Bitter sweet and delicious!
I may have just discovered my plan of action for my recipes, a tad late, for the coming year.
Ever wonder what is it about special diets that make them appear more sickly than the poor unwell patient they are prescribed for. I mean, just because someone's metabolism deviates from the 'normal' range does not always mean that they need to be 'condemned' into eating food that does nothing for the visual aspect of the culinary experience.
After a chance 'brush' with the American Diabetes Associations Food related website, I realized that as much as there are ingredients that are 'banned' there are an equally large number of ingredients that are recommended. so why not bring together those ingredients into culinary creations that everyone (with and without whacked out metabolism) would love to savor?
An underlying theme behind all the restricted ingredients is that most of them appear to be in the 'processed foods' column. Crystalline sugar, All purpose flour, white rice, in short anything that's come into ample contact with mechanized, electrified gadgets that arose after the invention of the Steam Engine & the Industrial Revolution. Michael Pollan's advice of it came from a plant, then yes, if it was made IN a plant, the NO holds so true.
Its said that food is medicine & vice versa. It holds true only when the ingredients are not stripped of the surrounding elements. Ee.g. crystals of sugar extracted & purified from all the wonderful supporting minerals & micro nutrients found in a stalk of sugar cane, Or white rice stripped of its bran and the vitamins found within. If only we could determine with a certain statistical level of confidence that the rule is universal & that the same applies to pharmaceutical compounds... (Just think about it.. GMO Monsters (a.k.a Monsanto & its ilk) and the profit seeking aspect of pharmaceutical companies wiped out in one swipe.. ok ok.. let me stop day dreaming!)
The recipe in this post highlights all the ingredients that have been shown to be low glycemic and even proven to be effective in controlling blood glucose, Bitter melon by itself is a hard vegetable to love, for obvious reasons. But, paired (& stuffed with) with low glycemic sweet potatoes and simmered in a vegan gravy thickened with almond flour, it makes for a dish whose rich decadent appearance belies its healthful qualities. Of course, its important to remember that moderation is the key.
Sweet Potato stuffed Bitter Melons in a Tomato & Almond gravy. (serves 6-8)
- 6 - 8 medium sized Indian Bitter melons (a.k.a Karela)
- 2 medium sized Sweet potatoes (Any color, white, purple or the orange fleshed tubers - Yams as they're known as in the US of A)
- 1/4 cup Garbanzo flour (Besan) + 2 extra tablespoons for a paste
- 2 tablespoons mixture of crushed coriander, cumin and fennel (take equal amounts of the three spices, crush them and use 2 tablespoons worth)
- Cayenne pepper powder as per taste (~1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon)
- 1/4 cup cooking oil (sesame or peanut)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 large onion diced finely
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/3rd cup almond meal
- Water as required
- salt to taste
- Cilantro for garnish.
Boil, peel and mash the sweet potatoes and set aside.
Prep the bitter melons as follows: after cleaning the vegetable, scrape off the rough pebbly surface using a peeler. Make a longitudinal slit along the length of the vegetable. Gently pry it open and scoop out all the pith and seeds using a small spoon. Take care to ensure that you don't tear the karela open.
Rub salt into the cavity and all over the exterior and set aside to drain for about 15-20 minutes. This tends to reduce excessive bitterness in the vegetable.
Take about 2 tablespoons each of whole coriander, cumin and fennel seeds and crush them lightly using a mortar and pestle. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a small skillet and add the crushed spices.
Once they begin to 'bloom' and emit their characteristic aroma add the cayenne chilli powder and 1/4 cup of garbanzo flour and toast it until it begins emitting a nutty aroma. Add this mixture along with a bit of salt to the mashed sweet potatoes and knead lightly to combine all the ingredients well.
Shake of all excess liquid from the salted Karela and use a kitchen towel to wipe the outside and the interior cavity. Stuff the Sweet potato mixture into the karela, The vegetable will be less firm now that it's lost a lot of moisture, so dig in and stuff away.
Mix in an extra couple of tablespoons of the garbanzo flour with a little water to make a thick paste. Generously apply the paste over the opening in the karela. For extra caution, tie up the stuffed specimens using bakers string.
In a steamer basket, Steam the karelas for 15 minutes. (this cooks the karela and reduces the need to deep fry the vegetable in oil in order to prep it).
Untie the bakers string after the vegetables have cooled completely.
Heat the oil in a skillet and pan fry the Karela, carefully turning it over at regular intervals so that they get browned evenly. Remove and place on absorbent paper. You may want to fry them in two batches for the convenience of turning them over with the tongs and to avoid overcrowding the pan.
In the same oil, add the diced onions and fry until they turn translucent. Add the Garam Masala followed by the tomato paste and cook down until the mixture is really thick and the tomato paste loses its 'raw' aroma. Add the almond flour and water and stir to combine. Allow the mixture to come to a gentle boil.
Add in the karelas into the tomato/almond gravy. lower the heat, cover and allow to simmer gently for about 10 minutes until all the flavors combine.
Transfer the karela pieces onto a serving dish and spoon the gravy over. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm with fresh whole wheat Roti.
Here's to healthy eating!