I've been on an okra kick lately. I'm not sure how it started. Growing up I only ever had fried okra at school (yes, in the south, fried okra is a school lunch vegetable) and when I lived in Houston I got to know it as a component of gumbo and some Indian veggie dishes, but I wasn't really partial to it and I have no idea what possessed me to buy some at the grocery store the other day, except for the fact that I don't think I'd ever seen in my Cambridge grocery store.
Once I got it home I wasn't sure what to do with it, so I did what I do to all new vegetables [and most of my favorites]: I roasted it.
It was fantastic. The okra flavor was rich and earthy, and the roasting made it not at all slimy. [Okra is boiled in gumbo and curries because the goo it releases acts as a thickener.] I wanted more, but a week later the store seemed to have the same batch of okra sitting out and they were no longer green and firm but soft and spotty brown... I guess when you don't usually carry a product and your customers aren't too familiar with it, you can get away with letting it go bad in full display?
I was bummed until I discovered something wonderful. I went to little Indian convenience store on the corner for a quick gallon of milk and down on the bottom shelf of their refrigerated section was a giant box of fresh okra for half the price per pound I'd paid at the big grocery store. Of course! I think of it as "Southern", but it's native to Africa and grown throughout India... and Indian food is much cheaper than Southern food in Yankee Land. The ethnic store wins again!
Recipe: Oven Roasted Okra
Choose firm, unblemished okra pods, the smaller the better as the big ones can get woody. You can cut the cap off ahead of time, but I usually leave them on and end up with a little mound of them on my dinner plate.
olive oil [or spray oil]
kosher or coarse sea salt
cracked black pepper
red pepper flakes [optional]
Preheat oven to 450F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss or spray okra with oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chile flakes, if using. Roast ~20 minutes (shaking pan after ten minutes to turn pods) or until okra is sizzling and covered in crispy brown -- not black-- spots. Serve immediately.