At Akdeniz Turkish Cuisine in Midtown, the Baby Okra ($10.95) is precisely what I crave on the cold, windy days we've been having recently. Whole baby okra is stewed with tomatoes, celery, carrots, and green peppers, along with garlic and onions melting into the savory mix. I'm not a big fan of sliced okra in dishes, but whole okra pods are a completely different creature, the vegetable skin a taut barrier to the warm, silky interior. Spoon over the side of pilaf rice and there are few things quite as satisfying.
Save room for the pide bread which also comes with the okra. Served warm and speckled in black and white sesame seeds, it's hearty and chewy with a thin crust. Tear into pieces and make sure to soak up every bit of the tomato sauce.
Appetizers at Akdeniz are excellent and I've often ordered a few to create a complete meal. And when ordering a hot dish, such as the okra, I'll pair it with an cold appetizer, such as the Cacik ($5.25), a substantial serving of yogurt blended with mint, chopped cucumbers, and olive oil. Served chilled, the dish is flecked with dill and just enough minced garlic to keep you coming back for more. Looks familiar? Cacik is more commonly known by its Greek name, tzatziki. Have lunch in the restaurant, or do take-out; I prefer the latter as all the dishes are slightly more expensive when dining in.