Okra: The Most Maligned Vegetable in the Garden
Why is everyone so mean to okra? People call it slimy. Say the flavor is bad and the only way to eat it is breaded and fried. Maybe they're just jealous because it's such a pretty plant!
To be honest, I don't think okra has much of a flavor at all. It's very mild and can be compared to eggplant, but with a very different texture. Okra can get fibrous if left on the plant too long and yes, it does release a "slime" when cut. But when the okra is nice and tender and it's cooked properly, you'll forget all the bad talk about this very nutritious (it's high in fiber, folates, Vitamins C and K, not to mention Iron and Magnesium!) and unique vegetable. Did I mention it comes in two colors - red and green? Both taste the same and, as with other plants full of anthocyanins ( e.g., purple beans), the red okra will, sadly, turn green when cooked.
Gumbo is the traditional recipe for okra, which takes advantage of the "slime" (its mucilaginous property). This substance is actually a soluble fiber and is a natural thickening agent perfect for stews and is the backbone of the quintessential roux in the gumbo base. While I do love gumbo, I'm always looking for new and different recipes for our vegetables, which led me to Okra Fried Rice.
This recipe is adapted from a Caribbean cookbook we got ages ago. Give it a chance and you just might find that you like Okra, the pretty plant that gets bad-mouthed in the garden!
Okra Fried Rice
2 T vegetable oil
1 T butter or margarine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup sliced okra
1/4 cup diced green and red peppers
(1/2 tsp) dried thyme
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp five-spice powder
1 vegetable stock cube
2 T soy sauce
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
3 cups cooked rice
cilantro sprigs, to garnish
1. Heat the oil and the butter or margarine in a frying pan, add the garlic and onion and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes until soft.
2. Add the peppers and okra to the frying pan and stir-fry gently for a further 6—7 minutes.
3. Add the thyme, chillies and five-spice powder and cook for 3 minutes, then crumble in the stock cube.
4. Add the soy sauce, cilantro and rice and heat through, stirring. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve hot, garnished with cilantro.