**One week left in my $50 Sur La Table Giveaway!! Ends 9/25/13**
My semester abroad in Rome was the most fantastic 4 months of my life (no offense husband, kids). Immersing myself in a language and culture I had studied and seen from afar for YEARS was just so rewarding. Living down the street from the pantheon and campo dei fiori was just other worldly. But what was even better than living down the street from the pantheon, was living down the street from the gelaterie by the pantheon: gelateria della palma and giolitti. And what was so awesome about campo dei fiori is the open air market that sits daily. Needless to say, I had amazingly fresh food every day. I remember the very first thing I ate was bruschetta with kind of lackluster tomatoes (it was January, duh) but with such fruity olive oil and complex, crusty bread, that I was completely satiated. And I ate like that for about a week or two, pizza al taglio, pasta a cacio e pepe, stuffed zucchini flowers, fried artichokes, all the non porcine Roman specialties. Until I started getting homesick. When I got homesick, I called my mom, and made Bengali food. And for some reason, the first thing that came to mind when I thought of comfort food was mashed okra (dherosh bhorta). So I dragged my roommate and dear friend Jess (who just got engaged!!) across town, to the Bengali market. There, I found some puny okras, red onions, green chili and the mustard oil necessary to complete my gustative trip home (Jess, for the record, did not partake because of her texture issues. If you, like her, have an aversion to squishy foods, okra is not for you). After that, it kind of became a tradition…we would invite our friends over for a traditional Bengali meal in our tiny Roman apartment, usually consisting of rice, daal, chicken curry and some sort of fried veggie or salad. Then go out for gelato. Yeah, we knew how to party.Since then I always associate okra with Bengali comfort food. And this dish is just such a tasty (and quick!) way to experience it. I made this EXACTLY like my mom, not straying the least bit (except that I use Kosher salt; she swears by the iodized stuff). There is, surprisingly, no garlic or ginger. It is a tad salty, but feel free to adjust it to taste. This usually isn’t served as the main accompaniment to your rice…those would be more along the lines of chicken, beef, mutton or some sort of large fish. But it’s definitely enough for me, as I could probably destroy the whole thing in one sitting. Enjoy!
- 2 tbsp light olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp chili powder (or cayenne)
- 1 cup water
- About 3 cups okra, diced (I used 15 large, fresh from my in-laws’ garden!)
- 1/2 to 3/4 lb shrimp
- 1 and 1/4 tsp salt, separated
- 1/2 cup cilantro, for garnish
- Heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until soft.
- Add all the spices and water. Stir to combine.
- Add the okra and 1 tsp salt. Cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes (check on it occasionally. If the water dries out, add 1/4 cup more).
- In a separate bowl, season the shrimp with 1/4 tsp salt. After the okra is almost fully cooked through, add the shrimp. Cover and cook an additional 2 minutes.
- When everything is cooked through, turn off the heat and add the cilantro.