LIttle did I know that okra was such a divisive vegetable, and then I started to do a little research on this Southern favorite. People definitely seem to have a love/hate relationship with okra. Most seemed to be turned off by the sliminess that occurs when okra is cooked. This viscous substance is a great thickener to any liquid in which it is cooked if that is your desire. If the okra is not used as a flavor addition as well as a thickening agent, you just get the slime if not prepped and cooked properly. The key to cooking okra on it's own (without being used as a thickener), is mostly in the preparation as well as how you cook it. Having never cooked or even eaten okra before, I had to do a little research for this week's Farmer's Market Challenge.
The key to okra not becoming slimy is basically three simple steps (although there are few other tricks as well). The first step is to soak the okra in a solution of 1 cup cider vinegar and one quart (4 cups) water. Let the okra soak for about an hour. The second step is to minimally cut the okra. The less you cut it, the less chance of it releasing the dreaded slime. The third step is to cook the okra at a high,and relatively dry heat in a short amount of time. Each of these steps on their own will dramatically reduce the chance of slime. But combined you've got a pretty good shot. You should also salt at the end of the cooking process. And cooking the okra with tomatoes can help as well. The acid in the tomato helps reduce the sliminess.
So the high, quick cooking process of deep frying the okra will definitely reduce the slime. However, if you want a healthier cooking method, I recommend sauteing the okra in a little bit of olive oil until browned. Which is the direction I went with this week's recipe. I got all of the ingredients for this recipe at the Sunday Farmer's Market at the Marina in Long Beach. I hope you enjoy it! I definitely became a fan of okra through this whole process.
Pan Seared Snapper with Summery Okra Saute
Serves 2-4 (depending on how much you eat)
For the Pan Seared Snapper:
Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 lb fresh red snapper fillet
Kosher salt and pepper
1 meyer lemon (or regular lemon would be just fine) cut in half with one half reserved
For the Summery Okra Saute:
10 fresh okra
1 cup cider vinegar
4 cups water
Extra Virgin Olive OIl
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 roma tomato (chopped about 1 cup)
1/2 cup fresh corn (from 1 ear of corn)
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro or basil
Kosher salt and pepper
1) Soak the okra in a mixture of 1 cup cider vinegar and 1 quart (4 cups) water for about one hour. Remove the okra and dry it well.
2) Season the snapper with salt and pepper to taste (I used a little under 1/2 tsp of salt and about 1/4 tsp pepper).
3) Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add about 1/4 cup of the olive oil to the pan, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the snapper and cook for about 2-3 minutes or until well browned and easily released from the pan. Flip the snapper and continue to cook until done (about another 2-4 minutes or until flaked easily with a fork).
4) Sprinkle the snapper with the juice from half of the lemon and remove from the pan. Put the snapper on a plate and wrap with foil to keep warm.
5) Cut the okra into thirds or half if they are small, removing the top.
6) Clean out the skillet you used to cook the snapper and return the pan to the stove top over medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onion and cook until the onions start to get tender and slightly browned.
7) Push the onion to the side of the pan and add the okra to the empty part of the skillet. Cook the okra until browned on one side and then flip it over and cook until the other side is browned. Mix the okra into the onions, add the tomatoes and corn and continue to saute until the tomatoes have begun to cook down and release some of their juices.
8) Sprinkle the vegetables with the remaining half of the lemon and season to taste with salt and pepper. I used about 1/4 tsp of salt and a couple grinds of fresh ground pepper. Toss in the cilantro or basil and stir to combine.
9) Serve the snapper topped with the vegetables and enjoy!