Thursday, October 26, 2006

Indian Okra with Yogurt

My first encounter with okra was at Gatsby's Tavern when I was 8. I'd been dragged there for a bit of school-sponsored historical tourism, and a soup plate was slapped down in front of me--by a costumed serving wench, of course--of some mysterious brown goo with a single okra perched on top, whole and glistening with slime in the candlelight. It looked, to my eight year old eyes, like the severed limb of some tiny space alien. Needless to say, the whole experience took some getting over. But Sam and Omie's, on the Outer Banks in North Carolina, sped along the healing process a couple of years later when the ToastFamily discovered their fingerburningly crisp, delicious little nubbins of fried okra tossed into the veggie basket.

This dish is nothing like either of those okra moments--but marvelous in its own way. I make this pretty often, as a default when I impulse-buy okra. (Editor's note: What kind of a sick person uses the words "impulse buy" and "okra" in the same sentence?)

Neither crispy nor soggy/scary/E.T., this is okra at its most vegetable-like. The soft, strongly flavored onions twine around the slightly sticky bits of lightly browned okra. Each bite has a nice pop/crunch and a slight yogurt sourness to it. If you're a fan of particularly spicy Indian food, go whole hog with the peppers here--you will be rewarded.

***
Okra with Yogurt

In a huge skillet over medium heat, warm:
2-3 Tablespoons oil

Add, and fry until soft and just barely beginning to brown:
2 large onions, thinly sliced

Add, and fry 2-3 minutes, until fragrant:
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or mircroplaned
2 medium chiles (I like Thai peppers), minced
1/2 teaspoon onion seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Add, and fry 3-4 minutes on higher heat until beginning to caramelize:
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
2-3 Tablespoons coconut milk (2 teaspoons dried coconut can be substituted)

Keep the heat on high, and add:
1 lb fresh okra, washed, topped, tailed and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (I've never made this with frozen, but I suspect that it might not be worth it.)

Stir fry for a few minutes until the edges of the okra begin to brown. The goal is to move fast to get the okra from becoming gluey.

Add:
3 Tablespoons plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring. Serve very hot, with rice for a meal for two, or as a veggie side for a curry banquet.

16 comments:

Alanna said...

Bookmark! I got turned onto fresh okra this summer, this looks great!

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