This is the story of how a typo turned into an entree. In Whatsapp group of fellow moms, coordinating the dishes of a potluck, someone offered up a Samoa cake. Misreading that for “Samosa Cake” many of the moms jumped at the prospect: “Samosa cake?! What’s a Samosa Cake?! I want to try it!!”. After clarifying the mix up, some ideas were thrown around as to what a samosa cake would look like. I immediately thought of layers of phyllo dough stacked with a samosa meat mixture, baked and cut in slices. When I looked up for recipes that would meet these requirements, I pulled together elements from a Borek recipe (Turkish layered meat pastry), an Egyptian meat pie, and the filling from a Yemeni Samboosa. There are cubanelle or italian frying peppers here for flavor, often seen in Turkish recipes. There’s tomato paste from the samboosa recipe, an ingredient that is necessary for any red meat dish, in my humble opinion. And the whole layering and baking technique pulls from Egyptian meat pie recipe.
Citrus Quinoa Salad With Dates, Almonds, and Mint
Ramadan is coming up! I figured I should add a few more Ramadan friendly recipes to the blog, for those of us who are looking to depart a bit from the usual fried foods iftars. During these long summer days when we’re denying ourselves food and liquid for 15 hours straight, we need to treat our bodies well! This is a dish you can feel good about eating, that’s not going to make you crash before the long night of ibadah (prayers) you have lined up.
This recipe is based on one from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. I know a quinoa salad is not the first thing you think of when you consider French cuisine, but she’s filled her cookbook with things she makes for her family, without strictly adhering to a particular cuisine. In our hyperconnected world, it’s kind of impossible to resist influences from other regions. She’s got a Moroccan Tagine and carrot salad, small plates from her American upbringing, French pastries and traditional stews from her current residence. And she’s kind of an authority when it comes to food so I trust her with my quinoa!
I’ve taken a lot of liberties with her recipe though. First was to change the prep method for the quinoa. For some reason the package directions always tell you to cook it covered over low heat for about 15 minutes. That always gave me soggy quinoa. My way gives perfectly cooked and fluffy quinoa every time. Second, I nixed the ginger powder for cinnamon since I hate ginger and thought cinnamon would compliment the citrus. Third, I increased the fruit to nut ratio for my sugar loving palette. She suggests using any kind of dried fruits, nuts and herbs. I combined the dried fruits, nuts and herbs I thought would work best (dates, almonds and mint). You could also do raisins, pine nut and parsley. Or apricot, walnut and cilantro. It’s a vibrant, tasty way to prepare your quinoa that uses up the plethora of dates we often have lying around during Ramadan.
- 1 1/2 cups quinoa
- 1 cup medjool dates, pitted and diced small (about 7 dates)
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- salt and pepper
- juice of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 orange
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (recommended: Trader Joe’s California Estate EVOO)
- In a small saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to boil. Add quinoa and lower the heat to medium low. Cook for 12 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. After the 12 min are up, turn off the heat and put the lid on. Let steam for 3 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Set aside.
- Toast the almonds on a dry skillet over medium heat. Stir occasionally. When the nuts are light brown and fragrant, take off the heat and let cool.
- Chop the mint and combine with the dates and nuts in a large bowl.
- Make the vinaigrette: combine the orange juice, lemon juice, cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and olive oil in a jar. Put the lid on and shake vigorously.
- Add the quinoa and vinaigrette to the large bowl. Combine everything and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper as needed.
Mustard and Chili Mashed Potatoes and a Giveaway!
There’s a lot going on in today’s post. Firstly, we’re talking vegetable peelers and a giveaway! My good friend’s husband has started a company selling premium kitchen products, with their first being this awesome curved Japanese blade vegetable peeler! Using mine was a breeze – the sharp blade made for smooth cuts and the design definitely required less pressure from the hand doing the peeling. The sprout remover on either side helped get those little “eyes” out. I tackled these buds in no time. I will say, though, if you are used to the vertical peelers, it may take some getting used to. But as with any sharp edge, take care to curl the fingers of your supporting hand away while using!Because this is such a great product and think you guys would love it, too, we are giving one away! To enter, simply comment on my FB page responding to this question: What’s the first thing you would use ChefBasix Vegetable Peeler for? Good luck!Secondly, we’re talking about ghee – clarified butter that South Asians use to cook (some dishes) with. It doesn’t have the milk solids of butter, so it has a higher burning temperature. This picture shows how it happens. After melting the butter over low heat, you keep it on until it attains this golden color, not the amber color you would look for while making browned butter. We are just looking for the milk solids in the butter to toast up to give the ghee a nice nutty flavor. You don’t want to get to that light brown stage, otherwise you will lose too much moisture. Once you’ve gotten the right color, take it off the heat. You can let it cool in the pot, but I poured it into this bowl to show you what was going on. The milk solids sink to the bottom so you only spoon off the fluid on top. Left to cool long enough it will congeal and resemble the store bought ghee. This last step is not totally necessary in today’s dish, as we are not cooking with the ghee. It’s more for aesthetic purposes so you don’t have bits of brown running through the mashed potatoes (don’t toss it, though! spoon it over toast for a snack!). Finally, we are talking about aloo bhorta (mashed potatoes)! It seems like potatoes are a universal comfort food. When coming back from a family trip, or on days when we were low on groceries, dinner looked like this: steamed rice, aloo bhorta, an omelette and daal. South Asian immigrant parents have an almost militant attitude toward eating out. Take out was a non-existent concept. As newcomers, our parents had to reign with frugality. Though we were brats about it and whined about wanting pizza or burgers, our parents did the hard work of making every single meal from scratch. The aloo bhorta and omelette were studded with pieces of raw onion and slivers of green chilis. Most of my time during those meals were spent picking out the aforementioned bits to get to the good stuff. I was never a part of the set-my-mouth-ablaze-to-enjoy-my-meal set. So now, since I’m in charge of my kitchen, I’ve started to substitute scallion for the raw onion and dried red chili for the fruity spice of the green chili (or Thai chili as it’s known to some). The dried red chili still has some heat – just not as explosive as its green counterpart.
Traditionally, the potatoes are mixed by hand with mustard oil, salt, the onions and chilis. Individuals will later add as much or as little ghee atop the potatoes as they like to their portion. However, my many years of making and eating American style mashed potatoes would not allow me to serve a butter-barren bowl of spuds. It just needs the silkiness that butter imparts! Definitely mix by hands to achieve the full effect. I wore gloves, though, to protect my eczema prone hands from the heat. Though these are mustard and chili mashed potatoes, the mustard that’s used is in the form of oil, rather than the paste. I’ve never made it with the paste, but if you have trouble locating mustard oil, definitely feel free to use the powder or paste (starting with a 1/2 tsp and working your way up).
- 2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 tbsps mustard oil
- 1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
- 3 scallions, sliced thinly
- 2 dried chilis (3 if you like it HOT)
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Carefully lower the potatoes in and let cook for about 20 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
- While the potatoes cook, add the butter to a small saucepan and cook over low heat until melted and the butter becomes golden and fragrant. Turn off the heat and let cool.
- In a dry non stick skillet or cast iron skillet, toast the chilis over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. You should see the oil on the surface and the aroma emerge. Set aside.
- Add the cooked potatoes to a large bowl. Season with mustard oil and salt. Mash together with a potato masher. Add the scallions, chilis, and 4 tbsps of the clarified butter. Mix by hand, using your fingertips to break apart the chilis, until everything is uniformly distributed. Taste to see if the seasoning is just right. Serve with an extra dollop of the clarified butter.
Rhubarb Mango Chutney
Is rhubarb out of season yet? I am way behind with this post, I know. I have been behind on life, in general, as of late. So even though I made my husband track down rhubarb when the season for it first came around (it is surprisingly difficult to find around these parts) and serendipitously also had some delicious, though overripe, Haitian mangoes on hand to make this weeks ago…I am only now sharing it with you. Sad face.
I know the combination of rhubarb, overripe mangoes, anise seeds and mustard oil aren’t ingredients most people have on hand most of the time. But as we near the end of rhubarb season, I hope you can still attempt to make this chutney. Or at least save it for next year.
I know most people tend to make some sort of rhubarb/strawberry pastry this time of year but something strange has happened to me recently. My sweet tooth has faded. Maybe I’ve made one too many cookies. But for some reason, butter rich, sugar filled treats just don’t give me the same satisfaction it used to. Not to say I’ve shunned them for good. I still taste test what I make and indulge when I go out with my girlfriends. Anyway, I was looking for something a bit more savory, and palatable for the rest of the clan. This was probably one of my most successful experimentations. It was annihilated at my in-laws’. Reduced to half in my own home overnight. It just hit every note. Admittedly, there is a lot of sugar in this, but only because the rhubarb was so darn tart. I don’t regularly have rhubarb, I don’t know if they range in tartness, but the tartness of this batch rivaled any lemon. If yours is less tart, feel free to start out with a smaller amount of sugar, and add more as needed.
- 1 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 pinch anise seeds or pach forom
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 3 stalks of rhubarb, leaves and ends trimmed, diced into 1 in pieces
- 4-5 dried red chilis (less for mild heat)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- pulp of 2 overripe mangoes, preferably the haitian variety
- Heat oil over medium high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the anise seeds or pach forom and fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add rhubarb, chilis, sugar, vinegar, salt and mango pulp. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.
- Cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is broken down. Taste for seasoning.
Shrimp & Green Bean Purée (Chingri ar Beans Bhorta)
I don’t really give a lot of thought to New Years resolutions. Calendars are such a man made construct – how is tomorrow more or less relevant than today? I know I seem like Buzz Killington here, while everyone is hastily getting ready for their NYE parties (and hey, I am, too). But I just got this email from wordpress reviewing the year in stats that made me reflect a bit. Although it is nowhere where I’d like to be, I’ve come a long way from the early days of dinky pictures in low lit spaces. I’ve learned a lot and have put a lot of work into sharing content that I think will be meaningful you guys. And as I make my way through my late twenties, I definitely feel the pressure to do something I am proud of, improve and grow, and do right by my kids.Some of my favorite posts from this past year was Julia Child’s glorious ratatouille, the traditional Bengali Rice Pilaf that was actually approved for submission into Foodgawker, and the Sticky Toffee Pudding that I thought photographed so beautifully. I am proud though, of the progress I’ve made. Starting out with some not so relevant recipes to some pretty handy dandy ones for newbies to the [especially Bengali] kitchen. And though I haven’t garnered nearly enough traffic to consider myself a success, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hearing anecdotes from you guys about the different recipes you’ve tried and your personal success stories in the kitchen. A friend of mine posted on my Facebook page saying, “You inspire me to cook!” and I thought to myself, that is the whole reason I started this blog in the first place. To share some recipes or insights with people who don’t have the time or resources to spend in the kitchen. So to them, and to anyone else reading this, THANK YOU for making 2013 such a great year for Kitchen3N. I look forward to sharing more goodies with you guys in the years to come. Now, what is a bhorta? They are usually made from boiled/steamed vegetables or dried fish, then ground to a pulp using a shil pata (stone slab, kind of like mortar and pestle), along with raw onions, green chilis, salt and mustard oil. Sometimes dried red chilis. They are CRAZY good. My mom’s experimented with the preserved fish readily available in this country: anchovies, sardines, etc. But this one is the best. Some permutations include lime leaves (which can be hard to find, which is why I improvised with lemon zest and lemon juice). These aren’t traditional ingredients but they help brighten up the flavor without using way too much salt. It’s a great low fat side. Be warned though: it is spicy! Of course you can adjust it to your taste, but for an authentic Bengali experience, crank up the heat!
- 1/2 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails off
- salt, pepper and olive oil
- 3/4 lb string beans, stems off
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1/4 chopped yellow onion
- 1 tbsp mustard oil (could probably substitute regular ol’ mustard)
- 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 2 green chilis, roughly chopped (add just one if you are a heat lightweight! and wear gloves if necessary…just don’t stick your fingers in your eyes afterward!)
- This is unconventional, but it’s the only way I cook shrimp: toss shrimp with 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast in a 400 degree F oven for 7 minutes (more or less depending on the size of the shrimp. Once cool enough to handle, chop roughly and transfer into a food processor.
- Next boil some water in a large pot. Once it comes to a full boil, add 1 tsp salt and add the green beans (do it in batches if necessary). It should take 5 minutes to cook through. Drain, chop roughly and add to food processor.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and blend to combine. Serve with rice and daal.
Sweet and Smoky Butternut Squash
I’ve been eating bad lately. Like oreos bad. Like soup from a can bad. Now keep in mind, I’m not exactly a health nut. I don’t do juice cleanses or quinoa. Kale rarely makes an appearance at our dinner table (I prefer swiss chard). But, I tell myself I’m eating ok as long as I get plenty of veggies, minimize the processed foods and eat only sweets I bake myself. Butter and oil are ok, in my book, since I don’t eat fried foods on the regular. But something happened after Thanksgiving. Burnout, perhaps? Winter weather? I guess I’ve been entertaining and cooking a lot recently. So combine that with two kids, NYC’s first snow storm, homeschooling stuff and going back to work (part time), and less frequent help from grandma. Yes – that spells burnout. So much so that I’ve been neglecting this poor butternut squash for like a week and a half. It really was a testament to this vegetable’s shelf life. But, today was the day. Both kids napped (simultaneously)! The sun came out! I had a wrap for lunch while this was in the oven! Hallelujah.
I was definitely thinking about barbecue sauce when I made this. I saw Ina’s recipe for Caramelized Butternut Squash as well as this recipe for Southwestern Roasted Butternut Squash and thought, “Hey now, I think I’m on to something.” Kind of like the guy who first discovered the food warming capability of microwave radiation (when the chocolate in his pocket melted…what a fatty. I don’t even keep chocolate in my pocket. Ok ok I have way too much chocolate to store in a single pocket.). Or whoever discovered chocolate and peanut butter. Or sea salt and caramel. Everyone complains about how difficult it is to peel butternut squash, but after cutting my own poultry (don’t ask) this felt like a breeze! Anywho, tis the season for butternut squash. I’d love to hear what you think of this!
- 1 2-3 lb butternut squash
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp or a pinch chili powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with grease.
- Peel squash and dice into 1 inch cubes. Lay them evenly on the sheet. Season with the remaining ingredients and using your hands, combine well.
- Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes. At 15 and 30 minutes, flip the pieces over using a spatula to ensure even browning. Check for seasoning. Enjoy while it’s still warm.
Mixed Vegetable Stir Fry (Bhaji)
When I go to a Bengali restaurant for takeout, I usually overlook the greasy curried meat dishes or the fish floundering in murky masala waters and the bhortas that usually fall short of the homemade version. At most Bengali places, these dishes are laid out buffet style so you know exactly what you’re getting. I usually opt for one of the Biryanis (chicken or goat) and a side of some sort of mixed vegetable stir fry. These things always get me salivating. I guess it’s because they strike a fabulous balance of spice and sweetness. I’m not the type of person who goes gaga for sweet and spicy, but the sweetness in this dish is brought out by the slow caramelization of the vegetables (rather than sugar or honey) and just rounds out the flavor from the usual round up of spices, plus the extra Bengali zinger: pach phorom. Pach phorom is a combination of five aromatic seeds: black mustard, cumin, black cumin (also known as nigella), fenugreek (methi) and fennel. It can be found at any Indian grocery alongside all the usual spices. They have a licorice flavor, which adds an extra dimension to the dish’s flavor profile. This is important for vegetable dishes that have to compete with a follow up course of a rich meat or curried fish dish. This is something my mom made at the beginning of the week to just last the course of the whole week. It starts out with a base of softened onions, spices and garlic/ginger paste. You can play around with the vegetables to add your favorites, but to start, I used the two vegetables I found consistent in most Bengali mixed vegetable dishes: cauliflower and cabbage. Now, the two put together makes A LOT, so make sure your wok or pot is large enough to accommodate everything. I had to add the vegetables slowly, allowing some of the cabbage at the bottom to wilt and decrease in volume before adding more, and mixing to combine. While that goes, you’ll want to work on the second batch of veggies in a separate pan. I used just 2 cups of plain old frozen mixed vegetables. You can use the equivalent amount of zucchini, pumpkin, butternut squash, peas, string beans, whatever you like as long as you have a balance of green, orange, and white veggies. The cauliflower and cabbage steam in the wok for about 20 minutes. They get all tender and sweet. I ended up needing a shocking amount of salt but feel free to start out small and gradually increase to taste. Top with fresh cilantro. Serve alongside rice or naan or stuff inside a pita for a delicious wrap!
- 1/4 cup light olive oil or veg oil
- half a spanish onion, diced small
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp pach phorom
- 1/4 tsp chili powder (or more if you like it hotter)
- 2 tsp garlic/ginger paste (or 2 tsp minced garlic and/or ginger)
- 1 head of cabbage, cut into half inch strips
- 1 head of cauliflower, stalks and florets cut into half inch pieces
- about 5 green chilis (optional) with slits cut into them (also optional)
- 2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp light olive oil or veg oil
- 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 3 handfuls of cilantro
- Heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and let soften for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, pach phorom, chili powder and garlic/ginger paste. Stir to combine. Add the cabbage in batches, allowing the bottom most wilt a bit before adding the next batch. Continue until all the cabbage is in the pot. Stir to combine. Next add the cauliflower, one batch at a time, ensuring everything gets an even coating of the oil/onion/spice mixture.
- Add the green chilis, salt, pepper, and water and stir to combine. Put the lid on and let it steam. It will take approximately 15 to 20 minutes for all the vegetables to cook through. Occasionally lift up the lid, and stir the vegetables, bringing the bottom vegetables to the top so everything gets an even cooking. Take care towards the end not to break apart the cauliflower florets.
- In a separate shallow fry pan, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium high heat. Add the frozen vegetables and remaining cumin, coriander and turmeric. Season to taste. Break apart with a wooden spoon and stir to make sure everything gets seasoned and cooked evenly. When heated through, turn off the heat.
- When the cauliflower and cabbage are cooked through, add the mixed vegetables and cilantro and stir to combine. Add a teaspoon or two more salt, according to taste.
Julia Child’s Ratatouille
So, I’ve renamed my blog! Kitchen3n.com is now your source for traditional Bangladeshi as well as updated American and Mediterranean recipes. Please spread the word!Also, we have a winner for our giveaway! Congratulations to @DistractedDebra on winning the $50 gift card to Sur La Table! Happy shopping!It wasn’t going to be long before I posted something from my copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (thanks to the hubby for the perfect birthday present!). My first attempts were some of the omelettes, the techniques for which she describes in painstaking detail. I had always heard that eggs were to be cooked low and slow…but she cooks them over very high heat for just a few seconds. And with all kinds of jerking, shaking and flipping action. All of which I failed at, miserably. So, I tried my hand at the ratatouille. Mainly because I had most of the ingredients on hand (a little short on the green pepper so I subbed red pepper). Also, I’d never had ratatouille before and seeing as how I LOVE eggplant, didn’t mind trying it a new way. And yes, that is a ruler you see in the previous picture. She is very specific about cutting the eggplant and zucchini into 3/8 inch slices (if my zucchini looks funny, it’s because TJ’s ran out of regular zucchini and only had baby zucchini left). The total cooking time was 1.5 hrs (active). I’ve never spent that amount of time on a vegetable casserole. But I wanted to do something by the book, and I wanted to make sure I did it just right. I didn’t by the way. In the final cooking, after the vegetables are layered and are set over a low heat to mellow out for ~20 minutes, she says to take care not to scorch the vegetables on the bottom. I scorched the vegetables on the bottom. Like many others, I will probably be making my ratatouille in the oven from here on out. The main flavorings come from the slow stewing with the tomatoes, a little bit of parsley and garlic. I would probably remake in the summer, when the tomatoes are at their ripest and have a lot to offer to the dish.
Not to say that it wasn’t tasty. You can definitely taste all the TLC (tender loving care) that went into its preparation. I would probably add a bit more seasoning next time (increased salt and pepper, perhaps some herbs de provence, more garlic). I’m not sure how it’s traditionally eaten in France, but it was fabulous alongside a piece of baguette and yes, you guessed it, even rice.
From Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
- 1 lb. eggplant
- 1 lb. zucchini
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 lb thinly sliced yellow onions
- 2 sliced green peppers or 1 red, 1 green pepper
- 2 to 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves mashed garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb. firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and juiced (you can also use whole, peeled tomatoes in a can, just cut them across and squeeze gently to dispose of seeds and excess juice)
- salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp minced parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8in thick, 3in long, and 1in wide. Prepare the zucchini similarly. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and arrange on a wire rack over a baking sheet to let the excess moisture out (about 30 minutes).
- Heat up the olive oil in a 10 to 12in skillet over high heat. Fry the zucchini and eggplant, one batch at a time, for about 1 minute on each side until golden brown. Set aside.
- Add more oil to the pan and sauté the peppers and onion until soft (about 10 min). Add the garlic, salt and pepper to taste.
- Slice the tomatoes into 3/8in strips. Place them atop the peppers and onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Then, uncover and baste the vegetables with the juices rendered. I turned off the heat at this point, which is why my ratatouille was saucy, but the original recipe directs to cook until all the liquid has evaporated.
- Layer the casserole in a cast iron or other fire proof casserole dish (2.5 qt): 1/3 tomato/pepper/onion mixture and 1 tbsp parsley, then half the zucchini/eggplant. Followed by another 1/3 tomato mixture and 1 tbsp parsley. Then the rest of the zucchini/eggplant. Finish with the last third of the tomato mixture and last tbsp of minced parsley.
- Cover and cook at low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook for an additional 15 min, basting occasionally with the juices rendered. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Curried Shrimp & Okra (Dharosh ar Chingri)
**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.