It Ain’t Just Southern
Editor’s Note: Westcoast and I (gansie!) have been making the rounds to all of the hott spots in DC this season. Of course I’m talking about the farmers’ markets. We’ve visited three locations (Silver Spring, H Street–with sightings of Belmontmedina and Mr. and Mrs. Joe Hoya–and Bloomingdale) and we have many left to scope out. Here’s Westcoast‘s most current inspiration from a market find. And please let us know where we should get our next seasonal fix.
You finally get something out of me…probably two years after gansie and I first discussed…so you know it must be tasty.
I chose okra (and wasn’t the first to do so here on ES). I almost couldn’t help it. Gansie and I were at the Bloomingdale Farmers Market, there was a lone section of okra staring at me. I hadn’t really done much work with it, and it seemed like a challenge. When I picked it up I think gansie lost the ability to speak for a few seconds.
Okra is perhaps one of the most misunderstood vegetables (well, it’s a fruit, technically) around. It is noted for its extremely slimy, gummy or mushy texture in food that is poorly prepared (read: if you are from the North, you probably think it is just one of those silly Southern things like deep fried pickles; if you are from the South, you ate fried okra at some point in your life with varying extreme reactions.) It is native to Africa and if you check out its cross-section, it’s in the shape of a pentagon.
There’s only one dish I have ever had with okra that really made me see its potential: bhindi (okra) masala. I scoured the internet for recipes, took a field trip to an Indian grocery (and nearly lost the liquid from my empty stomach as I saw a whole lamb, legs and all, being hacked up at the butcher) and ended up with something that was pretty phenomenal.
Intense recipe post jump –
Bhindi Masala with Whole Wheat Dill and Garlic Parathas
The okra should be soft, but not super soft when you buy it; it only stays fresh for around 5 days from the moment it is picked. Store it in the refrigerator surrounded in paper towels and in a paper bag folded over (not a sealed plastic bag, it must be able to breathe and not go gummy prematurely).
Start with your parathas so that you can let the dough rest while prepping and cooking the bhindi.
Serve with a quick mixture of yogurt and freshly chopped dill.
Whole Wheat Dill and Garlic Parathas
2 cups of Whole Wheat flour (I used unbleached white whole wheat)
1/2 cup fresh Dill leaves, chopped
1 tbsp oil (olive or canola)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Fennel seed powder (I ground my own in a mortar and pestle)
1 tsp Coriander seed powder (ground with Fennel)
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Dabeli Masala (you can make your own or substitute Pav Bhaji)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup nonfat yogurt
Room temperature water (the amount depends on the flour you use, mine took nearly a cup)
1. In a large bowl mix above ingredients, except water, with a fork. Slowly pour in water little by little until the dough begins to come together. Your goal is a non-sticky dough and all the flour should be incorporated, but there may be some sections that are drier than others. Knead dough for 5 minutes.
2. Divide dough into 3 then 6 then 12 equally-sized sections. Place dough sections back in the bowl it was mixed in (try to keep them touching a little as possible). Cover dough with a few damp paper towels and place lid on top of bowl or cover the top of the bowl with a damp kitchen towel. Let the dough rest for a minimum of 15 minutes.
3. Take one section of dough at a time and roll into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into 7-8 inch circles. You may have to rub each side of the dough with flour every now and then and should be both flipping the dough over and ensuring to roll in every direction to spread it evenly.
4. Brush both sides with olive oil.
5. In a large frying pan heated to medium high, place one flattened dough at a time and brown both sides using a spatula to flip (a few dark spots here and there is fine).
6. Once cooked, brush very lightly with olive oil and stack in something to keep the parathas warm.
30 pieces fresh Okra
2 medium Onions, sliced
1 large Tomato, chopped
1 1/4 cup any color or mixed Bell Pepper except green, diced
4 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp Jeera (whole Cumin Seeds)
1/2 tsp Cumin and Coriander Powder (again, make your own for the max flavor)
1 tsp Red Chili Powder (from Indian market or Cayenne)
1/4 tsp Amchur Powder (Sun Dried Mango Powder)
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Garam Masala
Salt to taste (it will take more than you might imagine)
1 tbsp + 1 tsp Canola Oil
1. Wash and thoroughly dry the okra (make sure it is completely dried). Working quickly (the ooze starts immediately when you cut the okra) cut off the stem and a small bit from the bottom of each piece of okra and then cut each lengthwise from top to bottom through the center.
2. Heat 1 tbsp oil on medium high and shallow fry the okra until somewhat browned (6-10 minutes). Set aside.
3. In the same pan heat 1 tsp oil on medium high. Add cumin seeds and once they begin sputtering, add onions. Fry until they turn nearly completely brown. Add the tomato, peppers and garlic and cook until soft.
4. Add all spices except salt and stir for one minute before adding the fried okra. Sauté well until masala is uniformly distributed.
5. Add salt to taste remembering that nothing has been salted to this point.