Okra is definitely having a (well-deserved) moment. Frequently featured on menus and in farmer’s markets, Okra is available year round in some parts of the southern U.S. (The rest of us have to take advantage of the late summer and early fall harvests to enjoy this veggie!) Still, this green veggie lands on a lot of hate lists—even though it’s got such a delicious flavor. Why? The most frequent complaint is that it’s slimy. But when prepared right, it doesn’t have to be!
So why is okra so great? Well for starters, it’s high in fiber and low in calories (about 33 for a whole cup!). Okra is also a great natural source of vitamins A, B, C, and K, and folate. That’s a lot of healthy packed into one little pod! Plus, the “sliminess” has benefits, too! The mucilage and fiber found in okra aids digestion, by helping adjust blood sugar and regulating its absorption in the small intestine. This ability to normalize blood sugar has been shown to be beneficial to those with diabetes.
So how can you make this green veggie more palatable? Two words: dryness and acidity.
Contact with water is what brings out the coating on okra (which makes sense for digestion), so before you prepare your okra—especially if it’s standing alone in a recipe—be sure to thoroughly dry it first. Acidity is also great for minimizing okra’s slick texture, so rubbing it with lemon, lime, or vinegar will help, too.
Knowing how to reduce the slime lets you enjoy okra on its own. For a quick, crunchy snack try drying the okra, and rubbing it with a little vinegar. Slice it in half, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and bake it at 350 degrees until crispy.
Okra works well in sauces, too—and gumbo just wouldn’t be the same without it! To minimize that okra texture in sauce, simply add tomatoes! The acidity from the juice of the tomatoes gives the okra a dryer texture, adding a delicious crunch to your dish.
My favorite way to prepare okra is in a savory pie! (Scroll down past the photo for the recipe!) It combines so many of my favorite farmers’ market veggies. The tomato minimizes any sliminess, while the melted cheese adds a decadent creaminess. And since it’s packed with veggies (yay, okra!), it keeps an otherwise indulgent dinner healthy.
Farmers’ Market Okra Pie
- 1 pound Zucchini, chopped
- 3 tablespoons Shallot, chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- ¼ cup Olive Oil
- ½ pound Okra, chopped
- 2 cups Cherry Tomatoes, sliced
- ½ cup Corn
- 8 ounces Cheese
- 2 tablespoons Basil, chopped
- 1 ½ cup, plus 1 tablespoon Whole Wheat Flour
- ¾ cup Cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
- ¾ teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Pepper
- ¾ stick Unsalted Butter
- ¾ cup Soy Milk
For the filling:
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon salt, then drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Pat zucchini dry. (This prevents the zucchini from giving off moisture during cooking, keeping the texture of the okra crisp.)
Cook shallot and garlic in olive oil with a dash of salt and pepper to taste in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until golden (about 4 to 6 minutes). Add squash and okra and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender (about 7 to 9 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes.
Transfer to a large bowl, and then toss with corn, cheese, basil, and 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired.
For the crust and pie:
Combine dry ingredients, and then mix in butter using a food processor or by hand, until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size lumps. Transfer to a bowl, and stir in milk until mixture just begins to form into dough.
Gather dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and chill for 5 minutes.
Divide the dough in half. Roll out one half into a 13-inch round on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer to a 9-inch glass pie plate, leaving overhang.
Add vegetable filling, mounding slightly in middle.
Roll out remaining dough in the same manner, and place over filling. Trim dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Press edges of crust together. Fold overhang under and crimp edge all around. Cut three steam vents into the top of the piecrust.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes: 8 servings | Serving Size: 1 slice
Per serving: Calories: 354; Total Fat: 19g; Saturated Fat: 9g; Monounsaturated Fat: 5g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 3mg; Sodium: 591mg; Potassium: 366mg; Carbohydrate: 36g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugar: 4g; Protein: 12g
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A: 23%; Vitamin C: 37%; Calcium: 35%; Iron: 13%
Are you an okra fan? What’s your favorite way to prepare it? Share in the comments below!