I remember a time when I was bewildered by okra, not sure what it’s purpose was beyond gumbo or fried alongside fish n’ chips. Then I discovered Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, which includes at least six workable okra recipes so good that they merit being the main course. I particularly loved her Fried Okra with Fresh Curry or Basil Leaves, which explains a frying the okra over high heat and gradually lowers to a simmer, wizening the small rounds and ridding them of mucilage.
I’m sure there are other cultures that work well with okra – there are some great African stews involving okra and sweet potato, or succotash with corn, new potatoes, fresh peas, and okra. But I can’t get away from the middle eastern and Indian curries that infuse the spongy pod with spices and oil.
With this heat, our vegetable garden is dominated by large okra plants and a few straggling pepper plants. I try to pick a few okra pods every day, and by the week’s end I have enough for the recipe below. This recipe, inspired by Madhur Jaffrey and this Food & Wine recipe, is a perfect way to finish out the crop and is a great light, vegetarian meal for the end of summer.
Okra with Chickpeas, Tomatoes and Yogurt Sauce
1 lb (or 15 large-ish pods) of okra
1/2 red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp tumeric
1 chopped roma tomato
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup whole greek yogurt
2 tbsp grated cucumber
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat and sauté red onion, garlic, chile powder and cumin seeds until soft. Remove with slotted spoon to a bowl.
2. Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet, and fry okra until browned at the edges and wizened (but not burnt), about 5 minutes. Add the tomato and salt to the skillet and sauté for another 3 minutes, then add the chickpeas and onion mixture. Cover the pan and let simmer for 2-3 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients to make the yogurt sauce. Set aside or in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve with the okra. This all tastes great over jasmine rice… enjoy!