Put some okra in it

Los Angeles Times - - SATURDAY - — Noelle Carter

What’s in sea­son: Though okra is found in a num­ber of cuisines through­out the world — in­clud­ing African (from which the pods were in­tro­duced to the Amer­i­can South), Thai and In­dian — the mem­ber of the mal­low family is of­ten a chal­lenge to cook, even for fans, be­cause of its rather gelati­nous tex­ture. But the veg­etable pods can be used in a num­ber of ways, in­clud­ing stewed, fried or pick­led. Okra is typ­i­cally in sea­son from summer through early fall, and va­ri­eties range in color from vivid green to deep shades of red and pur­ple. To min­i­mize its vis­cous tex­ture, look for pods that are small and firm, avoid­ing okra that is overly ripe or large.

What to cook: Be­cause of its unique tex­ture, okra is fre­quently used as a thick­en­ing agent, added to stews such as gumbo. To keep its syrupy tex­ture to a min­i­mum, cook the pods whole, or cook them quickly, prefer­ably with an acid such as cit­rus or vine­gar. Okra works well added at the last minute to a sour fish soup or slowly stewed with pota­toes and toma­toes. Snack on the veg­etable as a “chip,” fry­ing sliced rounds dusted with corn­meal and served with ketchup or an­other dipping sauce. Okra also makes a great summer pickle.

What’s on the hori­zon: Zuc­chini and other summer squash are filling up mar­ket stands, as are cherry and some heir­loom va­ri­eties of toma­toes.

Bob Fila Chicago Tri­bune

OKRA can be added to stews, fried into chips or made into pickles. Find recipes on­line at la­times.com/food.

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