Monthly Archives: August 2013




      Okra, (hibiscus esculentes), is a native African plant that is now known in the United States in Southern cuisine.  It became a staple to the African-American slaves.

The word okra came from the Twai Language in West Africa of nkruma; and from the Buntu Language in South and Central Africa of gumbo.


The Okra is botanically a fruit, bearing many small white seeds inside.  The fruit ranges in size up to a few inches long.  It has tapered body, with slight ridges running around the pod.  On the stem end, it looks like a little cap.  The skin is a deep green, (though there are several red tinted varieties), and covered in a slight fuzz.  The seeds inside are small are pearly white.  They are attached to the flesh.  Inside the flesh, there is a slick gummy substance, which gives okra a natural thickening ability.  The plant is covered with stingers.  It produces yellow, hibiscus like blooms.  The flowers are also edible.


         Okra grows in hot weather climates.  It is related to cotton.  Choose smaller pods, if possible.  The larger the pod, the more the tendency to become leathery.  The okra plant is naturally drought tolerant.

Okra is best known for its role in Gumbo, a spicy, southern stew with sausage, chicken, and rice.  Okra also pairs well with tomatoes, and other acidic flavors.  Often, okra is breaded and deep-fried, or pickled.


What tastes good with Okra
hollandaise sauce
peppers, esp. green

Okra Fritters
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and minced
3 eggs, lightly  beaten
1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 lb okra, rimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup vegetable oil
Mix together flour, cornmeal, parmesan, onions, eggs, evaporated milk, slat and cayenne in a large bowl.  Add okra and set aside.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Make 4 to 5 fritters at a time by spooning 2 tbsp of the batter for each fritter into skillet, keeping about 3” between fritters and using a spatula to flatten each mound into a 3 1/2” pancake.  Fry until bottoms turn golden, about 2 minutes; flip and continue frying until center is cooked through, about 2 minutes more.  As fritters are finished, transfer to paper towels to drain.  Repeat process with the remaining batter, making 25-30 fritters in all.
Serves 6 to 8.

© 2013 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger       All rights reserved

Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.

Please contact me if you wish to receive “Food For Thought” in your mailbox.




Tilefish (family Malacanthidae) found in many different waters stretching from Nova Scotia to Florida. They are very plentiful in Florida, and sometimes known as blamquillo. It is multicolored with distinctive yellow spots. It can be referred to as “the clown of the sea” because of the spectrum of colors the skin produces. Its flesh is low fat, and very firm. It is similar to lobster and monkfish is taste and texture. It is snow white, and flakes very large. It has a diet of crab.

The tilefish does not live in schools, but gathers in clusters along reefs and rock structures. They are predominately a line caught fish.
Cooking tilefish is best done with high dry heat. The flesh will also hold up in a fish stew.
Tilefish can range in size from 2 to 50 pounds.


Golden tilefish

Tilefish’s Flavors

fruits, especially tropical
olive oil
soy sauce

Roasted Whole Tilefish with Tomatoes and Lemons

¼ cup olive oil
2 medium size onions, sliced and separated into rings
4 sprigs fresh marjoram or oregano or 1 tsp dried
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 medium size ripe tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup minced fresh parsley
juice of 1 lemon
one 2-1/2 to 3 pound tilefish, scaled and gutted with head on or off
½ cup unseasoned bread crumbs, or as needed
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Warm 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently. When the onions begin to soften, add half the marjoram and season with salt and pepper. Remove the onions from the heat when they are tender, but not mushy, and let them cool.
Mix the tomatoes with the garlic, parsley, the remaining marjoram, and the lemon juice.
Rinse the fish and dry it. Add the cooked onions to the tomatoes mixture and enough bread crumbs to absorb most of the liquid from the tomatoes.
Cut four or five parallel slashes on each side of the tilefish just deep enough to go through the skin of the fish, but not the flesh. Put it in a baking pan large enough to hold it snugly, rub the fish with the remaining olive oil, and lay it in the pan. Stuff the fish with some of the tomato onion mixture, and spoon the rest of the mixture around and on top of the fish. Lay the lemon slices over all.
Roast the fish until the meat near the bone is no longer pink, start peeking in the slashes after about 20 minutes, although total cooking time is likely to 30 to 35 minutes. Serve immediately.
Serves 4.

© 2013 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger All rights reserved
Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.

Please contact me if you wish to receive “Food For Thought” in your mailbox.