It was my first time shopping at a Farmer’s market and I didn’t know what I was looking for. I only knew that the okra should be small. As I jostled the pods around in the basket, trying to look like I knew what I wanted, I decided to go with my gut: I bought the whole basket. I proceeded home to cook the first real meal of my life. The mountain air was thin and crisp that morning. I had a shining set of Rada knives from my grandmother that were foreign in my hands and ingredients that were still unfamiliar, but I was itching to cook. During this inaugural feast I would burn a pot of rice and fail to pre-bake a pie crust. The okra, however, was perfect. I have had known this technique then it could have been really easy too.
I was a student then at Appalachian State University and just starting to make myself at home between a counter and a stove. I have always had an affinity for okra. Even as a little child I would pull the crust off of fried okra and just eat the vegetable which was the opposite of every other child I knew. When my family has field peas piled high with stewed okra I have to try hard not to selfishly take it all. Roasting okra is incredibly easy as is slicing it and sautéing in olive oil. When buying okra select pods that are small and tender, no longer than your finger. Also know that when raw okra has a slimy texture inside. Don’t be taken aback—this diminishes after it is cooked.
Roasted okra is great topped with diced tomato or tossed with corn kernels.
1 lb. okra
2 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Trim the stem ends from the okra and halve them lengthwise. Place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat. Roast 15 minutes, stirring halfway through or until tender and golden.