Monday, October 8, 2018

Lunch From The Garden : Bitter melon, Eggplant, and Potato

   One thing is clear now that Alan is eating a mainly vegetarian diet with occasional forays into fish, we are really and truly cleaning out our garden. Every spring I plant a lot of vegetables, 3 or 4 varieties of eggplants, 3 types of peppers, squashes, tomatoes, tomatillos, potatoes, beets plus various herbs. This year I also planted bitter melon since I was tired of 50 mile round-trips to the Laotian market in Santa Rosa in hopes of finding them. If you live in a city, any Asian Market carries them. Out here in the woods and vineyards growing my own saves a lot of work and what I can't use I pass along to Indian friends who live in town. If you've never had bitter melon, they can be an acquired taste. There are two varieties  the Indian...

 ...and the Chinese.

The ones I grew this year were the Chinese variety.

Bitter melon is also not just a vegetable, it's been used for many years in Asian cultures as a medicine. All the info on bitter melon, its history and usage  you can find right  here. Also, there are a couple of ways of preparing it. Some dishes call for it to be salted and soaked like eggplant which removes the bitter flavor. Others call for just removing the seeds and tossing it in. Either way those seeds have got to go no matter how you are cooking it.

As an example I'll show you the inside of a bitter melon (Indian variety)  from a recipe I did a few years back...seeds.....

No seeds.....

Just poke them out. So in preparing them, salt them and let them sit for 30 minutes, then rinse them off and press  all that bitterness out. If only life were that simple. So that's the bitter melon notes .
The recipe itself is very quickly prepared and courtesy of Rinku Bhattacharya  @wchestermasala

Bitter Melon With Eggplant and Potato


Here's What You Need:


2 Yukon Gold potatoes
1 Bitter Melon
2 Tbs  vegetable oil. Traditionally mustard oil but I usually use coconut since it's easier to get.
3  medium Japanese eggplants, or 1 large one cut into wedges
1 tsp Bengali 5 Spice mix  recipe is here
( this is a combo of blended spices found at most markets you can make it yourself if you wish)
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili (or cayenne)

Here's What To Do:


Cut the eggplants into rounds then quarter them.

Peel and cube the potatoes.

Cut the bitter melon into rounds.

Remove the seeds.

When the seeds are gone:
Put the melon slices into a bowl and cover them in coarse salt.
Coat the slices and rub the salt in.

Place a weight on the slices (I put a plate on top of the bitter melon and set a jug of vinegar on it) and let them sit for 30 minutes to an hour. The object is to squeeze out the bitter juices.
  After the melon has been pressed, rinse the slices off in cold running water.

Make sure all the salt is rinsed off. Squeeze them to get the last  juices out, then blot them dry with a paper towel.

Now your bitter melon are ready for anything!
Take the bitter melon slices and dice them.
Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet or kadhai on medium heat
When the oil is hot add in the Bengali 5 spice mix.

Stir it around until the spices crackle.
Add in all the vegetables and stir, then add turmeric and salt.

Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes.
Take the lid off and check on things.

When the potatoes have started to crisp, and turn soft add in the Kashmiri chili or Cayenne.

Cook for another few minutes. When all the vegetables are cook through and softened serve it up.
I served this with rice and some dal for a simple vegetarian lunch.

Coming up next, getting ready for the coming holiday season with all the great fall flavors. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori  

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