spice

Coffee With Chicory


I confess that I am a coffee addict, and I hold family genes responsible for my chicory-flavored coffee cravings. Chicory is a root that adds the noticeable tang to medium roasted South Indian coffee. A member of the dandelion-family, the root was once used to stretch coffee rations in Asia and Europe. South Indians continue to mix chicory with coffee beans for the distinctive peppery flavor that it provides, but I’ve also ordered a cup of the blend in cafes in New Orleans. When coffee and milk are frothed together, the foam brings to the forefront both the aroma and flavor of chicory.

Long before machines gurgled and hissed out steaming milk, a frothy cup of coffee was achieved simply. All that is required are two separate tumblers, one with fresh filtered coffee and another with hot milk (often mixed with sugar). The hot milk is directly poured into the brewed coffee, starting with the vessels two inches apart and deftly raising one of the tumblers up to and approximately an arms’ length height. This introduces aeration and forms the distinctive top layer of bubbles. This method of producing a foamy cup is still practiced in everyday tea and coffee houses all over India.

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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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