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I surprised myself when I bought a bunch of okra and a large eggplant at the Cape Riverfront Market last week. Years ago I tried to cook both of these but with a not so good outcome. The okra was slimy and the eggplant was mushy. But since my cooking skill is much better now, I thought I would give this vegetable and fruit another shot. They looked so pretty at the market. Second chances, right? So here are my recipes for Fried Okra and Aubergine Mexicana.
You can definitely roast okra in the oven for a healthier version, but fried is such a tastier option. Here is how I fried the okra:
Fried okra is best when hot - I was frying batches and eating the crispy okra at the same time. I was pleasantly surprised how good these bite sizes pieces of fried okra were - no dipping sauce needed. Just good summer eating. Success #1!
- Soaked the cut up okra in a mixture of egg and milk for at least 10 minutes. (Helps with the slime)
- Coated the okra with corn meal, salt, pepper, onion powder, and paprika. I used a brown paper bag and shaked away until each piece was covered. (Recommend listening to the Cars greatest hits while shaking - "do the move with a quirky jerk" - just have fun cooking).
- Heated the canola oil, dropped a few pieces of the okra in it, and fried until golden brown - just a few minutes. I recommend frying in small batches to make sure the oil doesn't warm down. Warm oil = oily okra. Just no, no, no!
- Removed okra from the oil with a slotted spoon and placed on a plate with a paper towel.
Next up - the eggplant!
I tried making eggplant parmesan once, but the fruit was too mushy - I couldn't eat it even with the cheese and marinara topping. On my second time around, here is what I did:
- Sliced the eggplant (I didn't peel it), placed on a cookie sheet, and sprinkled salt over the slices. Waited for approximately 30 minutes - the salt will pull out the moisture in the eggplant which is 60% water,
- Dabbed the water off the slices with a paper towel. (Important: Getting the water out is key to avoid a soggy finish).
- Beated an egg and dipped the eggplant in the mixture.
- Put seasoned breadcrumbs on a plate, pressed the slices into the crumbs on both sides.
- Dropped the slices in a skillet of hot oil - flipped them over after just a few minutes.
- Once fried to golden brown, I removed from the oil and placed on a plate with paper towels. The eggplant was crispy and ready to eat.
But I took my eggplant a bit further.
- I placed the fried eggplant on a foil covered cook sheet.
- Topped with a spicy red sauce I made from tomatoes and peppers from the farmers market.
- Sprinkled with a mexican style shredded cheese.
- Popped into the oven for no more than 5 minutes at 400 degrees to warm the sauce and melt the cheese. (Please, please preheat the oven - it will make a huge difference).
- Removed from the oven, plated one of the slices, grabbed a fork, and tasted. Wow - crispy and delicious. I finished the slice and ate another. And another.
So don't run from the okras and eggplants of the garden world. Give them a first or second chance - and buy at the farmer's market to support your local farmers! Hopefully you will enjoy! Then again, some folks will never like cilantro.
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