One of my favorite cooking shows out there is Chopped. The competitors are asked to make a dish in a short amount of time from a basket of random, miscellaneous ingredients. Their crazy, innovative creations always inspire me to cook and whip up some spectacular dish of my own. I had always thought it would be fun to enter a Chopped-like competition but never thought I’d get a chance to until recently.
To celebrate Earth Day, our school hosts a Celebration Fair, where many student groups set up booths and activities related to Earth Day. A student group called Real Food Hopkins hosted a “Veg Fest” competition, where 4 student chefs competed to see who could make the best vegetarian dish. They gave us the list of ingredients a few days beforehand so we could come up with a recipe (a bit more time than they give you in Chopped). The students then prepared the recipes the night before the competition to hand out as samples to students at the fair. On the actual day of the fair, we cooked our dishes in front of everyone and had the judges taste them.
The list of ingredients they gave were: beets, radishes, turnips, carrots, kale, fingerling sweet potatoes, white button mushrooms, and French shallots. After tossing a few ideas in my head I thought of creating a twist on the Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich by using a veggie patty filling. This was a completely original recipe and actually turned out pretty great the first time I made it. I used the same recipe for the competition and although I didn’t win, the sandwich got some rave reviews from friends and students for being “creative and delicious.”
- 1 cup carrots, peeled intro thin strips
- 1/2 cup radish, chopped into thin slivers
- 1/2 shallot, chopped into slivers
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups fingerling sweet potatoes
- 2 cups white button mushrooms, chopped into small bits
- 1 cup red kale, chopped into small pieces
- 1 red shallot
- olive oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 egg
- 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 3 French baguettes (8-in long)
- salt and pepper
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce or Srirarcha
- In a medium bowl, mix together rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Using a vegetable peeler, peel outer layer of carrots and discard. Then continue peeling into long, thin strips. Using a knife, thinly slice radish into small circles. Thinly slice shallots. Add the carrots, radish, and shallot into the vinegar bowl and stir. Let stand at room temperature.
- Boil water in a large pot. Peel and cut sweet potatoes into small cubes. Steam sweet potato cubes for 15 min, until tender when poked with a fork.
- While sweet potatoes are steaming, peel and mince shallot. Roughly chop mushrooms and kale into small pieces. In a medium pan, sauté shallots. Then add mushrooms and kale. Stir for about 5 minutes, until cooked well.
- Transfer the steamed sweet potatoes into a bowl and mash well with a fork. Add the mushroom-kale mix and mash together. Add soy sauce, egg, and breadcrumbs and mix well. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Using hands, form sweet potato mix into small ½ inch balls. Press gently to flatten.
- In the same pan as before, heat oil to medium-high heat. Add the sweet potato discs and fry on both sides until dark golden on the outside (about 30-60 sec each).
- Cut baguettes horizontally. Mix mayonnaise and hot chili sauce together. Spread on the bottom inner side of the baguette. Add sweet potato discs and top with the pickled carrots, radish, and shallots.
With another new year ahead of us, I decided it’s finally time for this blog to get a makeover. I changed the theme so that the layout of the blog is more minimalistic and highlights the photos cause it’s all about the droolworthy photos after all, right? One of the changes I am most excited about is the Recipe Card at the end of the post that includes a Nutrition Facts panel! So check out the fancy, informative panel and in the meantime bear with me as I tweak some final changes to the layout of the blog.
Other than playing around with the blog, I’ve been at home happily relaxing and lounging, cooking and eating. I’ve also been reading a book I got for Christmas called The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (from Serious Eats). It’s a huge book (seriously like a textbook) full of Kenji’s wise knowledge about basic cooking skills/techniques and the food science behind it. He has searched for the best methods to cook things such as the fluffiest pancake or the juiciest burgers through scientific experiments. For example, in the pasta section, he found that adding some of the starchy pasta water back into the pasta and sauce mixture will help the sauce stick better to the pasta rather than using regular water.
This week, our friend Ernie (who you may remember from our Summer Peach Pie adventure), shared with us how to make a rich, meaty Italian bolognese sauce. I’ve made bolognese sauce by myself at school once but it was a way more simplified version that required less manpower and patience. This version is one of the more advanced recipes on this blog that you should courageously tackle with a friend or two or set aside a nice chunk of time for. Either way, it will be worth it!
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
- 3/4 cup white wine
- 1/2 small carrot
- 1/2 small onion
- 1/4 cup pancetta (Italian bacon)
- 1 can whole tomatoes
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 clove garlic
- 3/4 lb meat loaf mix (group beef + veal)
- 1 link Italian sausage (casing removed)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- Rigatoni pasta
- Microwave 1/4 cup of water and dried porcini for about 1 minute. Let the mushrooms soak for 5 minutes until soft. Drain and save mushroom water for later.
- In a saute pan, reduce 3/4 cups of dry white wine to about 1/3 cup. Save for later.
- Using a food processor, pulse carrot and onion together.
- Cut pancetta into 1 inch pieces and pulse in a food processor.
- Pulse the can of tomatoes in food processor until finely chopped.
- In a saute pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter. Add pancetta and cook for 2 minutes, until browned.
- Stir in vegetable mixture and mushrooms for 5 minutes, adding a clove of garlic.
- Add meat loaf mix and sausage with casing removed. Cook until meat mixture is well broken down.
- Add milk and cook until the liquid is gone and meat is sizzling (20 minutes).
- Add tomato paste, tomatoes, mushroom liquid, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
- After 15 minutes, add reduced wine and cook for a few more minutes.
- Serve with pasta.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m constantly looking for clever ways to make foods healthier by using substitutions, for example, using Greek yogurt or avocado in desserts. So when I found out you could make mashed potatoes using a healthy vegetable, I was very intrigued. Mashed potatoes are the ultimate Thanksgiving comfort food. However, even though potatoes are a vegetable, they are very starchy and even less healthy when butter and cream are added.
Cauliflower, on the other hand, is full of vitamins and minerals and has numerous health benefits. Because it doesn’t have much flavor, when it is steamed and blended it’s not that much different from real mashed potatoes. For flavor, add some Parmesan cheese, garlic, and herbs. This magical veggie can also be used to disguise carbs in other dishes such as cauliflower crust and cauliflower fried rice.
The cauliflower version is actually easier than mashing real potatoes since all you need is a blender, saving your arm from a serious work-out. It tastes best when combined with meat, fish, or other protein. If you’re skeptical about cauliflower mashed “potatoes” or think it’s too extreme, you can mix the blended cauliflower with your regular mashed potatoes. For more healthier alternatives to Thanksgiving recipes, check out this article on Spoon University. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- pinch salt and pepper
- Gather ingredients and boil a pot of water.
- Cut cauliflower into florets and place in a steamer. Steam for 10 minutes until tender. (If you don’t have a steamer, place cauliflower in a bowl with just enough water to cover the bottom of the bowl. Cover bowl with a paper towel and microwave for 4-5 minutes.)
- Heat olive oil in a small skillet. Smash garlic and cook for 1 minute on each side on medium heat until browned.
- Put steamed cauliflower in a food processor, along with garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Blend well.