Okra, One of the Classic Summer Vegetables
Okra falls into that category of food -like eel and snails- that you either love or despise, mostly because of their slippery, mucous-like texture.
The champions of such foods savor them in every way, shape and form. Okra lovers devour the vegetable deep-fried, steamed, stewed, baked, etc.
Okra is one of the classic summer vegetables of Greece. It is an ingredient that has always enjoyed a following among country cooks, poor man's food that has found a place in the traditional Greek culinary repertoire, even though it is not native to Greece.
It is an African native that made its way both north and east, to southern Europe and the Middle East respectively, as well as to the American South with the slave trade. To this day, okra is one of the specialties of African-American cooking, one of the mainstays of soul food. In Greece, okra is called bamia, a name that is more or less the same all over the Balkans and the Middle East, where it is enjoyed. It is cooked in, basically, the same way throughout all of the eastern Mediterranean -with onions, garlic and tomatoes in a kind of stove- top stew. Often, it is cooked with meat, too, such as lamb or chicken. One of the most interesting dishes comes from the island of Crete, where it is baked with fish.
How to Choose Good Okra
The best okras are the small ones. These have a less fibrous texture. The tips should be firm but pliant.
The rim around the stem needs to be trimmed. Traditional Greek cooks soak okra in a little vinegar in the sun for about an hour before cooking, and then rinse it in a little water. This helps reduce the mucous-like texture of the vegetable.
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