Garden to Kitchen: Southern Fried Squash & Okra
One of the best things about gardening is squash. It is my favorite vegetable, and has been since I was a very young child. I credit my parents for this — they introduced me to the mouth-watering goodness of fried squash as soon as I was old enough to eat solid food. Second only to squash is okra — a Southern classic. We cook our squash and okra the same way (zucchini too, for that matter), so I’m including both recipes here together — just choose the veggie of your liking and have at it.
A classic late-summer harvest: zucchini, okra, onions, summer squash and butternut squash.
My dad came from the South, so there was no shortage of fried foods in my childhood; Crisco was a mainstay in our home. These days we don’t cook with Crisco anymore — olive oil does the trick — and as a true squash afficionado, I can tell you there’s no difference in the taste. I admit that frying isn’t the healthiest way to prepare your veggies — raw, steamed and roasted are preferable from a nutrition standpoint. But from a taste standpoint, nothing beats frying these veggies. Here’s how:
Cut the okra into 1/4″ slices. Caution: it’s quite slimy, so be careful with the knife.
Same goes for the squash. Slice it about 1/4″ thick. Too thin and they’ll burn, too thick and they’ll be mushy.
Next, put the slices into a mixture of flour, salt & pepper.
Dredge them well so both sides are covered.
Then pop them into a pan lightly drizzled with olive oil…
… and fry them up over a medium heat.
Southern Fried Squash & Okra
Squash, Okra, and/or Zucchini
Salt & Pepper
Slice the veggies about 1/4 inch thick. Dredge them in a mixture of flour, salt & pepper, so they’re evenly covered on both sides. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the veggies to the hot oil, and cook until they’re golden brown on one side, then flip them and cook until they’re golden on the other side. Eat. Love.
Here’s the finished product. Buen provecho!**
To assuage the guilt of frying our veggies, we serve our squash & okra alongside a heaping salad and fresh fruit. When I look at this picture, I feel excited and proud, because the majority of this meal came from our garden (squash, okra, cantaloupe, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, carrots & lettuce — only the oranges & sunflower seeds were grown elsewhere). I’m looking forward to someday being able to have a meal that is 100% home-grown!
* You’ll see that I often don’t designate specific quantities and measurements in my recipes. I do this because you know better than I do how much food your family needs and what your tastes are. Cooking isn’t an exact science, anyway — it’s more of an art. (Baking is another story — it actually is science — so I include measurements for my baking recipes.) So use whatever quantity you’d like, make changes to suit your tastes, and substitute ingredients to reflect what’s fresh in the garden and what’s available in your kitchen.
** Buen Provecho: This is a beautiful saying we learned in Ecuador when we were adopting our son. There’s not a good literal translation from Spanish to English, because the loose translation — “Enjoy your meal” — doesn’t capture the full essence of the Spanish meaning. The verb “aprovechar” means to make the most of, or to receive the full benefit of something. Thus, when we say, “buen provecho,” it is offering our hope that the eater will receive the full benefits and advantages of the food we’ve prepared. And that’s my wish for my friends and family when I cook for them — that they will receive all the goodness the food offers.