Friday, June 15, 2012

Breadcrumb Fried Okra

Growing up I loved going to my grandmother's house in the summer because it meant that we would come home with a box full of home grown okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions. My mom would slice and fry up the goodies for dinner that night. I can still remember stealing cucumber slices off the cutting board before they ever made it to a plate. In our house the okra was coated with corn meal(plus a touch of sugar) and deep fried until golden brown and the tomatoes received a sprinkle of sugar. Might sound weird to put sugar on sliced tomatoes, but try it and then tell me I'm odd. As I've gotten more comfortable with cooking, I started to scour the produce section at the grocery store for okra, only to be let down by a small basket of maybe 10 pods for $4 or $5. This price killed me when I remember okra stalks so tall my grandmother had to get a ladder to pick the top.


Fast forward to a few years ago when I decided that I wanted to try my own hand at a garden. I had kept a few plants alive and Chris was sweet enough to encourage my brown thumb. I arrived home from a weekend away with Taylor to find that he had built me a raised garden bed. In this part of Texas you dig 6 inches down and hit solid limestone. Plus he wanted to give our veggies a fighting chance against the fire ant population. Taylor and I picked out a few seed packets, ignored spacing instructions, and planted away. Taylor was so excited to grow corn on the cob and I was looking forward to my okra, cantaloupe, cucumbers, bell peppers, jalapeƱos, and onions.

Within a few weeks we started to see little green plants sprout up and we continued to watch each day. Luckily, Chris knew I was not great at remembering to water plants and set up a timed sprinkler on the garden. We did get some goodies from the garden that year but also learned a lot. The seed companies know what they are doing when they tell you how far apart to plant veggies. Cantaloupe and cucumbers next to each other make for a viney mess. Okra plants get very tall so plant them at the end and make sure that you can reach the back of them when it comes time to pick while the plants are very tall. Being short adds to this problem. The okra did great and I learned to pick before they got too big or they would get hard and unedible. I would wash, slice, and freeze them as I picked them. This way I could save up enough to cook at one time. I ended up with almost 8 gallons of okra that summer from a $0.99 seed packet that produced two plants. I considered it a HUGE success. We also ended up with a few cantaloupes and plenty of cucumbers to enjoy with lunch all summer long. We picked four or five corn cobs and then the stalks died. Nothing else grew that summer, but I was pretty happy with what we got.

Last year only the okra survived the awful Texas drought/heat. Last year Chris added on another raised bed since we had the room and I learned that I needed to space a little better. This year I went in with a plan and put taller plants mixed with the viney ones. I planted corn in the same area as summer squash(the green variety) and cucumbers, okra, and bell peppers in the other garden bed. This has proved to be a good plan of attack so far. I went out yesterday to see how my little garden was doing and this is what I saw.

IMG_3172 IMG_3171

Guess I need to be checking more often now that flowers are all over my squash and cucumber plants. I am 5'1 and the corn plants are officially taller than me. I wonder how tall they get? Our garden is in a side yard that we use to store the ladder and other miscellaneous stuff. It's not a pretty part of the yard, but a great place to grow my veggies.  Each of those yellow flowers show where a squash will grown soon.  My sister-in-law says you can eat these.  Not really on my list of things to cook but I’ll share them with anyone who wants them.  Just tell me how to get them off safely for you and how to store them until you eat/cook.


Did you know that cucumbers can grow hanging?  The lattice work behind the right bed is for the cucumber vine to grow up.  Their vines have the little curly q’s like ivy that will help them attach to the lattice with a little encouragement.  The plus of this is so that I can see where the ready cucumbers are and you don’t end up with a yellow side on your vegetable that often comes from laying in damp soil.


(those are tiny okra buds if you’ve never seen an okra plant)

And this is what I picked. I left my lotion and soap in the picture for comparison.  This squash was huge and there is a small cucumber hiding behind it.  The smaller squash is still bigger than what you get at the grocery store.


I cooked up the giant squash last night and it was so nice to cook fresh from the garden. It was so really sweet and the perfect tenderness for squash. Since it won't be long before the okra starts to fill my freezer again, I figured I would cook up my last bag from last year. I love fried okra, but the batter and fried part are not so great on a regular basis. Plus it kind of defeats the purpose of vegetables if you constantly fry them in oil. I found a recipe for an alternative fried okra, tweaked it to fit our taste buds and here it is for you. We like to have it as a side with Zatarain's jambalaya. I even use turkey smoked sausage links in the rice to lessen the calories.


Breadcrumb Fried Okra

  • 2-4 cups sliced okra
  • 1/2 c zesty bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 c shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp. grapeseed or olive oil(we like grapeseed since it tends to have a lighter flavor than olive oil)

Warm oil in frying pan. Add okra.


Cook 5-8 minutes or until tenderness you like. I throw mine in still a little frozen and just cook a little longer. About half way through cooking, add seasoning. Continue to stir while cooking. Once at tenderness you like, add bread crumbs. I don't measure out the breadcrumbs anymore, but just add a little at a time until I get them coated. If your family doesn't like spice, then you might want to opt for regular breadcrumbs. Now sprinkle in the cheese, stir around to let it melt in and serve.


This actually reheats pretty well too if you have any leftovers, but we rarely do so I don't get to test this out very often.

If you are an okra lover like me, I hope you give this recipe a try. I still love my mom's fried okra, but my waistline appreciates this version a lot better. How do you cook your okra?

1 comment:

MySanSouci said...

Yum! Thanks for sharing your recipe for this! Okra is one of my favorite summer foods!


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