This Community Recipe is Skyler’s Iraqi Bamia (Okra) Recipe. This beautifully flavored okra stew-ish dish is ideal served over white rice for a simple vegan supper. The okra is cooked with all natural flavors of tomato, onion, garlic, seasoning and just the rice amount of cumin.
Community Recipes is a recurring feature where we share your vegan recipes on the Jewish Food Hero blog. If you want to share a recipe in this series, pitch us your idea here. This series is all about sharing healthy plant-based and vegan recipes. We are creating a positive community around food and sharing.
Skyler the storyteller
Skyler Inman is a producer for Israel Story, a long-form documentary podcast dedicated to showcasing complex stories about life in Israel. After graduating from Yale University’s creative writing program, Skyler moved to the Middle East to become a radio storyteller. She was originally working on a podcast called Intractable, about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Today, between her radio work and her MA research thesis at Hebrew University, her favorite pastime is exploring cultures through food and language.
Skyler lives in Tel Aviv with her Israeli partner, Yoav. They have a dog, Safi, that was rescued from a cave near Petra, Jordan. Skyler has loved to cook ever since she was a kid. Cooking has always been a cheaper and more accessible alternative to traveling. But ever since the pandemic began, the kitchen has become even more crucial to her day-to-day life.
So much of Skyler’s job involves thinking – writing, conducting interviews, doing research, etc. Using her hands in the kitchen to chop, stir and assemble is really crucial for her overall happiness and relaxation. Plus, cooking is so creative! Skyler feels like cooking is a mini vacation without having to buy plane tickets.
Skyler’s cookbook inspiration
Yotam Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook
Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen
How was Skyler’s Iraqi Bamia created?
Skyler’s partner Yoav’s family is Mizrachi and Sefardi. His dad’s family came from Baghdad, Iraq, and his mom’s family from Izmir, Turkey. As a result, Skyler has loved learning new kinds of dishes from those regions.
Since she grew up in the southern parts of the United States, Skyler also likes to bring in some recipes from her own childhood. So, this is how she and Yoav originally stumbled upon their shared love of okra. In Hebrew, the name for this vegetable is bamia. Skyler and Yoav like to joke that the cultural overlap between Iraq and Texas is very, very small. It’s a Venn diagram with just one thing in the middle: okra!
This dish is a typical Iraqi Bamia okra dish, a staple of Iraqi Jewish cuisine, and it’s very simple. The all natural ingredients and flavors come from sautéed onion and garlic, tomato paste and chopped tomato, okra, cumin, salt and pepper. Oh, and a small dash of sugar to make the tomato’s acidity pop. That’s it! Served perfectly over white or brown rice.
Bamia stew recipes are also present in other Middle Eastern cuisines and it includes okra, tomatoes and lamb.
What is okra?
This green vegetable is actually a seed pod. It is sometimes called lady’s fingers thanks to its long, slender, cylindrical appearance. The bright green outer pod has an almost rough, slightly furry surface. Inside are lots of little white seeds. Okra can be firm and slightly crunchy, or totally soft and falling apart – depending on how you cook it. Okra is delicious in soups and stews and can be lightly grilled or fried. If you boil or steam okra, be careful to do so very lightly. Otherwise, it will take on a slimy texture.
Don’t skip the preparation!
The simplicity of this dish can’t be denied. Nevertheless, don’t scrimp on the preparation! Before cooking, you must wash and pick through your okra. This is an important step, especially late in the season. Bugs and worms can burrow into the okra, and you’ll want to discard anything that has a small hole in it.
When you come to cut the okra, ensure you only trim off the very edge of the stem. You can do this by cutting along the thin black line separating the stem from the okra pod. After you have cut the first one, you will see that cutting right on the line keeps the okra sealed. When you can see the seeds and internal divisions of the okra, you know you’ve cut off too much.
Dice the onions, garlic, and tomato, placing each in a separate bowl.
Heat olive oil in a large, deep pan or a medium pot. Add the onion and sautée until translucent.
Add the okra and half of the garlic. Sautée on medium-high for a few minutes, until the okra takes on a much brighter, more vibrant green color.
Make a space in the middle of the pan. Add the tomato paste, salt, pepper, cumin, and sugar. Stir to heat until the tomato spice mix becomes little darker in color.
Add the chopped tomato and boiling water and stir to combine everything.
Bring to a simmer, cover and allow to cook on low heat for at least 30 minutes. It’s done when the okra is very soft and not fibrous at all – test a large piece if you’re unsure.
Serve alone as a side dish, or over rice as a main course.
Keywords: vegan, plant-based, okra, Iraqi food
More Community Recipes
Sometimes we all need a little inspiration to mix up our regular recipe rotation. Our Community Recipes feature is for just that – to share our favorites and hear from a variety of people in our community. Since you’ve read Skyler’s, do you feel inspired to share your own recipe? Don’t forget to get in touch to share your vegan recipe too!