Every Friday night, my whole extended family used to get together at my grandmother’s house for Shabbat dinner. Most times there were twenty-one of us—eleven kids and ten adults—and somehow she would always manage to have everyone stuffed and happy. There ’d be platters of stuffed cabbage leaves and beef braised with onions, and in the summer, you could always expect a dish of okra to be on the table. My grandmother had great instincts and knew how to pick exactly which okra at the market were less sticky and slimy. Then she ’d pan-fry them, cover them with a tomato base, and bake them low and slow for a long time.
The okra I serve at Bavel is loosely inspired by my grandmother’s but also by a dish that Gino Angelini served at his L.A. restaurant, Angelini Osteria, where I worked for many years. He would confit artichokes in olive oil along with onions and parsley, and in the end, the artichokes tasted like themselves, only amplified. My dish is made with okra and more Middle Eastern aromatics, including mint, cilantro, ginger, and turmeric, but like Gino’s artichokes, the flavor of the okra is ultimately intensified. I serve the okra over whipped feta to add a bit of acidity and creaminess to this peak summer dish.
- In a medium saucepan off the heat, add the diced onion, green onion, parsley, cilantro, mint, garlic, turmeric, ginger, cumin, and lime. Mix to combine. Add the okra to the saucepan in an even layer and season with the kosher salt.
- Fit the pan with a candy thermometer and add the oil. (Because the okra is sitting on the bed of onions, herbs, and spices, it won’t be completely submerged at first.) Transfer the saucepan to the stovetop on high and heat until the oil comes to a boil, about 5 minutes. When the oil reaches a temperature of 210°F, decrease the heat to a simmer, cover, and continue to cook on low for about 10 minutes. Check for doneness every few minutes until the okra is fork-tender but not too soft. (Exact timing will vary depending on the size and freshness of the okra.) Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it sit, cov¬ered, for 5 minutes. (The okra will continue to cook while it sits in the oil off the heat, so be careful of overcooking.) Remove the lid and let cool to room temperature.
- When ready to serve, evenly spread the whipped feta on the bottom of a plate. Drain the okra and place on top of the feta in an even layer, piling more okra on top of each layer, almost like a pyramid. Top with the mint, lemon juice, and Marash. Add Maldon salt to taste.
- You can use the leftover infused oil for roasting veg¬etables or any other way you like.
- In a small bowl, stir together the feta and crème fraiche until evenly combined and the consistency is similar to cottage cheese; do not overmix. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Reprinted with permission from Bavel: Modern Recipes Inspired by the Middle East by Ori Menashe, Genevieve Gergis and Lesley Suter, copyright © 2021. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photographs copyright © 2021 by Nicole Franzen