Okra is glorious in all its forms — pickled, roasted, stewed, grilled — but I have a soft spot for Zainab Shah’s bhindi masala, in which it’s sautéed and dressed in a spicy tomato sauce. It reminds me so much of the weeknight meals I had growing up.
The recipe works year-round with frozen okra (but definitely bookmark it for fresh okra later in the year!). It involves a simple technique for minimizing okra’s natural gloop: Let the vegetable brown in a pan, almost totally undisturbed, and then remove it from the pan until the masala is finished. When you’re ready to eat, add the okra back to the masala along with a squeeze of lime.
OK, cool, but what if you want to maximize okra’s natural gloop? Yes, thanks for asking! In that case, you can follow the same recipe but add the okra back to the masala with a splash of water to really stew for a few minutes, lending the sauce some slipperiness. The dish is delicious either way, and would be so good scooped up with pinches of ugali, soft roti or any kind of flatbread, or tipped onto instant polenta.
Zainab’s recipe is so versatile. You can use the same masala to dress sautéed spring vegetables like asparagus and peas, or to brighten up frozen vegetables like shelled edamame, cut butternut squash, cauliflower florets or corn.
If you want to keep things vegan, use vegetable oil instead of ghee, which is made from butter. If you do want to use ghee, it’s easy to find at the supermarket, though I’d highly recommend making your own: It’s as easy as clarifying butter, but just let the milk solids cook a little longer, until they’re nice and brown, before removing the pan from the heat.
And hey, if you’ve got some nice homemade ghee on hand, you can make Nik Sharma’s beautiful frittata, an ideal Sunday brunch. Or maybe a pan of saag paneer. Kay Chun’s recipe calls for baby spinach, but don’t forget that you can use a mix of any leafy greens you like. I often end up cooking saag when I have a mix of scraps that I want to put to use — beet greens, turnip greens, radish greens, chard, mustard greens and collards. They’re all delicious here!