Armenian Okra & Meat in Tangy Tomato Sauce
Serves 2 (Increase quantities proportionally to serve more people)
Marie Markossian’s recipe pairs dried okra with meaty tomato sauce and tangy lemon juice, both of which highlight okra’s wonderful flavor. Because the okra is picked so small and dried before using, it isn’t the slightest bit slimy, an all-too-frequent complaint about okra. To prepare it for use, dried okra is boiled in water with lemon and onion until it’s half cooked. At this point, it can be used just like fresh okra. I happily followed Marie’s advice to serve her okra stew with rice pilaf. Rice added yet another dimension to the stew; the sweetness of rice was a welcome counterpoint to lemon-infused meat and vegetables.
1/8 pound dried okra
1/2 medium onion, cut into chunks
1/2 lemon, cut into slices
2-3 Tbsp. butter
1 cup minced onion
Freshly ground white pepper
1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1/2 pound diced lamb or beef
2-3 cups beef stock
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 lemon, juiced
Place dried okra in a pan with chunked onion, lemon juice, and plenty of water. Bring water to a boil and cook 15 minutes or until dried okra is half cooked. Drain in colander and toss okra with 1/2 cup lemon juice. Let cool, discard cooked onion and lemon slices, and remove okra from string.
Sauté minced onions and garlic, lightly seasoned with salt and ground white pepper, in butter until they soften and start to turn golden. Add meat and sauté, stirring frequently, until it has browned all over. Add tomato paste and 2 cups stock, bring liquid to a boil, turn down heat, cover pot, and cook until sauce thickens and flavors blend, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if sauce gets too thick. Remove cover, taste, and correct seasoning for salt and white pepper. Add okra, and cook 10-15 minutes, or just until okra is fully done. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup lemon juice.
Garnish with lemon wedges, and serve with rice pilaf on the side.