Sticky, slimy, gooey, gummy – okra.
Our CSA farms like to push our boundaries and challenge our culinary repertoires with odd and unexpected vegetables, but I don’t think Eatwell ever dared to put okra, one of Northern America’s most reviled and misunderstood vegetables, in my box. But even though I never get it in my box, I get so excited every year when I finally spot okra at the farmer’s market. I don’t pretend to have mastered this challenging vegetable, one that seems to explode into snot-strings if you so much as look at it funny, but I do have one recipe that’s so delicious it keeps me dreaming of okra all year-round.
I’ve heard various techniques for dealing with okra’s challenges, from “never get it wet” to “never cut it – only cook it whole” to “just embrace the sliminess, haven’t you heard of gumbo?” But this magical recipe, straight from my beloved 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, breaks the first two rules and still in no way requires an enthusiasm for slime.
Relying firmly on the “everything tastes good fried” rule of cooking, this recipe for okra raita combines crisp, delicious rounds of pan-fried okra with smoky mustard seeds. The tadka, or spice mixture, is placed raw on top of the yogurt, and the delicate spices get cooked perfectly when you pour the hot oil from the mustard seeds right onto the yogurt. The okra is beautiful, making a flower-like shape when cut crosswise, and the colors of the cooked vegetable range from green to orange to brown.
I really debated whether or not to post this recipe, as I have already posted a few from this cookbook and I try to limit the recipes I post to “just a taste” from a given book. But I want folks to try okra, to not be intimidated by this delicious vegetable, so I am going to share this one. And I fervently hope that you will try this dish and be so blown away that you will run out immediately and buy 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, a terrific, solidly-written, Indian-made-simple (but fabulous) cookbook from which I have made nearly every vegetarian dish and whose recipes form a solid portion of our regular cooking repertoire.