What did okra ever do to you? Besides being an itchy plant when it grows, it is harmless. But, throughout so much of the country it has gotten a reputation for being slimy, unappetizing or only good for frying. I am here to stand up for okra and tell you why you should give it a second chance. I first came across okra on a trip to India in 2007. In India they call okra “lady’s fingers”. The traditional dish is called bhindi masala where the okra is chopped up and mixed with onions, garlic, chilis, tomatoes and a variety of fragrant and mouth watering Indian spices. Serve me that and some warm roti (Indian whole-wheat bread) and I am in heaven. I fell in love with okra immediately. Upon my return to the states I began to seek it out. And it was then that I realized that we are a nation of okra-haters. Slowly but surely I had to make my case one dish at a time. I made jambalayas, I added it to stir-fries, I roasted it and I, of course, made a lot of bhindi masala.
As a future dietitian I appreciate the fact that okra is low calorie (50 calories per cup) and high in fiber (3g per cup). But my favorite thing about cooking with okra is that it is a natural thickener. Instead of added flour or roux to a recipe, okra becomes a natural, low calorie – zero fat way of providing thickness and texture to dishes. So, the next time you see okra at the farmer’s market don’t run away. Pick out the smaller pods (they are the most tender) and go home and try this recipe for bhindi masala and tell me you haven’t come over to my side!
Pippa’s Recipe for Bhindi Masala
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