Bitter Melon with Spiced Potatoes, Watery Dahl and Homemade Naan

While I was attending Internet Week last week I sat in on a panel about open source food and Natalie Jeremijenko of the xDesign Environmental Health Clinic brought up an interesting point that has stuck with me for the better part of a week. She brought up the notion that we are actually quite conservative when it come to what it is that we think it edible, especially when it comes to plants, and that it is vital to expand our food vocabulary for cities to be able to produce more of their own food. In that vein, I bravely broached the frontiers of the bitter melon, led of course, by Shiva who yes, is still teaching me Indian cuisine.

Though technically fruit, and I did run across some shots online of the melon fully ripened, trust me, in this state it is most certainly a vegetable. As the name might indicate, it is quite bitter, so bitter in fact that after we sliced it,

we then tossed it with a tablespoon of salt and turmeric allowing the salt to work its magic by aiding the extraction of some of the bitter juice from the flesh.

We let this sit for about 15 minutes while we prepared the rest of the meal. We then took a red onion and thinly sliced it. When we were ready, Shiva squeezed as much of the juice as he could get from the melon.

Which left us with a pile of salted, seasoned and dry bitter melon.

Then Shiva decided to try the juice from the melon, not only because he is clearly insane, but also because bitter melon does have a ton of great health benefits and has in fact been found to increase insulin sensitivity and is used to help treat diabetes. Often it is prescribed in powder form. Shiva tasted the juice,

and proclaimed it, “Not that bad.” So, I like a total lemming, also tried it. He lied. It is that bad. I will say in his defense, he had a much better understanding of what to expect, but for me I had to have several large swallows of red wine before my palate returned.

We then added 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to an already hot pan and cooked the red onion just until they started to release their oils and then added the bitter melon with a half tablespoon more salt and turmeric.

and sautéed it until the onion were just about to caramalize, then turned off the heat.

Shiva ate it with a satisfying degree of happiness and I found that the onions helped a great deal to temper the bitter flavor. Then I got smart and picked up a piece of potato and bitter melon with my naan and was able to utterly enjoy it that way. What was interesting was that later in the evening, armed with a bag of leftovers, my friend Jonathan tried the bitter melon and ate nearly the entire container. I asked him if he was also a fan of okra for which I received a withering look, he’s from Alabama, my mistake. My sense is if you are a fan of Okra you will also cheer for bitter melon.

3 bitter melons

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1.5 tablespoons turmeric

1.5 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil.

Thinly slice the bitter melon and place in a bowl. Take one tablespoon of both the turmeric and salt and evenly coat the bitter melon sliced. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. Squeeze the juice from the melon and discard (or drink, if crazy.) Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over a medium high heat and add thinly sliced onions. Saute until the onions begin to release their oils but are not yet soft, add the bitter melon and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon salt and turmeric. Cook until the onions are brown but not caramelized. Serve warm, but quite enjoyable at room temperature.

Tomorrow, Spiced Potatoes and homemade Naan!

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