Orange Coast Magazine

Taste of O.C. | Priscilla Mayfield on food

 

For a restaurant open 27 years, Irvine’s Clay Oven feels remarkably fresh. Owners Geeta and Praveen Bansal project the enthusiasm we associate with fledgling restaurateurs—the good ones, anyway. They travel frequently, bringing home ideas and influences from some of the world’s best chefs. Recently in France they met Paul Bocuse, and, closer to home, Michael Voltaggio at Ink in Los Angeles.

But Geeta, the restaurant’s executive chef, is no stranger to innovation. Her holiday tandoori turkey, a 17-year tradition, is locally famous. You might want to keep in mind what I just discovered: The turkey can be special ordered throughout the year.

Geeta cooks traditional Indian dishes as well, but always with personal twists. She believes that what’s on the plate tells a story—the chef’s story. Part of her own story is reflected in the unusual recipe for watermelon curry, which she shares with Taste of Orange County. Watermelon, cooked? Slightly—not so unusual when you consider melons are part of the cucurbit family, along with squash and cucumbers. This is one of those happens-to-be-vegan dishes that could come in handy at a dinner party..

Watermelon Curry from Geeta Bansal

This dish is common in northern India in summer, when not too many vegetables are available. According to ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine) it’s a cooling dish, and also lighter to digest in hot weather.—Geeta Bansal

Seedless watermelon

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1-inch square fresh ginger, finely minced

½ teaspoon roughly ground coriander seeds

¼ teaspoon cayenne

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 serrano chili, seeded and julienned

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Remove and discard watermelon rind. Cut enough flesh into 1-inch cubes to make 3 cups, saving trimmings and remaining flesh. Set cubes aside.

Put watermelon trimmings (not cubes) and any juice from cutting board in blender container and blend to rough purée, adding more watermelon flesh as necessary to make 2 to 2 1//2 cups liquid. Reserve.

Heat oil in wide sauté pan, add cumin seeds and sauté until browned. Add garlic and ginger and cook briefly, but do not brown. Add watermelon liquid, coriander, cayenne, turmeric, and salt to taste. Lower heat and simmer until sauce reduces by roughly half. Add watermelon cubes, serrano chili, and lemon juice. When watermelon is heated through, add chopped cilantro. Serve hot, over basmati rice tossed with green peas, quinoa, or couscous.

Leave a comment:

· Subscribe to comments
Be the first to comment here.

OC Guides

Guides

OC Guides
  • Neighborhoods: Rancho Santa Margarita

    Rancho Santa Margarita’s Plaza El Paseo is a South County suburban mall with a twist. It’s the unexpected finds—a little gem of a florist, cozy spots to sample tea and wine, and a top-notch steakhouse across the street—that put it in a league of its own. Read More
  • O.C.’s Best: Bloody Marys

    Get your vegetables and booze in one convenient—and delicious—serving with what’s been hailed as America’s murkiest and most complex cocktail. Traditionally made with tomato juice, vodka, celery salt, horseradish, Worcestershire, and Tabasco, its origins are widely debated. Here are five superb O.C. renditions of the world-famous drink.

    Read More
  • Hot O.C. Neighborhood: East Side Costa Mesa

    This updated neighborhood doesn’t have to try hard to be interesting, original, surprising, and modern—it just is. Take the mile-long stretch of strip malls along 17th Street, between Newport Boulevard and Irvine Avenue, the heart of the renaissance. Foodies come for the Instagram-worthy Aussie-style meat pies at PieNot, coconut French toast at Plums Café, and braised pork panini at Pitfire Artisan Pizza. And that’s just the Ps. Other homegrown restaurants and shops tip toward lean-and-clean fare, such as the casual Jan’s Health Bar. Plus it’s the birthplace of Mother’s Market & Kitchen. Read More
  • Hot O.C. Neighborhood: Downtown Anaheim

    With a focus on food and community, downtown’s fresh look gets inspiration from the city’s rural roots. It takes resourcefulness to restore and imaginatively reuse old buildings, qualities the city’s founding farming families had, too. The new energy is centered on the Packing District, a two-block stretch of Anaheim Boulevard between Santa Ana Street and East Broadway: the restored 1920s-era Packard Building, now home to Anaheim Brewery and Umami Burger, and the 1919 Anaheim Citrus Packing House, with a food hall of locally based food-and-beverage artisans. Read More
  • Neighborhoods: Costa Mesa

    Chain restaurants and stores dominate most of the strip malls on Costa Mesa’s east side. But at Santa Ana Avenue and 17th Street, look a little closer and you’ll find indie boutiques and cafes tucked in among the usual suspects Read More
 
 
wine blog
 

stuff we love

Charitable Events Calendar

Close

Advertisement