If you are from the south, you are undoubtedly familiar with the vegetable okra and even better, fried okra. But if you are not, you might not be acquainted with this delicacy. Although my mother is Italian and I grew up eating her home cooking, she learned to fix several of my dad’s favorite down home southern cooking dishes and fried okra was one of them.
When we lived in Puerto Rico, my parents had a garden down on the beach which grew out of the seaweed that they gathered off the beach. This garden produce large quantities of okra which my mother would fry up into yummy little morsels of deliciousness.
When we moved back to Italy, we no longer had fried okra very often because okra is not known in Italy. So it wasn’t until I came to live in the states that I remembered how much I loved this fried food.
Unfortunately, fried foods are going out of vogue and I do not order them as often as I would like not to mention that the only place you can usually find them is in barbecue restaurants. So imagine how excited I was to discover that if you roast them in an oven they can turn out just like fried okra,. You don’t even need to batter them; they still taste so delicious! Curious? Want to try them? Here’s what you do.
It is best if you wash the okra the day before you plan on making this dish. This allows them to be dry when you are ready to prepare them. And I want to warn you, if you have never worked with okra before that there is a slimy gel-like substance on the inside when you cut it. Not to worry! You don’t notice it when you roast it. I think it’s the gel that crisps them up. My theory, unsubstantiated.
So begin with already washed and therefore dry okra. Cut off the stem end, then cut the pods into little wagon wheels and add to your roasting pan. Be sure your pan is large enough to give the okra a lot of room. This is how they crisp up. If they are piled up and touching, they steam rather than roast and then the slime is quite noticeable! You’ve been warned. Ask me how I know. Because when BOTH of my double ovens went out, I had to resort to using our toaster oven. You can take it from there, right?
When you have but up all the pods, drizzle with olive oil so as to coat but not drown the wheels.
Sprinkle liberally with salt, preferably sea salt or kosher salt, but table salt is fine.
Pop the pan into your preheated oven and roast ,about 15 minutes. Give the okra a stir and let it roast another 10 to 15 minutes, being careful not to burn them. The key here is to get them crispy but not burnt. When they are sufficiently browned, they are done.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! Buon appetito!