Saturday, March 04, 2006
Weekend Herb Blogging #22 - Okra
“Okra, also called lady's finger in Indian cuisine, is a flowering plant in the mallow family Malvaceae , originating somewhere near present-day Ethiopia. It was formerly considered a species of Hibiscus , but is now classified in the genus Abelmoschus . The word okra is of African origin and means "lady's fingers" in Igbo , a language spoken in what is now known as Nigeria .
Okra is grown throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world for its fibrous pods full of round, white seeds, which, when picked young, are eaten as a vegetable . It was brought to the United States via the African slave trade route, and can be grown in the southern states as an annual crop. It is also one of the most popular vegetables in late 20th century Japanese cuisine . In Israel ,Jordan and other parts of the eastern Mediterranean, okra, known in Arabic as bamia, is widely used in a thick stew made with vegetables and meat. It is also common in Indian cooking where it is either sauteed or added to gravy-based preparations.” (From Wikipedia)
Okra is very easy to grow, especially in hot, dry climates. When I lived in Texas during my college days, I grew okra in my garden, and had plenty of it to cook any time I liked. It’s best when it’s still young, so you have to make sure that you don’t sacrifice tenderness in trying to get larger pieces. It gets woody when it gets too mature.
While many recipes use okra steamed, boiled with tomatoes, or as the thickening agent in gumbo, I have always eaten it fried in a cornmeal-flour coating. You can buy it frozen and already breaded, but it’s a flour-based batter, as opposed to what I do. DH likes pickled okra, but I can’t bring myself to even try it. Yuk. Here’s how my mother taught me:
1 lb. fresh young okra
1/4 c milk
1/2 c flour
1 c yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Slice okra into 1/4” slices, throwing away the caps (but keeping the pointed ends). In a large bowl, mix the eggs and milk. Add the okra, and stir to coat. Sprinkle with flour and cornmeal, and stir until all pieces are well coated. Fry in oil, covered, stirring occasionally, until golden and crispy.
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Weekend Herb Blogging