Andrea Reusing's Crispy Okra Recipe
Andrea Reusing's Crispy Okra RecipeJuly 31, 2012
Open the menu at Lantern restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC, in the height of the summer growing season, and the dynamic relationship between James Beard award-winning chef Andrea Reusing’s Asian-infused Southern cooking and local farmers is evident. Local ingredients, along with spices, herbs, and preparations from India, China, Thailand, and Vietnam, abound.
Photo: Peter Frank Edwards
“When we talk about global food, we often think about exotic favors, but so many ingredients - summer tomatoes, salty ham, sweet shrimp - are nearly universal. Cooking with them can make dishes feel close to home regardless of how they are seasoned." Reusing says.
One of Lantern’s summer staples, crispy local okra with Indian spices and hot tomato relish (which also appears in Reusing’s book, Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes), is an especially inspired take on what would otherwise be a classic Southern dish.
Photo: Brys Stephens
“Our fried okra has Indian spices, but people still recognize those flavors as their own,“ Reusing says.
“It was born out of a cooking demonstration I did at the farmers market. I was trying to use ingredients that the farmers had lots of, that people weren’t always choosing, and cooking them so people would love them,” she says.
“Even Southerners sometimes have a bad association with okra, so I started out trying to cook it in a way that reduces its mucilaginous quality. I sliced the okra lengthwise, tossed it with chickpea flour and Indian spices, and fried it really crispy—shoppers ate it up.”
Here’s the recipe:
Crispy Okra with Indian Spices and Hot Tomato Relish
Serves 4 as a small appetizer
1 tsp. coriander seeds
¼ tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
Vegetable oil for frying
1 large egg
¼ cup buttermilk
1 medium Serrano chile pepper, finely chopped
2 tbsp. chickpea flour
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 pints okra (just under a pound), stems removed
Sea salt for serving
Hot Tomato Relish (recipe follows)
In a small pan over medium heat, lightly toast the coriander, fennel and clove until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Allow to cool, grind, and set aside. Toast the cumin seeds in the same fashion and add it to the ground spices.
Fill a deep, heavy stockpot with about 3 inches of oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until a deep-fat thermometer reads 350°F.
Beat the egg in a small bowl and whisk in the buttermilk and Serrano pepper. In a medium bowl combine the chickpea flour, flour, salt, pepper, and spices. Cut the okra on a sharp diagonal into long ¼-inch-thick slices. Put the okra slices into the bowl with the flour mixture and combine, leaving a light dusting on each piece. Pour the egg mixture on top and mix with your hands, making sure to coat all surfaces. In batches, carefully lay loosely formed handfuls of 6 to 8 slices into the hot oil and cook for about 2 minutes, turning as necessary until the okra is golden brown and uniformly crisp. Drain on a paper bag, season with sea salt, and serve with the tomato relish.
Hot Tomato Relish
This keeps for several weeks in the fridge and is good with spiced basmati rice pilaf, grilled chicken or lamb, or a creamy corn stew.
Makes 2 cups
1 tbsp. expeller-pressed vegetable oil
½ tsp. brown mustard seeds
3 garlic cloves, slivered lengthwise
½ tsp. cayenne
1 1/4 tsp. turmeric
5 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup plain white vinegar
1/4 tsp. sugar
Heat the oil in a medium heavy non-reactive pot over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until the garlic is turning light golden brown and the seeds are popping. Add the cayenne and turmeric. Cook for 10 to 20 seconds and then add the tomatoes, salt, vinegar, and sugar. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft and the relish has thickened slightly.
>Also, get Chef Reusing's recipes for quick pickles from our August/September Issue