One of my oldest and most beloved cookbooks is Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery which Bethany and I must have bought in London back in the mid eighties. The pages of favorite recipes are stained with the rich colors of Indian spices and splattered with oil.
Here is her lovely way to prepare okra, or as they were traditionally known in Britain, ladies fingers (yuck) and, much more evocatively called by Jaffrey, bhindi.
Sweet and Sour Okra.
14 oz okra
7 cloves of garlic
1 whole dried hot red chili
7 tbsp of water.
2 tsp of ground cumin.
1 tsp of ground coriander
1/2 tsp of turmeric
4 tbsp of vegetable oil.
1 tsp of cumin seeds.
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
4 tsp lemon juice.
Cut the okra into 3/4 inch rounds. Put the garlic and chilli in a blender with 3 tsp of water. Blend to a paste. Add the ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric, blend briefly to mix.
Heat the oil to medium in a skillet. When hot, add the whole cumin seeds. As soon as the seeds begin to sizzle, turn the heat down and add the spice paste. Stir and fry for a minute. Add the okra, salt, sugar and lemon juice and the rest of the water. Stir to mix and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover tightly and cook until the okra is tender, no more than ten minutes.
Here is what we got in the box this week. John kindly swapped out the yard long beans for some malabar spinach, since we have so many of the beans from our own garden. By the way, here is the recipe I use for pickled yard long beans. You curl them into the jars whole so they look great in the jar and they come out like a Slinky.
It has been fun trying this new (to us) herb from Frog Song Organics, papalo, in various ways. It is also known as Bolivian Coriander and is said to taste like cilantro, so that is what we tried first.
I have been growing okra in the garden this year, so for brunch this Sunday I made a okra frittata and sprinkled papalo on top. Here is the recipe. It makes enough for four people.
One dozen okra
Tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped papalo leaves for garnish.
Heat a ten inch skillet, add olive oil. Slice the okra in rounds. Add to the skillet and sauté until bright green (2-5 minutes). Beat the eggs and add salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into the skillet and cook until browned on the bottom. Loosen the frittata from the skillet bottom. Place a large plate over the skillet and turn it over. Add more oil to the skillet if necessary, then slide the frittata back into the skillet and brown the other side. Repeat the plate trick with a clean plate, sprinkle with papalo and serve warm.
My favorite thing to do with a bunch of amaranth leaves is to make Jamaican Callaloo. Callaloo seems to be one of those words that is used to mean the soup, the cooked vegetable, and the growing vegetable, at least in Jamaica. Callaloo soup in Trinidad seems to be made with a different plant. I use a a variation of this recipe.
Amaranth grows very well in Florida. Once you have it in the garden, you will never get rid of it and it is a green that will survive the heat and humidity of a Florida summer, so I am not surprised to find it in Frog Song’s CSA box this week.
Here is the recipe that makes enough for four.
One large bunch of amaranth leaves.
One onion, sliced.
One clove of garlic, sliced.
Few sprigs of thyme.
Half a dozen okra.
Four cups of chicken broth. I like to make my own, but we didn’t have any in the house today.
Half a pound of crab meat (more about that later.)
One whole scotch bonnet or habanero pepper (I got mine from a friend’s garden.)
One cup of coconut milk (I have seen various callaloo recipes with this, but having made the soup with it, I don’t think it adds much to this recipe.
Wash the callaloo thoroughly. It can be one of those gritty greens. Separate the leaves from the stems and chop the stems roughly. Add all the ingredients, except the crab and the okra, to a soup pot and simmer down until cooked through. Perhaps 20 minutes. Remove the scotch bonnet pepper and be very careful to keep it whole. This way it adds great flavor but not intense heat to the soup. If you purée the pepper, watch out! It will be very hot. Strain the solids and place in a food processor and purée. If you prefer a non-puréed texture, strain the solids from the liquid and chop finely. Return to the liquid. Add the crab meat and the chopped okra. Add salt and pepper to taste and heat through. I served it with lovely Olde Hearth whole wheat levain bread.
So the verdict? Bethany likes it, but would prefer better crab. Sam is not so keen. Deborah is too polite to say. I agree, a can of crab from Publix is not a great ingredient, but this is why I titled this post the fish issue. Getting good seafood is a big problem in Central Florida. Wholefoods has some good choices, but they are very expensive. Lombardi’s isn’t great. Publix’s is slightly cheaper, but the quality is not great and you are buying into the global seafood industry (my crab came from the Philippines) with all the problems that come with it; unsustainability, poor labor conditions, and environmental damage. See this interview with Paul Greenberg on NPR’s Fresh Air for more on this issue.
My callaloo would have been great with fresh crab caught from the end of the pier by the kids on a family vacation. But is that the only way to have seafood in my diet? That doesn’t strike me as globally sustainable either. We will return to this issue when I write about our second course.
As everybody knows, succotash is a Native-American dish made largely from corn and beans. So we brought a couple of ears of sweet corn (Bethany was not sure if it was Georgia or Florida corn, but hey) and we headed home for lunch. Here is the recipe.
2 ears of corn, shucked.
As many Lima beans as you can gather from the garden. Only a dozen in our case.
Half a dozen grape tomatoes, quartered.
one clove of garlic
Half a dozen okra, chopped into rounds.
Two sweet peppers, roasted, seeded, and chopped.
Olive oil and salt and paper to taste.
Sauté the garlic in the oil over a medium heat until you can smell it. Add the fresh Lima beans and enough water to cover them. Boil the water away. As the water evaporates add the thinly sliced onion. As the onion softens, add the tomatoes. As the tomatoes soften add the corn and then the okra. Add the roasted and chopped peppers. Cook only until the corn and okra have cooked through. The okra will turn bright green. Add salt and pepper to taste. I like to finish it with a splash of good olive oil from Ancient Olive ( a Spanish Pichual) and a sprinkle of sea salt.