It’s pretty amazing how my palate has changed over the past two years of following a Nutritarian diet. Not only have I learned new preparation techniques, I have learned to prepare foods I have never eaten before. It has been an enjoyable and enlightening process of discovery.
I also love to cook for others. I want the food to be so delicious that people aren’t thinking to themselves, “This is weird,” or “What’s in it?” both of which are just code for “Is there some kind of meat in this somewhere?” or “Am I going to be disappointed?” I don’t beat people over the head with my food philosophy or lifestyle. I’d rather wow them with delicious food and make them curious enough to ask about it.
One food I never thought I would eat is okra. Tough, slimy, totally gross, NO NO NO I am totally not going there. No gumbo for me. Fried okra was still, well, okra, and the slime was always lurking. But recently, I accidentally ate okra at a restaurant and could not believe how delicious it was! I’ll share my recipe below. Sorry, there is no photo — we ate it all too fast to think about documentation!
The encouragement I would offer to anyone is to keep trying foods that are new to you, and be willing to experiment with different ways of preparing those foods. Previously, I had tried okra boiled (yuck), fried (yuck), stewed (double yuck), and sneaked into soups and stews (yuck, pick that stuff out). Modeled on the restaurant version, I created a dish that requires no added oil, sugar, salt, or animal products. This is a new favorite, like a “we’re having this once a week” favorite. All this from a (previously) confirmed okra-hater!
I don’t really do recipes, as such, but if you are a little bit adventurous, you can try this process.
1 bag of frozen sliced okra,(12-16 oz.) thawed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 Tablespoon garam masala
2 Tablespoons chickpea flour
Now, don’t worry. You can combine any spices you like. You could use a tablespoon of chili powder, or more, to taste. Garam masala is my favorite Indian spice blend, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use curry powder or some other blend. Adjust the spices to your taste. Go easy on the spices if you are not sure: you can always add more. I like chickpea flour because I don’t do well with wheat. I haven’t experimented with other non-wheat flours, but I think corn meal would also work well.
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Thaw the okra in a colander or strainer. When it is thawed, wrap the okra in a dishtowel and get it as dry as you can. It will still feel kind of slimy, but it shouldn’t be drippy. As dry as possible (but don’t make yourself crazy).
Put the okra into a large bowl. Add the spices and combine well. Another way to do this is to put the okra and spices into a 1 gallon zipper bag, and shake/massage until the okra pieces are pretty evenly coated with the spice mixture. When it looks like the pieces are evenly spices, add the chickpea flour and combine again. Add a little more of the flour if needed, just so that the pieces are no longer sticking together.
Transfer the coated okra to a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until crispy, keep an eye on it. It will take 45-60 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is and how dry the okra is. Turn the okra on the sheet to promote equal cooking, and to feel how crispy they are getting. If you don’t like okra, don’t taste it until it is crispy, because otherwise you will still taste the qualities of okra that we don’t like.
If you use fresh okra, the cooking time will be much shorter, because you are starting out with a drier product. Keep an eye and a nose on it — your home will start to smell fantastic, and your mouth will be watering.
The two vital elements of this process are : 1) make the okra as dry as possible before you add the spices, and 2) cook it until it is crispy. When you turn them, you will hear the sound of “hard things” on the baking sheet. See, cooking takes ALL of your senses! My recipe had to bake for an hour, so next time I make this, I will spend more time drying the okra at the beginning.
I never would have believed that the words “Delicious” and “Okra” could appear in the same sentence – especially in a sentence that I wrote. Change is always possible. It’s an okra miracle!
*How have your changing tastes surprised you?
It’s been my question each time I have made my Nutritarian vegetable broth: what do I do with those leftover cooked veggies at the bottom of the pot? I can’t stand to waste food, and I live in an apartment complex where composting is not really an option. After researching numerous food blogs and doing a bit of experimentation, I think I have discovered a successful solution: Savory Leftover Veggies Pancakes! I made them for dinner this evening, and they turned out to be amazingly tasty. Even C. pronounced them “Really good.”
First things first. Here’s my approximate recipe for vegetable broth. I say approximate because it is a little different every time. I have been following a Nutritarian diet and lifestyle for the past year, so there is no added oil or salt in this recipe. Have you checked the sodium in commercial vegetable broth? Unbelievable. Mine is better, anyway. And yours will be, too. Say no to processed foods! Unless you process them in your own kitchen, of course.
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, with leaves (about a cup), chopped
3 carrots, chopped (peel them if they need it. If the peels are smooth, I leave them on.)
2 or 3 Yukon Gold or red potatoes
1 small sweet potato
1/2 to 1 cup chopped mushrooms (any variety)
fresh parsley (1/4 to 1/2 of a large bunch)
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
14 cups water
Heat a large soup pot. Add a few tablespoons of water to the bottom, then add the onion and celery. Water sauté until celery begins to soften and onions turn translucent, adding a splash of water every now and then to keep the veg from sticking to the pot. You want to sauté, not boil, the veg, so keep them moist but not floating!
Add the carrots, potato, sweet potato, and mushrooms, and continue to sauté until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid. Add the bay leaf, the parsley (you can use the stems, too, or not), the seasoned rice vinegar, and the 14 cups of water.
Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer for about 20 minutes. Fini!
You will end up with about 12 cups of fabulously flavorful vegetable broth.
I then fish out most of the vegetables and place them in a large colander over a big bowl to drain. Find and discard the bay leaf.
When most of the veg are out of the broth, I pour the broth through a sieve into a large bowl, straining out the remaining veg. I like my broth a bit on the rustic side, so there is no need to strain it through cheesecloth — although you could. Let the broth cool. I then transfer mine to quart-sized plastic storage bags, 2 cups in each one. Squeeze out as much air as you can before you seal the bag. (Don’t forget to label each bag with the date and what it is!) I like to put the bags on a cookie sheet, and slide that into the freezer. When they are frozen, they are like little file folders and can stand up, tucked conveniently in the fridge for whenever you need vegetable broth.
PREPARING FOR THE MAIN EVENT
You will have about six cups of soggy cooked veggies in your colander and strainer. Combine them and let them sit to drain over that big bowl for a few hours, or overnight. You’ll probably have at least another cup of broth that drains out. I save that in the fridge for future sauté-ing, or any other recipe that calls for broth. Onward. Divide the veggies into 2-cup portions, and pop the containers into the freezer.
THE MAIN EVENT: SAVORY VEGGIE PANCAKES!
These pancakes are absolutely delicious as a side dish or a main course. They are vegan, gluten-free, Nutritarian, and very low in fat. I added just the teensiest bit of coconut oil to the batter to make them brown nicely, and used some cooking spray on the griddle to minimize sticking. This recipe makes ten (10) scrumptious and savory pancakes. Here we go!
2 cups leftover broth veggies
1/2 cup chickpea flour (gram flour)
1 Tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash, Spike, or other no-salt seasoning blend
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil, or other light vegetable oil
Reserved: 1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable broth
In a food processor or sturdy blender, place 1/2 to 3/4 of the leftover cooked vegetables into the container, and process until smooth. Transfer this mixture, and the remaining vegetables, into a large mixing bowl. It will look kind of gross, but don’t worry.
Fold in the flour, seasoned rice vinegar, spices, and oil, until well combined.
Begin to add the vegetable broth, a tablespoon or two at a time, and continue to combine. Add broth until the mixture is the consistency of chunky pancake batter. Even if you like your regular pancakes a bit on the thick side, you want this batter to be a bit more thin, yet not runny. Thinner pancakes will heat all the way through.
Heat the griddle or a large pan until a few drops of water will spatter on it. Spray it with cooking spray (I used Trader Joe’s organic coconut cooking spray).
Use a 1/4 cup measure to pour the batter onto the griddle. Use the back of your ladle, or your pancake turner, to flatten them down a bit.
Let the first side cook for about two minutes. When the edges begin to sizzle and firm up, flip each pancake to cook the other side.
Be patient. If you try to flip the pancake too soon, it will stick to the griddle AND fall apart. I dip my pancake turner in a container of water between turns to cut down on the stickage. The second side will cook a bit more quickly than the first.
Remove pancakes from the griddle to a serving plate, and keep warm. Using a scant 1/4 cup of batter per pancake, I got 10 pancakes out of this batch.
Serve with your favorite savory topping. I served them with cilantro pesto (my fabulous no-added-oil pesto), some tamarind chutney we happened to have, and Sriracha!
Use any kind of flour you like. The texture and flavor will be a bit different, but hey, that’s what keeps things interesting, right? Likewise with the oil, although be sure to use the smallest amount possible. I think a lighter flavored oil would be best, in any case.
You could also vary the seasoning profile, using ginger, soy, and garlic instead of the original spices, and top with Thai-style peanut sauce.
Another variation could be Italian spices (oregano, thyme, basil) and serve with a chunky tomato sauce or basil pesto.
I think the next time I prepare this, I will use garam masala and go all South Asian up in here. The chutney, or (non-vegan) a lovely yogurt raita would be fantastic.
Lots of possibilities. This is a new favorite at our house. If you try it, let me know what you think!
[For additional inspiration on this theme, Check out Helyn’s Vegan Zucchini Corn Fritters. It uses fresh veggies instead of leftovers.]