Month: October 2016

Watermelon Rinds – For Curry And Dessert In A Hurry

Melons, squash, and gourds add hearty consistency to vegetarian dishes over the different seasons. Summer melons have high water content, and therefore have a mild taste. Watermelon rinds are similar to summer melons: their spongy surfaces readily soak up spices or absorb milk and sugar to make two different kinds of dishes. I took advantage of this feature to make a quick and easy vegetable side dish with bold flavor and a dessert enhanced by the rind’s inherent sweetness.

For the vegetarian side dish, the nutrient-rich watermelon rinds received a boost of flavor from one of my favorite spice combinations called panch phoran (five-spice mixture). Panch phoran, which comes from the Eastern states of India, is a combination of whole (mustard, fenugreek, nigella, cumin, and fennel) seeds. Unlike ground spices, which become stale if not used quickly, these seeds keep fresh for a long time and are a good spice blend to stock in a kitchen. The whole seeds burst in hot oil, releasing aromatics to give the watermelon rinds an instant pop of nutty, peppery pungency, and anise flavors.

As for dessert, I borrowed from a tradition of cooking vegetables (most commonly bottle gourd and carrots) in milk and sugar to make halva. The texture and color of the peeled and cubed watermelon rinds were similar to the long green bottle gourd, which is also used in both savory and sweet dishes. The watermelon rinds when cooked in milk have a gooey consistency; similar to rice that has absorbed the milk in rice pudding. Halva is garnished with nuts for a crunch and perfumed by freshly ground cardamom.

Watermelon Rinds In A Curry

Watermelon rinds – 2 cups, cubed

Panch Phoran (whole spice mix) – 2 tbsp

Garlic cloves – 5, peeled and finely sliced

Ginger – 2-inch piece, peeled and grated

Chili – 2, sliced

Tomatoes – 2, chopped

Kosher salt – to season

Vegetable oil – 2 tbsp

  • Heat vegetable oil in a wok or pan with a lid.
  • Add the panch phoran spices to hot oil. In a few seconds, the seeds will start to explode.
  • Immediately add the garlic, ginger, and chilies and sauté for about 1-2 minutes, until they are lightly browned.
  • Add the watermelon rinds and stir-fry, until the rinds are coated with the spice mixture.
  • Lower the flame and cover the pan. Cook for about 20 minutes or longer, until the rinds are soft. Stir occasionally during cooking. Add a ¼ cup of water to the mixture if the rinds are not ready and there is no water in the pan.
  • Serve warm.

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Watermelon Rind Halva

Watermelon rinds – 2 cups, cubed

Milk – 2¼ cups

Sugar – 8 tbsp

Cardamom – 4 whole pods

Butter or ghee – 3 tbsp

Toasted Nuts – 1 tbsp

  • Add the rinds and milk in a cast iron pan and cook on low, until the rinds become soft.
  • Continue to cook, stirring until the milk has evaporated. Mash the cooked rinds for a mashed potato-like texture.
  • Add the cardamom pods and sugar. Stir until sugar melts. Continue to cook for about five more minutes.
  • Remove from heat and while still hot, add butter.
  • Serve hot or cold. Garnish with toasted nuts.

 

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Heirloom Tomatoes: Tomato Chutney

Next to my home-grown, round, organic tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes look wild and crazily-shaped. Their sunset reds, dazzling yellows, and deep purple colors, along with striations and ridges, only accentuate their misshapen appearance. However, heirloom tomatoes’ strange form conceals a smooth texture and buttery sweetness. This combination of firmness and balanced acidity makes heirloom tomatoes a favorite in a Caprese salad – the bold flavors pair particularly well with basil vinaigrette. These same qualities make heirloom tomatoes good contenders in pickles and chutneys.

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The best time to eat heirloom tomatoes is when they are at their peak during summer. Their flavors are best conserved when the fruits are stored at room temperature. However, as spoilage is quick, cooking the tomatoes into a chutney (with spices, salt and sugar) preserves them. Heirloom tomatoes can now be enjoyed well into fall!

Tomato Chutney

Heirloom tomatoes – 2, chopped

Onion – 1, small, roughly chopped

Ginger – 4-5-inch piece, chopped

Chilies – 7-8, adjust depending on preferred chili heat

Vegetable oil – ½ cup

Salt – 1- 1½ tsp

Sugar – ¼ tsp

  • Process all the ingredients in a food processor or in batches in a blender, until you have a smooth mixture.
  • Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed cast iron pan.
  • Add all the blended ingredients into the pan and stir.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, and then let the mixture simmer for about 30-40 minutes. The mixture should have boiled down and have a creamy texture. Remove from heat and let the chutney cool.
  • Once cooled, store the chutney in sterilized mason jars in the refrigerator or freeze.

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Tomato chutney, much like pickles, provides the zesty addition to an Indian meal of vegetables and meat served with rice or naan. Tomato chutney can also be used as a spread over cream/goat cheese in a sandwich or used as a dip with sliced, raw vegetables.