This weekend I tried okra for the first time. Okra, also known by its Swahili name of gumbo, is a flowering plant from the mallow family. Cotton and cacao are also members of this family, which contains more than 2,300 species of plants. Okra is grown in tropical, sub-tropical, and warm temperate regions. It’s origins are disputed, some claim West African while others claim South Asian roots. Records indicate that okra has been cultivated in the Southeastern United States since the early 1700s.
Okra is in season from July through September. When purchasing, look for pods that are bright green and blemish fee. Avoid pods with dried ends. Okra has a short shelf life so cook it ASAP. However, it can be stored in the refrigerator in a loose plastic bag for a day or two.
I had two main criteria for this week’s recipe. First was taste, I had to be able to taste the okra so I could really get a sense of what okra was like. Second and less important, healthy. the recipe had to be reasonably healthy. These two criteria really helped me narrow down Southern Living’s list of its 10 Best Okra Recipes. I made a variation of their Peppery Grilled Okra with Lemon-Basil Dipping Sauce
Broiled Okra with Lemon–Basil Dipping Sauce
2 pounds fresh okra
1/2 a lemon
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup basil
2 to 3 small cloves of garlic
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sugar
Begin by making the dipping sauce. Roughly chop the basil and mince the garlic. Place these in a small bowl with the Greek yogurt. Add in the sugar and then grind in some salt and pepper, 1/2 a teaspoon of each is plenty. Juice the lemon over the bowl, using a strainer to catch any seeds. Stir the contents and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Once the sauce is in the refrigerator, turn the broiler to high and line a baking sheet with foil. Rinse the okra and trim off the tops. Toss the trimmed okra in a bowl with the olive oil and some salt and pepper.
Place the okra on the baking sheet and broil for 6 minutes, turning halfway through. I placed mine on skewers because I liked the way it looked in the picture but this isn’t necessary whatsoever. If you do place the okra on skewers, be sure to soak the skewers in water to keep them from smoking.
Once the okra has cooled for approximately 5 minutes, plate it with a generous dollop of yogurt sauce and enjoy.
The okra got mixed reviews in our house. Dave was undecided and I couldn't stop eating it. I am pretty sure I ate 2/3 to 3/4 of the okra. The only tweak I would make, more lemon juice in the yogurt sauce.