Saturday, December 7, 2019

Stuffed Karela (Bittermelon With Onion-Tomato Filling)

My friend EJ loves Indian food including karela or bittermelon! She asked for a good recipe for stuffed karela. Since we enjoyed the Karela Atho so much, I thought it might be fun to make it into Stuffed Karela for EJ with a few minor changes!

NOTES: I find that leaving the stem ends of the veggies intact keeps them from falling apart while cooking. Trim off only any excess or discolored stems leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch of the stem intact. Indian or Asian karela may be used to make this dish.

Zucchinis may be used instead of karela. Prepare the zucchini by trimming the blossom ends, and make a slit along the length without cutting through. Remove some of the center carefully with a little spoon or a melon baller; just enough to hold the stuffing. Save the the removed portion, chop and add to the onion mixture.

4 Servings


4 medium Karela
1/2 tsp Salt + 1/2 tsp Sambar/Rasam powder
1 Tbsp oil for cooking the stuffed veggies
2-3 Green Onions, with long leaves for tying the karela

1/4 cup White/Tan Sesame seeds
1/3 cup Peanuts
1 pinch Cumin Seeds
1 large Onion
1-2 tsp grated Ginger
2 large Tomatoes
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 Tbsp ground Coriander seeds
1-2 tsp Sambar or Rasam Powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp Coconut Sugar, jaggery, or Brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh Coriander/Cilantro, chopped 

2 Tbsp fresh Coriander/Cilantro, chopped for Garnish


Prepare Karela and green onions:
Karela: Prepare the karela by trimming blossom ends and making a slit along the length, taking care not to cut through. With your fingers or a spoon, remove the seeds and the soft innards; discard the seeds and innards. Rub the 1/2 teaspoon salt and sambar/rasam powder mixture inside each of the veggies; I find that this step seasons the veggies nicely. Steam or microwave the karela or just until softened; about  5-7 minutes for steaming or about one to two minutes for the microwave. Set aside to cool until ready to stuff.

Green Onions: Start a small pot of water to boil; turn off when boiled. Have an ice bath ready: a small bowl filled with water and some ice cubes. Separate the leaves from the green onions and dunk them in boiling water for just a minute. Remove and plunge into iced water. Take them out and keep on a paper/kitchen towel. 

Dry roast the peanuts if raw and the sesame seeds separately; set aside to cool. Pound the sesame seeds first using a mortar and pestle; when the sesame is coarsely ground, add the peanuts and pound a bit more to crush them well. If made ahead, keep in an airtight jar or container until needed.

Heat a skillet. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook until soft and beginning to brown a little. Add the tomatoes, turmeric, coriander, and Sambar or Rasam powders. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the tomatoes begin to soften. Stir in the jaggery and cook for a minute to combine well. Add salt to taste,  peanuts, sesame, and coriander leaves, then turn off the heat and set aside until cool.

Assembly and finishing:
Stuff the prepared karela with the onion-tomato mixture; use one of the green onion leaves to wrap and tie them to keep the stuffing in while cooking. I seldom do the tying as I do not mind some of the stuffing escaping into the pan.

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a cast-iron or non-stick skillet. Place the stuffed veggies in the skillet in a single layer and cook over low to medium heat, turning to cook all sides until lightly browned and veggies are tender, about 10 - 15 minutes. Adjust heat as necessary to avoid burning the veggies.

Let rest for 5 minutes, and sprinkle the rest of the coriander/cilantro.

Serve hot with some plain dal and rice, grains, or roti.


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