One of my favorite working eater vegetables is okra. Although it is a hairy and slimy vegetable that has its share of shortcomings, it has many strong points too. For instance, it is very nutritious, as it is high in folate and Vitamins A and C, and it helps to lower cholesterol.
A classic working eater dish I make, is a recipe that I invented when I only had okra and cauliflower in my refrigerator. Surprisingly, my ad hoc okra hodgepodge turned out deliciously, and was a hit with those who tasted it. I now count this okra recipe as one of my staple meals when I come home from a frenzied day at work.
In this recipe, I find that the cauliflower helps to sponge up some of the viscous mucus excreted by the okra, and the robust and concentrated flavors from the fiery chili pepper flakes in oil and pungent fish sauce help take away focus from the grotesque slime exuding itself from the okra innards. Without further delay, here is my okra recipe:
Rustic Country-Style Okra Stir-Fry
1 head of cauliflower, separated into individual florets
1 lb of fresh okra, tops removed and discarded, and sliced into 1/2 inch rings
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp of fish sauce
1-2 tbsps (heaping) of crispy chili flakes in onion-flavored oil (you can get this in Asian supermarkets)
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
Heat the oil in a skillet or wok on high heat until the oil is shimmering. Quickly add the garlic, and fry until the edges of the garlic begin to brown. Add the cauliflower florets, fish sauce, and chili flakes, and cook until the florets are tender to the bite.
Meanwhile, rinse the sliced okra rings in a colander under a running faucet, and swish the okra around in the water with your hands. Drain the okra by shaking the colander over the sink vigorously, and put a plate under the colander to catch any slimy residue. Add the okra into the hot pan that is cooking the cauliflower, and continue to cook until the okra is slightly softened, but still crisp to the bite.
That's it! Wasn't that easy? I hope that you non-okra eaters sample this recipe. It is a great way to get acquainted with a fabulous and underappreciated vegetable. If the slime and the scratchy okra fuzz is too much for you, you can minimize the slime by leaving the okra pods whole and just trimming off the fibrous tops and pointed ends. You can also eliminate the fuzz by wiping and rubbing the okra skin with a damp washcloth.