Okra is often combined with tomatoes and coriander in various parts of the Mediterranean. In Lebanon and most of the Middle East it’s known as ‘bamia’. I grew up eating it in Lebanon with or without meat and served with rice.

In many parts of the world it is eaten in many different ways like stir fried, cooked in meat stew, pickled, with rice, deep fried, cooked in soups, and even raw with a dip.

Popular in the South, okra is becoming increasingly common in supermarkets and grocers all over the world. This small green pod is known as a key ingredient in the thick piquant soup called gumbo.

Okra’s flavor and texture are unique. Its taste falls somewhere between that of eggplant and asparagus, and it marries well with other vegetables, particularly tomatoes. Not everyone finds this texture pleasing, but cooking the vegetable quickly will reduce the gumminess, allowing okra to be enjoyed as a stew or as side dish.

Frozen okra makes a substitute for fresh when used in soups and stews. I always buy frozen baby okras from a Turkish grocer not far from where we live.

If you are cooking fresh okra, trim just the barest slice from the stem end and tip, without piercing the internal capsule; prepared this way, the juices won’t be released and the okra won’t become gummy.

Ingredients (serves 4):
1½ lb (750g) frozen okra baby beans
3 tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
½ bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
½ cup tomato passata (tomato puree)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp dried coriander
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch of cumin
pinch of cinnamon
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the onions, garlic cloves and fresh coriander. Add the okra and sauté for about 5 to 7 mn stirring often. Add tomatoes, tomato passata, black pepper, allspice, salt, cumin, cinnamon, dried coriander and lemon juice. Add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered until okras are tender. Serve with pita bread or with rice.

Gombos aux tomates

Ingrédients (4 personnes):
750g de gombos surgelés
3 tomates, pelées coupées en dés
1 oignon, haché
5 gousses d’ail émincées
½ bouquet de coriandre fraîche ciselée
10 cl de coulis de tomates
1 càc de sel
½ càc quatre-épices
½ càc de coriandre sèche
1/4 càc de poivre noir
pincée de cumin
pincée de cannelle
2 càs de jus de citron
3 càs d’huile d’olive

Faites chauffer l’huile dans une casserole, et faites revenir l’oignon, l’ail et la coriandre fraîche. Ajoutez les gombos et faites revenir 5 à 7 mn en remuant de temps en temps. Ajoutez les tomates, le coulis de tomates, le poivre, les quatre-épices, le sel, le cumin, la cannelle, la coriandre sèche et le jus de citron. Recouvrez d’eau jusqu’à hauteur. Portez à ébullition puis baissez le feu et laissez mijoter jusqu’à ce que les gombos soient tendres. Servez avec du pain pita ou avec du riz.

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By Cherine

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