If you think you don't like okra, think again.
This tasty way of making okra is delicious and never slimy.
It is a Middle Eastern recipe that is called Bamia, and it is one of our family favorites. For many Americans, okra is an uncommon vegetable that shows up mostly in soups or stews. We make it as a side dish that we eat over rice.
Okra is naturally gluten free and very nutritious. It's a good choice for those with digestive problems since it cooks up soft and tender.
Old Family Recipe
The first time I ever tasted Bamia was at my husbands parent's house. I got married when I was 21. It was in the 1970's. Prior to my marriage, my exposure to vegetables had been very American: creamed corn, string beans, peas and carrots - most of them from a can. I learned how to make and eat fresh okra from my mother in law who is an excellent Middle Eastern cook accustomed to making fresh vegetables. This is her old family recipe.
My mother in law's recipe is typical of many Middle Eastern Bamia recipes, but she adds a secret ingredient unique to her recipe. She adds dried apricots to her sauce. It is a variation which makes the sauce little sweet and savory.
Small Pods are Best
My mother in law explained to me that the small okra pods are the tastiest. The large pods get hard and coarse and are not ideal for cooking. I've seen okra growing on the farm at my CSA, and I've noticed that once the pods get large, they become woody and not suitable for cooking. When you buy frozen, look for baby okra.
I Picked Okra in the Fields at My CSA Farm
After spending many afternoons picking okra at my CSA, and getting scratched by the woody thorny branches all over my arms and legs, I've decided to buy okra in the supermarket fresh or frozen. I like the frozen whole pods the best. The Middle Eastern brands package really small pods, cleaned and ready to cook . The okra is usually just the perfect size.
So, if you are accustomed to eating okra American style in stews or soups, you may really enjoy this change: Okra cooked in tomato sauce.
Okra Has Excellent Nutritional Benefits
In addition to the interesting taste, okra has many nutritional benefits. It is very high in Vitamin K, low in calories, and provides substantial amounts of fiber and manganese. It also is loaded with antioxidants that are so important to protect against the rays of sun exposure. It's a great vegetable to work into your menu to boost vitamins and antioxidants while providing some variety to your meals.
If you have never made okra, now is the time to try.
Look for it in the frozen case of your supermarket or in an ethnic food store, especially a Middle Eastern stores.
I bought a small bag of baby okra for 1.99 at an ethnic food store.
It cooked up great and makes a perfect side dish over rice for most meals.
1 14 ounce bag of whole pods baby okra ( or 1 pound of small pods of fresh okra )
1/8 cup olive oil ( 3 Tablespoons olive oil)
( 3 large cloves garlic, pressed or chopped)
14 ounces of tomato sauce with garlic and herbs
juice of a half large lemon
4 dried apricots ( whole)
1/4 cup of water in beginning and additional if sauce cooks down
Pour oil in a large skillet, add okra, and cook on medium heat for a few minutes until okra begins to turn color. Add garlic and mix through the okra as it cooks. Add tomato sauce, juice of the half lemon, apricots. Stir and allow to slowly cook over very low heat for about 40 minutes covered. If the sauce looks like it is cooking down add the water and stir. Serve over rice as a side dish.
*** cooking time depends on size of the okra- if very very small like in the pictures , cook for 25 minutes ( but the small ones are hard to find
****if you prefer to use fresh tomatoes, cut up 4 medium tomatoes and whiz in blender with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. Whiz quickly and use as a sauce instead of the tomato sauce.
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|frozen baby okra|
|okra with the fresh chopped garlic|
|cooking slowly on a very low flame with the tomato sauce- add 1/4 cup water if needed|