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Updated: March 7, 2014 1:23PM

“We have to order okra shipments every two days or so at this store,” said the young woman stocking produce at my local Jewel-Osco.

Okra is food firmly rooted in the Southern culinary tradition. You see cooked okra at some soul food buffets, maybe at a few fish or chicken joints, but it’s largely unavailable on Midwestern menus.

We once tried growing okra in our garden. The yield was pathetic. In Chicago,buying okra makes sense.

Glueyness is part of okra’s character. If you dislike its sticky texture, you won’t like okra. Still, it tastes like a hybrid of green beans and zucchini, while full of fiber and antioxidants. It’s frequently diced, breaded and fried. If it’s fresh, okra is a good candidate for cooking whole, which minimizes surface area and breading, enabling the flavor to pop through.

Here’s a quick recipe:

1. Blanch 1 lb whole okra

2. Dip each piece in egg wash, then a mixture of corn meal, onion powder, paprika and cayenne pepper

3. Pan fry in vegetable oil over medium-high heat until golden (about 7 minutes). Serve.

David Hammond

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