I LOVE OKRA...... There is something about this Malvaceae that I really enjoy and, apparently, I have also turned my family into okra lovers. So much so, that they ask me to prepare it whenever they visit me in the US. Curiously, this vegetable, also known as “lady-fingers” in many parts of the world, is not grown in Italy.
The first time I had okra was in Georgia (fried of course). The second time was in an Indian restaurant in London (masala style). The third time was in Tamilnadu, South East India, and it was prepared by my husband’s grandmother, and it was one my favorite dishes that I tried while visiting there. I enjoyed it so much that I tried to make it again after I returned home. I have since prepared a few variations of Achi’s okra, one being this sliced okra with sauteed onions, ginger, garlic tomatoes and a combination of Indian spices, whose recipe will be featured in my upcoming cookbook.
But all the cutting and slicing can be time consuming, so when I am pressed for time, I resort to this effortless alternative, simple seasoning and roasting, which requires hardly any preparation, but is still delicious.
What I have learned is that picking the right okra is key to a texturally pleasant dish. I also recommend purchasing okra at an Indian grocery store, which has a large turnover of this very popular vegetable, and hence, better quality and price. When picking your okra, you should lightly press it with your fingers, and it should be soft. If the okra is hard, it means that it is fibrous inside and no amount of cooking will redeem the trough texture. But if you pick the slightly soft okra, although not overly ripe to the point that it is turning dark, it will turn out great!
All you do is rinse the okra, and pat it dry it with a paper towel. Then in a bowl you toss it with olive oil and then add a few pinches of rasam masala powder and/or curry powder. If you do not have rasam masala, you can substitute with any combination of red chili powder, cumin and paprika and a tiny pinch of turmeric powder. For extra flavor I also toss in a few cumin seeds (and fenugreek seeds, optional). But do not add too many, as this may compromise the flavor balance.
Then spread the okra on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Preheat oven at 400F and bake for about 20 minutes, or until soft and slightly roasted, tossing the okra around once about mid-way. Then turn the oven to broil and broil for a few minutes, being careful not to burn your okra.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with sea-salt and optional ground pepper, and serve.
It makes a great side or snack.
If the okra is tender enough, you can consume it whole, including the caps.