Saturday, October 3, 2015

Iron Chef Night -- RADISH SPROUTS

It has been more than five years since I submitted myself to an Iron Chef challenge.  The challenge is just what the name suggests (assuming you watched either the original Iron Chef show or the American version).  I would give myself one ingredient -- the not so secret ingredient (after all, I have to decide what to use) -- and then come up with three to four dishes that feature the ingredient in some way.  

To date, I have posted five such challenges.  The secret ingredients for these events were corn, mussels, beef bone marrow, mushrooms and Vidalia onions.  With each challenge, the goal was to make dishes based on my thoughts and ideas, with little to no help from recipes.  Some challenges were successful.  Other challenges were less so.  Still, it was a chance for me to enjoy my hobby in a way that I enjoyed watching the Iron Chef show (the original version, as well as the American version, at least for a while).  

Iron chef challenges take a lot of work, both with respect to formulating ideas and the actual execution.  If you watched either show, you would know that the chefs have 1 hour to make their dishes. In reality, if I recall correctly, the chefs are given a few ingredients ahead of time to start the mental process of coming up with dishes.  

For my most recent challenge, I had a little advanced notice of the ingredient.  I received a Back to the Roots Water Garden, which is an aquarium on top of which you can grow herbs and small plants.  The kit came with seeds for radish sprouts and wheatgrass, which I used to plant my first "crop."  The planting went very well and I ended up with a lot of radish sprouts and wheatgrass.  The question was what to do with all of that.  

Hence, the first Iron Chef challenge in more than five years.  Given the fact that I had never cooked with radish sprouts before, I had to rely a little more on recipes than in the past. 


The first dish is a watermelon salad with cilantro, radish sprouts and feta cheese.  This dish is based on a recipe from Saveur.  That recipe called for the use of Cotija, a Spanish cheese.  I could not find any of that cheese at my local store, so I went with an ingredient that I thought would come somewhat close in at least texture ... feta cheese.  Overall, this was probably the best dish of the night. 

Recipe adapted from Saveur
Serves 6-8

1 small seedless watermelon (3-4 pounds), rind removed,
     cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt, to taste
6 ounces of Feta cheese cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
2 1/2 ounces radish sprouts

Place watermelon pieces in a large bowl.  Whisk olive oil, sugar, chile powder, lime zest, and juice, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Pour over watermelon.  Add remaining ingredients, tossing to coat.  Adjust salt and pepper as needed.


The second course (and the third one) tested my challenge to adjust recipes on the fly.  The second dish was supposed to be Mexican Avocado Spread Sandwiches.  To make a sandwich, you need bread.  I thought I had bread at home so I did not buy any at the store.  Turns out, no bread at home.  However, Clare bought a flatbread from Costco, which meant that we had a lot of flatbread.  So, I went with a flatbread concept, rather than a sandwich.

 Recipe adapted from Foodfaithfitness
Serves 2

1/4 cup avocado, mashed, about 1/2 small avocado
2 tablespoons of salsa
1 teaspoon of fresh lime juice, plus additional for serving
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon chile powder
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 flatbread pieces, toasted
1 large tomato, sliced
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1 cups sprouts
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

1.  Prepare the avocados.  In a medium bowl, mash together the avocado, salsa, lime juice, garlic, cumin, chile powder and a pinch of salt and pepper.

2.  Prepare the sandwiches.  Divide the avocado mixture evenly between two slices of bread, spreading evenly.  Divide the tomato slices between 2 slices of bread, followed by the cucumbers and sprouts.  Squeeze fresh lime juice over the sprouts and top each slice of bread with chopped cilantro.  Add more salt and pepper, to taste.  Cover with remaining slices of bread, cut, and serve.


For my last course, I wanted to do something a little "fancy."  Unfortunately, it was a little flat.  The dish was supposed to be Sesame Marinated Salmon with a Radish Sprout Relish.   I wanted to incorporate the wheatgrass into the relish, so I decided to juice the wheatgrass with some radish sprouts and ginger.  It was at this point that the relish went out the door quickly. I still can't tell you what exactly I was thinking but I quickly had to turn the relish into a broth.  And that really did not work because the broth got lost in the rice, leaving only the bits of wheatgrass and radish sprouts along the edges. 

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

1/8 cup mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
1 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon minced green onions
3/4 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 six-ounce fillets of Sockeye Salmon
1/2 cup of radish sprouts
1/2 cup wheatgrass
1/4 cup sweet onion, minced 
1/4 tomato, minced

1.  Prepare the marinade.  Whisk the mirin, rice vinegar, green onions, ginger and sesame seed oil together.  Add salmon, turn to coat.  Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

2.  Prepare the broth.  Put wheatgrass, a small amount of sprouts and ginger in a blender.  Add 1/4 cup of water.  Liquify the ingredients and transfer to a small pot.  Add a little more water to make the amount of broth that you need and turn the oven on to medium to heat.  

3.  Cook the salmon.  Preheat broiler.  Line baking sheet with foil, spray with non-stick spray.  Line up fillets, skin side up.  Broil 5 to 6 inches from heat source until skin is crisp, about 2 minutes.  Use metal spatula, turn salmon over.  Broil until salmon is just cooked through and golden brown on top, about 4 minutes.

4.  Plate the dish.  Place some rice in the middle of the dish.  Place the salmon over the rice and pour the broth gently around the edges of the rice.

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With the cooking at an end, it reminded me that I am a little rusty when it comes to the Iron Chef Challenge.  Some of the difficulty could be due to the ingredient.  It is hard to think of dishes that use radish sprouts.  However, I also need to work on my flexibility when it comes to cooking on the fly.  I used to be fairly good at it, but just like anything else, it becomes a little rigid when not properly exercised. So, I hope that I will be able to do another Iron Chef Night soon.  And with an ingredient that is more in my wheelhouse ... like porterhouse steaks.