I was at the Indian store yesterday, buying fresh mint, when I saw some unusually fresh bitter melons. On impulse, I bagged over a pound of the beauties, with no particular purpose in mind. I used to make a filipino salad I learned from a coworker in Beverly Hills, that involves grilling the bitter melon (called ampalayá in Tagalog). I haven't made it lately because it needs fish sauce to taste right, and I don't even buy fish sauce anymore. But I was in the mood to bring back that grilling technique, so I came up with a sort of MexicAsian relish. It evolved as I made it, as you'll see.
First I grilled the bitter melon as usual, letting it blacken dramatically. The next step is to wash and scrape off the char (always a good idea), slit the bitter melons lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. Then I sliced them crosswise, a little wider than a quarter-inch. So far, it's the same salad. The filipino cuisine apparently doesn't mix bitter with spicy, but I have no problem with that, so I added basic salsa ingredients: fresh green chiles, tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Then I kept going, bringing in some diced avocado for good measure, and red kidney beans, for substance and protein. Finally, I added a few tablespoons of Simple Garlic Udo's Oil, a grind or two of black pepper, and a little ground chile chimayo, folding gently with a silicone spatula.
You have to like bitter melon to really enjoy this, but I do (very much), so there you have it. I made a lunch out of this little salad/salsa, eating it with some fire-heated tortillas.
For more ideas using bitter melon, check out an earlier post, "Bitter Is Good," and another one called "Bitter Melon Curry."