During the month of September, MyLifeRunsOnFood.com is part of New York’s Locavore Challenge. This is the first of a few posts dedicated to using produce supporting local, sustainable farms and food businesses. I know it’s almost mid-month, but it’s not too late to sign up for this educational challenge. For this post, I write about a familiar experience of being reintroduce to unpopular produce by my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, Bedstuy Farm Share. Visit NOFA-NY.com to learn more about additional events and join their cause.
Okra and I have a score to settle because of its slimy ways. It’s true, first impressions are important, for my first bite of okra wasn’t pleasant. Just like beets, it’s a vegetable some people love. While others, such as myself, dislike it. How does this story of reconciliation start?
Of course my first taste of okra wasn’t from Dad. Actually, it was. He had sliced a few and cooked them with corn. I love corn. However, the slimy texture from the okra had coated every corn kernel. It influenced my favorite dish into tasting bad. Afterwards, okra was one of the few vegetables to avoid.
Then one day, Dad made Fried Cornmeal Okra. He urged me to try just one and promised it wasn’t slimy. Trying just one turned into eating the rest of them. Not bad. However, I didn’t have the courage to buy and fry them myself.
A few weeks ago, before Hurricane Irene destroyed most of the farms in the Hudson Valley of New York, a generous one to two pounds of okra were included in my BedStuy Farmshare. There was a stand-off moment. One lady looked at my face, and she instantly knew I was in the “don’t like okra” category. She hungrily offered to take it. Instead, I decided to be brave and took them home. Sautéing them wasn’t an option. Frying them to a golden crisp, just like Dad’s, was considerable.
The initial recipe Dad shared was a fail. I blame it on okra’s slimy ways, for I never thought for a moment Dad had shared the wrong recipe. Undeterred, I studied the recipe and compared it to other fried vegetables. It was missing an egg wash to help the cornmeal stick to the okra. The second time around, was a no fail, and slime wasn’t included in the taste.
Fried Okra, like most vegetables dipped in flour and egg to be fried to a crisp, is more than tolerable. It’s addictive, especially when finished with sea salt. I honestly believe oil and sea salt is a healthy combination, because we know to sparely enjoy this dish, right?
Similar to dating someone who needs daily medications to maintain a balance lifestyle, okra and I have a beautiful relationship as long as it’s coated with cornmeal and swimming in hot oil. Its first impression may have been slimy, but it has proven itself to be a perfectly crisp presentation of taste.
Fried Cornmeal Okra
Sunflower or grapeseed oil; as needed
1/2-cup Organic yellow cornmeal
Sea Salt and fresh black pepper; as needed
Ground cayenne pepper; as needed
1 to 2 lb. fresh okra
1. Add oil to a skillet until it has a depth of about 1/2 inch. Preheat oil over medium-high temperature.
2. Mix the cornmeal, flour, sea salt, fresh black pepper and cayenne pepper in a medium size bowl. Whisk the egg in another medium size bowl.
3. Slice okra into 1/2 inch pieces. Discard stem and end parts.
4. Place the okra into the egg mix and make sure each piece is generously coated.
5. Add the okra pieces to the cornmeal-flour mix. Make sure each piece is generously coated.
6. Working in batches, add okra to the skillet when the oil is about 375°F.
7. Fry until the bottom of the okra is golden brown. Turn the okra over to cook the other side.
8. Remove okra to a paper-towel lined plate and sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat with the other okra until there is none left.
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