Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Southern Fried Disappointment

Okra. I so badly wanted to sing the praises of this vegetable that, in my opinion, is one of the most attractive to grow in the home garden. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about...here's a picture and instructions on how to grow). I've seen them in green or purple always with an eye catching blossom before the veggie itself emerges. They can be harvested from an inch to about 6 inches long and the more you harvest, the happier they are. They look exotic and yet not as intimidating as some of the other more unusual farmer's market offerings.

In fact, the only thing that freaks me out about them a little, is the slime that seeps out when they are cut. But this Labor Day, I pulled out my cast iron pan and made my first attempt at classic southern fried okra.

But alas, one a scale of 1 to 10, I rank it about a 3. I'm no okra cooking veteran, but I followed Mark Bittman's recipe to the letter, and the fried coins were perfectly golden with a crisp cornmeal coating and pleasantly textured inside. But they lacked any real flavor. I dipped them in ranch dressing...they just tasted like ranch. I dipped them in ketchup...tasted like ketchup. I added hot sauce...yep, you guessed it, just made them spicy. Mr. Bittman gave no other serving suggestions so I stuck the leftovers in the fridge hoping some flavoring miracle would happen overnight. This morning, I topped them with salt. They tasted like cold salt.

Perhaps there is some beauty in fried okra's simple flavor(lessness) that I'm missing here.

So onto the next cooking adventure! They can't all be perfect or what fun would that be?!

And by the way, I am not knocking Mr. Bittman's recipe. I adore Mr. Bittman's cooking and consider his cookbooks my secret kitchen weapons--especially How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

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