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Charred Okra with Tomato-Coconut Chutney

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Ingredients

12 pods okra, each about 3 inches long

Salt, to taste

¼ cup, warm tomato-coconut chutney (recipe follows)

Tomato Coconut Chutney*

½ cup unsweetened, flaked coconut

1 teaspoon canola oil

3 jalapeño chile peppers, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced

¼ cup Vidalia onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon Madras curry powder

1-2 large ripe tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)

1 ½ teaspoons lime juice

2 teaspoons Indian green chile pickles, minced

2 teaspoons turmeric pickles, minced

2 teaspoons Jaggery (aka gur or date palm sugar)*

¼ teaspoon salt

Dash ghost pepper sauce or other excruciatingly hot pepper sauce*

Directions

  1. Trim stem ends from okra then split pods in half lengthwise and sprinkle with salt.
  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add okra, cut side down, in a single layer, and sear until the cut side is charred and outer skin turns bright green and starts glistening, about 2 minutes. (By charred, I mean more than golden brown; you want a good dark char to seal in the slime in the okra. When charred, turn pods and cook for another 30 seconds.)
  3. Pull pan from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of the warm chutney. Toss to mix, and serve warm with the remaining chutney on the side.

Tomato Coconut Chutney

  1. Toast coconut in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat just until light golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer toasted coconut to a large mixing bowl and let cool.
  2. Return pan to the heat and crank up your stove as high as it will go (seriously). Add oil, and swirl to coat the bottom of pan. Add jalapeños, onion, ginger, garlic, and curry powder (Stand back; the curry powder can be pungent!). Toss and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook just until the tomatoes start releasing their liquid, another 30 seconds.
  3. Add tomato mixture to coconut, and then add lime juice, chile pickles, turmeric pickles, jaggery, salt, and hot sauce. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Note: The chutney tastes better after it chills for a day, so make it ahead. Use extra chutney with grilled fish or lamb or mixed with crab for a cold crab salad. A good Indian grocer should have the green chile pickles, turmeric pickles, and jaggery (in a pinch, you can substitute dark brown sugar). Or buy online. You can get ghost pepper hot sauce online too, or use another hot sauce.

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