“Bhindi” is the East Indian word for okra. I love okra, and combined with an East Indian spice blend (masala), it takes on a whole new life of its own. This semidry, lightly spiced North Indian curry is really not at all hard to make, but you may have to spend a little time hunting down all the spices, if you don’t already have them in your arsenal.

Bhindi Masala

2 Tbsp. peanut oil

1 lb. bhindi/okra, chopped

1/2 medium size onion, chopped

2 medium size tomatoes, chopped (or 14 1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes)

1/2-inch fresh ginger root, grated

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. coriander powder

1/2 tsp. red chili powder (or cayenne powder)

1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

1/2 tsp. garam masala powder

1/2 tsp. dry mango powder (or sugar)

3/4 tsp. salt

More salt to taste

2 Tbsp. oil for frying the bhindi

1 Tbsp. oil for frying the onion-tomato masala

1 tsp. dry fenugreek leaves crushed (optional)

Rinse the bhindi/okra well in water. Dry them on a large plate on their own or wipe with a kitchen towel.

Remove the base and stalk while chopping the bhindi. Chop into 1/2-inch pieces.

Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in a wok or pan.

Add the bhindi and sauté till they are completely cooked. You will have to keep an eye on them and stir in between many times until the bhindi have become soft. Keep the sautéed bhindi aside.

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Add just a little more oil and the chopped onions and fry until they become translucent.

Add the ginger-garlic paste and sauté for half a minute or till the raw aroma of the ginger-garlic disappears.

Add the chopped tomatoes and sauté till the tomatoes are soft and mushy.

If the tomato mixture becomes too dry add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup water and continue to cook.

Add all the dry spice powders one by one. Stir well and sauté for about 1 minute.

Add the sautéed bhindi, crushed fenugreek and salt and mix so that the onion-tomato masala coats the bhindi well. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in between.

Serve the bhindi masala hot or warm and accompanied with rice or naan bread.

Pair this dish and its tomato-based sauce with Santa Barbara Winery’s 2013 Stolpman Vineyard Sangiovese. The Stolpman Vineyard is located in Ballard Canyon. The warmer climate in Ballard Canyon is nicely suited for sangiovese, historically the primary grape of the Chianti region of Italy.

Having worked with Stolpman Vineyards since 1998, winemaker Bruce McGuire continues to be pleased with this block of sangiovese; 2013 is the 11th harvest from this block. He should be pleased with three gold medals -- Best of Class 2016 Pacific Rim Wine Competition, 2016 Orange County Commercial Wine Competition and 2016 Texas Consumer Wine Judging -- for this vintage.


John David Finley is a freelance writer and author of the cookbook, "Sacred Meals from our Family Table," which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at jd.finley@comcast.net.