Monday, October 27, 2014

Simple Bitter Melon Saute (Parikkai Mezhukuvarati)

Bitter melon is an acquired taste - some take to it right away and others take time. Once you have a taste for it, it is absolutely delicious however it is prepared. The Indian varieties of bitter melon tend to have a stronger bitter flavor sometimes; but the pale green and smoother-skinned Chinese varieties are milder.

Simple Sauteed Bitter Melon
 When we were young children, my baby sister took to it immediately and enjoyed bitter melon as though she were eating candy! Just to make sure we were not missing out, the rest of us would sample a piece or two and decide that it tasted bitter still :-).While we were not crazy about simple sautes and curries, we did love chips and Pitla, a classic South Indian dal stew with bitter melon.

Without further ado, here is Simple Bitter Melon or Parikkai Mezhukuvarati (=saute). I used the pale green Chinese variety for this; but any type may be used. If the bitter melons are very bitter, my mother often sprinkled a little tamarind water or lime juice and a little brown sugar while cooking.

For an easy baked version, check Easy Baked Bitter melon/Parikkai Fry.

1. The veggies may be sliced using a food processor after trimming and cleaning.
2. If you like it spicy, coarsely grind 1 tsp cumin seeds with 1 dried hot red chile in a spice grinder and sprinkle this towards the end of cooking and stir -fry for a minute or two before removing from heat.
3. For those who like onions, 1 chopped onion may be added along with the green chiles and cooked until translucent before adding the melon slices.

About 4 servings as a side dish


2 large bitter melons
2 or 3 green chiles, ends slit
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves, sliced thinly
1-2 tsp Coconut Oil
1/4 tsp Brown Mustard seeds
1 small pinch Asafetida
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Sea salt


Wash and trim the bitter melons; halve them and check the seeds - if they are soft and white, leave them in. But if the seeds are mature, the pulp would begin to get red and seeds would be too hard; if the pulp is beginning to color, remove it with a teaspoon like you would from a cucumber.

Thinly slice the bitter melons; I quartered them longitudinally as they were quite large in diameter.

Heat the oil in a large enough pan that can accommodate all of the veggies easily and add the mustard seeds; when they begin to pop and dance, reduce the heat and add the asafetida and mix well.

Quickly add the green chiles, curry leaves and the sliced melon.

Sprinkle the turmeric with the salt over the veggies and stir well.

Cook over medium heat stirring often; use a cover between stirring.

Check to see if the veggies are done; it should not take more than about 10 minutes.

Serve hot with freshly cooked rice or another grain, Indian flat breads like roti/chapati/naan, a dal dish like Sambar, other veggies, and papadams.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Root Veggies With Green Chile Pesto (Kerala Style Root Vegetables With Green Chile Sauce)

Sweet & Regular Potatoes with Green Chile Pesto
I call this dish Kerala boil ( Kizhangu vevichathu/puzhungiathu - boiled tubers or root veggies) - it is one of life's simplest of pleasures; just gather together just one or as many types of root veggies as possible for their delicious diversity. Add the traditional pounded green chile chutney made in minutes to complete the meal and ah - a meal to please the hobbit in anyone!! The green chile chutney is similar to chimichurri.

In Kerala, there are many varieties of root veggies which lend themselves to making Kerala Boil. The main traditional and inexpensive root veggie for this dish is Kappa, also known as marakizhangu or maracheeni (Cassava, Tapioca, or Yuca); but  Sweet Potatoes (both orange and cream colored), Chembu (Taro), and  various types and colors of  potatoes may be added for variety. The veggies are typically cut into thick cylinders known as chenda (drum). I do not limit it to starchy roots and tubers but love to add other veggies such as summer and winter squash, corn on the cob, carrots, etc. for a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. I not only boil the veggies but steam, roast, bake or broil too!

The recipe is very simple. Here I only had sweet potatoes (a couple each of both cream color and the orange color) and a few regular potatoes; time to go shopping, I know :)

If fresh curry leaves are not available, make the chutney with fresh cilantro; delicious!

Serves 4

4 - 5 lbs Assorted Potatoes & other Root Veggies
Sea salt

Clean the veggies by scrubbing and washing them. They may be peeled or not; cut into thick rounds. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add a Tbsp of salt and add the prepared veggies.  Cook until tender, drain and keep hot.

Alternately, the veggies may be baked, roasted or even cooked over hot coals in a barbecue.

Green Chile Pesto/Chutney

2 - 3 green chiles, chopped (you may use more if you like)
2 stems Fresh Curry Leaves, chopped
3 - 4 Shallots or 1 small Red Onion, chopped
Sea salt to taste
3 - 4 Tbsp Coconut or Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pull the leaves off the stems of curry leaves and discard stems.

Pound green chiles, curry leaves and shallots in a mortar with a pestle until coarsely crushed. If you must use the food processor, please chop everything by hand first and then pulse just two or three times just to mix.

Add the salt and enough oil and mash a little to make a sauce.

Taste and add more oil to mellow out the taste of chiles and shallots/onion.

Coconut oil is traditional choice and is delicious; but good olive oil is very tasty also.

Serve spoonfuls of the sauce over the hot vegetables.