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Ricotta & Pea Stuffed Karela

a plate of food on a table

Photo: Ajna Jai / Contributor 

Karela, the dreaded bitter melon of my childhood, was a favorite of my parents — my father, a deeply disciplined man, knew the health benefits of the fruit, but at the time but my brothers and I could not care less.

Fast forward to my adult years, I began to see the light. Once balanced and tempered with other seasonings, bitter melon transforms into a thing of beauty. It can be chopped up — peel, seeds and all — and turned into a sabzi, which is essentially a cooked vegetable, with caramelized onions, ginger, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. A touch of cardamom or cinnamon can offset the bitterness, as well.

Roasted karelas can be glazed with maple and chile and stuffed with all kinds of fillings, from cheese, potato and beans to pureed spinach. The seeds inside can be chopped up and cooked with the filling. Minced and added to lentil stews and braised potatoes, the peel works particularly well in roti dough, which simply swallows up the bitter flavor.

I can now safely say that karela is one of my favorite vegetables to experiment with. Naturally bitter foods are also revered in Ayurveda, bringing an essential balance to the salty, sweet, sour, pungent, and astringent flavors. Bitter melons are in season right now in Texas and Plant It Forward farm will have plenty in the next few weeks, so do go grab some.

Read More  |  Recipe: India1948