Isn't this soup festive-looking? I first made red lentil and okra soup in the winter of 2009 after buying some gorgeous okra pods from a farmer's market. I sautéed them with onions and added both to the bubbling pot of soup close to the end of cooking. Not only is the soup hearty and filling, it's also colorful enough to beat the cold weather blues.
As a Chinese-born, New England-bred gal, I first tried okra at the ripe old age of 21. I was aprehensive, having heard okra derided as a bitter, gooey freak-of-a-vegetable (mosty by non-Southerners). Then I tried the Creole okra gumbo and fried okra at the magnificent Magnolia's in Cambridge, MA. What were these okra-haters thinking? These things are addictive!
(I came to the conclusion that the people who despise okra are the same who despise bitter melon. A microscopic bit of bitterness never killed anyone; it just makes the flavor spectrum more interesting.)
Granted, okra isn't just used in Southern Creole-inspired food. Indian, Middle Eastern, Caribbbean, and North African cuisines also incorporate okra in plenty of thick stews. As much as I like fried okra, gumbo and bhindi masala are hearty dishes that make the best use of okra's snappy texture and slightly bitter flavor.Read More