Monday, November 9, 2009

Veggie of Week!

I've been so busy lately that Veggie of the Week has fallen through the cracks! Please accept my apologies!

Mel Posted a great bit on Okra and since this is one of my favorite veggies to cook, I decided to profile it here in the food blog. Just like brussels sprouts, this veggie has a hard reputation to overcome. Most people in the south eat it battered and fried (YUM) or stewed with tomatoes, but really, this little guy has so much more to offer....

What is it? Okra's origin is traced to the Ethiopian Highlands, and made its way gradually to parts of the world via trade routes. It came to the United States by way of the slave trade and is in the same family as hibiscus and cotton. Okra loves the southern climate and is very easy to grow.

Why should I eat it? 1/2 cup of okra supplies 2g of fiber and is abundant in these vitamins: vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and folacin. That same serving has 257mg of potassium and 50mg of calcium. It's good stuff.

How do I cook it? Very, very carefully! My mom made okra plenty of times when I was growing up and I never understood what the big deal about the sliminess was, until of course, I went to make it myself. The more I stirred, the slimier it got. The sliminess can be beneficial if you are making a stew, as the mucous acts as a natural thickener for stocks. I complained to her about my okra failure and she let me in on the secret: Be gentle. Don't stir.

Try out Mel's recipe! She's usually spot on with the goods, so don't delay!

The more you move the okra, the more you break the membranes thus releasing that slime that has turned you off for years and years. My favorite dish to make with okra is a kind of Indian beef pan casserole with a tomato base:

1 can tomato paste
1lb grass fed ground beef (or lamb)
1/2lb-1lb okra, cut gently into 1/2" pieces, set aside
1 bay leaf
seasonings: ground coriander, ground cardamom, curry powder, tumeric

Brown the beef and mix in the tomato paste. Add in water to thin the paste into a desirable consistency. Begin adding in amounts of the seasonings, careful to allow some time for everything to mix (ie- dash here, dash there, stir, simmer, taste). I usually start with a tablespoon each of the curry powder and tumeric, half a tablespoon of the coriander and cardamom, and move up from there. Now, once you've reached your appropriate level of flavor and consistency, gently take the okra and place it on top of the tomato/beef/curry, cover with a lid, turn the heat off and walk away from the stove for appx 10-15 minutes.

After 10-15 minutes, stir the dish and serve. The okra should be crispy but not raw, and should not be slimy. Pair with cauliflower "rice" (cauliflower pulverized in a food processor and cooked in a pan with olive oil). Yum. Yum.

How does this fit in with the Zone? 1c of okra has 9g of carbs (one block), which makes it a perfect option if you are running low on allotted carb blocks for your day.


  1. This is a great review. Thank you so much. I hope I can find it. I am always looking for new veggies to try.

  2. I'm glad you found it helpful! Whole Foods is probably your best bet, store-wise, to find okra. Trader Joe's might have them. Also, check your local farmer's market or organic delivery service. Luckily you live in southern California, so the climate is perfect. Let me know what you think!