Saturday morning, I went to the Farmer's Market feeling slightly panicky, because I've failed to take advantage of its bounty lately and there's only a month left. So I came home with quite a lot - red and green tomatoes, okra, potatoes, homemade hummus, a homemade rice krispee bar that I really need to get the name of, leeks, arugula, and "Killarney" garlic. I was most excited, however, about the green tomatoes and the okra, because I just love Southern vegetables, and I miss them greatly.
Though I grew up in a home with a very plentiful garden, my first experience with obviously Southern preparations that I can remember was at Jestine's Kitchen in Charleston. Jestine's is legendary for its vegetables, and I can't get enough of the fried green tomatoes or the okra. Another Charleston restaurant, a tapas place called Meritage, also does an amazing fried green tomato preparation, but unfortunately it involves crab meat. Still, I want to bribe them for the sauce recipe. As you can see, I started with high hopes of healthy eating with my grilled green tomato and swiss sandwich yesterday, but it was all downhill from there.
For dinner, I wanted to have fried okra. As a kid, I never liked the slimy bits so I always preferred it fried. We usually used the kind that comes in the bag and you just bake, but my father taught me from a very early age about "drench and dredge" so I'm well versed in frying techniques. I thought I'd make it a wee bit healthier than the traditional Southern buttermilk and cornmeal preparation, so I just dunked my okra in skim milk and dredged it in seasoned breadcrumbs. It came out pretty tasty!
My friend Rita says the baby okras taste much better, but I thought these were great. There were a few that were pretty tough, but it was easy to tell when chopping so I just threw those out. These days, I love the slimy bits, and I was glad they didn't get too lost when frying. Of course, you have to use a healthy amount of veggie oil to do it right, but I patted heavily with paper towels as a compromise.
For lunch today, I decided to fry the rest of the tomatoes as well. This went pretty well, but my attempts to adjust and not use as much breading or oil didn't go so well. It turns out you really need plenty of oil, and if you try to fry up a ton of slices at once your pan is going to get pretty messy. So I ended up with some slices left over - perhaps I'll do a little stir fry later in the week.
Stay tuned for leek and potato soup, plus my dessert contributions to two potlucks in a row!