- Food and Cooking
6 Ways to Cook Okra
Freshly Cut Okra
Okra is One of the Most Versatile Vegetables We Have
Just look at this beautiful okra, picked the morning this photo was taken. I grew it in my flower beds when my only dedicated garden space was a small herb garden.
When you think of okra, do you picture it battered and fried? If done right, it is delicious, but it can be greasy and soggy if cooked too slowly, or in too much oil; and hard if cooked too long. Less well-known ways of cooking it, also mainly in the Deep South, are boiling it, stewing or steaming it with tomatoes, adding it to vegetable soup and, of course, gumbo. My newest favorite method is to grill it.
Okra is famous, of course, for the Southern-fried method of cooking, and it tastes sinfully delicious when properly cooked that way. Unfortunately, frying everything is what earned the southeastern part of the United States the name of "Cardiac Belt", because food soaks up a lot of the oil, even though it may not look "greasy". Many of us Southerners are trying to eat healthier diets, and there are other, equally delicious ways to cook this versatile vegetable. So, below, I will share six ways to cook okra, some I have used and loved, some I have, as yet, only read about.
You may notice the different counter tops in my photos. The ceramic tile counter tops are in our former home near Birmingham, Alabama. The others are in our new home in central Florida.
This article is a spin-off from my article previously entitled, "How to Grow and Freeze Okra". That article had morphed into a large and unwieldy one, so I have separated it into three pages, How to Grow Okra, How to Freeze Okra, and this one, 6 Ways to Cook Okra. I hope you enjoy them.
The 6 Ways That I Know to Cook Okra
- Stewed With Tomatoes
- In Vegetable Soup
- Okra Soup
Skewered Okra Ready for the Grill
1. Grilled Okra
During the time since we stopped frying food about 20 years ago, we didn't eat much okra at our house. But since we discovered cooking okra on the grill, it has become our most favorite way to cook this delicious vegetable. I remove the caps, but otherwise leave the individual pods whole. I then put them on 2 parallel skewers as shown in this photo. When using only one skewer, the pods tend to spin around, with some turning one way and others turning another way, causing them to become difficult to handle. Using double skewers takes care of that problem.
Place them on your grill and watch them closely so they don't burn. You will need to turn them, of course, until they are slightly browned on both sides.
Skewers for Your Okra
These skewers are not exactly like mine, but they are the closest ones I could find for you. They are stainless steel, and everyone knows Cuisinart products are wonderful.
Okra Ready to Broil
2. Broiled or Baked Okra -- an Alternative to Grilling
This method works on a rainy day.
When it is too rainy or cold to use the outdoor grill, I try putting it into the oven. I know, you're thinking, if it's too cold, where did I get the okra, right? From my freezer, of course. In this photo is some fresh okra ready for the oven tonight.
I bake my okra for about 20 minutes, then turn the oven to "broil" just long enough to brown the okra. Be careful, though, not to let it burn. I conducted a little experiment. I brushed all the okra with olive oil, then put garlic powder on half of it, and just a tiny bit of kosher salt on the other half. It was all good, but the half with garlic powder won unanimously. This has become one of our favorite ways to enjoy this delicious vegetable.
3. Okra and Tomatoes
Unfortunately, the photo of okra and tomatoes was damaged, and will have to be replaced when okra is again in season.
Before my husband convinced me to try it, I did not believe I would like okra and tomatoes cooked together. I didn't just like it -- I loved it! I was truly surprised at the texture and flavor of this old Southern favorite. And it is so easy to prepare.
Just cut both the okra and tomatoes into small pieces, and add your favorite seasonings. For me it is a little salt and garlic powder. Then stew them together on the stove top or in the microwave. Nothing could be easier. Now that my okra plants are bearing daily, I have plenty of this delicious vegetable.
Okra in Vegetable Soup
4. In Vegetable Soup
I always include slices of okra in my soup. If I don't have any fresh okra or homegrown okra in my freezer, I buy small bags of it from my grocer's freezer. I prefer my own homegrown veggies, because I know they are organically grown, but sometimes we must buy them. If I have to buy them in season, but before my own plants are bearing, I prefer to go to a local farmers' market. I know the food is fresh and I get to know the vendors. Developing a relationship with local growers is a really good thing, as they will often save something for you when their supply is running low, and they always sincerely appreciate your business. This photo is from my recipe Quick and Easy Homemade Vegetable Soup.
5. Okra Soup
I have never made okra soup. I had never even heard of it until I read "Folly Beach", a book by Dorothea Benton Frank. I "googled" the phrase "okra soup" and found several recipes. Some vegetarian and some not. One used chuck roast, one used bacon, all used various herbs. Mostly, though, the photos looked very much like my homemade vegetable soup, shown here, while another looked like just okra and tomatoes in a brothy liquid.
Okra Battered for Frying
Delicious, but so very unhealthy.
In this photo, you see okra cut, battered, salted, and ready to be fried. Not everyone batters it. Some people just coat it with flour; some coat it with cornmeal; still others use a mixture of both flour and cornmeal. Like most Southerners of my generation, I grew up eating almost everything fried, or covered in gravy. It's amazing so many of us lived to tell about it. One of the most delicious, and typically "Southern" vegetables in this country is fried okra. Believe it or not, there is more than one way to fry it. Please understand, however, I am not promoting the consumption of fried foods.
Most people who still fry food, deep-fry their okra. My mom, however, put very shallow oil in a skillet and fried it. Most people like it crispy. She liked it soft. So she put a lid on it and "smothered" it. It had some crunchy places, but was mostly soft. Years later, I learned this was because she had some places in her mouth that were made sore by crunchy (or what she called "hard") foods. But I digress.
Drop me a note, and let me know how you like your okra cooked. If you know of any other ways to cook this delicious vegetable, please let me know. Thanks for visiting.
© 2013 MariaMontgomery