Okra and I have never really been on speaking terms. I encountered some unfortunate, slimy, over-cooked mess early on in my exposure to Southern food, and that pretty much sealed the deal for me for many years. My wonderful Consumer Supported Agriculture box provides me with a wide variety of delicious, local and fresh produce from Riverview Farms, and the last few boxes have contained okra. Since I have resolved to try and learn to love everything that comes in that box, the time has come for me to learn to love okra.
My first foray was with something I thought I would probably like, Baked Okra. I tried it three ways: tossed in organic canola oil with some salt and pepper; tossed in oil with salt and pepper and white cornmeal; and then a third version that was tossed in an egg wash, then rolled in the seasoned cornmeal.
I put them in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes, stirring them occasionally until they all got nice and brown. The middle ones were my favorites, tossed in oil and seasoned cornmeal. They weren’t exactly crispy, but they had a nice chewy texture and weren’t slime balls at all.
Next I wanted to try taking them to the other extreme – cooked down into a thickener in a nice pot of Gumbo. Being the spice weenie that I am, I can rarely enjoy a pot of authentic gumbo since it is almost always too hot for me to handle. Making my own gave me the opportunity to make it at a spice level even I can enjoy.
The Holy Trinity
France has mire poix, the standard stock mixture of onions, celery and carrots. In Louisiana, it is called the Holy Trinity, and consists of onions, celery, and green peppers. Earlier this summer I had a nice big hefty stalk of celery in my CSA box, along with several green peppers and a couple of big onions. I decided to dehydrate a Holy Trinity blend for use later on in the year! I had some fresh tomatoes and onions as well, so I was set for my own gumbo.
Using the carcass of a baked chicken I created a stock. Then I added a browned pound of natural pork sausage, the vegetables, garlic and some brown rice. After the rice had mostly finished cooking, I added the baked chicken breast pieces and let it cook down to a smooth, succulent stew. A few of the okra tips retained their shape and had some ‘tooth’ to them, the rest having dissolved and thickened the mixture beautifully. I have to admit, it was pretty delicious.
So far, so good. Okra and I are now on speaking terms, and maybe even willing to take it a step further. I got another batch in my box tonight, along with some awesome vine-fresh tomatoes. I have been told by several people that okra and tomatoes cooked together are their favorite, although I am leery of that combination cooked for too long. Maybe a quickly steamed version? I will have to experiment further. Am I in love? Not yet. Am I interested? I think so!