When you start seeing okra in local groceries or farmers markets here in South Louisiana, you know the summer harvest is petering out. Only the hardiest crops – okra, eggplant and peppers – hang around in Louisiana’s unique brand of oppressive August heat. Okra, in particular, seems to close out the summer, the last blast of freshness until the fall harvest emerges.
So how to put okra to good use? Sure, fried is classic and absolutely delicious. Stewed down with tomatoes is an essential part of the Louisiana culinary roster. Pickled appeals to the masses and is perfect with charcuterie or a Bloody Mary. But for everyday enjoyment, there is no tastier, healthier, faster or easier way to prepare okra than by roasting it in a hot oven. Thanks to my pal, the author and radio host, Poppy Tooker, for recommending this to me a few years ago over lunch.
Roasted okra how-to:
The steps are simple and straightforward, and even if you’re not wild about quintessential Southern veggie and African import, roasting it will make you a believer. Remember kale chips a few years ago? Everybody starting preparing them because it was a way to transform something assertive and vegetal into something sweet and tempting. The same is true here.
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Wash, dry and trim the stems of whole okra. Drizzle on a small amount of olive oil and a few sprinkles of Kosher salt. Place on a cookie sheet, ensuring there isn’t excess oil on the pan. It will smoke otherwise. Roast for 15 minutes. Now sample. The slime has been roasted away, leaving each okra tender, neatly browned and with a gentle nutty flavor.