Okra man, I don’t know what I’m doing here!
Well, there seems to be a divide when it comes to okra. You either love it, grew up with it, know just how to treat it, or… you just… like, don’t know what to do… with it. Or make of it–or how to cook it! You may know it’s in gumbo, that utterly historical, deeply flavored Southern stew. And if you know that much, then you likely know we can give thanks for the thick and homey texture of gumbo to the inner lining of the okra pod itself. When cooked, that inner lining of proteins and sugars (it has a real name, for those curious. If you’re reading you must be curious, yeah? Mucilage, my nerds. Now go forth and spread the slimey word!), which increases in viscosity as it’s exposed to heat.
Science lesson complete. What’s next?
So, why am I telling you all this? Because that mucilage seems to make okra less appealing to quickly grab a bunch when at the market. But I’m here to tell you, okra–especially that exceptionally fresh, tender and small okra you can get locally–just doesn’t have to be considered only a stew thickener. Nah. You can beat the mucilage at its own game by whole roasting okra. It’s easy, highly versatile, and it make even make you consider okra as just another veggie to have hanging out in the vegetable drawer ready to pair with any ol’ weeknight meal. Or some off your new okra-skills to guests and roast up a few trays, impress your cohort with your now impeccable knowledge of the term mucilage, and geek out on your ability to let okra be part of your culinary arsenal.
Whole Roasted Okra with Lemon Zest
These whole-roasted okra come together so quickly for any weeknight or festive occasion. Choose small okra for more tender pods once roasted--and so you won't even need to grab a knife to prepare these!
- 1.5 pounds okra the smaller they are, the more tender they'll be
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 zest lemon
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice any large okra in half down the middle.
Arrange all the okra on a rimmed baking tray, then toss with extra virgin olive oil to coat.
Sprinkle evenly with the sea salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes.
Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the okra you have.
You can shake the tray halfway through cooking, or leave them be to get nice and roasted on one side only--it's up to you and how much attention you have to spare!
Remove from oven and sprinkle the lemon zest and lemon juice evenly over all the okra.
Serve immediately! You can eat the whole okra if small enough. The larger okra you may eat up to the cap, which often becomes more tough as the okra grows.