View from the Suburbs: The Flag, Pink Bougainvillea, and Even More Okra Recipes

 

Waiting for the breeze.

I put my flag out this morning for the  Labor Day holiday and took it down this evening.  This is the first Labor Day in my house, and just like other national holidays, I’ve put out the flag.  My Georgian-style house looks great with the flag hanging out from it.

Anyone who says liberals are unpatriotic have definitely got it wrong.  Even though the flag is just a symbol, if we don’t respect the flag, we don’t have much respect for all that it represents.  I have never liked that businesses and other places put flags up and don’t take them down until they are deteriorated almost beyond recognition.  I also miss the time when it was a daily ritual for school custodians to raise the flag in the morning and take it down and neatly fold it up at the end of the school day.

I know the Supreme Court and other courts have ruled that it’s a First Amendment right to desecrate the flag, but those who disrespect the flag really are showing no respect for the country that gives them that very right.

There’s a house in the neighborhood, which has cars parked in the drive with bumper stickers saying, “I’m proud of my U.S. Marine son.”  Yet wound around a pole jutting out from the house is a U.S. flag so faded and tattered, it looks more like a rag someone used for washing the car.

Then there are people like the notorious Phelps clan, of Topeka, Kansas.  They continue to trample and show complete disrespect for the flag at protests across the country, especially at funerals for soldiers who have died fighting for the flag and the very freedoms which give these people the right to  protest.   This entire family has never grown up.  It’s like the 15-year-old who calls her mother “a bitch.”  Give that same girl another couple of years and she’ll know better.  The Phelps have never grown up enough to understand the freedoms the flag gives them.  Or maybe they do, and they’re just using it to work the system.

This pink bougainvillea has found the right spot.

On a brighter note, while summer is still here there’s a promise of the fall to come in the air.  Each morning when I take out Annie for her “go”, the air is just a bit fresher.  Some of the flowering plants are now coming into their own.  The bougainvillea I bought in the spring is now covered in blossoms.  Each bloom goes through a wonderful transformation of colors, starting with the palest of apple greens, finally ending in almost a hot pink.

What’s left of the vegetable garden is still trying.  The okra continue to produce and even the pepper plants that would bloom without any peppers setting on are finally getting a few.  I’ve canned almost 20 pints of pickled okra.  I’ve even tried cooking it some new ways.  The results were definitely tasty.

Grilled Okra

Brush olive oil onto whole okra pods.

Arrange on a medium to medium-high grill.

Let cook about 3 minutes on each side for about 10-12 minutes total.

Okra should get nice grill marks on all sides and be sizzling when cooked.

Serve with garlic butter or just salt and pepper.  Great finger food!

 

Cast iron skillet works best for frying okra.

Battered Fried Okra

12-16 okra pods

1 egg

1/4 C. water

1/2 C. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Cover the bottom of a cast iron skillet with olive or vegetable oil.  While the oil is heating to almost sizzling, beat the egg and water in a medium-sized bowl with a fork.  Cut the okra–about 1/2 inch slices–into the egg mixture and toss with the fork.  Put the dry ingredients into a paper or zip-lock plastic bag and shake well.  Add the egg-covered okra into the bag a few at a time, shaking until all the okra are coated.  Add a bit more flour if the okra are not coated to your liking.

Put the battered okra into the hot skillet, spreading them out evenly.  Let them cook until golden on the bottom.  Then turn with a pancake turner.  Cook until done.  (Okra changes to a darker green when it is cooked.)

If you love okra, this recipe is enough to serve 2 people 1 helping.  You might like this with a dollop of ketchup on the side.

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The Dog Days of Summer Haven’t Dampened the Spirit of . . . Okra! Try This Easy Skillet-fried Recipe

Fresh garden okra--don't let them get too big, or they'll be too "woody" to eat. Cut them off the plant, wash and dry them, and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you have a batch to eat.

Here in the latter part of July, my garden is already looking a bit sad and tired, but I’ve learned a lot in this first go-round.  The tomatoes have long since hit their peak, and a couple of those plants will probably meet their maker in the composter this weekend.  The beans are still trying, but now with more rain than we need interspersed with the mid-summer heat, try is about all they can do.  What does love all this hot weather is the

Every kitchen should have at least one cast iron skillet. If it gets rusty from disuse or moisture, don't throw it away. Clean it with steel wool; then wipe it well with a paper towel and cooking oil. It will be ready to use again!

okra.

There are about 20 plants, at varying stages of maturity, not because they were planted at different times, but because some of them were almost crowded out by faster growing tomato and cucumber plants.  Now, though, the okra are the kings of the garden, flowering and producing their pods at a faster rate each day.

I’ll pick more today, and if they continue so prolifically, I’ll try my

A mouth-watering supper with all homegrown veggies: skillet-fried okra, yellow and green beans with bacon, sliced turkey, feta, and tomato on jalapeño and cheese bread from my local Kroger bakery. (This bread is to die for!)

hand at pickling.

Most people who eat okra are more accustomed to either having it batter fried or in gumbo.  On the farm in Kansas, my mom pan-fried the okra in a cast iron skillet.  It was one of my favorite summer vegetables.  I have to admit that I haven’t gotten the “do” on my fried okra anywhere near Mom’s.  Maybe the taste is all in the nostalgia.

A week ago, I tried cooking the okra a bit differently. and I really liked the result.  Instead of putting oil into the skillet, I just cut up one strip of bacon into pieces and fried it.  Then I cut up the okra into the bacon grease and cooked bacon pieces, continuing the rest of the cooking process in the same way as always.  The end result was yummy, if I do say so myself!

Pan Fried Okra

5-7 okra per person

2 tablespoons cooking oil, lard, or bacon fat

3-4 tablespoons flour

Salt and Pepper

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil, lard, or other “grease” in a heavy skillet (frying pan).  When it starts to sizzle, start slicing in the okra, about 1/4 inch slices.  Okra cooks down a lot, so I’d recommend 5 or 6 okra per person.  When the okra is all sliced, keep turning as it cooks.  It will begin to change to a darker green and even “blackened”.  Salt and pepper.  When the okra starts to get a bit “slimey”, sprinkle a couple tablespoons of flour over the cooking okra.  Mix the flour into the okra.  Turn with a pancake turner, and sprinkle the other side with more flour.  Let the okra get crispy on one side before turning again.  Cook and turn until the okra is cooked through.