Okra is a staple in what has become “trendy” — good ol’ Southern cooking. But let’s be blunt: Can you get past the slimy texture?
If the answer is yes, then you will have one of the very best vegan thickeners around. The thick, viscous liquid (slime!) that’s produced when the carbohydrates and proteins in okra pods are cooked is known as mucilage. It thickens Creole stews and gumbos, as well as Indian curries. When classically stewed with tomatoes, all the textures melt together into a pot of Southern “love.”
Or, to preserve its snappy texture, okra is often pickled. It’s also virtually slime-free when grilled, which also adds smoky flavors that pair well with peppers and spicy chiles.
Okra isn’t hard to cook, but there are a few tricks. In this salad, okra is cooked quickly to keep it from becoming mushy, yet long enough to release the natural thickeners that help form a salad dressing and keep the rice moist. In terms of nutrition, okra is high in fiber, with 2 grams per half-cup serving; it is also rich in potassium, folate, magnesium, and vitamins C and K.
If you can find fresh okra — which is season right now at farmers markets — buy a batch. Look for small okra, no longer than about 4 inches. Snack on them raw, and use them as a surprising addition to a crudite platter.Frozen okra is also perfect in this salad. The frozen version makes this salad an easy side come autumn and tailgating parties; it’s also a quick, convenient dinner salad for any time of year. Read more