This one is for Keith, my friend from Georgia who is working on the mainland. I miss him!
Last night's supper was in the style of comfort food. At the farmer's market yesterday I picked up some tender and velvety okra, so dinner was centered on that. I do okra in several styles, but last night I opted for the simple southern style (recipe below) I learned living in coastal South Carolina, which could have been the entry point for okra into our nation's food system, though some claim it was New Orleans. Wherever it came into our country, we know that it is a delicious addition to our American menus.
Brief history of OKRA: Okra's lineage started on the banks of t he nile where it grew wild. The egyptians cultivated this relative of the Hollyhock, cotton and hibiscus. Eventually the seeds made their way throughout Africa and the middle East.
It was prized as a vegetable and the dried seeds were used as a substitute for coffee... no I am not going to try that! Because of the slave trade, okra made its way to America via the Caribbean. About the same time (early 1700's) it also was noted as having made it to Europe. Okra is probably most famous as a thickening agent in gumbo but there are many ways to prepare and utilize this vegetable.
Okra grows year round in tropical climates and must be picked 3-4 days after the flower develops or the fruit becomes tough and fibrous, but then it can be used for making paper and ropes. I have grown the red variety and I am partial to it.
It only takes 60 days from seed to fruit and once an okra plant is established it can supply okra for a family's needs. While I love fried okra and pickled okra
many of my favorite recipes for okra are from Northern India. You can also grill it and use it as the base for a variety of stews centered around North African and Turkish cuisines.
Last night I prepared it in the simple southern tradition, though there are even many variations on this theme, some use only cornmeal others add flour, seasonings etc. I have even thought of doing a coconut breading for it someday. Here is last nights rendition:
Fried Okra with Smoked Sea Salt
8-10 Okra pods 3-5" in length
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs beaten with a fork or whisk
1 cup flour for dredging
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal or polenta
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup of peanut or canola oil
Smoked Sea Salt or medium grained salt
Cut okra into 1/2 inch slices
soak in buttermilk for 20 minutes
Strain, reserving buttermilk for breading
Mix eggs & buttermilk till incorporated
Stir together the cornmeal flour mixture
Preheat oil in a frying pan to 350 degrees
Dredge okra in flour in small batches
Dip okra in egg mixture
Dip okra in cornmeal/flour mixture and drop into hot oil. Turn after the bottom appears to be golden brown.
Remove with a spider or screened spoon and drain on paper towels. Salt immediately and serve while warm and crispy.
Here is our dinner from last night, grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes, grilled local corn and fried okra. Stay tuned for another okra recipe soon.