August 1, 2012

Okra

I was cooking up some okra from the garden for lunch today when I remembered I had promised Julianne the recipe... a long time ago.  In fact, I promised a bunch of recipes and, I know you find this hard to believe, but time has just flown by since then.

Okay, so before I give you my magical recipe for okra, I am sorry, friend.  I hope to get the others up ASAP... but don't hold your breath!

Poor okra gets such a bad rap!  I was with you for years.  All I knew of okra was that slimy mess thrown in pots of soup, stew and gumbo.  In fact, as much as I loved gumbo, I was notorious for eating around the slimy okra.

And then I met the okra appetizer.  A friend of ours served these one New Year's Eve when we were celebrating at their house.  She took thinly shaved ham, spread it with cream cheese and wrapped it around a piece of pickled okra.  I saw them on the plate and said, "What is that?"  She told me and I said, "I don't care for okra, thank you."  She said, "Have you tried it?"  And I said, "Yes.  It's slimy and disgusting."  Knowing me, she knew I was serious.  I've never met a vegetable I don't like and won't try to get someone else to eat.

"This is pickled okra," she told me.  "It isn't slimy."  I didn't believe her.  But I tried it anyway.  Not only was it not slimy it was delicious.  "So, tell me more about this pickled okra, I said."

Hers came from a jar in the grocery store.  But you all know me.  Why buy in the grocery store what you can make at home?

So, I was talking to my neighbor and telling her about the amazing pickled okra business.  She lit up and said her mom used to make pickled okra and it was delicious.  She wanted to learn how to can and I wanted pickled okra so we took a trip to the farmer's market and bought a bushel and got the recipe from her dear mama.  In hundred degree temperatures we spent a day pickling okra.  Oh, it was so delicious.  My girls loved it even more than I did.  Good stuff!

Here is the super easy recipe from Lisa's Mom, Genie.  Which she got from her mom, Nana.

Nana's Dilled Okra ~ as shared by Lisa Hickox... (who I miss and wish I knew what happened to her... if you are ever out there reading this little old blog of mine dear old neighbor... shoot and email to the Wachter gang.. we would love to hear what's up in your little world)

When I am choosing okra for pickles I like to get pieces that are tall enough to stand up in the jar.  You do not want to cut the okra when making pickles.  What I love about this recipe is it is so quick and simple and you can do just a jar or a whole bushel at one time.  No huge time commitment or big mess to clean up.

1.  Wash okra and pack into pint size canning jars.

2.  Add some celery leaves, a clove of garlic and a head of dill (dill seeds work fine if you haven't any dill in your garden) and a few mustard seeds.

3.  Make a brine of 1 qt. water, 1 pint vinegar and 1/2 cup salt.  Heat to boiling.  Pour over okra.

4.  Seal jars (I process 10 minutes in a water bath canner) and let stand 3-4 weeks before serving.

*If you are just doing one or two jars or if you have fridge space and don't want to mess with the canning business of this... you can use any old pickle or mayonnaise jar sitting around the house and store the pickles in the fridge until ready to serve.


So let's talk a little about okra for a minute.  Okra, like most garden vegetables, are best when eaten young and tender.  We pick ours when it is four inches long or less.  This makes for an amazing treat. My kids love to walk through the garden and eat them raw, but I prefer them roasted or sauteed.  Okra plants are simply beautiful and I love to have them growing in the garden.  Their huge leaves and gorgeous flowers look very tropical.  When you see them growing you will quickly see it originated from the Hibiscus plant.  This pretty little veggie isn't just beautiful and delicious it is packed with heart healthy nutrients as well!

I know we have had this talk before, but I think it should be repeated at least once every gardening season.  When it comes to veggies, bigger is not better.  Unless, of course, you are entering it in the fair.  I think the reason okra, squash and zuchinni get such a bad wrap is because they are not grown right, harvested right or cooked correctly.

Pick them young, sautee them quickly, and eat them cheerfully.  That's my motto.

Down south okra is tossed into gumbo, soups and other dishes after it has been sliced up because when it grows past six inches in length it is too tough to chew.  I am not kidding here.  It must be cooked for a long time to make it tender enough to get your teeth through it.  And that is when it gets slimy and quite frankly, disgusting.

Instead grab that okra while it is small, heat up a skillet and add some olive oil.  Toss the veggies in whole and listen to it sizzle for a minute or two stirring it around or shaking it a bit.  Don't crowd your pan or you will end up steaming and making it slimy.  You want space in there.  Take it from the pan sprinkle some fresh ground sea salt and pepper on top and tell me how delicious that is!

When we have a bunch of vegetables but not enough of one kind for a meal I pull out a casserole dish and toss them in... some zuchinni, a few okra, an onion, and a handful of green beans and a couple of beets.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pop in the oven until they are tender.  You won't believe how fast the family runs to the table for dinner!
And here's a little bonus.  If, by chance, you have any of those veggies leftover you can serve up a quick and delicious lunch the next day.  Put some lettuce or spinach on a plate.  Chop, dice, cube or whatever the roasted veggies.  Add a sprinkle of feta or blue cheese and drizzle with a fabulous dressing.  Finish with a bit of chopped nuts and voila!

So, go out and grab some okra.  Give it a spin and then pop back here and tell me what your new favorite veggie is!

Linking with Judith at Haven of Rest today.

4 comments :

  1. All right Kat, you've convinced me to try! :)

    This recipe looks great and easy! Our family does the same thing with mixed veggies lying around....this year we have started adding sweet potato and butternut squash as well - so good! I'll also do it on the grill if our oven is already being used or if it is just too hot to cook inside!

    Hugs,

    Julianne

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  2. I have heard about okra and seen recipes for it in US cook books. Funnily enough yesterday I saw a packet of seeds for sale when I was buying my seeds for the coming season (it winter here in NZ) Think I will go back and buy and try. Thank you it looks really interesting.

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  3. Thank you so much for linking up to Haven of Rest!! I have never had Okra much less grown it in a garden. It looks delicious!!

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