Because the okra, the paste tomatoes, the mushrooms and that onion were looking at me accusingly, and the okra was reminding me I bought them nine days ago.
Because one should be creative when facing one’s fridge, and that veggie doomsday clock which was ticking down! And they need to remain tasty.
Because these foodstuffs are still good, but needs to be cooked… NOW! Not tomorrow, but now. I am NOT Martha Stewart.
Those okra: Tucked into a side corner of the fridge — out of sight, out of mind. My fridge is like that. A Bag of Holding. The fridge is so small that things have gaps to hide behind other things in.
Note: this okra after nine days looks a heck of a lot better than any okra I find at the supermarket, the day I see it at the supermarket. Makes me wonder how long they let that stuff sit out before putting it on the shelf. I now only purchase my okra at the Asian market (or during New England okra season, at farmer’s markets). I think there’s a high turnover at that Asian market, and that might be why it’s so fresh there. Or maybe they care more, as their two or three varieties of bok choy are also always super fresh, and I love their Thai basil, and their on-ice and fresh seafood department is to die for. (And a LOT cheaper than my regular supermarket.) No, we won’t go into their frozen section… I don’t shop in that part. ‘Nuff said.
The okra has been muscilagenously maligned. (To coin a phrase.) I grew up in a house where okra was frequently served by my parents, so I liked it early on. I recognize this is not a dish for everyone. And there are ways to cut the mucus. But:
Ask me what the five veggies I’d eat forever on that hypothetical desert island, without recourse to any others, but being able to cook them any which way I’d choose?
In no particular order:
Asparagus (okay, this one IS first)
Cucumber (probably fifth?)
(Well, I’d miss fennel and beets and collard greens and sugar snap peas and delicata squash and green or red cabbage, and, currently speaking, Brussels sprouts. One of these might switch out with the cuke, depending on the day I am asked.)
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: ~40 min
Rest Time: None
Serves: 2 or 3 as a main, about 5 as a side
Okra, Tomato, Mushroom, Onion… Indian Savory Style
* 2 tablespoons ghee (to make vegan, substitute avocado or sesame oil)
* 1/3 teaspoon cumin seeds
* 1/3 teaspoon fennel seeds
* 1 medium yellow or white onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
* 1 pound okra, trimmed of stems and any brown spots, larger ones cut in half
* 5 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
* 1 six-ounce can of tomato paste. (Mine had been opened to remove a tablespoon for another recipe. If you have it, add the whole can.)
* 2 plum tomatoes, quartered or so
* 1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, diced. Seeds removed or retained depending on heat tolerance. Any other pepper can be substituted. (This one just happened to be in the fridge at the time.)
* 2 cloves diced garlic
* 3 sprigs of curry leaves (try two if you have the fresh, not frozen, leaves); remove stems.
* 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
* Salt and pepper to taste
Get the ghee/oil hot on medium-high in a high sided skillet or pot. Add the cumin and fennel seeds. Cook until brown (alternatively you can dry-fry them and add the ghee right after). This will take 2-3 minutes.
Add the onion, stir around, let it get translucent, about ten minutes.
Add mushrooms and okra, allow to cook another 5-10, until the mushrooms are noticeably cooked.
Add the tomato paste, the tomatoes, hot pepper, salt and ground pepper, garlic, curry leaves, and turmeric. Mix around for about five minutes, then reduce heat to a very low simmer, and cover. We want a little liquid to develop. About 15 minutes.
PS: there was little if any mucus in the okra, and it still had a little welcome crunch. And it is great fun to find a batch of items in danger of going bad, and treat them RIGHT before they really do so, without having to run out to supplement at the grocery! And this one makes a great recipe actually to plan for, if one is so inclined (I do realize a lot of people don’t have a stash of Indian spices to hand at the ready, as I do).
I now have two lunches ready for work next week. Yay, team.
My recommendation for keeping spices to hand: Online — Source Penzey’s, source Kalustyans, source Savory Spice Shop, AND additionally, source your local Indian or far Eastern market, and buy those spices. Unlike herbs, spices have a long shelf life, especially the ones you buy whole. If you do source herbs in advance, many (not all) can be frozen for future use. Yes, some are expensive, but since you’d be using them in tremendously small quantities, this is cost-effective for the flavor factor down the road. (Maybe not quality saffron, but at some near point I plan to grow my own saffron crocuses. It’s the hand by hand harvesting of saffron that makes it shopping-prohibitive, not the plant itself). Buy just a few spices at a time, and learn what you like, and what you seriously desire to taste!