southern spice November 2, 2010

I’ve been in Georgia long enough now that folks give me a sideways glance when I still claim I’m from Chicago. My transformation to cold-fearing Southerner is all but complete and yet one regional food mystery remains for me: okra. It seems to be the kudzu of vegetables here in these parts: everyone I know with a bountiful summer garden tries to pawn it off – often in pickled form – in mass quantities through July and August. As someone with texture issues when it comes to food, the viscous quality that okra has is nothing less than unsettling to me. Sure, I can pop one or two pickled ones in a bloody mary but, really, what doesn’t go well in a bloody mary? Outside of pickling and deep-fried, I’ve yet to see much in the way of preparations that does this vegetable justice without having to completely mask what it is.

Leave it to Atlanta chef-turned-Bravo TV food celebrity Kevin Gillespie – whose cooking style and local restaurant Woodfire Grill is best known for amazing preparations of all things pig – to turn out a vegetarian recipe that had me swooning over okra. I found this recipe randomly while surfing on Food & Wine’s website. The charred, crusty texture leapt out at me and the allure of all the Indian influenced spices I so love pulled me in. At the farmers market I go to, okra is still bountiful and beautiful. I grabbed a handful – as well as pulled out all the spices in my cabinet – and whipped this together in no time. There was none of the slimy texture that gives okra a bad rap and the warm, toasty spices are gorgeous. Since this is a great (and fast) entertaining snack to fix for parties, I thought a dip might be in order to contrast the spicy okra. A quick, cooling raita – which you can whisk together in 2 minutes – was a great contrast with the smokey slivers. I’ve included my no-nonsense recipe after Kevin’s okra recipe.

Skillet Roasted Spiced Okra – recipe by Kevin Gillespie & found here at Food & Wine – serves 4

  • 3/4 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground fenugreek (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound small okra, halved lengthwise
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

- In a small bowl, blend the paprika with the cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric, cinnamon and fenugreek.
- In each of 2 large nonstick skillets, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the okra, cut side down, and cook over high heat for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook until browned on the bottom, 4 minutes longer. Turn the okra and cook over low heat until tender, 2 minutes. Season with salt and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Drizzle the lemon juice over the okra and serve.

Quick and Easy Raita Dip – makes 2 cups

  • 2 cups whole milk yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 small cucumber, peeled and grated
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste

- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix together well. Make sure you refrigerate this dip until right when you’re going to serve it. Otherwise, it’s going to be melty and watery.

Comments

The Teacher Cooks Nov 2, 2010 03:11 pm

I am a lover of okra prepared just about anyway. Charring it sounds even better.

tami Nov 2, 2010 08:11 pm

Wanda…then you’ll LOVE this recipe…still manages to maintain the sweetness of the okra but with a touch of heat. So delish! :)

Broderick ~ Savory Exposure Nov 2, 2010 03:11 pm

That looks pretty incredible

tami Nov 2, 2010 08:11 pm

It was pretty incredible, B. It’s amazing how crispy the okra got just in the pan with very little time needed.

Prerna Nov 2, 2010 06:11 pm

So glad to have found you here! Do I need to say that you have a gorgeous space here ‘cos I’m sure u must be sick of hearing it! But I LOVE the feel of your blog and this recipe or lets just say it very close Indian version is very close to my heart ‘cos this is one dish my mom makes that I would kill to get a bite of.
Happy blogging!

tami Nov 2, 2010 08:11 pm

Prerna – Thanks for stopping by the blog. Went and checked yours out as well. Holy Moly! It’s so beautiful. I’ve subscribed so I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me soon :)

keith Nov 3, 2010 01:11 pm

Where did you get those very cool forks?

tami Nov 3, 2010 01:11 pm

Keith- They were purchased at a CB2 store about 3 months ago :)

Lindsay C Nov 3, 2010 08:11 pm

Since moving to New Orleans one year ago, I too am new to okra. My favorite way of preparing it is on the grill. It actually sounds like this recipe would work really well on the grill, just keep the okra whole and mix everything together (including oil). Can’t wait to try it.

tami Nov 4, 2010 10:11 pm

I think this recipe would be AMAZING on a grill. Do come back and let me know how it is if you give it a try :)

ryan @Macarons Nov 4, 2010 05:11 pm

I still haven’t quite adjusted to enjoying okra no matter how it is prepared, but obv haven’t tasted it this way. Maybe I will give it a shot!

ryan

tami Nov 4, 2010 10:11 pm

I was in the same boat – really. I’ve had some great versions here in Atlanta of it fried but nothing where it was “naked” and I enjoyed the taste and texture of it. Give it a try, Ryan :)

Rosemary Nov 8, 2010 03:11 am

Just took a class with Poppy Tooker in New Orleans last week and she roasts her okra for gumbo. Takes the slime factor out of the okra. Love your photos!

tami Nov 15, 2010 03:11 pm

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Rosemary. Your blog is great :)

Jessica Nov 8, 2010 04:11 pm

I am a huge fan of okra. I made an extremely similar recipe in August, including the yogurt dip to go alongside the spicy okra. I love the addition of Indian spices. I used Mexican flavors so will need to try this version! Beautiful photo as well.

tami Nov 15, 2010 03:11 pm

Jessica-

Thanks for stopping by the blog! Would love to see which spices you used in your Mexican inspired version. Is it online anywhere?

heather Dec 6, 2010 03:12 pm

Made these the other night and they rock! We can’t get enough okra, and this is a great new preparation. Love the dip as well.

Cheers,

*Heather*