Curry Grilled Okra

Here’s a fun party trick to find out who has some ties to the South.  Do a free association exercise with them—say a word and have them say the first word that pops into their head.  Try a few so as not to be so obvious, then spring “okra” on them.  If they immediately counter with “slime” well you know they came from, lived in, or have family from the South.  Pure Northerners will simply shrug and stare at you blankly.

Whatever your negative association or non-association with okra may be, I encourage you to give this artfully-shaped, fuzzy green pod a try.  Higher in protein than nearly any other veggie with a meaty texture to match, okra has a lot more to offer than slime.  In fact the slime can all but be eliminated depending on the cooking technique you use.

Even if you already love okra and embrace the slime, the possibilities of this veggie are most likely greater than what you have experienced.  Japan, India, Latin America and most of Africa regularly include okra in their meals with flavorings and preparation methods that expand beyond fried or gumbo.  This recipe is Indian inspired.  Grilling the whole pod eliminates slime altogether.  The piquant masala paired with the smoky flavor from grilling make this dish highly addictive.  On hot summer nights, we eat these spicy little treats like popcorn washing them down with a cold fruity beer.Okra--Curry Grilled

Buying, Storing & Preparing:  Okra is available in Wisconsin from August to October.  Buy them at the farmers market when you can as they can be hard to find in the off season at the grocery store. Some varieties can grow up to 7 inches and still remain tender, but unless your farmer verifies that her variety grows that long, get pods no bigger than 3 inches long.

Okra is extremely sensitive to cold and the flesh will begin to blacken if exposed to temperatures below 45 degrees F, so store in a paper bag wrapped in a canvas bag in the warmest part of the fridge. Freshly harvested okra stored like this can last up to 10 days.

Slicing into the seed pod releases the thickening agent or “slime” so trim cap by cutting just above the pod.

Okra--Cap trimmed II

Curry Grilled Okra
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 - 6 servings
  • 1 pound okra, 3 inches long; washed, caps trimmed
  • 1 t curry powder (or equal parts cumin, coriander, turmeric)
  • 1 t chili powder
  • ¼ t good garlic powder
  • ½ t regular salt
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges for garnish
  1. In a large bowl, add curry powder, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and mix.
  2. Add okra and toss. Drizzle in oil and toss further so that all the pods are uniformly coated with spice and oil.
  3. Using a wooden skewer soaked in water or a metal skewer, thread 6 or 7 okra. Threading a 2nd skewer through the okra, will prevent the okra from spinning on the skewer and make it easier to turn. Alternatively, line the grill with *non-stick aluminum foil, poke holes in it, and place the pods on the foil skipping the skewers altogether.
  4. Place okra on a heated grill.
  5. Grill for 7 – 8 minutes on each side over medium heat. Serve immediately, garnishing with lime juice.
  6. *Do not use cast iron, aluminum or exposed copper pots for cooking (especially frying or stewing) okra; it will cause the okra to turn black.


Okra--Grilled Ingredients

Okra--MasalaOkra--Grilled SkewersOkra--GrilledCooking with Kids:  Have the kids measure out the spices and mix them.  They can even toss and coat the okra; just have them use a spoon to do the job or find a lid to cover the bowl.  I have learned the hard way that little kids (at least mine) are not coordinated enough to toss oil, spices and veggies in an open bowl no matter how large the bowl and how few the okra.

Eating okra can be a challenge for kids and many adults. It’s a texture thing as the taste is very subtle.  Let the lime garnish help.  Kids seem to love the sour of citrus and the acid cuts the slime.   Drench their okra in lime juice for their first taste.

Split Red Lentil Dal

Split Red Lentils--Dal & RiceIf you’ve ever wanted to try making Indian food at home, start with dal. Think of it as the stepping-stone Indian dish.  Next to rice, nothing could be easier or more essential.  Dal refers to both legumes (peas, lentils or beans) which have been hulled and split and to the stew-like dishes created from these legumes. You can find many types of dal in the Indian grocery store:  toor dal is made from yellow pigeon peas; mung dal is made from mung beans and so forth.  In addition to varying pulses, dal recipes vary even more from region to region and family to family.

kerala_mapMy husband is from the spice coast of southern India, Kerala.  This is his recipe, which of course now makes it our family’s recipe. Because he misses food from his homeland and because I have purposefully avoided learning how to make anything from there, he has developed a talent for cooking it.  Any small whim or memory can set him off on recreating a meal from his youth.  The task brings him a satisfaction that I wouldn’t dream of stealing.  He owns this corner of the culinary map, which has saved me from having to feed everyone night after night—a daily imperative that could easily steal my joy for cooking.

So our family has established a tradition of dedicating Sundays to Indian cuisine.  The Man is the executive chef; we help out as occasional kitchen grunts. The weekly curries change, but dal and rice—the foundation foods of our Indian feast— remain constant.  The Man’s main recipe uses masoor dal, split red lentils.  He has taught me to cook it, and I have, but of course his always tastes better.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Split Red Lentil Dal
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4-6 servings
Serve with basmati rice and yogurt for a quick week-night meal.
  • 1 cup split red lentils (masoor dal)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 t cumin seeds
  • ½ t kosher salt
  • 3 + ½ cups stock or water
  • 2 paste tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  1. In medium sauce pan, heat oil over a medium-high flame until hot. Add cumin seeds and cook until the aroma is released–-about 30 seconds.
  2. Quickly add the chopped onion and salt. Sauté until the onion is golden—about 6 -8 minutes.
  3. Next add the lentils, 3 cups of water or stock, and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. (The lentils should be nearly cooked).
  4. Add chopped tomatoes and cook another 3 minutes. Add more liquid if it appears too thick.
  5. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro, and adjust seasoning. Serve with rice.
This is the basic recipe.

Add a green chili or dried red chili if you like a bit of heat. Add a cup of chopped tender greens like spinach or cabbage at the end and cook for a minute or 2 if you want an even heartier dal.

For the stock:water ratio, the Man usually uses 2½ cups stock and the rest water.

Split Red Lentil Dal--prepped ingredientsIf you’ve never before tried red lentils, please do.  Not only do they take little time to prepare (an exceptional trait among legumes) they have a unique flavor—rich, peppery, and satisfying with little additional flavorings or spices.  Moreover, they are a nutritional powerhouse. A grain (rice) and a legume (red lentil) eaten together give us all the essential protein we need, eliminating the need for animal proteins.  Many Indian families, including ours, eat just this combination of rice and dal with a bit of yogurt and a chutney or veggie for a complete meal.

Cooking with Kids:

This is less about cooking with kids than eating with kids.   If your kids are anything like mine, the first time they see anything new on their plate they scream, and yes, sometimes even cry, which inspires fantasies of sending them off as volunteers to a distant refugee camp where they might learn some gratitude for the food on their plates and roof over their heads!  That is how I know that some of you are thinking right now that your kids will never eat something like Indian food.   But this dish is pretty tame.  Once they get past the initial fit and put it in their mouth, I bet they will like dal, perhaps not immediately but soon. Remember, it may take up to 18 exposures to a new food before you can safely say that you don’t like it; that goes for kids and adults. So try serving it at least a few times before you give up…for awhile.  My kids (like the nearly 1 billion kids in India) have grown to love dal.  And once they like the dal and rice, well then we can start making some really tantalizing South Indian curries to go with them.