I have to admit that okra was not one of my favorite vegetables while growing up. However, I also grew up in a culture that fed children whatever the adults were eating. No special meals, no food replacements. Everyone ate the same thing. So I had not choice but to learn to eat it. As I got older, I started liking several dishes made with okra. My favorite is this Mediterranean Baked Okra or Tave Me Bamje (how we called it in Albania).Jump to Recipe
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What Is Okra?
Okra is a green summer vegetable used in many countries around the world for its health benefits and unique characteristics. Okra is also called gumbo or ladies’ fingers, in my native country of Albania okra is called ‘bamje’. Other words for Okra in other languages are ‘bamia’, ‘bamya’, ‘gombo’, ‘el quingombo’ etc
In most Mediterranean countries okra is served as a stew with beef or lamb. Usually the stew uses cut okra and lots of tomatoes. The cut okra will release a viscous, slightly sticky liquid that makes the stew thicker and it gives it a typical taste.
Okra is known for its many health benefits: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial etc. It’s also talked about to help with heart health because of it’s iron, fiber and vitamin K levels.
How To Buy The Right Size Okra?
If you have ever visited any Mediterranean, Balkan or Middle Eastern countries who use okra in their cuisines, you most probably have noticed that okras there are a lot smaller. I was suprised when I first moved to US how big the okras, eggplants, peppers and most vegetables were. I mean my whole concept of stuffed vegetables or casseroles took a little bit of adjusting until I found the right farmers’ markets or stores that sold a little bit more decent size vegetables. Big size okras taste dry and will take forever to cook. You want to pick the okras as small as possible.
How to Cut Okra?
This Mediterranean Baked Okra is slightly different from the usual stews in that that it tries to preserve the okra intact so it doesn’t release much of the gooey liquid. You still have to clean the top of the vegetable without exposing the seeds. So you have to cut around it in a conic shape until you are done. Then you place the okra in a bowl of water with a little bit of vinegar to help smooth the outer fuzz.
Mediterranean Baked Okra Recipe Notes
Here are several notes about this recipe that might help you cook okra this way. I promise you, you won’t regret it.
- Once you clean and wash the okra, place it in a bowl of water with a splash of vinegar. It helps smooth the fuzz in the okra’s surface. Some people don’t like it, but if cooked well you won’t feel it.
- This version of baked okra needs to have less of the slimy okra juice. So try to cut the okra as described above so it doesn’t release that liquid.
- In my family we cook this dish either with ground beef or beef chunks. You can also make it vegetarian. In that case, omit the meat and add more olive oil to the recipe below.
- If you are going to use beef chunks, try to brown them well before you start adding the rest of the ingredients. Other than that, follow the same steps as below.
- Alternatives to below steps:
- You can bake the okra with some olive oil while you do steps 2-6. Then you can pour the mix over okra and keep baking until ready.
- You can fry the okra separately, then add in step 7 and bake. This method takes less than 45 minutes to bake. Keep in mind that in this case okra will absorb a lot more oil so it will provide a more calorific meal, but it is also excellent in taste.
Mediterranean Okra Bake
- 1 lb ground beed or beef chunks (stew type)
- 1.5 lbs okra you can add up to 2 lbs
- 2 medium size onions
- 4 tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato sauce
- 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bell pepper (optional)
- 1 tsp salt more to taste if needed
- 0.5 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp oregano
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- Wash and cut the okra as described in the post. Put in a bowl of water. Add a splash of white vinegar to water if the fuzz of the okra bothers you.
- Chop the onions and tomatoes in small cubes. Mince the garlic.
- Saute chopped onions in medium to high heat while stirring and mixing with a wooden spoon. Add the meat once onion is translucent.
- Depending what meat you're using, use your judgement in cooking time but stir often, mix it well so onions don't burn but you want to get it to where meat is browned.
- Add garlic, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chopped parsley and mix well until tomatoes start to cook with the meat. Lower heat to medium.
- Then add salt, pepper and chopped green pepper. Turn oven on at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lastly add okra which have absorbed water from the bowl they were in. Place them carefully in the pot but don't stir vigorously at this point because you want the okra to keep their shape. Let cook for a few minutes. Check how thick or watery the mix is. This depends on the type of tomatoes your used and how much water the okras absorbed. Usually I have to add anywhere from 0.5 – 2 cups and since the quantity varies so much I want you to know how to decide what's needed. You want it to be like a thick stew but not as watery as a light soup.
- Pour the okra mix into a baking dish. Bake it for about 45 minutes in the middle rack. If you like the okra to be a bit crispy on the surface, add broiling for 5 minutes at the end.
If you would like to save this recipe for later, please save this image to Pinterest. Thank you:)
Check out this other Okra recipe from Jas, one of my favorite food bloggers: Mediterranean Okra Stew.