Chaaaaallenge!!! Top Chef It – Round 5

I enjoy these challenges, they force me to stretch my culinary comfort zone and I hope it does the same for you. Ultimately, I want to inspire to try new and different things, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Stop and smell the spices and cook a little. OK, I’m done with the clich√©s, promise.

Last month we got to play with edible flowers, it freaked me out and I loved it! The Kitchen Masochist¬†was chosen as the Top Chef for last month so that means she picks the ingredients for this month’s challenge. I know. I know. The schedule is off. It’s not my fault, life got in the way, but it will be OK. There will be more complications to my schedule this month, soooo, I’m trying to work around it.

For this round the challenge will be open from April 20th to May 21st. If you’re a foodie, submit your recipe by midnight¬†on Friday, May 21st. Remember you must incorporate all 3 ingredients in your recipe. If you’re a reader, you can cast your vote beginning May 22nd.

Here are the ingredients selected by The Kitchen Masochist and some tips when choosing them:

Tofu – firm or soft ( also known as ‘silken tofu’)

Seafood of your choice – fish, shrimp, mussels or clams

Lemongrass

Tips from the Masochist:
-buy your tofu from your local Asian markets instead of those fancy or trendy health food stores like Whole Foods. You’ll pay much less.
-Soft or silken tofu is generally used in desserts and firm tofu in savory dishes.
-The¬†scent of fresh lemongrass¬†dissipates the longer its exposed to air, so chop your lemongrass just right when you’re about to use it.

Don’t be shy, send your recipes this way.

Anamaris

Top Chef It Yourself – Spring Challenge & Voting

UPDATE:

Instead of sending you to another post, I’m going to include the poll here so you can tell us which of these dishes strikes your fancy. Take a moment to acquaint yourself with the fantastic bloggers that submitted recipes this month. Believe me when i say you won’t be disappointed.

Then think about the 3 recipes, how original they were, would you like to try it? Would you attempt it? Then record your vote for your choice. We’re dying to hear from you. You can read the full post after the jump.

Aaah, Spring. It’s beginning to peek around here. The grass is greening, trees have bloomed, allergies have overtaken my body. Yesterday was supposed to be the first da of Spring, but in Houston temperatures dipped into the 30s overnight. Old Man Winter refuses to go quietly; good for him.

Anyway, as last month’s winner of the challenge, Casey chose our ingredients: edible flowers, shallots and a choice of beef, pork or lamb. From reading the posts from those who participated, this was indeed a challenging challenge. Heh. All 3 of us seem to have experienced some palpitations over it, then managed to pull out the stops. I’m really excited about all these dishes, hope you are too.

This was Jenn‘s first time making the challenge, and her dish looks amazing. She made nasturtiums into pesto and infused a sauce with shallots and a mix of edible flowers. YUM! Check out her recipe here.

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Have you ever heard of corkwood flowers? Well, if you were in the Philippines you would. That’s where the Kitchen Masochist lives and where she got the idea for her recipe. She seared beef and served it with a reduction from the flowers and Asian shallots. Gimme gimme! For the recipe, go here.

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Me?¬† I had a meltdown, or close to it. Couldn’t find the flowers, not sure if it has to do with the fact that Spring isn’t quite here, or just Houston limitations. Anyway, I got these yellow ones (I still don’t know what they are, if you do, holla!) I used them as garnish because I didn’t find a discernible taste. I opted for dried lavender and crusted some lamb with it. You can see my recipe here.

I had a great time with these ingredients, living outside the box is cool even when its uncomfy. I hope this will inspire you to try something new too.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Lavender for Spring

Casey, Casey, Casey. I have to say thanks, even if begrudgingly. Edible flowers…, WTH!!! I don’t think I’ve ever eaten any or had any on something I’ve eaten. I mean fresh edible flowers specifically. Nev.Ah. So when you threw those in as one of the ingredients for this month’s¬†Top Chef It Yourself Challenge, you threw me for a huge loop. And that’s exactly what this challenge is about. Stretching comfort zones, thinking outside the boxes. Exploring. Testing. Challenging. So really. THANKS. Gracias, Merci, Grazie, Danka and all other languages I don’t know.

I tried, really I did. I Googled, Yellow Paged, emailed, did all the researching things one does in order to find something. Finally, a contact mentioned they had edible flowers through their organic market association thing and they could get me some. So I got them…, they weren’t labeled. I still don’t know what they are. They didn’t taste like anything *insert VERY pregnant pause here* even remotely special. They just tasted sorta *pause* green.

In the end I feel I copped out a bit, I went with dried lavender. In my defense, I’ve never cooked with it, unless you count Herbs d’Provence. The other ingredients were shallots and our choice of beef, pork or lamb. Since I’m trying to challenge myself, I opted for lamb. I had only cooked it twice and both times I cooked chops. To recap: lavender, shallots and leg of lamb–those were my ingredients.

I had a very clear idea in my head. I once saw Gordon Ramsay prepare lamb chops that he crusted in a parsley-breadcrumb¬†mix. They were beautiful. The green was bright and vibrant. And that’s what I envisioned, except I was hoping for purple. I didn’t quite get that effect. Not sure if it was because my newly purchased food processor didn’t grab the lavender buds or if it’s just because the lavender was dry and thus didn’t spread its lovely hue. No matter. The result was out of this world deliciousness.

Lavender tastes slightly sweet, not minty but slightly so. Maybe like very mild rosemary? There’s a certain smokiness¬†to it. It paired incredibly well with the lamb’s gamey taste, almost spotlighting it. It was divine. I crusted the lamb with lavender and breadcrumbs¬† and served it with a turnip & potato mash with fried shallots and brown butter sauce. That’s a mouthful, and it was oh so good. Here’s the scoop.

Lavender Crusted Leg of Lamb
Serves 4

1 leg of lamb, deboned (approx 2lbs)
2 tsp garlic, crushed (about 2 cloves)
2 tsp sea salt (I used my Mediterranean salt)
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tbsp lavender buds
1 tbsp thyme, fresh
1-1/2 cp panko crumbs
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Mix the garlic, salt, pepper and 2 tsp oil and rub it on the lamb to marinate. Truss the lamb, this will help cook it evenly. Set it aside for now, this is a good time to prep the turnips or whatever side you plan on serving with this. Combine the lavender, thyme, panko and the rest of the oil, set aside.

Heat an ovenproof skillet over high heat and swirl a few drops of olive oil. Sear the lamb on all sides, cooking for about 2-3 minutes per side. Preheat oven to 375¬į.

Cover the leg with the panko mixture on all sides, pressing it onto the leg of lamb. Put it back on the skillet and pop it in the oven to roast for about 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 170¬į. Once it reaches this temperature (for rare lamb), remove it from the oven and allow it sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.

Now let’s talk about the turnips. I’ve only had them twice before this time, I noticed they seem to retain¬†a lot of water. Since I wanted to mash them, I wanted to make sure there was some creaminess, that’s why I added the potatoes. The other thing I did was steam instead of boil them, that kept them nice and dry.

Turnip Potato Mash with Fried Shallots & Brown Butter Sauce

2 cps turnips, peeled & chopped
2 small potatoes, peeled & chopped
Sea salt
3 tbsp butter
I have one of these little steam baskets, I put it at the bottom of a medium sized¬†pan and added enough water to create some steam. The water shouldn’t come through the basket. Combine the turnips and potatoes, add about 1-2 tsps of sea salt and place them on the basket. Cover with the pan’s lid and cook at a medium boil for about 20 minutes or until fork tender.

Once the potatoes and turnips are tender, drain the water and return the turnips to that saucepan (without the basket). Add the butter and mash roughly. Adjust seasoning as desired, set aside and keep warm.

For the Brown Butter Sauce: In a small pan melt 3 tbsp butter over medium low heat.

Continue heating the butter until it begins to change color to a deep golden brown. At this point add 1/4 cp of sherry and flame it to burn off the alcohol. Keep warm.

For the Fried Shallots: Thinly slice 2 shallots. Heat about 2 tbsp of oil on medium high heat. Add the shallots trying to keep them in a single layer. You’ll want to keep your eye on this, as the shallots with brown fairly quickly. Once browned, drain on paper towels.

Bring it all together. To plate it, place a couple medallions of¬†the lamb on a plate. Spoon some of the mash next to it and top the mash¬†with a couple tablespoons of the butter sauce. Top the sauce with the fried shallots. Eat it!¬†Add the shallots last so they’re still crisp when you eat them.

Doesn’t that look just AWESOME?!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Top Chef It Yourself – The Winner

Another month, another cooking challenge completed. This was the second round and we had some great dishes, but you, the voter has spoken and the hat’s go off to Casey’s Date and Ginger Couscous Pudding.¬†

Last month we got to know a bit about what got her cooking, so this month I was curious about what’s in the future for her and her blog.¬†¬†Here’s what she’s cooking up:

“The next three months should be quite exciting as Spring is right around the corner. ¬†I hope to have some great posts coming up about getting my garden going, plus I am hoping to learn some traditional Bulgarian cheese-making techniques, which I hope to share with my readers.
 
In honor of St. Patrick’s day, I will be curing my own beef for corned beef and cabbage, plus Irish soda bread and maybe some Irish whiskey cupcakes. ¬†The international women’s club that I am a member of will be hosting some French cooking demo’s so I am excited to write about learning some new things. ¬†¬†
 
In April, I will be in be back in the United States, so I hope to be able to sample some great food and find new and interesting stuff to smuggle back in my suitcases!”

That certainly sounds exciting. And to keep our little  challenge interesting, I asked Casey to choose the next three ingredients:

Meat (beef, pork or lamb)

Edible Flowers (whatever is available locally)

Shallots

I’ve never eaten my flowers…, this should be interesting. Who’s ready for a new challenge? Here’s a little reminder of how things work:

  • All recipes must be submitted by the 20th of the month
  • One recipe will be randomly selected as the TCIY Recipe of the Month
  • Winning recipe will be¬†announced on the 25th of the month¬†¬†on this¬†blog
  • Top Chef It Yourself – Round 2

    The introductory round was such fun, we’re doing it again. What can you come up with using these ingredients?

    Couscous

    Dates and…

    GINJAH! (can you tell I was using my Top Chef Chairman pizzaz with that one?)

    Here’s the deal,¬†

    • You must¬†be a foodie¬†blogger to participate
    • It is a monthly challenge–one entry per month
    • Submit a dish incorporating 3 pre-set ingredients–doesn’t matter if¬† you follow, tweak or create your own recipe. You aren’t restricted to these ingredients, add at will
    • All recipes must be submitted by the 20th of the month
    • One recipe will be voted¬†as the TCIY Recipe of the Month
    • Winning recipe will be¬†announced and featured on the 25th of the month¬†¬†on this¬†blog
    • Blogger with the winning entry¬†will receive a special widget to display on their site
    • Winning blogger will choose¬†3 other entries they liked and will link them on their winning post

    Who’s in? I’ll tell you

    Michelle at 5Forks
    Jen at Braise, Boil, Bake
    Arlene at Food of Love
    Jenn at Sweet Water Cooks
    Christine at Vancouver Food & Wine Review
    Thas at Cooking with Thas
    Casey at E-G-L in Bulgaria

    And here they are, the entries for this month’s challenge.

    Michelle, dazzled us and her daughter with a sweet recipe: Fruit and Nut Couscous. She also offers up some tips to make this a wallet-friendly snack.

    Christine meant serious business when she put this meal together. Her Braised Lamb with Zalouk and Couscous looks divine. I guess that’s appropriate¬†since this is a meal served at dinner parties in a ceremony style entrance that elicits ooohs¬†and aaaahs from the guests.

    As for me, dates and couscous were unfamiliar territory. This was the 3rd time I’d eaten couscous and knew I need to do something to help me through its texture. I came up with Couscous Fritters with Date and Ginger Sauce. Hubby and I loved it!

    Casey came through with another dessert, this one inspired by¬†Moroccan flavors. Her version of Date & Ginger Couscous¬†Pudding sounds awesome and it doesn’t get in the way of her LCD diet.