A vegan Chopped Challenge was presented by the Post Punk Kitchen. This post is my recap of accepting this challenge from start to finish. Generally, my posts start with some sort of photo, but you’ll have to read through (or cheat and scroll down) to see the resulting meal.
I have a love/hate relationship with the TV show Chopped. I have a love/hate relationship with cooking, too. Fortunately, I have a love/love relationship with challenges! Assuming you’re familiar with the show, here are the mystery ingredients for this challenge:
Blackberries, fresh mint, canned black eyed peas, and bittersweet chocolate.
Dessert came to mind. Yes, those ingredients would be a great base for dessert! But no, that’s too obvious, and the challenge specifically stated the meal must be an entree, therefore dessert was out of the question. Alright, savory it is.
To keep as true as possible to the challenge, I gave myself just a few minutes to come up with an idea, procured the mystery ingredients, and went at it, keeping preparation and cooking time to 30 minutes.
About twenty percent into the cooking time, I had some definite Chopped challenger moments. I thought: “How was I planning to use the blackberries again?” (My attempt to make a quick sauce with blackberries and bittersweet chocolate while the tempeh was cooking didn’t fit this dish at all). “Oh yeah, they are going to be chopped and added just before the gremolata.” “Was I going to add the mint to the black eyed peas mixture or gremolata?” “Right, the gremolata!” “I wonder what the other challengers are making. Okay. Focus. Keep cooking. The clock is ticking!”
Let’s go ahead and get to the (roughly estimated!) recipe, and then I’ll let you know how things came out afterwards:
Black Eyed Peas, Mushrooms, and Brussels Sprouts Chiffonade with Chopped Blackberries and Mint Gremolata
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Earth Balance
- 8 cremini mushrooms sliced
- a pinch of salt
- 1 can black eyed peas drained and rinsed well
- 1/2 ounce pecans lightly toasted
- 1-2 ounces seasoned tempeh sliced small (read method for recipe)
- 10 fresh Brussels sprouts chiffonade
- 2-4 blackberries chopped small
- Lemon-mint-parsley gremolata recipe below
- 1/2 ounce block bittersweet chocolate
- Gremolata Ingredients
- 8 mint leaves chiffonade
- 2-3 sprigs fresh parsley minced
- zest of half a small lemon
- Lightly mix gremolata ingredients together.
- Prepare seasoned tempeh as per this recipe, excluding the sun-dried tomatoes. Fortunately, I’ve made this style of tempeh dozens of times so I could easily get this started and cooking while I prepared everything else.
- In a large saute pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon Earth Balance, the sliced mushrooms, and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Once mushrooms begin to brown (after about 5 minutes), add the Brussels sprouts and the remaining teaspoon of Earth Balance. Continue cooking over medium heat and stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes, and then add the black eyed peas, toasted pecans, and prepared tempeh. Stir gently, and continue to cook.
- After 5 more minutes have passed, turn off the heat and assemble the gremolata if you haven’t already (recipe below). You want the black eyed pea mixture to be warm but cool enough that the shaved chocolate will not melt when added.
- To plate, take a shallow bowl and add a layer of black eyed pea mixture. Then, add a small handful of chopped blackberries followed by a giant pinch of gremolata in the center. Finish off the plate with a generous amount of shaved bittersweet chocolate.
- Serve warm.
Final Result, Plate 1
I plated everything as quickly as possible (I made enough for two servings, whereas traditional Chopped challengers must make enough for four), and the first plate was an amazing… mess. It looked like my two-year-old daughter finger painted the meal onto a plate. Was the picture of this dish in my head deceiving me?! My quick takeaway was to not mix the blackberries in with the gremolata ever again.
Final Result, Plate 2
Black eyed pea mixture: check.
Chopped blackberries: check.
Shaved chocolate: check – TIME’S UP, STEP AWAY!
I took a few relaxing breaths at this point. Wouldn’t you?
After a few snapshots, I took a bite. It was great. I gave a little smile that I sometimes do. The warm dish was filled with hearty black eyed peas, tender mushrooms, slightly crunchy Brussels sprouts, smokey pecans, tart blackberries, and a wonderfully contrasting gremolata.
And yes, you can taste the chocolate; it’s a great subtle addition to the plate’s flavors!
Since this isn’t broadcast on television, it’s time to go clean up my kitchen. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do.