September 23rd, 2011 - By Therese Madden
Okra is often maligned, but give this green vegetable another chance! This nutritious southern favorite doesn’t have to be slimy. With a few tricks, okra will be a welcome addition to your table.
There are some vegetables that elicit strong reactions. Not just from kids, but grown-ups too. Okra is one of these vegetables.
“It’s slimy, and gross, and it gets a slick on your tongue and there’s too many seeds.”
“I don’t like okra, because it’s slimy, it doesn’t taste good, but it’s probably good for you.”
He’s right about that, the good for you part. Okra’s loaded with vitamins and it’s a really good source of dietary fiber. So what’s with all the hate? “I love okra, I just think it’s one of those misunderstood vegetables,” says Richard Landau, the Chef at Vedge Restaurant in Philadelphia. “If you prepared it improperly you are going to hate it. It’s almost like tofu in that sense, where you will not go near it ever again, and I guarantee you anyone who’s ever said that they hate okra had it prepared poorly. Because, its a delicious vegetable and it has so many great unique characteristics, you just have to know how to work with them.”
O.K. Chef, convince them. “Well for one thing, we all know about the legendary sliminess of okra. I like to think of that as a free thickener when you are using okra in gumbo. Now, of course, gumbo is roux based so it’s a lot of flour and fat, either oil or butter. So, now these days, flour and fat are not the nicest words to use when you are eating. So, you have a great thickener in this kind of substance in okra.” Thick soup, without tons of fat and starch? Sounds good, but what about getting rid of that dreaded slime? “Well there’s a couple of ways you can do it, the easiest most classic way to get the slime out is just to blanch it in salt water. Give it a quick blanch in salt water, let it turn bright green, put it in ice water to shock it, and it will take away a good amount of the slime.”
Another method is to marinate the okra in vinegar and salt for about an hour, but there’s always the danger that this will lead to a very vinegary vegetable. And according to Landau, okra should be allowed to shine in all it’s fresh glory, “another crime committed against okra is that it goes in too early into stews. Now of course you get all of that wonderful thickening, but a lot of that can go away if you cook it too long. More importantly, okra needs to be treated like a fresh green vegetable, which it is. You wouldn’t put broccoli in, in the beginning of a soup and cook it until it’s gray and mushy, you wouldn’t do that to spinach, why would you do that to okra?”
Think about it, most cooked okra dishes are usually that dull green, almost brown color, the color of overcooked green beans. See, all this time it’s not the okra, but perhaps the way the okra was cooked. So come on all you skeptics, won’t you give okra another chance?