Cornmeal Fried Okra with Eggplant Dip
Sure it just seems like fried okra, but check out the dipping sauce!
2 lb. ‘Emerald’ okra
1 qt. Buttermilk
¾ c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Small Eggplants
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 c. pine nuts
Juice and zest of 1 large lemon (about 4 tablespoons juice; 1 tablespoon zest)
6 c. canola oil
4 c. cornmeal
2 tbsp. cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F. Place okra in a large bowl. Pour buttermilk over okra, covering completely. Set aside for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, drizzle ¼ cup olive oil over eggplant and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Place eggplant, cut side down, on an aluminum foil–lined baking pan. Bake until very soft, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 200°F. Scoop meat of eggplant into a blender or the bowl of a food processor, discarding skin. Add nuts, 1 cup water, remaining olive oil, and lemon juice and zest; puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.
Fit a baking pan with a wire rack; set aside. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot fitted with a deep-fry thermometer, heat canola oil over medium-high heat to 375°F. In a shallow dish, combine cornmeal, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper, and cayenne. In batches, dredge okra in cornmeal, then carefully deep-fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes. With tongs, transfer to a paper-towel-lined pan and season with salt. Transfer to prepared baking pan and keep warm in oven. Serve with reserved eggplant puree for dipping.