Sunday, August 07, 2005

Oh, Oh, Okra!

As I've mentioned before, my five-year sojourn Down South left me with a hankering for a few select items of Southern cuisine: sweet tea, cheese grits, and fried okra.

Now, sweet tea I've never had a problem making... how hard can it be? And this year I've found a couple varieties of tea that help make that even more exciting.

Cheese grits... yes, I had to have a recipe for those, but now they're almost second nature for me on a weekend morning (though I do need to stock up on more grits).

But fried okra? Nope. Never tried that at home... couldn't find fresh okra, didn't want to mess with the frying.

Until today.

One of my favorite organic farmers had quart baskets of fresh okra at the market yesterday, and after a brief discussion with him about his recommendation for cooking it ("fry it," he replied with a smile) and my years Down South, I decided to try it.

In fact, I even pulled out a recipe for an Indian dish using okra and stuffing it with spices. But when this evening rolled around, and I found myself pretty well worn out from all the other cooking this weekend, I decided on something simpler. I pulled out my trusty old Betty Crocker cookbook, and sure enough, there was a recipe for fried okra that was so simple and straightforward that I couldn't not make it.

I only used a handful of okra pods for the first time through since I wasn't sure how it would turn out in my hands, and I was slightly concerned when, by the end of the trimming and slicing, my knife was slippery from the mucilage released by the pods. But a thorough dusting of cornmeal and a good frying later, I had a bowl full of tender fried okra, full of flavor and utterly irresistible.

Unfortunately, I didn't have any sweet tea made, else it would have been the perfect dinner. Instead, I finished up the meal with a blissful dessert of one single juicy peach, peeled and sliced and dusted lightly with Moroccan mint sugar (adding a faint aroma of Earl Grey tea to the fruity sweetness), and a glass of chilled Mon Ami Haut Sauternes wine.

I don't need the high heat and humidity of an Atlanta summer to remind me of times gone by...

Just give me that fried okra.

Fried Okra

Almost exactly as it appears in the Betty Crocker cookbook, although I didn't have any onion salt. Easy as all get out!

1 pound okra
1/2 c cornmeal
salt and pepper to taste
3 T canola oil

Prepare the okra by trimming off the cap and the tip, then slicing the pod into 1/2" thick slices.

Combine cornmeal, salt and pepper, and add the okra slices, coating them completely with the mixture.

Heat oil in a skillet and add breaded okra. Fry, turning as needed, until both sides are well-browned. Drain on a paper towel if you like.

Eat!

Serves 2 to 4, depending on how nostalgic for the South each person may be

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