Skillet-Roasted Spiced Okra

by Susan on August 9, 2011

When I saw this recipe in Food & Wine I immediately ear-marked the page. It had all the makings of a pre-dinner snack: attractive, different, and simple to prepare. When it made the menu and I scribbled ‘okra’ on my shopping list, I had no idea of the ingredient-hunt that would ensue. Okra, as it turns out, is not so easy to find in my beloved New York. I struck out at the usually reliable (but you pay for it!) Dean & DeLuca and my sturdy back-up, Gourmet Garage. (I did not have a chance to visit a Whole Foods.) Out on Long Island, where farmers markets and specialty food shops abound, I still could not find the oddly elusive, fresh okra. So, for my first attempt at this recipe, I settled for the frozen kind, which care of Goya, are already cut into small pieces.

Though forks were needed instead of mere fingers, everyone thought the okra and accompanying yogurt dip were a lovely summer snack. The spice was light but satisfying. The yogurt was refreshing. The okra didn’t have any of the slimy characteristics that often mar its reputation and squelch its popularity. There was texture. There was crunch. The whole thing went along fabulously with a glass of white wine. My pursuit went into fifth gear. The dish was a winner, but now more than ever I needed to get my hands on the fresh stuff.

Every food store I went to I did two passes through the fruits and vegetable section. Sometimes I would track down the manager who usually informed me that they don’t carry it because no one buys it. Folks, you don’t know what you’re missing! Finally, a huge bin of it turned up at, weirdly enough, the butcher! They were already starting to brown on the edges (clearly suffering from a lack of consumer attention) but they would make it to our table that night.

They turned out just as I had hoped. My mother-in-law, who resides in the South, was here for the successful tasting and not but a week later emailed me a picture of the greenest, most vibrantly beautiful okra she had bought to duplicate this very recipe. She had found it at a farmstand in her hometown in Virginia.

Come on, New Yorkers, get your okra on!

Skillet-Roasted Spiced Okra
From Food & Wine

1 pound small okra, halved lengthwise
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
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl, blend the paprika with the cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric, and cinnamon.

In a large nonstick skillets, heat 1 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.

Yogurt Dip

Greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage)
Shaved cucumber
Salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

Just mix it all up and season until your palate says it’s right.

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