One of our favorite but less commonly used vegetables is okra. Many people are put off by the tendency of okra to devolve into a mucoid, mushy mess when they first try to cook with it. That’s too bad, because okra is found in gumbos, African and Indian cooking. We have finally received some advice that makes cooking with okra much better.
In his book 660 Curries, Raghavan Iyer lists his secrets for cooking with okra. First, thoroughly wash the okra and dry the pods completely before cutting into them. Second, fry the okra before simmering the same okra in a dish.
Here is some more advice on properly preparing okra, in which the okra is cut, frozen, and then fried when ready for use in gumbos.
On page 532 of his book is Iyer’s recipe for one okra dish we recently tried. It is delicious and we guarantee the okra is not slimy.
1 lb. fresh okra, rinsed and thoroughly dried
4 tbsp canola oil
1 lb. Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp ground asafetida
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 large tomato, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
1. Peel the potatoes and quarter them. Thinly slice the quarters crosswise. Submerge the potatoes in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning.
2. Trim the caps off the okra without cutting into the pods.
3. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the okra pods and fry, turning them occasionally with a pair of tongs, until they are soft and evenly browned all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer them to a plate.
4. Drain the potatoes and pat them dry with paper towels.
5. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in the same skillet. Add the potatoes and fry, tossing them occasionally, until they are crisp and brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Return the okra to the skillet, and add the salt and spices. Continue to stir-fry the combination until the spices start to roast, about 1 minute.
6. Add the tomato and ½ cup water. Stir once or twice, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.