In much of the Jewish world, the Rosh HaShanah menu tends to skew heavily towards meat. Among Ashkenazim, brisket and tzimmes cooked with meat are almost de rigueur – and are sometimes combined into one dish. In Morocco, a delicious tagine with prunes is the custom; among Persian Jews, there is even a tradition to eat cow’s lung. Then, of course, there are also all of the traditions with fish: the fish’s head for a good “head of the year,” gefilte fish and forshmak (chopped herring) among Ashkenazim as appetizers, or spicy hraime in the Libyan and Tunisian traditions. Suffice it to say that Rosh HaShanah is not the most vegetarian-friendly of holidays.
Lentils with Okra
1 medium white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound okra, chopped into chunks*
2 tsp table salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp ground sumac (optional)
½ tsp ground thyme
1 tbsp white wine or rice vinegar
1½ cups dried lentils
3 cups water or vegetable stock
Olive or vegetable oil
Fresh cilantro (for garnish)
- Heat a deep saucepan, then coat the bottom with oil. Add the onions and garlic and begin to sauté.
- When the onions begin to soften, add the okra and mix thoroughly while sautéing.
- After the okra is mixed in thoroughly, add and mix in the salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric, cumin, sumac, and thyme. Sauté for two minutes.
- When the onions are significantly softer (beginning to brown under the spices), and the spices are sticking to the okra and onions, add the vinegar. Sauté for another two minutes, or until the okra begins to “look” and feel slightly softer against your mixing implement.
- Add the lentils and mix in, then add the water.
- Bring the mixture to a boil. Then, simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the lentils have absorbed most of the water and are soft, and the okra is soft. Stir every few minutes. (If the lentils and okra are very soft, and you still have some water left over, you can add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch or ground kuzu root to thicken the sauce.)
- Garnish with plenty of cilantro. Serve hot.
* The starch in the lentils naturally offsets the “slimy” part of the okra. If you want to know how to prepare okra to be less slimy, go to my bamia con limon recipe from January.