Healthy Cooking: Okra can be slime-free and fry-free


Cooked okra has a bad reputation for feeling slimy. That would be because, in fact, it can feel slimy. However, I beg you to overlook its lesser quality for one moment, and consider that okra is a veritable treasure-trove of plant-based protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B6, C and K, calcium and potassium. And if the thought of eating your vitamins doesn’t make you jump and clap, the fact that it can be prepared in minutes, and complement a myriad of meals, should merit a tiny whoop.

My Dear Husband Bob’s high cholesterol takes fried okra off the proverbial and our literal table. I found plenty of recipes for baked okra, but they all resulted in rather mushy vegetables. (OK, technically okra is a fruit, but since it doesn’t work in a pie or a smoothie, I’m declaring it an honorary veg.) After a little research, I learned that the key to minimizing the mucilage in your cooked okra is to use small, 4-inch or less, fresh pods. And I mean fresh; once it’s picked, okra has a refrigerator shelf life of only two or three days. Choose okra that is cheerfully green, with no brown or mushy spots. Rinse the okra and, listen up because this is important, thoroughly dry the pods with paper towels or a clean dishcloth. You’ll reduce the goop, and have exchanges like this:

Dear Hubby Bob: What are you doing?

Me: Patting down my veggies.

Dear Hubby Bob: Hey, did you know okra is really a fruit?

24 years together, people. These are the conversations.

On a related note, don’t try to bake previously frozen okra. It’s nearly impossible to dry, and you’ll end up with a soggy mess that confirms everyone’s worst biases against okra. Instead, use frozen okra in recipes like jambalaya, where the goo acts as a natural stew thickener.

For my first baked okra attempt, I dipped the pieces in cornmeal, because old habits die hard. But the coating needed extra oil to cook up crisp, and we were left with a sad version of fried. Instead, skip the carbs and the drudgery of dredging. If you spray the baking sheet with cooking spray first, you can toss the okra in a mere teaspoon of oil. But step away from the cooking spray if you have a Teflon baking sheet, or you’ll risk making the nonstick coating weirdly sticky.

Once you’ve kissed the okra with oil, toss it with your go-to seasoning. My people are in love with fleur de sel, because we are fancy like that. Pick a salt-free herb blend if you are watching your sodium intake. Pinches of turmeric, thyme, coriander, lemongrass and garam masala are also great additions, although perhaps not all at once. Then place your okra in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast in a high-heat oven until the seeds and edges are crisp-tender. Finish with a squeeze of bright lemon juice, which makes a sharp counterpoint to any remaining silkiness. Then do your best not to eat the okra straight from the pan.

You can serve okra as a main course if you fold it into a dish of red beans and rice, or a curry made from roasted sweet potatoes, dried apricots and cinnamon. Tired of the same old steamed broccoli side dish? Baked okra plays well with almost any meal in your weeknight rotation: spaghetti, rotisserie chicken, fish tacos. You just need to toss your preconceived notions aside. And throw away your big okra pods too. No one likes slimy fruit.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Food

The best way to grill a burger keeps it off the grate
The best way to grill a burger keeps it off the grate

I used to have a sociological hamburger theory. Growing up in Philly and Michigan, I thought a hamburger was big and fat, the type my mom made, the kind (amped up in size and quality) made famous at the 21 Club in New York. My wife thought a hamburger was thin and crusty, the sort she ate at the Diamond Inn, a homey cafe in the small Central Texas...
Deep Roots Wine Market opening tomorrow in Roswell and other metro Atlanta dining news from the week
Deep Roots Wine Market opening tomorrow in Roswell and other metro Atlanta dining news from the week

Here are the stories that made a splash in the Atlanta food world this week.  Deep Roots Wine Market & Tasting Room is set to open tomorrow in Roswell. Deep Roots features wines exclusively from California with a range of price points. Owner Dana Gurela, a certified California wine appellation specialist and sommelier, will be often be on hand...
AJC EXCLUSIVE: Iconic restaurant Busy Bee to open a second Atlanta location
AJC EXCLUSIVE: Iconic restaurant Busy Bee to open a second Atlanta location

Do you love Busy Bee Cafe’s famous fried chicken but hate the sometimes multiple hour wait for a table? Then you’re in luck — the iconic Atlanta restaurant is slated to open a second location early next year. Located at 111 Trinity Ave. in downtown Atlanta, the second Busy Bee’s menu will offer all of the favorites...
Take a look at the new Atlanta Cousins Maine Lobster location
Take a look at the new Atlanta Cousins Maine Lobster location

Cousins Maine Lobster has operated two food trucks in Atlanta for the past few years, but the eatery’s first brick-and-mortar location made its debut at Lenox Square this week. We got a peek at some of the dishes on the menu and talked to co-founder Jim Tselikis (who you might recognize for his stint on TV’s “Shark Tank&rdquo...
Atlanta native thinks Southern food can be vegan -- and flavorful, too
Atlanta native thinks Southern food can be vegan -- and flavorful, too

As a child, Atlanta native Jenné Claiborne was a super-picky eater, yet she loved being in her grandmother’s kitchen. She baked mud pies and cakes in the mailbox and started cooking at age 7, making “the perfect kid-friendly recipe” of Sichuan chicken for her single mom. Though Claiborne trained to be a professional actress...
More Stories