Chef Virginia Willis Knows her Okra
Marty Martindale

“Passionate okra lovers crave this bright green, heat-loving vegetable whether fried, okraplaingrilled, steamed, roasted, broiled, boiled, pickled, raw, whole, sliced or julienned.” Willis asserts, as a food writer and chef, “I love okra, I enjoy it cooked in a myriad of ways and combinations. And, I love a challenge. I will cajole, entice and seduce doubters into becoming believers. I rejoice in converting people to the joys of cooking, eating and savoring okra. I’m an okra missionary.”

Willis knows okra so well, she’s written a Savor the South cookbook, titled simply OKRA sharing some 50 delicious recipes, both southern and worldwide, and just about everything else you would ever want to know about okra.

okrabookFor instance, okra is very unpopular with a whole lot of people, especially its tendency to give off an unwanted, slimy, colorless juice. However, Willis deals with this on page 14, in her section, Top Ten Slime-Busting Tips.

Okra originated near the equator in northeastern Africa. It later spread to the rest of Africa, the Mediterranean and India before entering the New World. It became especially associated with the south of the U.S. when slaves brought seeds with them to work there.

Okra is rich in vitamins K, C, A, B6, folate and fiber.

Choose small, slender pods for their tenderness. The larger ones can be tough and too fibrous. Make sure pods are firm, undamaged and bright in color, usually green, but okra can be available in red, burgundy, white or light green. Okra doesn’t store well for long periods and should be eaten shortly after purchase. Until using, store in refrigerator in paper bag.


Here are just a few of the southern and worldwide recipes Willis includes in her book, OKRA.

  •  Southern-Style Fried Okra
  • Skillet-Roasted Okra and Shrimp
  • Limpin’Suxan
  • Old-School Okra and Tomatoes
  • Okra Gourgeres
  • West African Chicken Stew with Okra and Peanuts
  • Egyptian Okra and Chickpeas
  • Turkish Okra and Ground Beef
  • Greek Okra Ragout
  • Indian Okra and Potatoes in Green Masala
  • Singapore-Style Sambal Oelek Okra
  • Jamaican Cormmeal-and-Okra Mush
  • Brazilian Chicken and Okra

An internationally-trained chef, Willis has written for some of the top food publications, appeared with Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, Food Networks’s Chopped and as a judge on Bobby Flay Throw Down.

She is also the author of the acclaimed cookbooks Bon Appétit, Y’all! Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking and Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company.

Virginia has a popular food blog and website and was named by the Chicago Tribune as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.”

Marty Martindale

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.

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