The older I get, the more I miss my Mimi...and her garden. She and Grandaddy grew everything: watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydew melons, strawberries, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and probably 15 more things I can't even remember at the moment. But though my childhood memories are a little fuzzy, I'm pretty damn sure they grew okra. What is the epitome of a southern vegetable if not okra?
Also, what screams "summer" more than fried okra? My mom makes amazing fried squash and fried okra, but frying isn't healthy...and it's a pain in the butt, to boot. So when I found this recipe, I nearly cartwheeled: BAKED OKRA!
Frankly, B and I don't even notice that it's baked. It just doesn't cross our mind because this okra is still extremely crispy and crunchy. That's the key to good fried/baked okra - it HAS to be crisp.This stuff delivers.
It's also extremely easy. Take a gallon Ziploc bag and turn it inside out. Use an olive oil spritzer to coat it generously, but lightly. If you don't have an olive oil spritzer, leave the bag as it should be, and drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil inside and rub it to coat the bag.
Turn the plastic bag back the correct way, and dump in a 16-ounce bag of frozen okra. I add in about a tablespoon of Cajun seasoning and about a teaspoon of garlic salt. The original recipe calls for a teaspoon of Cajun seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt, but B and I like spice. You can add/remove spices to suit your tastes.
Once you've got your okra and all your spices in the bag, seal it and mix it around until the spices are evenly coating the okra. Let "marinate" for 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes are up, add one cup of cornmeal to the bag. Seal the bag again and mix up the cornmeal so that it's evenly coated. Let THAT sit for 10 minutes.
Take the okra and cornmeal mixture and dump it into a colander. Shake over a sink until all the excess cornmeal has been removed. Dump the okra into a lightly oiled foil-lined pan.
Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, flip the okra (as best you can), and return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes. It really depends on your oven, so watch it carefully for the second round of baking.
Once the okra is browned/crisped to your satisfaction, remove from the oven. Try to let it cool for the sake of your mouth, and then devour. We served it with black-eyed peas and pork chops with Virginia Gentlemen Bourbon Chipotle Hot Sauce for a perfect southern meal.
Some may say it's sacrilegious to take a classic like fried okra and bake it instead. And yeah, nothing in this world can touch my mother's fried okra. But the fun of cooking, in my opinion, is taking recipes and making them your own. It's taking classic recipes and finding ways to improve upon them. Cooking is a fluid art - it's not carved in stone. And if I can find a recipe to make an old family favorite into an easy (and healthy!) weeknight dish, you better believe I'm going to do it.
Pretty sure my Mimi would be proud.
1 16-ounce bag frozen okra
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup cornmeal
Preheat oven to 425. Turn a gallon Ziploc back inside out and spray with olive oil.
Turn back the correct way and pour in okra. Add spices and mix to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Add cornmeal, mix to combine, and let sit for an additional 10 minutes.
Pour on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet (preferably one with high edges).
Bake for 20 minutes.
Flip okra, and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.
Enjoy, and revel in your southern-ness.