I love okra. I grew up eating it slow-cooked with tomatoes, onions, lemon juice, and a pinch of sugar, the way my Turkish Nonna Eva made it. When braised, okra comes out somewhat slippery, and my husband (one of the many people who object to okra’s potentially mucilaginous texture) doesn’t like it prepared this way. So at home, when I crave okra, I serve it pan-seared or roasted. Roasted okra, while delicious, has a tendency to dry out if left in the oven just a few minutes too long. Pan-searing is far faster and yields delectably crisp-on-the-outside, soft-within okra.
Look for okra that is firm, unblemished, and heavy for its size. Rinse thoroughly, then cut off the pointed end at the top. Cut in half lengthwise, and lay on paper towels with the cut side facing down; the drier the okra is before cooking, the more easily it will brown in the pan. Serve this spicy okra with a cooling yogurt sauce for dipping.
Serves 2 as an appetizer or 4 as a side dish
For the dip:
- 1 teaspoon crumbled dried mint
- 1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
For the okra:
- 1/2 pound fresh okra, washed, trimmed, and halved lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Make the dip: Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and taste for seasoning; adjust as needed, then refrigerate for 30 minutes to 24 hours.
Make the okra: Place the okra on a double layer of absorbent paper towels, cut side down, and let rest at room temperature 30 minutes to drain off excess water. Place in a large bowl and add the olive oil, salt, cayenne, and black pepper. Toss well to coat evenly with the spices.
Place the okra, cut side down, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. It should all fit in a single layer, but if it does not, then cook it in 2 batches to avoid stacking the okra. Set the skillet over medium heat and cook, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until the other side is also browned, about 3 more minutes. Adjust the seasoning if needed and serve hot or at room temperature, with the dip.