Ok, Okra! Pickled 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.”
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! While it’s true okra can ooze a certain slime, and it seems that may be unpalatable 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.
Maybe 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. 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 as well.
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.
Okra is 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 or 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. Because okra takes well to pickling. In fact on a hot summer day. I enjoy a bit of fiery-hot Pickled Okra with Jalapenos.
And guess what? It’s hot right here in Los Angeles. Which counts as Southern, if you mean Southern California. So I’m gonna pickle me up a batch of okra 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! GREG
- 1 lb okra, trimmed (and halved lengthwise if quite large)
- 6 kosher salt, divided
- 3 c distilled white vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 t coriander seeds
- 1 t black peppercorns
- 1 t juniper berries
- 1/2 t cloves
- 1/2 t cinnamon
- 1/2 t red pepper flakes
- 2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 5 fresh jalapenos, quartered lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed
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, covered to cool completely. Serve cold.
Greg Henry writes the food blog Sippity Sup- Serious Fun Food, and contributes the Friday column on entertaining forThe Back Burner at Key Ingredient. He’s active in the food blogging community, and a popular speaker at IFBC, Food Buzz Festival and Camp Blogaway. He’s led cooking demonstrations in Panama & Costa Rica, and has traveled as far and wide as Norway to promote culinary travel. He’s been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, The Today Show Online and Saveur’s Best of the Web. Greg also co-hosts The Table Set podcast which can be downloaded on iTunes or atHomefries Podcast Network.