Okra and tomato stew in polenta tartlets

April 5, 2010  •  Category:


I mentioned okra to my neighbor, Mary; she looked puzzled. I said ” you know, the little green vegetable with a hat that is fried and dipped in ranch dressing”; her face lit up ” Oh, yes of course, I have only had it fried”; that’s because in Texas okra is fried Mary. In Lebanon and other parts of the near-east, it is stewed and eaten with or without meat on rice. When okra or bamiah stew was announced in my days at home in Beirut,  I remember making a mental note to eat more halloum cheese that day! I did not really care for it; in fact, the fried okra that is traditional in Texas was more palatable to me! But hey, tastes change and I thought if I served it on a polenta tartlet, I might actually enjoy it.

Egyptians love okra too (they also call it bamiah); judging by my friend Phoebe’s reaction and comments whenever okra is mentioned, they eat it like Americans eat popcorn. A lot of it. I found some at the Palestinian grocer imported from Egypt and frozen; tiny, adorable little okra. Much easier to handle than the fresh ones!


  • 1/2 box of instant polenta
  • 2  cups of water or stock or a combination of the two
  • spices for the polenta like white pepper, paprika, Aleppo pepper, or any spices you like
  • butter or olive oil as needed

Okra Stew:

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 pound of tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, mashed with a dash of salt
  • 1 pound of small frozen okra
  • a generous dash of Aleppo pepper or a red chili pepper
  • one chunk of feta cheese, if desired


  1. Prepare the okra stew in advance, to save time; it can even be frozen. Chop the onion and fry in some olive oil. Dice the tomatoes and add to the onion mixture; add some water with some tomato paste if needed; cook for 30 minutes; add the mashed garlic the last 5 minutes of cooking. Cool and set aside.
  2. Fry the okra in a skillet with a bit of olive oil; add to the tomato sauce after stir-frying it for a few minutes. Cook the okra and tomato sauce with chili pepper  on gentle heat for about 15 minutes. Reserve.
  3. Prepare the polenta: I used instant polenta, following the direction on the package; basically, heat boil some water or stock, add the polenta slowly and stir for a few minutes; it will thicken; add some butter to make it a bit tastier if you wish, add some spices and a bit of salt.
  4. Grease the tartlets with a brush and some olive oil; plop a generous 1/2 cup of polenta on each tartlet; using your fingertips, dip them in olive oil and pat the polenta evenly all over the tartlet mold. Brush oil on top of the  tartlets.
  5. Bake the tartlets in a 400F oven for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven, place a few tablespoons of okra stew and reheat when ready to serve. Sprinkle some chopped parsley on the tartlets and serve warm. Sprinkle some nuggets of feta and broil 30 seconds till browned and soft.

NOTE: I always place the feta cheese in a bowl of water, that I change frequently, in order to desalt it a bit.


45 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Laura says:

    Funny you post this…I recently made an Okra Stew with my Grandma and was trying to remember what we used because I usually use green beans. Okra is delicious! Hurray for okra. These look excellent.

  2. Sonia says:

    I love okra, this recipe is new to me, I immediate bookmark this, am going to try this out. Thanks for sharing.

  3. sweetlife says:

    I love okra..yes here in Texas..we like to fry..I love the polenta tarts..delsih!!


  4. Sushma Mallya says:

    Looks so cute,loved the filling in it, very unique one…even i had posted something similar yesterday…

  5. The Little Teochew says:

    I never knew polenta could be used as tart shells! What a brilliant idea. We eat okra (or lady’s fingers as we call it here) in so many ways! Stewed, in curries, steamed, fried … you name it. Beautiful dish!

  6. Cherine says:

    That’s a great idea, okra tartlets!!

  7. Robyn says:

    I have never seen okra at my grocery store unfortunately (I don’t think it’s all that popular is South Africa) – actually, I’ve never even tasted okra – but I think the polenta cases are an inspired idea! I might try them with some sort of quiche filling…

  8. Priya says:

    Love those polenta tartelets, thanks for sharing, will definitely for making out some sweet tartlets, okra and tomato stew sounds delicious..

  9. Mamounette85 says:

    Je n’ai jamais fais de tartelettes à la polenta mais ça a l’air de bien se tenir avec les petits légumes.
    Bonnes pâques j’aime beaucoup le petit pioupiou en photo

  10. Rosa says:

    What a great idea”I love okra in tomato sauce!



  11. Joanne says:

    So was it more palatable to you this way?

    I love okra but serving it on a polenta tart makes it even better!

  12. Julie says:

    Si la traduction est bonne, okra=gombo. Je crois bien que je n’ai jamais goûté! Mais en tout cas, ta petite tartelette est toute mignonne et me donne bien envie!
    J’ai trouvé un traiteur libanais pas loin de chez moi, je suis en train de parcourir ton blog à la recherche d’une recette assez facile pour moi, et après je file acheter ce qu’il me faut!! Je te tiendrais au courant.

    Gros bisous Joumana!

  13. Julie says:

    (enfin, il fait traiteur/épicerie, sinon ça n’a pas d’intérêt d’acheter tout prêt lol!!)

  14. Astra Libris says:

    Oh my, your polenta tartlets are so incredibly perfect! Such a colorful dish!! In Louisiana stewed okra dishes are a particular favorite, so I’m very excited about this beautiful recipe!

  15. Faith says:

    Those polenta tartlets are adorable and I love okra! Serving it in those tartlets is a great idea!

  16. The Nervous Cook says:

    Too funny — my husband, an Oklahoma native, can’t imagine okra that’s not fried. He doesn’t really see the point. I love it in stews, and I also love pickled okra — I will have to try this okra/tomato/polenta combination, though! (I’m still trying to learn to love polenta.)

  17. Nadjibella says:

    Je n’ai jamais aimé les gombos en sauce, mais présentés comme tu l’as fait me fera peut-être changer d’avis.
    A bientôt.

  18. Cara says:

    Texans may only know okra as friend, but I will tell you, most New Englanders don’t know okra at all! I only recently bought a bag of frozen okra to make some gumbo in honor of the Superbowl (ok, it wasn’t that recent!) But that was the first time I had evr tried it. I still have about 3/4 of the bag in my freezer. I had no idea it was prominent in Middle Eastern cooking – off to search for more recipes on your blog!

  19. Conor @ HoldtheBeef says:

    I’m only just learning to cook with okra, and loving it. These tartlets look fantastic! I’m also going to call okra “little green vegetable with a hat” from now on 😀

  20. alwayswinner786 says:

    Wow! What a wonderful recipe. Juicy yummy okra in tomato stew served in polenta tartlets make it more delicious!

  21. heguiberto says:

    yumm I love the combo okra and polenta. We had plenty of okra growing in our backyard in my home state of Minas Gerais – Brazil. The plant has beautiful delicate yellow flowers, which come out in the Spring our Autumn here in the northern hemisphere. My mom used to make soft polenta with braised free range chicken and okra, It was amazing, but that was when I ate meat, not anymore.
    Very elegant way of presenting these two simple ingredients together.

  22. heguiberto says:

    Of course I meant elegant is the way you presented the two ingredients together.

  23. peter says:

    Joumana, you’ve turned a very rustic ingredient (okra) into something suave with this delicate little appetizer, nice!

  24. Jenn, Leftover Queen says:

    This is so beautiful!!! I have never been a huge fan of okra – stewed or fried, but I think I would like it in a dish like this. I am so loving your blog! Lebanese food is one of my very favorites!!!

  25. sophia says:

    I used to dislike okra…but now I’ve learned to adore it. What a great idea to serve it on polenta tartlets! The Southerners love their okra, and they love their grits, so it’s so appropriate together!

  26. Ivy says:

    I didn’t know that you can eat mpamies fried and I am very surprised to read in the comments that lots of people don’t even know them. I love them stewed without any meat. Great idea to serve them in polenta tartlets.

  27. Barbara says:

    I’ve put okra in soups and had it fried (which I adore) but never thought to make a stew with it. What a super idea. And the little polenta tarts are the perfect stew containers. I can think of lots of things to put in those…how about mushroom ragout? Polenta and mushrooms are great together. Love this idea. So many possibilibities!

  28. yasmeen says:

    Neat tarlets,love the okra filling 😀

  29. Sook says:

    The tartlet looks wonderful! Yum!

  30. tigerfish says:

    I have done this okra tomato stew but never dream of putting them in a tartlet. How ingenious.

  31. Pj says:

    oh wow, looks so delicious with the polenta tartlets… love the click too!

  32. SYLVIA says:

    your food presentation is beautiful, and very sophisticated.
    I love your recipes A+ thank you.

  33. Arlette says:

    Yummmy… I am truly drilling I love Okra with tomato sauce and fresh bread.. I love okra fried with the cilantro period before you continue cooking..
    what a great idea to turn it into a polenta tartelettes….From where you got the small Okra??? in my dreams I don’t find them this small at the store… Waiting for this year supply from my family hoping that someone will come this summer.

  34. Rajani@eatwritethink says:

    nice okra dish! we love okra – but deep frying is rare we make dry subzis (like stir fry with masalas) and a traditional dish mixes chopped and fried okra to sauce made with mustard and yoghurt . so many cultures such diverse eating methods!

  35. Bria @ WestofPersia says:

    Joumana, I grew up in Texas, and my mom had a fantastic skillet stir fried okra recipe that she’d make every summer from fresh pods picked from the garden. She’d slice them, toss them into an oiled, pre-heated cast iron skillet with a few bits of tomato and onion, sprinkle everything with some cornmeal, and let them lightly brown. It was delicious, light, and flavorful, and most definitely not fried. 🙂 Though I did eat my fair share of fried okra back in the day! I didn’t really discover okra stews like yours until years later, but I love them. Good stuff, and creative presentation!

  36. Mimi says:

    I’ve only had fried okra. This looks so much more tasty .

  37. Sonia says:

    Thank you for stopping by at my blog. Your space is so neat and beautiful with interesting recipes. This Okra and Tomato tarts looks so good and lovely! Lovely click too. 🙂

  38. HistoryOf GreekFood says:

    Greeks,too, love bamies, Joumana. We eat them in many ways- fried, stewed, baked, with meat, with fish, with rice, in omelettes etc.- so there is something very intriguing about your okra tartlets!

  39. TastyTrix says:

    How cute is that polenta tartlet? Many people don’t like okra unless fried, but I do love it in a New Orleans gumbo. This is a really nice presentation!

  40. Hanaa says:

    That looks beautiful! Very elegant. I recently cooked okra for the first time and I liked it. I made a Seafood Gumbo. It was such a big hit that I bought more okra on my next trip to the grocery store. This sounds like another recipe I could try with my newly purchased okra :o)

  41. Duchess says:

    I am sooooo in love with the polenta tarts! Such a divine idea! Thats going to be a new staple in my house.

  42. domi says:

    Une bien gourmande tartelette originale et bien mignonne, qui fait le plein de saveur

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