Chopped: lox, dried apples, chickpeas and puppy chow

chopped-lox1It’s been a while since we’ve done a Chopped challenge and with the extra day this weekend, we decided it was time to go for another round. Terry was totally into giving me some hard ingredients and I was ready to accept whatever I was dealt.

She was not fooling around this time. We already decided that whatever I was going to make with her mystery ingredients, I’d just make an appetizer portion. That way, there’s not a ton of weird leftover food. So this time I had to work with lox, chickpeas, dried apples and puppy chow. She definitely threw down with those ingredients. What the hell is anyone supposed to do with this stuff?

This round was different too because normally I get the ingredients earlier in the day and have some time to think about it. This time, when we were hungry, she gave me the ingredients and I went right to work. I didn’t have a time limit, but pretended I did, which is why I think this turned out kind of sloppy.

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Chopped weekend!

Terry and I (read: I) love to watch Chopped. I don’t care if it’s rigged, I’m sure that like many reality/competition shows, there are some behind the scenes shenanigans going on that give contestants an upper hand. I still like to watch it because it’s a pretty decent way to learn about unusual ingredients and new ways to cook familiar ingredients and how flavors may work together.

So a while ago, we started playing Chopped at home. The ingredient list started out fairly easy and up until yesterday, the hardest thing I had to use was pre-cooked polenta that was packaged in a tube, not unlike some chocolate chip cookie dough products are. This weekend, I had to use a sangria-flavored soda, and it tasted NASTY. It was bitter, carbonated and just gross. The rest of the ingredients were a slam dunk: banana, Pillsbury pizza dough and fake meat crumbles.

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I had the fortune of still having a fridge stocked with some good leftover stuff from last weekend’s Super Bowl menu, so I was feeling pretty good about this one. One thing I knew for sure was that I was NOT going to cook a pizza. That’d be too obvious. So I immediately went to empanada.

I also knew that I would mix the banana with gruyere cheese – this flavor combination is actually really good with a dessert and I’d soon find out, in a main course as well. So I just had the nasty sangria left to figure out and then that was pretty easy – bury it in a vinaigrette and call it a day.

I started out by cooking down some garlic and shallots in olive oil, then put the crumbles in that to get it cooked up. While that was cooking, I mashed up the banana with some olive oil until it became a smooth liquid, and that went into the crumble mixture.

I chopped up some romaine, green apples and red onion, tossed them together to make a slaw and dressed it with the sangria vinaigrette and garnished it with roasted peanuts.

The pizza dough was rolled out and seasoned with some cumin and crushed black pepper to give it some flavor, filled with the crumble/banana mixture and then topped with shredded gruyere before being formed into the empanada.

Once the dough was cooked through, it was time to plate up and serve dinner! Terry thought the cumin overpowered the flavor of the banana, but I thought it was just right.

Not a bad go of it!

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