If you didn't grow up cooking Indian food, then it's sometimes a daunting cuisine to take on. But after living in India for a year I discovered that there are basics even non-Indians can master. The first secret is in cooking for a long time — Indian cuisine is all about developing the flavors and if you want a quick fix, then you shouldn't even start. The second secret is proper spices — don't take out ground cumin that's been sitting in your cabinet for months and don't buy a garam masala from a generic brand. Buy fresh cumin seeds, fresh coriander, and find a real spice market for an original garam masala blend.
This okra appetizer is a primer for anyone who wants to try cooking Indian food but is a bit hesitant. There's nothing complicated; you just have to leave time for simmering. Take it from a white girl who loves Indian food: You can do it!
Note: You can prepare the okra and sauce ahead of time, but make sure to keep them seperately before reheating; otherwise the okra will get soggy.
- 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 large Vidalia onion, diced
- 2 Teaspoons garam masala
- 2 Dashes of kosher salt
- 1 Teaspoon cayenne
- 8 whole cardamom seeds
- 4 tomatoes, diced
- 2 Cups okra
- 2 Dashes of extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 naan, cut into small triangles
Toast the cumin seeds over high heat — with no oil — in a pan for about 1-2 minutes and then grind them up with a mortar and pestle. Throw them into a pan with the onion, garam masala, a dash of salt, cayenne, and cardamom seeds. Let the onions cook down over medium heat until soft, for 5-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and then reduce the heat.
As the sauce is cooking, set the oven to broil. Cut the tops and bottoms off the okra and slice them into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Place them in the oven on a baking sheet with a little bit of olive oil and a dash of salt. Put the okra in the oven until they are slightly browned and no longer taste slimy, for about 10 minutes — make sure to turn them every few minutes and while turning them, check to see if they are done (okra pieces can cook faster or slower depending on the size you've cut them into).
Once the okra is cooked, remove from the oven. Rub some oil on the naan and place in the oven until toasted, about 5 minutes. Once the sauce has been cooking for at least 20 minutes, add the okra to the pan and bring it back up to a simmer. Carefully remove the whole cardamom seeds from the sauce. Remove the naan from the oven and spoon the okra onto the triangles. Serve immediately.