Friday, September 01, 2006
Okra, or Bamia, as we call it in Israel, is a much maligned vegetable. It stands, right next to cilantro and buckwheat, on the love-'em-or-hate'em shelf of foods in our collective consciousness.
When I came to the US, I discoverd, to my surprise, that breaded and fried okra was a Southern delicacy. I've also had it in Indian restaurants as Bhindi Masala - which is how my dear friend and heart-sister, Barbara, makes it.
Here, in the Middle East, we like our bamia in tomato sauce, over rice. It's an Egyptian recipe, apparently, and quite a favorite among those who like bamia. This week we were really fortunate to get a beautiful variety of bamia from Chubeza: it was dark burgundy, with a flourescent green stripe on the side. So, we set out to cook it.
Now, here's the tricky part: the folks who hate bamia, hate it because it produces a strange, mucuos-like substance. Ick, indeed. But the trick to eliminating that part of the experience is lightly frying the bamia before cooking it in the sauce.
Bamia in Tomato Sauce
3 cups of fresh bamia
2 garlic cloves
1 large onion
2 large tomatoes
1 container of tomato paste
juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of spices: dried dill, dried parsley, caraway seeds... or anything else you like with your tomato sauce (no basil this time, sorry)
Take the bamias and chop off their stem. Do not mess with the rest of the vegetable! Put them in a hot pan with some olive oil, and lightly toss them around for three or four minutes. Then, add chopped onion and garlic. After a couple of minutes, chop in the tomatoes, add the tomato paste, lemon, and spices. Simmer for about half an hour; add water if it gets too dry. Spoon over rice and munch.