A few weeks ago I was hunting through the farmers' market with the lovely Debbie Koenig, having that all too famliiar yet always hunger-inducing conversation of "what should we make for dinner."
We stopped by a stand selling okra, and I decided to continue my experiments. Lately I'd been trying to rid some of the pod's slime by broiling it. The idea is that super high heat dries up the viscous juices and makes everything crisp. That's my theory about why fried okra is so much less slimy than boiled okra (please correct me if anyone knows better!).
Now, let me take a slimy digression; I actually don't mind the slime. In fact, I'm an okra enthusiast and love the little green torpedo in all permuations. However, I know there are plenty of people out there who are put off by that mucilaginous quality, and I wanted to be able to feed them okra, too.
While Debbie and I were talking about this, a gentleman, who was also buying okra, overheard our conversation and offered this tip for de-slime-ing okra, which he said he learned in the Middle East.
He said to toss whole okra in a generous pile of salt in a colander suspended over a plate, to catch the drips. Keep in a sunny place for two days. The salt draws out the slime, he said.
So I tried it, salting and the okra and letting it rest in the sun for a couple of days. Then I split the pods lenthwise in half, tossed them with olive oil, ground cumin, salt, and cayenne and broiled them until they were crisp.
I have to say, they were nearly slime-less. And utterly delicious.
Then as a control, I broiled okra exactly the same way a few days latter, but without salting it first. It was wonderful, but slightly slimier.
Verdict: The salt trick works, but only to a mild degree, at least for broiling. Next I'm going to
try salting the okra and then cooking it in gumbo, the proudest slimy dish of all time. In the meantime, I'd say if you have 2 days to plan ahead, might as well salt your okra since the texture is improved, slightly. If not, just try my broiling method and let me know what you think!