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Okra’s popularity extends throughout the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, and the Southern United States. But, for some people, the mere word “okra” conjures up visions of something slimy and unpleasant. Most likely, they just don’t know how to cook okra properly. When cut, the ridged okra pod oozes a sticky substance that thickens stews, such as Creole gumbo or Middle Eastern bamya. Here’s what you need to know to enjoy your okra.
How to Pick and Store Okra
Look for okra that is bright green in color without blemishes or dark spots. Check that pods are pliable, but firm. The smaller the okra, the more tender, so choose pods 3 to 4 inches in length, advises Erin Bullock of Mud Creek Farm in Victor, N.Y. Okra’s shelf life is short; you’ll want to cook it within a day or two of purchase. Refrigerate okra in a ventilated bag to prevent exposure to dry air and moisture, and wait until preparing to wash pods.
How to Cook Okra
To prep, you’ll want to use a chef’s or paring knife to slice off the stem of the okra, and prepare the pod whole, or else cut it into slivers or thin rounds. Cooking okra whole, pan searing it at high heat, stewing, or braising will reduce its stickiness before eating.
Once you’ve gotten that down, try these classic preparations:
- Stew okra in a tagine of eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, black olives, and dried apricots with preserved lemon, cinnamon, and cumin; serve over couscous
- Marinate okra in basil pesto with red bell peppers, zucchini, red onion rings, and eggplant. Grill the vegetables, and serve with balsamic reduction.
- Braise okra in coconut milk, Thai chile paste, and kaffir lime leaves; garnish with fresh basil.
Okra Recipes to Try