There are so many ways to enjoy a salad. The mound of leafy greens, pulled together by balsamic vinaigrette is certainly a place to start, but why stop there? There are an uncountable ways to dress a salad from buttermilk to nut oils; several ways to present a salad from chopped and tossed to deconstructed (The British farmers’ Ploughman’s salad of Scotch egg, pickles, uncut cucumbers and a wedge of cheese) and several ways to manipulate ingredients from cooked to uncooked.
This week, I saw some beautiful okra at the grocery store – so slender and green. While the chunkier varieties are perfect for a gumbo owing to its gelatinous properties, the slimmer equivalent works really well in dry dishes, such as stir fries. If I may confess, I am not a fan of enhancing the gooey traits of okra and since this blog is all about salads, I turned to my friend and well-known chef, Suvir Saran, for his recipe on crispy okra salad.
The salad draws from the Indian tradition of uniting ‘sweet-sour-salty-spicy’ through it’s dressing, yet the use of okra stems from Suvir’s own culinary curiosity. In India, okra is often prepared by sautéing in cubes or whole pods that have been stuffed with dried spices and served as a side dish. Not a salad. Suvir flash fries the okra in long strips and in doing so he addresses that ‘slime’ factor while adding a wonderful crunch, a texture commonly found in Asian salads. The okra is then tossed with lemon juice and chaat masala (Indian spice mix made of about 12 spices and available at your local ethnic food stores), chilies, cilantro and juliennes of tomatoes and onions.
Don’t you feel this pop in your mouth already? I already feel that tang hitting the side of my tongue while my hand reaches out for more. The combinations in this salad feel so organic, as if they were always intended to come together from the perspective of balance of flavor, texture and sheer visual. I often serve this as an appetizer, but its spice and acid works really well with grilled meats too.
Adapted from American Masala by Suvir Saran
Article continues below...
- 1 lb okra, thinly sliced along the length
- 1 tbsp. oil
- 1 small red onion, julienne
- 1 large tomato, julienne
- Handful of cilantro
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp chaat masala*
*available at your local ethnic store
Heat oven to 400 degrees F
Toss the okra with salt and 1 tsp. of chaat masala and oil. Lay out the okra on a baking sheet and bake in a single layer until golden brown.
Combine all the salad ingredients and toss well with the okra. Serve immediately to enjoy it fresh and crisp.
Saira Malhotra is a classically trained French chef and graduate from the French Culinary Institute. A British born Punjabi, Saira has grown up around food which started from her family pizza business in a small suburb of London. Having studied in France and Italy and living in the Big Apple for the past 12 years, Saira has brought her European, Asian and American influences together via the palate and communicated through her food blog ‘Passport Pantry’.