Foodie Tuesday: Okra, Part 2: Roasted Okra with Creole Seasoning + Cooking Tips


We love these okra dishesAs we mentioned in our post, Okra: Part 1, okra seeds were probably first brought to America hidden in the hair of enslaved West Africans, who made it a central ingredient in many well-known Creole/Cajun dishes, such as Gumbo (we love this recipe for Seafood Slowcooker Gumbo from Black America Cooks).  The mucilage that helps okra thicken stews like gumbo is the ingredient that makes it so good for slowing absorption of sugars, and so healthful for people who are concerned about Type II Diabetes.  It’s also the ingredient that turns so many people off to the vegetable.  Why?  Because when okra isn’t cooked properly, this mucilage can turn any dish into a gloopy mess!

How to Cook Okra without the Slime!

The general rule is that the longer okra is cooked, the more mucilage it releases and the slimier it gets.  This is also true for okra that’s cut into pieces – the smaller the pieces, the more mucilage is released in cooking. So, when using cut okra, the following techniques are helpful for making sure you get all that slimy goodness inside your body, but little or no slime as your eat it:

  1. Cut it into larger pieces and add it towards the end of the cooking process;
  2. Cook the whole pod, as in this easy recipe for “bhindi” (the Indian word for Okra) from AllRecipes.com;
  3. Before adding other ingredients, cook your okra over medium heat in a small amount of oil, stirring constantly until the “slime” disappears, as in this ymmy and healthful recipe for Okra, Tomatoes and Shrimp from the “Real Soul Food Recipes” website.

Certain cooking techniques that are good for reducing the slime include:

  1. Deep-frying – try this healthier recipe for Oven Fried Okra from “Alley Cat in the Kitchen;”
  2. Picklingthis version by Molly53 on Soul.Food.com serves as a great spicy accompaniment to roasted meats;
  3. Roasting!  Our recipe below!

roasted okra with creole seasoningEasy Roasted Okra with Creole Seasoning

Today’s recipe, Easy Roasted Okra with Creole Seasoning, uses the spice mixture featured in our “Savory, Soulful Recipes” brochure, which you can download from our website.

Creole Seasoning

Mix the following together and store in an airtight container.  Use in place of seasoning salts:

    • 3 tablespoons onion powder
    • 4 tablespoons garlic powder
    • 1 tablespoon cayenne
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 1 tablespoon paprika
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 2 teaspoons ground thyme.

Roasted Okra
4 servings, 166 mcg of folate (44% RDA) per serving

    • 4 cups fresh okra (not frozen)
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1-2 tablespoons creole seasoning

Directions:

  1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place the okra in a bowl or plastic ziplock bag and toss with olive oil. Arrange the okra in one layer on a foil lined baking or cookie sheet. Sprinkle with the seasoning salt.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes until they turn brown and become crisp.  Enjoy!

Foodie Tuesday: Okra, Part 1 – History, Health and Beauty Benefits


Where Did Okra Come From?

this is an okra plantAmong the many vegetables that West Africans brought with them on the slave ships was okra, the seeds for which some historians believe people purposely hid in their hair.

The name for this vegetable, also known as “lady fingers” probably derives from the Niger-Congo group of languages. For instance, in the West African Twi language, okra is called nkuruma. In Louisiana, slaves taught Creoles how to use okra (called gombo in French) to thicken soups and the vegetable is an essential ingredient in the dish that is now called “gumbo.”

Okra is a vegetable with a long history. Historians believe that okra was cultivated in Ethiopia as far back as the 12th century B.C, making its way from there to West Africa. During the years of the Atlantic slave trade, it spread across the world. You’ll now see okra in African, Middle Eastern, Greek, Turkish, Indian, Caribbean, and South American cuisines.

Health Benefits

okra pods - the vegetable comes in both purple and green varietiesIn Japan’s Kowchi Prefecture, where farmers specialize in growing okra, residents credit their good health and beautiful smiles to the vegetable. And no wonder! One-half cup of this superfood contains 83.6 mcg of folate, or 22% of your daily requirement. It’s also high in a number of other B vitamins, as well as vitamin C and A, iron, and calcium. Okra’s high fiber content makes it useful for digestion.  In addition, mucilage and fiber found in okra helps adjust blood sugar by regulating its absorption in the small intestine, which makes it a great food for people who are concerned about Type II Diabetes.

Beauty Benefits

Cleopatra of Egypt and Yang Guifei of China, both of whom were considered beautiful women, loved to eat okra for its health and beauty benefits.  Okra can become “sticky” when cooked using certain techniques; it’s this slimy quality that makes it a good thickener in soups and stews. It also makes it a good setting lotion (see this recipe from Black Hair Media), final hair rinse, natural hair gel and lice eradicator. To make a natural okra-based conditioner:

  1.  Boil horizontally sliced okra till the brew become maximally slimy.
  2. Cool it and add a few drops of lemon or your favorite natural scent.
  3. Use this as your last hair rinse for body and softness.

Okra, Part 2 – Cooking Okra w/out the Slime

Tune in next Tuesday for information on how to cook okra, including a couple of really tasty recipes that use techniques that prevent it becoming “slimy.”

Soul Food History – Healthful Roots


african marketLast week, at the American Stroke Association’s Annual Conference in Hawaii, researchers presented a study that found that eating a “southern style diet” increased stroke risk by 41%.  Further, the study found that “eating a Southern diet accounted for 63 percent of the higher risk of stroke among African-Americans above that of their white counterparts.”  The researchers described a “Southern Diet” as consisting of foods such as fried chicken and fish, fried potatoes, bacon, and sweet tea – foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

But is the diet that the researchers describe representative of “Soul Food?” Or were the researchers making up their own definition, while ignoring the healthful aspects of Soul Food, which has its roots in West African cuisine? The answer might surprise you!

The Healthful Roots of Southern Cooking and Soul Food

The same study found, “Those whose diets were highest in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains (eaten about five times a week) had a 29 percent lower stroke risk than those whose diets were the lowest in these foods (eaten about three times a week).” Soul food, and by extension southern cooking, is based on the diet that West Africans brought with them to this country on the slave ships.

In his book,  Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America, Frederick Douglass Opie,  a professor of history at Marist College, states that the traditional West African diet was predominantly vegetarian, centered on things like millet, rice, field peas, okra, hot peppers, and yams. Meat was used sparingly, as a seasoning. (Click here to read more about the West African roots of soul food on Oprah.com.)

In other words, the West African diet was healthy.  Not only that, but the West Africans carried their passion for healthy food with them when they were forcefully brought here on  slave ships.  Many of these individuals not only cooked for themselves, but for their white masters, incorporating their rich culinary traditions into what would eventually become Soul Food.

In our own “Savory Soulful Recipes” brochure (click here to download), we feature a host of healthy, folate full recipes.

Throughout the next two weeks, our posts will celebrate African American contributions to health and healthful food.  We’ll start next week with two columns on an African vegetable that is full of fiber and folate.  Hints: 1) A famous southern stew is named after it; 2) it’s said to resemble a “lady’s finger.”

If you haven’t guessed, tune in on Monday to learn more!

Foodie Tuesday – Okra and Green Beans


Okra is a nutrient powerhouse.  It contains many nutrients you needed.  Raw okra has more nutrients than cooked okra because some vitamins are lost in cooking.  Okra will become slimy if you cut it too small.  Here are some tips for you.  When cooking okra, it can be briefly stir-fried, or cooked with acidic ingredients such as lemon juice, tomatoes, or vinegar to avoid sliminess.

The recipe below is taken from the Fruits and Veggies – More Matter initiative of Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This initiative replaces the 5 A Day Awareness Program.  It “supports consumers to eat more fruits and vegetables, showcasing the unrivaled combination of great taste, nutrition, abundant variety, and various product forms.”  The recipe is easy to make and full of greens.  Enjoy this with your family and friends.

Okra and Green Beans

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

    1 lb okra, uncut
    1 Tbsp olive oil
    1 medium onion, diced
    1 lb fresh green beans
    2 large garlic cloves, crushed then chopped
    1 cup water
    ½ tsp salt
    ½ tsp ground pepper
    1 6-ounce can tomato paste

Wash okra pods, trim stems, do not remove caps. Rinse well and drain. Wash beans and cut into 3 inch lengths. Combine water, tomato paste, olive oil, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in a sauce pan and mix well. Heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to boil. Add okra and beans and additional water if necessary to almost cover vegetables.
Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer gently until vegetables are crisp-tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve it warm or cold.

*This dish can also be oven-baked. Instead of simmering, lightly cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350°F.

Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 106, Protein 5 g, Fat 3 g, Calories From Fat 19%, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 19 g, Fiber 7 g, Sodium 187 mg.

Healthy Veggie Bio – Okra


How can you tell what is in season right now?  The best and the most convenient way is to stop by the farmer’s market near you.  Recently, the Go Folic! Team went to the Heart of the City Farmer’s Market to find what is in season.  We saw okra in some of the stands.  We went back to the office and decided to do some research on this vegetable.

Okra was first discovered around Ethiopia during the 12th century and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians.  It was believed okra seeds came to North America in the 1600s during the Atlantic slave trade.  During World War II, due to the shortage of coffee beans, okra seeds were used as a coffee substitute.  Okra is mostly grown in the southern United States after it was first introduced.  Okra is commonly found in African, Middle Eastern, Greek, Turkish, Indian, Caribbean, and Southern American cuisines. 

Okra is a good source of nutrients including folate, fiber, Vitamin A, C, calcium, and iron.  The high fiber content of okra can stabilize blood sugar and cholesterol.  Because of Vitamin A and folate content, okra can also promote macular and skin health. 

If you always wonder how to cook okra and not make it slimy, check back for tomorrow’s Foodie Tuesday.

Reference:

http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/month/okra.html