Okra has been a lifelong love-hate relationship…and, until recently, hate always won. I’ve finally learned to sort of love it with Fried Okra Salad
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I was a very picky eater as a kid, especially when it came to vegetables. I either loved them or hated them. Okra was quite possibly #1 on the hate list. My parents are from Trinidad, and the 2 ways they ate it turned me off from the start. At home, they usually steamed it, which resulted in a very slimy texture. In Trinidad, one of the most popular dishes is callaloo, basically an okra stew. Nope, no thanks. One night my dad told me I couldn’t leave the dinner table until I ate one piece of okra. I decided the seeds caused the bad taste, and that I couldn’t try a bite until I removed every single seed. Not sure how long it took, but when I got up from the table the result was Karyl=1, Dad=0.
I honestly never gave okra another thought until I moved to Oklahoma, and learned about fried okra. Since there’s no such thing as bad fried food, I decided to be adventurous and give it a chance. Fried okra was okay, depending on the restaurant.
Pinterest is my go-to for recipes, and they literally have recipes for every single thing you can imagine. I came across a recipe for Fried Okra Salad, and it sounded like a great combination of flavors. And it has bacon. No recipe can be wrong when there’s bacon involved.
Okay, I admit it…I’m kind of in love with Fried Okra Salad. I always have green, red and yellow bell peppers in the fridge, and they add so much wonderful color. I add onion to everything, and I use red onion in Fried Okra Salad because it has a sweeter bite than yellow. The tomatoes add a wonderful burst of sweetness, and the bacon adds a great salty bite and contrast in texture.
I made Fried Okra Salad for the first time in winter, so I used frozen okra. A few months later I found gorgeous fresh okra at a farmer’s market. When fried, there’s really no difference in taste between fresh and frozen. But fresh okra just looks so pretty, so I always use it when it’s in season.
I looked at a lot of fried okra recipes, and the one constant was buttermilk…the okra soaks in the buttermilk for 10-15 minutes prior to breading. I had never cooked with buttermilk before I discovered this recipe, so it opened up a whole new world to me. The buttermilk tenderizes the okra slightly, and adds a nice tang flavor.
The Perfect Breading Mixture for Fried Okra Salad
- Cornmeal – is the key to crunchy fried okra. I use fine ground cornmeal, because it’s what I’ve always used in cooking. However, there are many different types, including medium ground, stone ground, yellow and even white cornmeal. I really need to branch out and try more of the varieties
- Flour – I use white wheat flour, but any regular all-purpose flour will do. I originally used equal parts flour and cornmeal, but I find that 2-to-1 cornmeal to flour results in a better texture
- Seasoning – I use Onion Powder, garlic powder, paprika and cayenne. The seasonings are really your personal preference, but the fried okra will be bland if you rely on just salt and pepper.
Learning to fry okra properly in a skillet has definitely been a learning curve. I don’t put enough oil at the start, and when I add extra oil halfway through it makes the okra greasy. Or, I turn up the heat too high, so the oil smokes and the okra burns. Then I think I have the heat just right, but then I leave it too long and the okra burns. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve finally gotten it down pat. You will lose some of the breading in the skillet, but that’s okay. Besides, those crispy bits are fabulous all by themselves.
I reserve the bacon drippings to cook the fried okra. I mean, how can you resist cooking in bacon drippings?! Besides, that reduces the amount of oil you need. I recently discovered Avocado Oil, and am a huge fan. It has a silky, buttery texture, and a very high smoke point. Of course, canola oil is a good substitute.
About 2 years ago my friend Dianne introduced me to Lucero Balsamic Vinegar. It is this rich, divine balsamic that is so much better than anything I’ve found at the grocery store. It is pricey, but a little goes a very long way. I drizzle the Fried Okra Salad with the balsamic vinegar just before I eat it. It is fabulous.
I really need to do a better job of keeping Fried Okra Salad in my meal rotations. It is such a simple dish, you can easily use frozen okra when fresh isn’t available, and it is delicious.
Adapted from SusieQTpies Cafe
- 1 lb Okra, cut into 1/2" pieces
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 4 slices bacon (I use thick-cut)
- 1 Tablespoon flour
- 2 Tablespoons cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 1/4 cup each green, red and yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 12 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 teaspoon high quality balsamic vinegar
- oil, for frying
- 2 spring onions, cut into small pieces
- Combine okra and buttermilk in bowl. Let soak for 15 minutes. Drain buttermilk
- In large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon. When you have reached your desired level of done, remove and drain on paper towels. Reserve bacon fat in skillet
- Combine flour, cornmeal, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper
- Dredge okra in flour mixture. Make sure all sides of okra are evenly coated
- Add enough oil to have enough oil to fry okra. The amount of oil is up to you. To pan-fry the okra, you will need about 1/4" depth. For more of a deep fry, you will need about 1/2" to 3/4" depth
- When oil is hot, add okra. Don't disturb the okra for 2-3 minutes. You want to make sure each side gets a golden crust, but that it does not burn. Turn okra pieces to other sides and follow the same procedure
- When okra is fully cooked, remove from oil and drain
- Add peppers, onions, and tomatoes in a large bowl, and stir well to combine. Add okra and stir. Take care stirring in the okra, because it's easy for the coating to fall off.
- Portion into serving bowls. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and top with spring onions