Thursday, September 2, 2010

At Home with Hippocrene

Both previous editions can be seen here.

After work one day I went to the farmer's market in Rockefeller Center (that will unfortunately be ending soon!) and tried to get some ideas for dinner. There were several different farms and businesses there, selling everything from homemade soaps and pies to fresh herbs and produce. After wandering around I eventually came up with spaghetti after spotting fresh basil and fried chicken with corn on the cob, and some tomatoes and cucumber for salads. One seller had okra, and after passing by a few times, I helped myself to a bag and started filling it up. I'd never made okra before but sometimes you just have to go for it!

So I hunted through the indexes of our cookbook library, trying to decide what kind of okra dish would be my guinea pig.  Previously we've enjoyed main entrees from the Philippines and India, so I wanted to try an altogether different cuisine. I discovered that okra is sometimes called "bride's fingers" in Afghan Food and Cookery, and that Greeks call them bamia in Regional Greek Cooking, but so do the Jewish-Iraqi (Mama Nazima's Jewish-Iraqi Cuisine).But I thought this simple preparation from Cooking with Cajun Women would go well with the fried chicken dinner I'd begun to fantasize about. They're in season from July to November, or until the first frost, so enjoy them while you can! 

Smothered Okra
(from Cooking with Cajun Women page 25)

1 tablespoon oil
1 small to medium-sized onion, chopped
2 1/2 to 3 cups sliced fresh okra 
1 whole tomato, cooked
salt and pepper, to taste

Note: Because the okra will cook down, you need to start with a little bit more


1. Rinse the okra under cold water. Prepare the onion and okra. I cut the okra into less than 1/2 inch pieces.

2. Heat the oil in a pan. Saute the onions until transparent and turning a light golden brown, but do not burn or scorch them or they will produce a strange sweet, burnt taste that will ruin the batch of okra.

3. Add okra and tomato, then season to taste. Since I didn't have a recipe in mind when I was shopping, I just filled the bag with what looked like a good amount for two people. After cutting it up I had about 2 1/2 cups. I used a can of pomodorini that I had on hand instead and it worked nicely since the pieces of okra were about the same size. 

4. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Watch it closely so that the okra does not burn. If you scorch okra, you will end up having to start over. I used a non-stick pot, but still added a little water and stirred often to be sure nothing would get stuck.

As you can see here, I added a bay leaf for a little extra flavor.
5. Once the okra is soft and velvety, you're ready to serve!

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