'Ladies fingers' does refer to the tapering shape of okra's seed pods. Inside the pods, the seeds are set in sticky juices and this is what thickens the soups and stews that are part of southern American cuisine. In the Cajun dishes of Louisiana okra is usually sliced up so the sticky juices are released, and it is often smothered in a peppery tomato sauce. Lard would probably be used instead of olive oil. Choose okra that is bright green and velvety, with no brown tinge along the outside ridges. Serve this dish as a hot accompaniment to grilled meat or oily fish. Or, for a vegetarian meal, offer it with bean dishes and cornbread or corn muffins made with green chilies.
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