Monday, September 27, 2010

Meatless Monday: Spiced Okra

Spiced Okra
Divas, I've just returned from a fabulous trip to Chicago. The food highlights were Alinea (well, duh!), and Urban Belly, an Asian Fusion noodle shop that I'd read a lot about and had been dying to visit. Even better, the Chicago Foodie was my escort there. I promise to share my Alinea menu with you and blog Urban Belly later this week.

In the meantime, here's another great meatless recipe. The bottom line is that Americans are not eating enough vegetables. Just check out this great New York Times Article, "Told to Eat its Vegetables, Americans Order Fries."

A new study concludes that only 26 percent of the nation's adults eat vegetables three times a day. One of the main reasons that people interviewed for the article cite for not loading up on veggies is simply that they don't know how to cook them. And let's be honest, veggies cooked poorly can taste, well, awful. I also notice that many people don't branch out beyond the usual steamed broccoli and iceberg lettuce. However, just hit up your local farmers market, and you'll be blown away by the incredible variety of fresh produce available.

So that brings me to today's main ingredient: okra. Used mainly in Southern and Creole cooking, okra is loaded with health benefits. It's a good source of many nutrients, including vitamin B6, vitamin C, calcium, and folic acid. However, okra is also one of those vegetables that can come out tasting delicious or terrible, due to its slimy texture, which I always detested as a child and have mostly avoided as an adult.

But while shopping at the West Hollywood Farmers Market last Monday, I came across a farmer with a mountain of freshly picked okra. I remembered an article I'd read in last month's Food & Wine magazine with a recipe that involved seasoning okra with curry spices. I scooped up a bundle and brought it home.

Instead of stewing the okra or putting in gumbo, as is traditional, I decided to roast it with olive oil and salt and pepper, theorizing that it would combat the sliminess. Then, once it had nicely browned, I pulled it out of the oven and tossed it with a little curry powder and lemon juice while it was still sizzling. Then, I served it as a side dish to a chicken and bell pepper etouffee over brown rice.

This spiced okra turned out to be a vegetable revelation. It had none of the sliminess I'd detested from my childhood. Rather, it was flavorful and succulent, a wonderful side dish to any meal. So give it a shot and up your vegetable consumption. I promise you'll love this recipe.

Spiced Okra
Serves 4 people
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Print Recipe

Ingredients
4 cups okra, halved diagonally
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Meanwhile, place the okra in a roasting pan or pyrex dish and toss with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until tender and beginning to caramelize.

Remove from the oven. Quickly, toss with the curry powder and lemon juice while it's still sizzling hot. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
okra from the West Hollywood Farmers Market

curry powder and organic extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's

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