Sunday, May 1, 2011

My "Top Chef" Challenge

I am, among other things, a food show junky.  Top Chef is one of my favorites; although I probably have 10 favorites...

So, when I was preparing for Tamarind Tribal Belly Dance's Student Showcase, I couldn't help but feel like I was on an episode of Top Chef.  I would like to see them try this challenge:  Provide appetizers for an unknown number of people, using as many local ingredients as possible, for $150.  Also, it's May 1st in Wisconsin, which is well before the growing season.  Also, try to make it sort of Middle Eastern themed.  Oh, and there will be a bunch of vegetarians...


Overall, the day was a total success.  My students were AMAZING and made me very proud.  And the food was good, although it vanished more quickly than I would have preferred.  I didn't have the option of going completely local, but I did try my best.  Unfortunately, the day got away from me and I completely forgot to take pictures of anything.  I'm sorry.  I suck.

Most of the recipes were taken, almost directly, from the Aarti Party website at Food Network.  So, most of the pictures that I have here are taken from there as well.

Chewda: Indian Chex Mix
From what I found online, this is very similar to Chex Mix in the sense that everyone has their own recipe.  It was salty, spicy, and sweet.  I did eat a lot of it right after making it the night before the Showcase, and while it was good room temperature, it was even better warm.  This recipe makes 4 cups, and I doubled that. 

  • 2 cups Corn Flakes cereal
  • 2 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
  • 1/4 cups peanuts (I used Spanish)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds 
  • 1/2 habanero chili (Local)
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp hot madras curry powder
  • small handful banana chips
  • 2 tablespoons golden rasins
  • Kosher Salt
In a large wok over medium heat, toast the corn cereal, puffed rice cereal, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds
until the cereals have crisped up, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Warm the oil in the same wok over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds (stand back, they'll pop!
), curry leaves, chile, and turmeric. Cook about 30 seconds. Turn the heat off.

Add the cereal mixture, banana chips, and raisins. Season with salt. Toss until well
combined, and pour into a big bowl.

Mint Pea-Lafels (Like a Falafel, but with Peas!)
Picture of Fried Pea and Mint Patty Sandwiches: Pea-lafels Recipe
 This Recipe is supposed to serve four.  I multiplied it by 8.  Warning, if you're going to do that, make sure you have a big enough bowl.  I did not.  And food process in batches.  Also, this recipe was supposed to be deep fried.  I ended up baking them because when they went into the oil they just fell apart and it was nasty.  Baked, though, they worked out well and were a lot healthier.  Also, I'm going to freeze a few and see if they heat up well later.  If so, this would be a good snack for our feeding FatChanceBellyDance when they come to visit in the fall.

  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 cup frozen peas (Local)
  • 1 cup frozen edamame (Local)
  • 1 small red onion or shallot (local)
  • Two cloves garlic (local)
  • 3/4 cups mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for pans.
  • 1/4 cup flour (local)
  • 2 large pitas, halved
  • 2 roma tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber, sliced thinly
Preheat oven to 400.

In a small skillet, toast the fennel and coriander seeds for a couple of minutes until they're fragrant and slightly darker, about 2 minutes. Don't walk away from the pan! They'll burn!

Remove from the pan and throw into a coffee/spice grinder. Grind to a fine powder.

Throw the peas, edamame, ground spices, shallot, garlic, mint leaves, olive
oil, and salt into a food processor. Puree until smooth. It won't get completely
smooth because of the edamame, but process until it is as smooth as possible.

Scrape into a big bowl and stir in the flour. The mixture will still be pretty soft. Not to worry!

Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets with olive oil.  With your hands, scoop out a small amount (like the size of a small ball of cookie dough), and roll into a ball.  Flatten into a disc, and place onto the cookie sheets.  Don't let them touch, but the patties can be pretty close together as they don't expand at all.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom.  Flip.  If they fall apart when you pick them up to flip them, they didn't cook long enough.  Cook for 15 minutes longer on the other side.

These keep warm well in a crock pot.  Updates later on whether they can be frozen and re-heated.

Serve with Yogurt Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt (local)
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
  • Kosher Salt
Combine first two ingredients in a bowl.  Mix thoroughly.  Season with salt.

Cucumber Raita
Makes four cups.  I doubled it.

Picture of Indian Cucumber and Yogurt Salad: Cucumber Raita Recipe
  • 2 cups low fat yogurt (local)
  • 2 cups grated cucumber
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (local)
  • 4 sprigs mint leaves, minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp golden raisins
  • freshly ground black pepper
Mix ingredients together vigorously.

This is really good when the rest of the food is really spicy!

Sloppy Bombay Joes
OMG, these were so good.  They were sweet, and spicy, and crunchy, and GOOD!  And not any harder than regular sloppy joes or chili or any other meaty snack foods.  They were a little watery, though.  More like chili than sloppy joes.  I might cut out the water entirely.  I will absolutely be making these again.  As stated above, these are not my pictures; I served this in pitas.

This recipe serves 4-6.  I made it x4.
Picture of Sloppy Bombay Joes Recipe
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (local)
  • 2 habanero peppers, whole (local)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 15 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 large white onion, finely diced (local)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, finely diced.
  • 1 lb ground beef (local)
  • 1/2 tsp honey (local)
  • 1/4 cup half and half (local)
  • 4-6 pita halves
Begin by making the sauce: Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until it
shimmers. Add the ginger, garlic and serrano pepper. Saute until the ginger and garlic brown a
little. Add the garam masala and paprika and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and
water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 15

Meanwhile, warm two tablespoons of oil until hot.  Add the pistachios and raisins, cook until the raisins swell up and the pistachios are slightly toasted.  Remove raisins and pistachios and set aside.

Add 1-2 tablespoons more oil and return the pan to heat.  Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 10 seconds.  Stir in the onions and pepper, and saute until softened and starting to brown.  Add the habenero.  Saute for 3 more minutes, seasoning with salt.  Stir in ground beef, breaking up the big lumps, and allow to brown.  Add the sauce, stir, bring to a boil, then lower and allow to simmer.  Cook until the meat is cooked through and the sauce is thickened - about 15 minutes.  Fish out and remove the two peppers, unless you want to give someone a terrible (but potentially hilarious) surprise.  Add honey, half-and-half, pistachios, and raisins.  Stir, taste, and add seasons if appropriate.

Fill the pitas with the sloppy joes, and enjoy!

I also had local sausage and cheese.  I wish I had some now!!  Mmm... Cheese....

1 comment:

  1. Good God, those pea-lafels look tasty. Yumm.

    Sorry I couldn't make it to the hafla.