Caramelized okra with tahini mashed potatoes

If you’re going to eat okra, you’ll be eating it stewed in a tomato sauce. For some reason that dictate is observed as if it were religiously mandated. Why is that? It tastes good, of course. But right now is okra season, these itty bitty green nibs are being sold by the bucket at the shook, and I’ve been making so much of it (stewed in tomato, of course) that sometimes I feel like I should be doing something a little more creative.

(Why am I making so much okra? Because my son ate it the first few times I served it to him. Since then he’s stopped, somewhat. Babies. But I digress.)

I wasn’t the only one who had these blasphemous thoughts about the okra-tomato connection — well-known chef Erez Komarovsky addressed this very issue in Ynet just last week, dishing okra salad, okra in lemon and two other creations. I suppose it’s a good thing that he came up with completely different dishes than I did, because that just goes to show that there are many things to do with okra aside from stewing it in tomato.

Well, at least five other things.

Okra is best fried if you ask me, since this cuts down on the gooeyness. So I fried it and dished it up with some onions, brown sugar for sweetness and balsamic vinegar for tanginess. The resulting caramelized okra got served atop a fluffy hill of mashed potatoes, much like you’d be presented with stir-fried meat and onions at many restaurants here.

These potatoes are creamy thanks to tahini, not butter or cream, which makes them more filling and also more nutritious — in fact, thanks to the tahini, you could consider the potatoes to be the main dish, and the okra to be the condiment. Potatoes and tahini are a classic Middle Eastern combination, even if you won’t generally find them served in mashed form.

For 4-6 servings:

For the okra:
600 grams okra
1 big onion
40 grams oil, ideally olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Trim the stems off the okra. Slice the onion into long strips. Heat the oil in a pan on a medium-low flame, and add the onions. Let them soften slightly. Add the okra and let the vegetables fry, stirring occasionally so that they don’t brown too much. Once the okra has softened slightly, add the sugar, salt and vinegar, stir, and let fry until the sugar has lightly caramelized onto the vegetables. The okra should be cooked through at this point. Add a small amount of water to the pan to soften any caramel that stuck to the bottom, stir to combine with the sauce, and serve.

For the potatoes:
1 kilo potatoes
3/4 cup raw tahini
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 crushed garlic clove
Optional: 10 grams good olive oil

Peel and chop the potatoes, put into a pot and cover with hot water. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork. Drain, setting aside 1 cup of cooking water. Mix with the tahini, water, salt and garlic, and mash with a potato masher (this will give you a lightly rough texture, which I like better than the puree you’d get using a food processor).

Divide the potatoes into servings on plates, and top with a little pile of okra. Drizzle each serving with good olive oil if you’d like.

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