My parents are both part of the first generation in their respective families to not grow up on a working farm. This means that I, a second generation city girl, have one and three-quarters feet planted firmly in suburbia and one big toe at home in the dirt.
I remember picking okra at my grandmother’s house. My mom’s parents live in a small country town in Texas between Fort Worth and Waco. When we picked okra, it was so fresh that we couldn’t touch it without gloves because the okra’s fuzz would make our hands itchy.
My grandma fries okra in a cast iron skillet with a mixture of squash and onions that have been dredged in milk and eggs and coated in seasoned corn meal. My favorite part was always the okra – the real taste of the vegetable. And it always left me wondering how to eat okra in some other non-fried preparation.
I discovered roasted okra and the world changed. Cut in half lengthwise, the toasted, shriveled seeds and crispy browned edges crunch in your mouth. Slicing the okra allows the inside seeds to become crisp. It also removes even the smallest hint of sliminess that many find unpalatable about okra. The flavors are layered – simplistic and symphonic. Roasting brings out the okra’s peppery taste while the crunch of kosher salt and the subtle flavor of olive oil add more delicate flavors.
Wash and completely dry your okra. If you’re smart, you’ll wash your okra in advance. If you’re like me, set it on a tea towel and dry it off. If it’s not dry, the olive oil and salt won’t stick. This little trick has improved all of my vegetable roasting efforts.
Now is a good time to get your broiler going so it’s nice and hot.
Chop off the top and then slice the okra down the middle. It helps if you have pale, sausage fingers and florescent fingernail polish.
See these big, crunchy seeds? They become extra delectable when roasted. That’s why I slice all of my okra except for the littlest pieces less than an inch long. Slicing also helps get rid of that sliminess that’s given okra a bad rap.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Do not add pepper – the okra has a beautiful, natural peppery taste on its own, and you don’t want to mask that.
Mix the okra around so that it is evenly coated with olive oil and salt. The okra should glisten with olive oil on all sides, but not be overly oily. The salt should be evenly distributed but not perfectly. This is a low-stress veggie. You can toss the oil and salt with the okra in its own bowl, but if you gingerly toss everything on the pan, you won’t have to wash the bowl. And that’s a win in my world. After you’ve tossed, rearrange the okra so the pieces are seed-side up.
Put the okra on one of the upper drawers under the broiler until it’s crispy. Pull the pan out of the broiler and flip the okra with a big spatula, let it broil again until the opposite side is crispy. The time will vary for every oven, the intensity of your broiler and the rack level you ultimately choose. For me, it takes between 5 to 7 minutes per side. Please watch very carefully to make sure your precious, delectable okra doesn’t burn.
And voila! Perfection. I served my okra with a baked potato and leftover steak. Look at those crunchy seeds!
Roasted okra is a gateway drug to other exciting ways to eat okra. Once when I was making roasted okra, I ate a piece of it raw. And it was good! Really good. One of my favorite snacks at work is sliced raw okra. I have a picnic container of salt hidden away in my desk. I sprinkle a bit on each piece before I eat it.
Oh okra. You are the new asparagus.
- 1 lb fresh okra - or more!
- 1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Turn on broiler.
- Rinse and dry okra. If it’s not completely dry, the olive oil and salt won’t stick.
- Chop off the tops and then slice the okra lengthwise. Slicing the okra allows the inside seeds to become crisp. It also removes even the smallest hint of sliminess that many find unpalatable about okra.
- Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, and mix together so the okra glistens with olive oil on all sides and the salt is evenly distributed.
- Broil on both sides until equally crispy and browned, about 5 minutes per side. Every oven is different, so keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn.
- Adjust the amounts as needed. These are so good that you may find that 1 pound isn’t enough!