I always thought okra was that slimy vegetable people in the south liked to put in their gumbo or to thicken their soups with. Then Jamila showed me how she cooks Okra. I loved it!
Okra cultivation originated in Africa, spread throughout the middle east. It came to our country with the slave trade, where it soon became a staple in the Southern states. When coffee was unavailable, roasted okra seeds were used as a coffee substitute. Some people grind the seeds and add it to their cornbread, or press them for oil. Even the beautiful hibiscus like flower and the leaves are edible!
Jamila always grew okra in her kitchen garden in Syria, along with tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, mint, eggplant, green onions, and squash. Jamila told me. “Everybody in my village has garden. We grew just for us and for people who need.”
“The okra we grew is this big” Mustafa said, showing me the last joint of his little finger for size.”Very good!”
Jamila showed me how the okra pods have mucilage which some people don’t like. I learned later that this mucilage attaches to cholesterol and triglycerides and removes them from the body, so it is good for you! However, if you don’t care for it, Jamila’s showed me what to do.
I watched Jamila put oil in a large deep sided frying pan. Then she put in the okra pods and turned the heat to medium or medium high. While the okra was frying, she cut ½ “ cubes of beef from a roast. “you can use beef or lamb, even ground meat”, she explained. “We use halal meat. Halal means a prayer is said over the animal as it is killed.” This calms the animal and the meat is not flooded with adrenaline, so the meat is more tender and tasty.
When the okra turned a brighter green, she removed it from the pan and added the beef cubes, along with 2 Tablespoons of vegetable ghee. “If you don’t have ghee, you can use butter,” she told me.
Jamila added crushed garlic, tomato sauce (“much better with fresh tomatoes!”), water, and salt. She turned the heat down a little and let it cook for 20 minutes. When ready to eat, she adjusted the seasoning by adding a little salt and more garlic.
Here is her recipe:
Wash 1 pound of fresh okra. Allow to dry overnight.
Put about ¼ Cup of olive oil in a deep frying pan. Turn heat to medium or medium high. Add okra.
Add 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
Stir okra occasionally.
Cut 1 pound of beef roast into ½ inch cubes.
When okra is tender and bright green, remove from pan.
Put beef cubes in pan with 2 tablespoons of vegetable ghee or butter
Brown the beef
half a can of tomato sauce or 3 fresh tomatoes
½ can of water
1 ½ tsp salt
Cook about 20 minutes until done. Add more garlic and salt if needed.
The frying and the tomato sauce cut the mucilage, and make the okra tender. Lemon or vinegar also works to get rid of the mucilage. The Okra contains vitamins A, B, C and –very good for bones—vitamin K. It also contains quercitin and isoquercitin, which reduces inflammation.
Both Thriftway and IGA should have fresh okra this week or next.
*Recipe is from the Mustafa Syrian Kitchen. For more information or for a special meal for a wedding, family gathering, or other event, call Jamila at 206-466-9597 or Mustafa at 206-458-2450 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org