Anyone who knows me well, knows that I LOVE fried okra. It's my favorite vegetable. I probably could eat it every day. Unfortunately, living in Oregon, I rarely get to eat this treat. This year, though, we were able to grow some in our garden. Okra likes really hot weather and a long growing season. That's probably the main reason you don't find it outside of the South. But I have had some success growing it, both in Southern Oregon, and now in the Pendleton area. It doesn't get huge, and now that the nights here have gotten cool the production has screeched to a halt, but I grew enough with 20-ish plants to serve it maybe 4-5 times as a side dish for our family of 4. I hope to plant even more next year. I did spot some at a local growers market recently, but sadly, it was all way too big and tough. But I'm encouraged to see it. I have yet to see it in any grocery store here, but would on rare occasion see it in Southern Oregon when we lived there. If you're lucky enough to have it in your grocery store or farmer's market, give this recipe a try. These pictures are from what will probably be out last batch this year from our garden :-(.
First of all, you need to select fresh green small pods of okra, as pictured above. Okra is pretty fragile and bruises and browns (and molds) easily. It'll keep up to a week or so refrigerated if fresh. I start by slicing off the stem caps.
I grew up using a paring knife to slice the okra into rounds of about a 1/4 inch, but discovered that using a mandoline slicer makes the job quicker, easier and more uniform. I bought mine for under $20.
Once all the okra has been sliced, I "bread" it with equal parts flour and cornmeal. My mom used to put it all into a paper bag and shake it. I just add it to the bowl and give it a stir. Okra is naturally very sticky, so there's no need to add any eggs or milk to make it stick! I also add a small amount of salt, but you can add this once it's cooking to taste.
Next, I heat up about 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the skillet. My grandma used to use bacon fat that made it SO good, but I prefer to use canola oil. Over medium heat, fry or saute the okra until it's tender and medium brown. I usually stir it frequently to keep it from burning... every minute or so, and it typically takes me about 15-20 minutes. My kids have learned (from me) the tradition of nibbling the okra as it cooks, so I always make extra for nibbling.
Some people like Tabasco on the okra after it's served, others, a little pepper. I just like it with a little salt, and we all fight over who gets the last bit from the pan, because all the fried breading crumbs that fall off are also yummy! Enjoy!