You can never be a true southern cook and NOT love okra. This unique vegetable originally from Af-rica is a seed pod with one of the most fascinating flavors in the vegetable world. It is also full of delightful textures from a fuzzy exterior to an interior full of soft white seeds and a rich, sauce-like mucilage [okay “slime].
No matter how it is cooked, I am a fan. Breaded and fried, okra is as irresistible as popcorn and there is no such thing as a “good veggie soup” without that okra mucilage as a thickener. I even like it stewed or cooked in a big pot with potatoes. On occasion, I have satisfied my craving by simply steaming it as an easy side dish.
Recently, however, I discovered roasted okra. Fast, ultra-simple to make and fast, it has become a per-sonal favorite. Select the smaller pods which tend to be more tender [big or older pods can sometimes be very fibrous], split them in half and toss with your favorite oil [I use light olive oil]. You might also remove the caps and tips – the latter can become burnt or too crispy in the roasting process.
Nest, add whatever seasoning you like – my favorites are plain salt and pepper with a dash of red pepper flakes if I am in the mood for spice or heat [you can also use a dash of curry powder]. The wonderful flavor of okra stands up well with almost any additives. Spread the split okra evenly on a cookie sheet [make it even easier with non-stick aluminum foil], and roast for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. For crispier okra, allow a slightly longer cooking time. Be careful if you select this style because those narrow tips [if they are not re-moved] can burn very easily. Toss or turn your roasting okra every ten minutes. Let them rest briefly on paper towels when done.
Roasted okra is perfect as both an appetizer or as a side dish. It is rich in vitamins A, K and C, folates, manganese and anti-oxidants. The mucilage helps in digestion too. With roasted okra, you get all the flavor of fried okra without all that breading and oil saturation. As an appetizer, serve the crispier version as finger food along with your favorite dipping sauce – a cool ranch or bleu cheese is good, especially if you add spicy sea-soning to your roasted okra. ENJOY and let me know what your favorite okra recipes.