mitigated by frying or preparing in an acidic dish (such as in pickles or a tomato sauce). The flavor is mild and it absorbs the flavors of what it is cooked with.
Loosely wrap in a paper bag and store in the warmest part of the refrigerator. Use within a few days.
To prepare, rinse and cut off stems. Either use pods whole or chop into ½-in rounds.
Pan-Fried Okra with Indian Spices
1 Tablespoon butter
4 okra pods, sliced
A dash of ground cumin, ground ginger, and ground coriander
Salt and pepper, to taste
Melt butter in a skillet. Add okra, cumin, ginger, and coriander; sauté until soft (15-20 minutes). Season with salt and pepper; serve.
Peanut or neutral oil (such as grapeseed or corn) for deep frying
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne to taste (optional)
2 cups buttermilk
1 ½ lb. okra, trimmed
Add at least 2 inches of oil to a deep pan and turn heat to medium-high (350°F). Mix cornmeal and flour on a plate or in a shallow bowl; add a dash of salt and pepper (and cayenne, optional), and stir. Pour buttermilk in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and stir. Cut okra in half lengthwise. Working in batches, dip okra in buttermilk, roll in cornmeal, and drop in hot oil, taking care to not crowd the pan. Stir okra gently to cook evenly, and cook until browned (3-5 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and repeat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve.