The Okra Experiment

I think I have lost my inspiration for cooking. I am back from an amazing journey to South Africa and a quick 2-day break in London with Mr N and although I thought I would start cooking immediately, I find myself eating overpriced ready made salads at work and take away dinner in the evenings.

To get my inspiration back, I decided (what else?) to delve into new recipes. But three new cooking magazines, two Bon Appetit issues and a new cookbook later, my inspiration was still a no-show. Not wanting to give up completely, but still with no inspiration and (mysteriously) with no cravings, I decided to experiment with okra.

Up until that moment, I did not know how else to cook okra, other than following my mama’s recipe: A big pot, okra, chicken pieces, onions, tomato sauce – stew. The only alteration I’d tried was to put all the ingredients in a tray and bake the stew in the oven, which, to be honest, didn’t change much. However, on a very inspirational afternoon a few months ago, as I was boiling green beans, I threw in the water one okra pod, just to see what will happen. To my surprise the okra tasted quite nice: fresh, a bit crunchy and with no slime!

So in search of my inspiration and curious to explore further that past discovery, I boiled the okra pods in salted water for a few minutes, drained them and placed them in a bowl. Fried bacon pieces, grated parmesan cheese, crushed black pepper, hazelnut oil and, to top it of, balsamic and fig glaze. The combination of tastes was extraordinary with the saltiness of the parmesan cheese complementing the sweetness of the balsamic and fig glaze and the crispy bacon pieces offering the dish a much needed texture.

Overall it was not something out of this world but quite interesting and new. It also gave me ideas: okra and cheese soufflé, okra with pork chops, okra mousse. Reading about it I discovered that in order to avoid sliminess, okra pods are often cooked with acidic ingredients (citrus, tomatoes, vinegar). Cooking them fast also has the same result. And finally, another option is to slice them thinly and cook them for a long time so that the micilage (that thick, gluey substance) dissolves. Interesting things!

Feeling better after the Okra experiment, I’m planning to make pesto tonight. I have a basil plant in my balcony that is about to die (summer is over here in Greece) and it will be a shame not to use those aromatic leaves. So to the kitchen! And may we all have a creative fall! :)