you welcome in flavorThe weekly column on how to cook local produce according to our Test Kitchen Manager, Fatima Khawaja. This is where you’ll find creative ideas for uncommon meals as well as plenty of cooking tips—like what to do with this bumper crop of zucchini or how to store delicate, heirloom tomatoes. Each week, Fatima enters the farmers market and selects a high season ingredient to explore in depth. Follow along, and you’ll learn how to turn the bounty of the season into easy vegan meals that will be on the table in less than an hour.
When people think of okra, they often think of slime and sticky, but I’m here to tell you that, with the right technique, a soft green capsule may become your new favorite vegetable.
Originated in Pakistan, okra has always been golden and crunchy but also tender, topped with a velvety tomato and onion sauce. I still do this method in my New York kitchen when I come back from the farmers’ market with a bag of okra. Following my mom’s recipe, I start with a base of garlic, ginger, chile powder, and turmeric. (For us, this mixture is like mirepoix for the French or sofrito for Latin Americans.) Then I add the onions and fried okra and simmer everything to mix the flavors.
Unfortunately, I can’t always find okra at my local farmers market, but a bag of frozen stuff from an Indian supermarket works great in a pinch. It comes raw and sliced, which saves me time in the kitchen; I just cook it a little longer and don’t fry it (the extra water makes it splatter).
When buying fresh okra, look for medium pods that are bright green, dry and flawless and no longer than your causal finger: the bigger my rule, the stricter they are. Okra is surprisingly inexpensive and will keep for about four days in a paper towel-lined produce bag. You can use any extra okra in this recipe from the Caribbean, which is my personal favorite.
To clean okra, wash the pods, then spread them out on a kitchen towel. (They absorb water, so it’s important they are as dry as possible to ensure proper crunch.) With some quick preparation, these quick stir fry come together in no time. I encourage you to cover it with flat bread, such as chapati or paratha, or scoop it over basmati rice – but if not, a fork will do.
Pakistani Okra Stir Fry
No sticky, no offense: This recipe from the Indian subcontinent is crunchy edges and a spicy sauce.
fruit: Serves 4
Half cups of vegetable oil
1 pound of okra, trimmed and cut into 1 inch. lengths (5 cups)
3 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. ginger paste
1 tsp. Indian style red chili powder, or cayenne pepper
1 tsp. garlic paste
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. Kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
Steamed rice or roti, to serve
Put the oil in a large, wide saucepan over a medium to high heat. When it shimmers and begins to smoke, add the okra and fry, stirring constantly, until soft and turning brown, about 10-15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. In the empty pot, add the garlic and onion, and stir constantly until the onions are translucent, 4-6 minutes. Add ginger paste, chili powder, garlic paste, turmeric, and salt and cook until fragrant and beginning to turn brown, another 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are softened, 4-6 minutes. Stir in the preserved okra and cook until the tomatoes are cracked, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt to taste and serve hot with steamed rice or roti.