Tuesday, February 19, 2013

#265 Greens and the Chopped Challenge !!

The Chopped Season 12 episode 3 on FoodNetwork was one of great interest to me. For those of you who have not watched it, Chopped is a competitive cooking challenge and all about presentation, taste and creativity. The expertise of a chef is determined by how an ingredient is prepared and not whether he/she knows enough about it's background.  Fatima Ali who was once eliminated from Chopped, took upon the challenge once again and this time she won! Congratulations and Hats-off to her for winning despite the fact that she had never tasted Olive loaf (being made out of pork she could not even taste it for religious reasons). However, she crisped it up and made it into bacon cubes and it was ultimately the perfect technique which got her points towards her topping the competition!

While the secret ingredients for the entree round in this episode, offered duck breast, red malabar spinach, cherry cola, and olive loaf, another contestant was completely thrown off by Malabar spinach. He was in fact asking himself what "Malabar" meant... was it some kind of "Bar"? This is the trickiest part of the Chopped competition. To be able to utilize surprisingly strange ingredients, to plan within seconds and come up with a delicious and beautifully served meal in 30 minutes is no joke!!  It may not have occurred to him in that nervous moment, that they're greens adaptable in many ways whether it is spinach or bok choy or Malabar spinach. What makes the show so challenging is the fact that in a short time these chefs are required to create a dish and be absolutely perfect to get to the top!

Although to a much smaller extent,  sometimes we all face a similar situation in our own kitchens too, don't we? Just like the "Chopped" show, we find a few ingredients in the fridge at the end of the week and look in the pantry for others that we try to combine to suit our taste buds and come up with an edible dinner. I do feel lucky that the end product doesn't matter since I'm not being judged in any way.....or am I?

Like last night for example I peek in my fridge and think --What can I do with a few random Bok Choy bunches that never made it to the Chinese soup I intended to make this week? Did a can of Black beans and a cup of Besan/Chickpea flour in the pantry catch my eye? Is it just me or has anyone else been in a similar situation at some point and time?  The family has voted for an Indian meal tonight so it will be tough.
Anyhow, let's see if I'll be Chopped by the toughest judges-----my family?

Bok Choy Zhunka

1/2 cup Besan/Chickpea flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tblspn ghee
1.2 cup thinly sliced Onion
1 green chilli minced
3 garlic minced
1 Tspn grated ginger
1 cup cilantro chopped
1/2 cup mint chopped
3 medium sized Baby Bok Choy
1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric
1-2 tspn lemon juice
Seasoning: 1/2 tspn mustard seeds, 1/2 tspn cumin seeds, a pinch of hing (Asafoetida)
1 red chilli.
Olive Oil and salt to taste

1. Roast the Beasn until it heats through well and gets a nice aroma. remove and cool.
2. Mix together buttermilk with just enough water, Besan and 1/2 tspn salt to make a smooth mixture without any lumps.
3. Heat the ghee in a non-stick pan, add mustard seeds, red chilli,cumin seeds, a pinch of Hing.
4. When the mustard splutters add the onions, green chilli, garlic and ginger and saute until the onion is light brown or reddish.
5. Add turmeric, chopped Bok Choy and stir until is wilts. Add salt to season and then toss in the cilantro and mint.
6. Right after that add the Besan-buttermilk mixture and turn the stove down a bit, simmer stirring well until the raw smell is gone and the zhunka thicken well keep seasoning to taste with salt and pepper(if needed). It will get thicker as it cools so remove the mixture from fire when it has reached a semi- thick state.
7. Add more water if it is too thick before removing from fire and then add 1-2 tspn of lemon juice stir well and serve.

Three Bean Dal Makhani


1 cup channa dal
1 cup moong dal
1 can black beans (15 oz can drained)
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 tomato chopped
garlic/ginger paste- 1 Tblspn
Ghee- 2Tbslpn
Coconut Milk- 1/2 cup thick milk
Cilantro chopped
1/4 tspn Asafoetida/Hing
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tspn
1/2 teaspoon halid /turmeric powder
4 green chillies

1. Place a pressure cooker pan(without the pressure seal). Heat ghee and add cumin seeds.
2. Add onions, tomato, asoafoetida, green chillies, turmeric, salt and ginger-garlic paste,
3. Saute for a minute add channa dal, moong dal and 1 cup water. When the mixture comes to a boil, cover with pressure, seal and cook for a whistle or two and remove from fire.
4. Take the lid off of the pressure cooker. add cilantro. drained black beans and enough salt and water.
5. Boil the dal until the mixture has absorbed the flavors for a minute or two and remove from fire.
6. Quickly add coconut milk and stire well. serve with rotis and rice.

Sometimes the challenge opens up a whole new world of cuisine and you find new dishes with unfamiliar ingredients that you would otherwise never deem compatible!!


  1. Very good ways to use up things in your pantry. I am very bad st this. If i don't have things i require in the pantry, i go shopping for it. Never been innovative in the kitchen

  2. oh lovely, looks very tempting!!!

  3. I love that show. By Friday I have same situation too.

  4. Just love your Zhunka. It is a new to me.


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