I’m going to be upfront with you – if you don’t like bitter foods, you probably won’t like this week’s recipe. Much as I’d like to tout that I’ve developed a way to eliminate the bitter momordicin compounds which make this vegetable one of the most astringent foods on the planet, that’s just not going to happen. But, there’s a bit of fun to be found in diving into this historically medicinal gourd; a new taste sensation is especially exciting for those who prefer their coffee black.

In truth, there are a few tricks to make bitter melon more palatable. First, salting and squeezing the melon extracts some of its bitter juices. Pairing the bitter melon with tangy amchur (green mango) powder, sweet coconut palm sugar, and a generous amount of spices also help balance the overall flavor. Finally, giving the melon slices a nice crisping near the end of cooking, and garnishing them with fresh cilantro as they come off the heat, give the dish an ideal texture.

There are two main varieties of bitter melon: the warty, light green Chinese cultivar, and the spiny, dark green Indian version. Both work fine for this recipe, but I prefer the exotic look of the Indian variety.

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Vindaloo is a curry dish originating in the Goa region of West India. It is actually the Indian interpretation of the Portuguese dish Carne de Vinha D’Alhos (Meat with Wine and Garlic), borrowed from the Portuguese colony in Goa. The original dish is seasoned with vinegar, and that slightly sour taste remains in most Indian interpretations today.

While you’ll find potatoes in Vindaloos at many Indian restaurants worldwide, Vindaloo purists will argue that the dish shouldn’t have potatoes; what’s interesting is that the original Portuguese dish does indeed feature potatoes. So they were lost at some point, only to find their way back again. The Indian dish does stray from its source, though: Carne de Vinha D’Alhos is usually made with pork, and the Vindaloos you’ll find in Indian restaurants is most often made with lamb. Likewise, the Indian dish is moderately spicy, unlike its Portuguese counterpart. For this recipe, I kept the heat fairly mild; to spice it up, simply add more chili powder.

After such a warm reception to my pressure-cooker Instant Stew recipe from a couple weeks ago, I decided to make this dish using my Instant Pot electric pressure cooker as well. For those of you without a pressure cooker, fear not: stovetop instructions are included. At its essence, the recipes are the same; the pressure cooker just cuts down the cooking time considerably.

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Attukal Paya (sometimes spelled as Aattukaal Paya or just Paya) is a hearty soup made with lamb, sheep, or goat feet served in South India. What fascinates me about this dish is that it’s often served for breakfast – initially this sounded strange to me, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense; why not start your day out with some nutritious bone broth soup?

I also love the idea of throwing together a bunch of ingredients at night and waking up to breakfast already made!

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One of the most common curries you’ll find in Indian restaurants here in the US is chicken tikka masala, a creamy, tomato-based sauce with slow-roasted chicken chunks. Being that it’s so popular, it’s easy to find pre-made sauces in most grocery stores; after putting several through their paces, I’ve settled on a quick, foolproof chicken tikka masala for an easy weeknight dinner.

One of the more interesting facts about this dish is that its place of origin is under dispute; there’s a good chance that it was invented in either India or England.

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