Vegetable oil for frying (I like to use peanut oil, but canola is fine too) 3 Tbsp. good-quality stone ground cornmeal 1⁄4 cup whole wheat flour, sifted 1 tsp. sea salt 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper 1⁄2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more to taste) 2 1⁄2 cups fresh okra, rinsed, stems removed, sliced in -inch thick rings (don’t worry if the slime starts to flow; the cornmeal mix will absorb it)
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add okra slices and turn gently until all pieces are coated. Set aside. Into a large heated skillet (I like a heavy stainless skillet for pan-frying) over medium heat, pour oil to a depth of about 1⁄4 inch. When the oil gets hot enough to sizzle a wet piece of cornmeal, pick up a few pieces of okra in one hand, allow loose cornmeal to fall through your fingers and then drop the okra into the skillet. Repeat until the skillet bottom is covered with a layer of okra no more than 1 inch deep. When okra pieces are well browned on one side, use a spatula to gently turn okra to other side. Don’t stir or turn again until second side is well-browned. (Some of the coating will fall off during frying, but that’s OK; the bare okra will brown, too.) When the okra is toasty brown all over, transfer to a paper towel-or newspaper-covered surface, in a single layer, to drain. Sprinkle lightly with more sea salt and ground black pepper.
To assemble salad: Combine onion and salad tomatoes with vinaigrette in a small mixing bowl and set aside to marinate. Stack the cucumbers, tomato slices and peas in layers on salad plates, with cukes on the bottom and peas on the top. Then top with hot fried okra, followed by several spoonfuls of vinaigrette (including marinated onions and salad tomatoes.) Serve immediately with hot buttered cornbread. (Makes enough salad for 2-3 generous dinner portions.)