CSA Week 13
Week 13 had some wonders and some blunders: cilantro, water spinach, cherry tomatoes, beets, red potatoes, a leek, spring onions, summer squash, bitter melon, radishes, hot peppers and a mystery herb- lemon thyme?
First, the wonders. The nights are getting cold and it is perfect roast-dinner weather. I celebrated by doing a whole chicken, plus some extras.
There are beets, Smitten Kitchen’s roasted tomatoes and cipollini, a chicken breast, and the potatoes/onions/carrots I’d done underneath the chicken. As I don’t eat chicken skin, I like to season the meat directly, with butter and seasonings shoved underneath the skin. This process is way too gross for me to photograph (plus I am not enthusiastic about touching my camera with raw-chicken hands) but you can read about how to do it here. I made a compound butter with the lone leek and that unnamed herb, and as the chicken cooked, the flavored butter and chicken fat dripped out and coated everything in the pan with deliciousness. Perhaps not the lightest of entrees, but oh man was it ever good.
Now, the failures. I confess that last year when we got bitter melon in our shares, I put it in our crisper drawer and forgot about it, until it was clearly not edible. This time, I cooked it the day it arrived, and… it was not edible.
The recipe provided in our share newsletter suggested marinating it in salt and spices, drying the excess moisture, and roasting it in the oven. That sounded right to me, because I’ve done eggplant that way, and it does reduce the bitterness. I made the mistake of tasting a piece of the freshly sliced “fruit”, and then I had to go lie down for a while. Seriously, you know how it feels when you have a terrible fight with your husband, or your sister, or your best friend, and there is a sour taste in your mouth and your stomach clenches up into a knot? That is what bitter melon tastes like.
I didn’t have great hopes for the finished product, but I followed through with the recipe.
Here is the result, roasted with olive oil and sea salt. I tried a couple of pieces, and they didn’t make me want to cry, but I threw the rest away. One reason I really enjoy my CSA is that farmers from different countries are encouraged to grow exotic vegetables, and it’s expanded my horizons far beyond New England’s staples of tomatoes and corn. But sometimes (sweet potato greens, I’m looking at you) I wonder just how hungry a person would have to get to eat some of them. I can’t imagine anyone choosing bitter melon on purpose.
Am I being vegetablist? Was this a case of operator error? If anyone has an idea for making the melon less bitter, I’d love to know about it.