Thursday, January 24, 2013

Okra with Tomato

Okra and I have not always been friends. Sure, it's great when battered and deep-fried, but okra tends to summon up memories of impossibly slimy dishes, often with a funky fish sauce added.  Soupou kandia, a Senegalese stew, was almost universally reviled among my study-abroad peers as we pined for mafe, ceebu jen, or yassa instead...

I think this prejudice started to change when my mom and I met some friends at Mela in Asheville, NC. The bhindi masala was an incredible mix of textures and flavors, and slimy and fishy were not among them. Since then, I have made the (equally fantastic) okra dish in Indian Home Cooking, and, finally, a simplified version from memory.

I've heard that the secret to non-slimy okra is to cook it for a shorter time (and thus necessarily at a very high temp). But I think what works here is simply adding other liquid (via tomatoes) later on in the dish to dilute the dish's overall viscosity. The end result of this recipe is flavorful, and the okra is delicate and tender, but not mushy or slimy.

When I'm cooking, I often snap quick photos of ingredients or steps in the process just so that I remember what I did when I'm writing the recipe up.

I started with this much okra, trimmed and cut into 1-in pieces:

In my trusty cast-iron, I fried some mustard and cumin seeds:

Then I added onion slivers, and salt, and (a few minutes later) garlic and fresh chilies: 

When this was pretty much cooked, I added cayenne, turmeric, and a pinch of cinnmon:

And then I added the okra, cooking it on hot for about 5 min until the okra started browning. I added a can of tomatoes:

...and then I reduced the heat to medium, covered it all, and simmered for about ten more minutes. At the end, I added some lemon juice and cilantro before serving hot:

Okra with Tomato
(adapted from Indian Home Cooking)

mustard seeds
cumin seeds
1/2 red onion, cut into slivers
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chili, minced
cayenne (to taste)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
2-3 c okra, trimmed and cut into 1-in pieces
lemon juice

See above for instructions
Serves about 3.


narf7 said...

No slime (she says peeking out from behind both hands held over her face)...NO SLIME?! Do you promise?! I have been reading about how easy okra is to grow... it's pretty flower etc. and how it loves hot and dry conditions... that would make okra a fantastic thing to include in my veggie garden if I wasn't reminded constantly of the one time that I tried to cook this mucalagenous heinous foodstuff that resulted in a cross between glue and mozzarella with all of their bad qualities and NONE of their good :(. I am still shuddering almost 10 years after the event and I am NOT a fussy eater! I want to plant okra but I don't want to plant something that I can't use. I get the desire to slime it up in Florida...after all they eat alligators and wrestle hogs and drink hot sauce/tabasco from the bottle as an aperitif so they obviously haven't got any tastebuds left and okra might go part way to soothing their poor burned tongues but the rest of the world isn't so crazy and slimy snail trails intentionally ingested would send the rest of us straight to some form of mental have to PROMISE me before I even try this! ;)

Ellen Lederman said...

I live in the South (Atlanta) so I can readily handle okra. Love it done in Indian restaurants. You mentioned just a pinch of turmeric---keep in mind that turmeric is now considered to be a rock star nutritionally, so maybe add more than a pinch?
And 24 hours later, am still thinking about your smoked Gouda. The taste is virtually identical to real smoked Gouda that I've had back in the day.

Julia said...

I don't know if I can promise NO slime, but I've had some really slimy okra dishes, and this was definitely different than those. :)

And Ellen, I would add as much turmeric as you like--I just know that it gets overpowering for me after a certain point.