I love okra. I really do. And not just because it’s a strange outsider, looked at askance by the modern world. I mean, I hate kidneys (one of the few foods I do dislike, after an unfortunate bout making a steak and kidney pie which left my kitchen smelling like a New York sidewalk on a summer day). Just because it is what it is. Pretty. Modest. Unpretentious. A riot of different textures.
I ate it a lot when we lived in England, since every Asian market carried it–bhindi is its name on the Indian menus that were always my fallback position in provincial towns where you took your life in your hands every time you went into a restaurant that didn’t serve poppadums. I always ordered them. And at home, I cooked them in curried vegetable sautes on top of rice with lots of chutney (or ‘pickle’ in the UK).
But my favorite way to cook okra was and is Madhur Jaffrey’s way, which she claims is Japanese. Very likely. Whatever its nationality it’s terrific…and comforting, too. Also the perfect hot weather side dish. So I was very pleased when a heap of the pale green stuff appeared at a local farmers’ market. Someone’s growing it around here. Thanks for that. Of course I scooped it up and brought it home to have for dinner.
This is how:
As many okra as you feel like having. It’s easier if they’re all around the same size. Madhur Jaffrey picks through the heap to find the smallest ones, and I do that too, when there ARE smallest ones. But it’s still a pleasure if they’re all medium to large.
She recommends about 24 okra for 4 servings, but that, I think, is REALLY a side dish, implying a lot of other side dishes to come…for us, 24 is the least we’ll eat. On the other hand, we do, as I say, love okra. You’ll have your own ideas.
Bring a pan of water to the boil. Doesn’t have to be a big one, just big enough to hold all the okra under water. Add the okra to the boiling water, and bring back to the boil, boil for about 2 minutes–or until when you bite into one, it’s just tender and nowhere near overcooked mush.
Drain. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again.
Cut into 1/2 inch lengths, discarding the tops. Now you can either mix it with the sauce, or set it aside and mix at the last minute. Jaffrey says to mix at the last minute. But I kind of like it marinated a little.
Try it both ways and see what you think.
For the sauce for about 24 okra: 2 Tablespoons soy sauce to 1 teaspoon mirin, with a little smudge to taste of wasabi paste mixed in. If I cook more, I adjust upward, of course.
It’s good room temperature, but I like it best chilled.
And I like it really best chilled nestled up against a tangle of hot linguine mixed with butter, soy sauce, chili oil, minced scallions, and diced, salted cucumber (just dice, toss with some coarse salt in a colander, let sit for about a half hour, then squeeze out extra liquid…add to the noodles at the last minute before you serve). That’s what we had the other night. If I’d had some cilantro, I would have chopped that and added it to the noodles with the cucumber.
Extra soy sauce and butter on the table to add at will.
We’d both had a very hard day–hell, a very hard WEEK–and there is nothing like butter and soy sauce on noodles to comfort you at the end of a tough run of anything. Unless it’s soy sauce and butter on noodles next to chilled okra, soy sauce, and wasabi. That’s the most comforting of all.