To say that okra and I have not been friends would be a major understatement. Admittedly, I grew up in the Northeast and never had okra until I became an adult. But one taste and I developed an antipathy that caused okra to supplant lima beans as my least favorite vegetable. And this from a person who loves just about every other vegetable she has ever tasted.
The result was a plateful of buttermilk and cornmeal-crusted, bite-sized nuggets that reminded me of the pigs-in-blankets that I used to devour as a kid. With a vegetable instead of a mini hot dog and a yogurt-based topping instead of mustard, I’ll admit that the resemblance is a bit attenuated, but the visual connection made me smile as I tried them.
I might even try okra in Jambalya next. I’d say that means my okra adventure was a success.
For those who have never tried okra, it is a mild vegetable, with tiny seeds. I’ve encased the small pieces in batter and fried, but not deep-fried, them. The result is morsels that taste more of the spicy cornmeal than of a distinct “okra taste”, which is fine in my book.
The nuggets work either as a side dish or at room temperature as an appetizer. I didn’t have any young kids around to taste test them for me, but I’ll be they would be a better-than-decent alternative to chicken nuggets.
The ingredients are simple: okra (of course), cornmeal, yogurt, a bit of milk and oil, plus spicy Creole seasoning. for the dipping sauce you use just the leftover yogurt/milk mixture combined with a bit of hot sauce (not pictured.)
Who knew okra could taste this good? With just a few ingredients, turn okra into a mouth-watering side dish.
- 1/2 pound okra About 16 pieces
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt (preferably Greek-style)
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal (coarsely ground)
- 1/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning
- 1/4 cup Canola or similar tasteless oil
- 1-2 teaspoons hot sauce
Cut off the ends of the okra and cut each one into cylinders about 1-inch long.
Mix the yogurt and milk. Put the okra cylinders into the yogurt/milk mixture and cover them. Leave them in the mixture for 5 minutes.
Gently move the okra pieces to the cornmeal and spoon the cornmeal over them until they are completely covered. Using the spoon (not your hands as the yogurt/milk mixture topped with cornmeal is soft and will dislodge off the okra if you handle it too much), put the okra pieces on a plate in a single layer.
Put 2 layers of paper towels on the second plate and put it next to the stove. Remember my recent fire misadventure. Keep the paper towels far enough away from flame that they can’t catch on fire!)
• Preheat the pan. Then add the oil and let it get hot, but not smoking. If your pan is small enough that you’ll need to make 2 (or more batches), allowing a bit of space between each cylinder, then use only part of the oil. For 2 batches, using half the oil for the first batch. Between batches, add the second half and let it heat before adding the okra.
When the oil is hot, add the okra, leaving space between each one. Turn the heat down a bit and carefully turn the pieces over as they brown, using a fork in one hand and a spoon in the other. You don't need to leave as much space as I did in this picture, but the oil should be able to get between the pieces as they cook.
After you brown the okra pieces on all sides, carefully remove them to the paper towel-covered plate and let them cool down a bit.
For the sauce, simply use a bit of the leftover yogurt/milk mixture and add a few drops of hot sauce or other tangy condiment. I tried prepared horseradish and that was delicious. German or Dijon mustard should work too.
Serve warm or at room temperature.