Creative cooking with okra

My friend gave me some beautiful okra – but I have no way to prepare it. How do I avoid the slimy problem?

With a little bit of knowledge, a good cook can turn okra slime into nectar. Of course, I’m speaking of the slippery juice of the fresh or frozen okra pod – an essential ingredient in any authentic Southern gumbo. The juice of cut okra is the secret thickener of real gumbo. And, therein lies the secret.

First, choose fresh (or frozen) okra pods no longer than four inches. If they get larger, the pods toughen. If you can’t stand the “slimy stuff,” close your eyes, hold your nose and swallow. Just kidding! Truly, the secret to avoiding slime is “no cutting.” Trim the stems from the okra pods and cook them whole. The juice stays inside the pod.

My favorite, quick-cooking side dish recipe for okra pods is easy. Sauté minced garlic in olive oil. Toss-in one pound of trimmed and washed okra, a can of diced tomatoes (or stewed tomatoes) and a pinch of dried thyme leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 10-15 minutes. It’s an easy, tasty side dish.

I do, however, encourage you to seek out an authentic gumbo recipe. Pick out a plump chicken, select the freshest peeled and deveined shrimp, find some low-fat turkey bacon, cut a pound of okra into ½ inch pieces and cook everything with tomatoes, herbs and water. Don’t forget to serve it with cooked rice. If you want to feel like a real Creole, toss in some filé powder (ground sassafras leaves). Enjoy!

What you have in your mind?