Indian Stuffed Okra

I love the okra. My mom used to cook fried okra and it was so good, but I don’t eat it much any more. I learned from my friend Todd about stuffed okra – an Indian dish that calls for stuffing okra with a mix of intense spices. We cooked it once during one of our Thursday night regular cooking sessions and it was an instant favorite.

Below: Start with fresh organic okra. Preferably from Texas, if you happen to be a Lone Star stater like me. 🙂

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You make a slit down the side of each okra. Your goal for making this cut is to create a pocket inside the okra into which you can stuff a half teaspoon or so of powder. To make my mix, I used 2 tsp mango powder, and one tsp each of chili powder, cumin, and turmeric. Next, you toss the okra in the leftover spices and saute them with some chopped tomato in a hot pan. I sauteed them in some ghee, which is clarified butter. (I can handle ghee since the proteins have been removed.)

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Now, after a super hot meal (I also added some whole dried chiles), I needed something to cool me off. Luckily I had some NadaMoo! in the freezer. Ahh…

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Ayurvedic Cooking

Time to cook Ayurvedic stuff!

I loved macrobiotics – the theory made sense to me and the food was very grounding. But at times I found myself craving some pungent spices and heat. Garlic, cinnamon, chiles, and sweet fruits are not things you get in large quantities in macrobiotics.

Ayurveda, on the other hand, comes from India, where spicy foods rule (or so I’m told). Depending on your dosha, you may be encouraged to pump up the salty, sour, pungent and sweet.

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One of my first tasks in our Ayurvedic cooking labs was to make a chutney from cilantro, chiles, salt and coconut. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Chutney is a salty, sweet, spicy condiment. Kind of like a jam or a sauce – it can be sweet or savory. More on chutneys in a later post…

Below: Blending up a chutney.

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High and Dry (Cooking)

Wednesday we played around with dry cooking methods such as saute, roast, grill, and fry.

Demo Kitchen – Morning

Below: Some of my classmates practice tossing dry beans in saute pans. Today our demo session was a bit more hands-on – with some students practicing sauteing onions and deglazing with white wine. The hands-on demo sessions are a welcome contrast to a typical lecture format. 

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Below: Bird’s-eye view of Chef Rosa doing a cooking demonstration.

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Below: Some marinated pan-fried tofu with a white and black sesame crust. I really enjoyed the toasted sesame flavor and the texture of the crust. Tofu has a lot of potential, but it takes the right accompaniments and methods to bring the best out of it.

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Below: Demo kitchen was a smorgasbord of samples – broiled tomatoes on onions, roasted Brussels sprouts, bok choy stir fry, and sesame-crusted tofu. One student took on a gluten- sesame- and pepper- free stir fry. The school seems to be very accommodating to allergy sufferers. I myself have sensitivities to gluten and dairy.

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Lab Kitchen – Afternoon

I was happy to have lab kitchen in the afternoon because the demo lectures right after lunch can be a bit tough. Today was my day in the dishwashing rotation, so I got familiar with the grimey aftermath of our cooking efforts. I’m enjoying the labs because we cook, and I am looking forward to intensifying them with more of a time crunch – so far, hitting our goals has been pretty easy, although each day we’ve been pushed a bit harder. It’s fun to see how much you can get done in 2.5 hours, how well you can cook it, and how well you can get the plating done.

Below: Lab kitchen required us to prepare THREE dishes! I made gremolata – parsley, lemon zest and garlic – shown in the red cup below. Some green tomatoes prepped for pan-fry on the right. 

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Below: Okra and squash for grilling.

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One area that I want to put more attention is presentation. Chef Alex has had some great tips this week and I also consulted an art design book that I had on hand, Design Basics (Lauer & Pentak). A few notes:

  • Height. Use height to create a more interesting plate instead of just using the typical two dimensions of the plate.
  • Space. Use “negative space” on the plate to make it more interesting. Negative space is space on the plate that is not filled with food. In art, negative space is the space between objects on the painting. If a plate is covered edge to edge with food, it’s not nearly as interesting to the eye as a plate with some negative space.
  • Color. Use complementary and contrasting colors. Uniformity in color is not as interesting. For example, red tomatoes on a red plate would not be very appealing. But red tomatoes on a white plate would be much more interesting.
  • Scale. A huge plate with tiny ingredients that take up very little of the plate will not be pleasing. Try to achieve balance in the size of the plate and the size of the ingredients.
  • Shape. Consider the shape of the plate along with the shape of the food placed upon it. An ordinary round plate may not be the best choice.

Below: The red team’s lab product: a delicious array of veggies and garnishes. My favorite was the roasted eggplant with gremolata – succulent, but with a satisfying amount of browning, and bright from the parsley and lemon. I’ve enjoyed some parsley-heavy bites in the past couple of days, much to my surprise. 

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Below: Me, ready to devour our work.

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Below: With all of the recent chopping, I had a huge bag full of potato to use. I made this potato-leek soup using two leeks, a couple pounds of potatoes, some garlic, some store-bought stock, and some leek stock I made at home. Oh, and I grabbed some green onion from my friend in the backyard. Some toasted Rudi’s gluten-free bread gave me a nice bready, toasty side for my soup, and some Earth Balance spread lent a welcomed buttery flavor. 

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