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Market Matters- Hot August Nights and Pickled Okra

Ok, Okra!

How many of you have run screaming from the room?

To the sophisticated few who are still with us, but privately thinking “I don’t really like okra”. I say “yes you do.”

Blasphemy?

Well, no. It’s easy to dislike okra– a bit too easy if you ask me.

And it’s true, it can be a bit of a slimy mess when cooked improperly. But the obvious answer is, don’t cook it improperly! Because, while it is true okra can ooze a certain slime. And it seems that may be unpaltable to many people. But heat tames the slime. Fried okra can be bliss. Really! I mean it. Still there are other ways to enjoy okra.

 

pickled okraMaybe my roots are showing, and I don’t mean the un-dyed roots on my head– ‘cuz I don’t dye my hair (yet). I mean my “Southern Roots”. I have spent some time in okra loving states in my life. I have developed a taste for the stuff.

Okra is staple in Southern, Creole, and Cajun cooking. It’s also a great source of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A.  It’s low in calories to boot.

Although, it does looks like an alien, especially when sliced crosswise; that’s not a good enough reason to shun it. So get ready. I am sending you to the market for a Market Matters post. I need me some okra.

When you are down the hill buying me some okra, I want you to  look for pods that are green without bruises. They should feel slightly tender but not soft. Okra does not keep well, it should be used soon after you buy it. Though you may store it in a paper bag in your fridge for up to three days. Four-inch pods or smaller have the best flavor, and anything bigger will start to taste bitter, and the seeds may be a nuisance.

Let’s get the slime factor out of the way. You know I hate picky eaters, so I don’t want to hear any whining about the slime. That slime is good for you. In fact, it’s totally normal and actually makes this veggie perfect for thickening soups, casseroles, or sauces.

It’s a standard in Indian cooking because they really know how to make the most of this vegetable. If I were a better cook I’d present an Indian recipe here. But I gotta stick to what I know and that means southern-style okra. 

In the south it is used in stir-fries; perhaps grilled. Of course fried in cornmeal is also very good. It can even be eaten raw in a salad, as well as the soups and stews I mentioned. I think okra goes well with with many strong or acidy foods, like tomatoes and onions. Because it has a mild flavor. That’s right I said mild. So I want you to quit your whining and try it at least one time in your life.

Try marinating it in plain ole bottled salad dressing, or even lime juice if you wanna get fancy. Okra also takes well to pickling. In fact on a hot summer day. I enjoy a bit of firey-hot Pickled Okra with Jalapenos. Recipe attached.

And guess what? It’s hot right here in Los Angeles. Which counts as Southern, if you mean Southern California. Despite the heat today. I trugged down the hill to the Hollywood Farmers Market. I came home with (guess what?), okra and jalapenos.

I am gonna pickle me up a batch of the both and drag my sofa out to the front porch. I figure I’ll strip down to my underpants and and watch the world pass by as I suck down enough of these hot pickled okra to make me break into a sweat and get my eyes to start a tearin’ up. There is no better way to pass a helluva a hot August night!

Pickled Okra with Jalapenos SERVES 6

 

  • 1 pound okra, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 6 tablespoons corase salt
  • 3 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tablesppons sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 5 fresh jalapenos, halved lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed, then cut into quarters

okra for eating!Rinse the okra in a colander. Toss it with 3 tablespoons of salt. Let it drain into the sink for about 15 minutes.

Put the remaining salt, 1 cup water the vinegar, sugar, spices, onions and jalapenos into a medium sized non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After a few minutes turn the heat off.

Rinse the okra under cool water to remove all the salt. Transfer the okra to a large heat proof bowl. Pour the pickling liquid over the okra. Let the mixture come to room temperature. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to cool completely. Serve cold.

SERIOUS FUN FOOD

Greg Henry

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