The inspiration for these delicious okra cakes came from Gloria Smiley, a friend and professional food stylist in Atlanta. Her okra cakes have a rice base, maybe because she’s got rice in her blood since she’s from the Low Country. I felt compelled to use cornmeal, maybe because I’m from farther inland. In fact, in the middle of summer, I like to add fresh corn cut off the cob. Serve these in bite-size bits for a cocktail nibble or as larger cakes for a side dish. They’re also brilliant Napoleon style, layered with a soft, creamy cheese, such as fresh goat cheese or ricotta, and thickly sliced tomato.–Virginia Willis
LC Napoleon Complex Note
It’s not every day that cookbook authors make us chuckle, but we guffawed out loud when we read the following note from author Virginia Willis, which not only explains an alternate plating option for this dish but conveys some of her personality as well: “A Napoleon is traditionally a stacked dessert of puff pastry, pastry cream and fruit, but the term has come to mean pretty much anything stacked. Sometimes the concept is taken a bit too far and the stack becomes towering and difficult to eat, more akin to a Napoleon complex, but it’s a very restaurant way of presenting a thin little cake or vegetable.” We’re still hooting and hollering over that one.
Okra Cornmeal Cakes Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 30 M
- 30 M
- Makes twelve 3-inch cakes
- 2 cups finely ground yellow cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cups cold water, plus more if needed
- 8 ounces fresh okra, stems trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 jalapeño, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, mashed into a paste
- 1/4 cup mild vegetable oil, for frying
- 1. Line a plate with paper towels.
- 2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, and fine salt. In a second bowl or large liquid measuring cup, combine the egg and water. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add the okra, jalapeño, and garlic and stir to combine. (The batter should be thick and wet, not dry. Add a little more water at a time if needed. The amount will depend on the exact grind of the cornmeal.)
- 3. Heat some or all of the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, depending on how “fried” you like your cakes. Scoop 1/4 cup batter onto the heated surface and, if needed, flatten the griddle cake so it has an even surface. Repeat with additional batter, being careful not to crowd the skillet. Cook the griddle cakes until the bottoms are brown and bubbles form on the tops and edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and cook until the other side is golden brown, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the paper towel–lined plate. Season the cooked griddle cakes with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve immediately.
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