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Southern Fried Okra

To a Southerner, the only way to serve okra is pan fried in the same manner as you would fry yellow summer squash or green tomatoes. Very few of us have not tried the dish and those of us who raise a garden always have at least two rows of okra every summer. It always puzzled me how it came to be that people were brave enough to begin eating the pods of a plant that breaks most of us out in hives to pick the ripe vegetables. However, risking life and limb, I followed suit with the first garden I raised and soon discovered fried okra is one of my favorite vegetables. I was soon back in the garden, arms covered to elbows in gloves, to gather the pods that ripened next.

Preparing fried okra southern style is one of the simplest of recipes. As with most fried southern foods, if it is to be rolled in flour or cornmeal, it is dipped in buttermilk first. Okra can actually be fried without the use of buttermilk, though, as the inside of the cut pods are of a sticky substance and the cornmeal and flour mixture adheres to it very well. My love for fried okra and an over abundance of the vegetable in the garden led me to experiment and discover it is one vegetable that you can actually freeze raw. You can successfully dredge sliced okra in the cornmeal and flour mixture and freeze the vegetable for winter use in zip closure freezer bags. You cannot use buttermilk on the slices prior to dredging, though, if you plan on freezing the okra.

SOUTHERN FRIED OKRA

INGREDIENTS:

10-12 pods of Okra

1 Cup buttermilk, optional

1 Cup self rising cornmeal mix

1/4 Cup self rising flour

Salt, to taste

1 Cup or more Vegetable or Canola Oil

* Do not over season okra with additional spices or you lose the taste of the vegetable.

DIRECTIONS:

*Wash and dry okra pods. Cut the tip end and stem end of each pod and discard. Slice each pod into 1/4 inch slices. Set aside.

*Place cornmeal mix and flour in a plastic bag. Add approximately 1 teaspoon salt. Close the plastic bag and shake to mix ingredients. Set aside.

*Pour buttermilk over okra and stir to make sure all slices have been covered. Drain excess buttermilk by pouring the okra into a colander and allowing to rest until excess stops draining.

*Place cooking oil in a large skillet and bring to medium heat.

*Pour okra into the plastic bag of cornmeal and flour mixture. Shake bag until all pieces have been coated. Using a slotted spoon to remove the okra slices from the bag, gently drop the pieces into the skillet of hot oil. Fry on each side until golden brown, turning with a spatula as necessary.

*Remove to paper towel lined platter to drain excess oil before placing in serving bowl.

Fried okra is delicious and goes well with most chicken, pork or beef entrees. It also makes a wonderful vegetable lunch or dinner when paired with one or two other vegetables and fresh hot cornbread or corn muffins. It accompanies potatoes paired with corn or carrots, sliced tomatoes, or cucumbers very well. This recipe will feed 4 if served with a meat entree.

For a taste treat, try adding southern fried okra to the top of a tossed salad before topping with your favorite salad dressing. It makes a delicious salad addition!