Late summer okra: Good to eat and pretty to look at.
In my household, late summer means okra much to the dismay of everyone in the family except me. I think okra is fun to eat and even more fun to grow. Thanks to its African origins, okra thrives in heat and doesn‘t need a lot of watering. The plants can tower over my head, and new pods start with gorgeous pale yellow flowers that remind me of hibiscus. No surprise there, as okra is a member of the mallow family.
Still, it can be tough to find good dishes beyond gumbo or the favorite southern standby of stewed okra, onion, and tomatoes. So I did a search of the Internet and my own cookbooks with a regional twist and came up with a field pea, sausage, and okra salad from Whitney Miller’s new cookbook Modern Hospitality, pickled okra from epicurious.com, and oven-fried okra from the Cooking Light cookbook Cooking Through the Seasons.
Miller’s recipe was my favorite. It is simple, uses whole okra pods, and calls for fresh field peas which I’m getting in my CSA every week. The dish mixes the field peas and okra with fresh basil, sausage, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I increased the basil and dashed on some hot sauce before serving it over rice. It was a nice hearty meal.
Both Hannah and I tried the pickled okra recipe and agreed that it was a little too vinegary. Hannah’s going to kick up the spices next time; I’m going to use white wine vinegar instead of cider vinegar and decrease the amount of vinegar overall. Any way you might want to tweak the recipe will be fine, because it’s hard to mess up a pickle brine.
My least favorite dish was the oven-fried okra, although my okra-hating husband ate a few and said, “It’s not too bad.” The recipe calls for dipping okra in egg and buttermilk, coating the okra with a cornmeal mixture (that's the photo to the right), and then baking the slices in a hot oven. I liked the taste of okra and cornmeal, but they were too dry. This might be because I used low-fat milk instead of buttermilk or maybe I’m simply accustomed to the taste of okra fried.