Because of its heat loving nature not everyone in the country is able to grow or may be familiar with okra, but it is a vegetable that deserves more recognition. Growing up in the South, okra was a frequent part of our summer meals. It is delicious in gumbo, stewed with corn and tomatoes or even pickled. One of my favorite dishes from childhood is fried okra. It is a crunchy treat that you can enjoy with a minimal amount of guilt.
Begin by preparing the okra. Wash it and drain well, then cut and discard both ends.
Next cut the okra crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces.
You will need two large bowls. In one bowl combine cornmeal, salt and pepper. Pour the buttermilk in the other bowl and add the okra. Stir the okra until it is well coated with buttermilk and then transfer it in small batches, using a slotted spoon, to the cornmeal. Toss each batch of okra in the cornmeal until coated and place on a cookie sheet. Continue this process until each piece is coated with cornmeal.
Now you are ready to heat the oil. Pour the oil into a large skillet and heat on a medium high setting. A purist will tell you to use an iron skillet, but any type will do. Just make sure that it is large enough to hold the okra without overcrowding. For the best results you may need to fry it in batches.
The key to good fried okra is getting the oil hot enough, about 325 degrees F or just below smoking. It should be hot enough for the coated pieces to sizzle when dropped in a pan. If the oil is not hot enough, your okra will come out slimy.
When the oil is hot, add the okra and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn the pieces so that they brown on all sides and then transfer them to a plate covered with a paper towel to drain.
When all the okra is done I like to sprinkle on a little more salt, just because I like it extra salty, and serve it hot with a few of my other favorites such as sliced tomatoes, fresh corn on the cob and pork chops.
Time to prepare: 40 minutes.