29 August 2011

Okra

Okra is a wonderful vegetable...now that I know how to cook it properly! :-)  My first experience with okra was as a college student...my roommate and I went grocery shopping.  Being one who likes to try new things, I purchased some frozen okra and followed the label directions, which stated it should be boiled.  I was astonished to find the okra inedible due to the severe ....sliminess...of the vegetable.  Yuck!  I vowed never again to eat it.  However, things change over the years and now that we grow it on the farm....lots of it....I have tried it in new recipes and now I absolutely love it!
Okra has many nutritional benefits, including cleansing the body of toxins!  It is the mucilage in the okra that can be slimy, but this is the substance that cleanses the body, as well as acting as a thickening agent in soups and stews like gumbo and succotash.  The mucilage also binds cholesterol and the fiber in okra helps to regulate blood sugar levels.  To retain okra's many nutritional benefits, cook it as little as possible.  Below are some nutritional values from a website mentioned just after:
Okra Nutrition (half-cup cooked okra)
  • Calories = 25
  • Dietary Fiber = 2 grams
  • Protein = 1.5 grams
  • Carbohydrates = 5.8 grams
  • Vitamin A = 460 IU
  • Vitamin C = 13 mg
  • Folic acid = 36.5 micrograms
  • Calcium = 50 mg
  • Iron = 0.4 mg
  • Potassium = 256 mg
  • Magnesium = 46 mg
A plethora of information and recipes for okra can be found here, as well as other resource links:  http://www.physiology.wisc.edu/ravi/okra/
To freeze okra, select tender pods and wash and separate by size...those smaller than 4 inches and those longer than 4 inches.  Remove the stem ends and blanch the small pods for 3 minutes and the larger pods for 5 minutes.  Drain and cool.  You can leave the small pods whole, but it is recommended to slice the larger pods into 1 inch lengths (after blanching).  Place the okra into plastic freezer jars or other freezer containers and place in freezer.  Most vegetables can be frozen for up to one month. 
I fried my okra last week using a mixture of cornmeal, flour and pepper.  First I sliced it, then dipped it in buttermilk and rolled or tossed it in the cornmeal mixture.  I fried it in oil in a pan until brown on all sides.  It was so delicious!  Here's another recipe for Okra and Tomatoes:
Okra & Tomatoes
1 pound small okra (about 1 – 2 pints)
¼ Cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small Leek, chopped
1 pound tomatoes, peeled and chopped (1/2 quart)
1 ounce sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Oregano leaves, to garnish
Cut stalks off okra, but do not pierce pods.  Wash pods, drain and pat dry.
Heat oil in large skillet.  Add onion and leek and cook 7 minutes or until softened and lightly colored.  Add okra and turn carefully to coat in oil.  Cook for 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper.  Cover pan for 10 minutes or until okra is tender and sauce is reduced and thickened.  If sauce reduces too quickly, add a little water.  Garnish with oregano leaves and serve hot or warm.  Yields 4 servings. 

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