The grilled okra recipe in chef Floyd Cardoz’s 2006 cookbook One Spice, Two Spice inspired this one. His was the first grilled okra I encountered.
If you haven’t experienced the joy of grilled okra, and especially if the vegetable’s reputation for slime has made you a doubter, you are in for a treat. And if you do not have an outdoor charcoal or gas grill, don’t let that stop you. A cast-iron skillet or stovetop griddle will do the trick. Be sure to select tender okra pods, but for this particular recipe, since you’re grilling, you want to look for medium pods rather than the very smallest ones. If you’re still worried
that they will fall through the grates on your grill, skewer them before grilling or use a grill basket.
This recipe makes an ideal appetizer or cocktail snack. The flavors are intense, and the cayenne packs a punch. (If you’re sensitive to spice, you can dial it back a bit.) Be prepared to have your mind blown by how simple and delicious it is. Repeat until the summer okra is gone.
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1½ pounds tender okra pods, wiped clean and tough tops trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 small red onion or
2 medium shallots, minced (¾ to 1 cup)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves or scallion greens, for garnish'
Heat the grill to medium. If you will be placing the okra on wooden skewers to grill, soak the skewers in water for 10 to 15 minutes so that they do not catch fire on the grill.
Meanwhile, toast the coriander seeds and peppercorns in a small, dry pan over medium heat, shaking the pan gently so that they toast evenly and do not burn. After about a minute, as you begin to smell the pepper, add the cumin seeds and fennel seeds. Continue to toast, shaking the pan gently, until the cumin and fennel seeds are fragrant, another 30 seconds to a minute. Remove from the heat and, when cool enough to handle, crush with a mortar and pestle. You are not trying to grind the spices to a powder, but nor do you want them so coarse that they fall off the okra. (If you’re using a spice grinder or coffee grinder, keep it brief to achieve a texture that is more crushed than ground.)
Combine the toasted ground spices with the cayenne in a small bowl.
(If you do not have a grill and you will be cooking the okra in a cast-iron skillet on the stove, set the skillet over medium-high heat at this point. You want it to get very hot so that it will char the okra just like a grill would.)
In a large mixing bowl, combine the okra with the olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and half the spice mixture. Grill the okra (or cook in the skillet) until it is soft, blistered, and charred in spots, about 5 minutes. If you’ve skewered the okra for grilling or are using a grill basket, flip halfway through so that the okra chars on both sides. As soon as the okra comes off the grill or out of the skillet, slide it off the skewers (if you used them) and back into the bowl. Toss with the lemon zest and juice, onion, remaining spice mixture, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and chopped cilantro or scallion greens. Serve immediately.
Excerpted from I Am From Here: Stories and Recipes from a Southern Chef by Vishwesh Bhatt. Copyright © 2022 by Vishwesh Bhatt. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
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