I personally have always been a little freaked out by okra. Is it just me? It’s slimy on the inside. How does that happen except with the intervention of some an alien life form? And how do you know that alien had the best of intentions? Maybe I’ve watched too many bad sci-fi movies where a slimy alien pops out of some bystander’s chest, but that’s all I can think about with okra.
But when I found this okra (at the City Market, on Nanjing Xi Lu) I couldn’t help myself. From the outside they look so… so… unslimy! I love that they’re vaguely octagonal. How can you not love octagonal produce? It had been sitting in my refrigerator until yesterday, when I saw this picture published in the New York Times in 2008.
That beautiful octagonal okra was just sitting there, in my fridge, on the cusp of going bad. I couldn’t in good conscious waste it. So despite the fact that yesterday we had no running water in our house, and the kitchen had been ripped apart to fix the whole house’s water pipes, I realized I needed to man up, stop being wasteful and use my okra. I would do the best think I could do to still highlight the flavor of the okra without the protoplasmic goo. Fry it.
As I was slicing up the okra I remembered my initial hesitations about the vegetable. But I persisted. I dunked that slimy vegetable in buttermilk and dredged it in a mixture of cornmeal and flour. Could this recipe be more Southern? But by the time it was over, the slime was gone, and replaced by a salty and garlicky crunch.
Even Walker, who, moments before I started chopping okra, had announced his distaste for the whole vegetable, has decided to go back on that declaration. In fact, though I have noted that you should serve these little morsels warm, I think you’ll have trouble letting them cool down first. Ours were gone as soon as I snapped a really quick picture. The consensus? Absolutely delicious, and no okra goo to be found anywhere.
Adapted from Paula Deen
6* cups oil, for frying
3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds fresh okra, sliced 1 cm thick
1/2 cup buttermilk (sub: 1/2 cup milk and 1 tsp white vinegar)
1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven to 350 degrees F. *How much oil you use will depend largely on the size of your skillet. You want the oil no higher than half way up the sides.
2. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, House Seasoning, and cayenne pepper. Dip okra in buttermilk and then dredge in cornmeal-flour mixture to coat well. Working in batches so as not to drop the oil’s temperature too quickly, carefully add okra to the hot oil and cook until golden brown. Remove from oil, drain on paper towels, toss with a little salt and then serve immediately with the creamy cumin-lime dipping sauce, recipe below.
1/3 cup unsweetened yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
half a clove of purple garlic minced (sub: 2 cloves of normal garlic)
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
finely grated zest of a lime
juice of a lime
1. Mix all the ingredients together
2. Serve the warm okra with the creamy dipping sauce.
“It was kind of like finger food that could be shared from one bowl. Great for when you just want to have an evening on the c ouch and devour a whole bowl of something. And the best part is that there was a vegetable inside the thing you wanted to devour!”
Sida the beagle liked it too. She kept trying to sneak a pieces as I photographed it. But to be honest, she isn’t all that discriminating. The only thing she doesn’t like is ketchup.