Braised Okra (Bamia) in tomato sauce is a classic dish from the group of meals we (Greeks) call “oily” (lathera) since they do not have any animal protein. Traditionally are served as main dish, especially during fasting days, accompanied with a hefty slice of freshly baked bread. Since during Lenten periods and fasting days we do not consume any animal products (except of some kinds of seafood) the excess of oil and the bread makes these dishes more satisfying and filling. During no fasting days, the Greeks tend to accompany these dishes with white cheese with intense flavor, such as Greek feta which is always made with sheep milk.
Okra can also be used in a number of recipes with beef, lamb or chicken to make delicious One-Pot meals.
Okra, also known as Bamia, is one of the popular vegetables of the Mediterranean countries. Its origins are from the North-East Africa and through the commercial routes of the ancient times, it was distributed to the Mediterranean countries were it thrives thanks to the warm temperate climate of the region.
Okra is a nutrient packed vegetable as it is high in dietary fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and vitamins of the B-complex. It is also a good source of important minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, and manganese. They also provide a healthy amount of flavonoid antioxidants. The seeds are high in unsaturated fats (oleic acid and linoleum acid), while they do not have any saturated fats or cholesterol.
The characteristic slime that is released when the okra is cooked, is soluble fiber. which helps the digestion and ease constipation.
Keeping the pods intact (instead of slicing them) as well as brief cooking with acidic ingredients (like tomatoes and vinegar) helps reduce this slimy texture. The small sized okra pods (available in the frozen section of Greek grocery stores; may also be available in some farmers markets) release less of the characteristic slime, and need less preparation than the regular okra with large pods found in most markets.
They are also much more tender, cook faster and have a much lighter and brighter taste
The use of less olive oil (as in this recipe) makes the dish lighter and with brief braising okra retains its fresh and bright taste and texture. The braised okra can be served the as main dish or as side dish to accompany for meat chicken or fish with intense flavor (like cod, salmon).
Braised Okra (Bamia)
- 2 lbs baby okra frozen or fresh
- 1 big onion finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 15 oz can diced tomato
- 1 cup finely chopped parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup water
- Rinse the okra and sprinkle with the vinegar.
- In a wide sauce pan heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes
- Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 more minutes stirring continuously.
- Add the okra and sauté for 2 more minutes
- Add the diced tomatoes, the parsley, the water, salt and pepper
- stir to distribute the ingredients evenly
- cook in medium heat for about 30 more minutes until the okra is tender, stirring sparingly. If you need to stir, do it as if you are folding meringue into cake batter.
- Wen it is ready, remove from the heat and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes.