At-Home Quickfire Challenge

I love Top Chef.  I really love it.  I watch it every Wednesday, and try to catch a rerun of each episode before the next one airs so I can more fully comprehend it.  Even if most of the challenges are hokey.  Even if I know the drama is contrived.  Even if most of their cooking revolves around a “protein” which always means meat.  (Last week they did a challenge based on diets of zoo animals, and Team Gorilla, when presented with a list of vegetarian items, decided it was okay to add meat as long as they “focused” on the veggie items.)  I love Top Chef.

And so I was delighted while perusing their blogs last week to see an At-Home Quickfire Challenge.  For those not as obsessed as me:  Each episode starts with a quickfire challenge, which really just means there’s a time limit.  This At-Home challenge involves creating a burger inspired by the word “audacious”.  It has to include a protein, vegetable topping and condiment.  And it has to be doable within a half hour.  Knowing Top Chef is so meat-based, I instinctively put my cursor over the X to close the window, then stopped to think.  I looked up the definition of audacious – one listed is “unrestrained by convention or propriety”.  I like it.  I think a vegan burger entered in a contest like this is automatically audacious.  I immeditaly decided tempeh would be my protein, as I have recently fallen in love with it.  Then I considered what I could do that would qualify as audacious that hadn’t been done before.

A samosa burger!  Indian flavors are pretty intense if you want them to be, and the cuisine naturally lends itself to condiments.  Now, as I hadn’t had any previous success on multiple attempts to make veggie burgers (they never hold together), and I haven’t cooked all too much Indian food, I did my research, which pretty much involved gathering a rough list of ingredients that might could go into them and reading up on tempeh burger recipes, most of which involve marinating and grilling a chunk of tempeh.  In the end I bought some tempeh and some garam masala and just went for it.  I figured if it didn’t work out I could hopefully at least eat some decent tasting mush.  It ended up working out really well!  Very flavorful and almost heavy on the spices, but the components balance each other really well – the spiciness of the chutney and the coolness of the raita.

(I will at this point admit that I know nothing of authentic Indian cuisine except that I like to eat it.  I avoided any ingredients that would be hard to find, and skipped a couple steps I might have done given a longer pretend time limit.  Although these took me almost 2 hours to churn out.  I think with the recipe in hand I could maybe do it in a half hour.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  And so I present for your consideration…)

Samosa Tempeh Burger with Tomato-Onion Chutney,
Cucumber-Mint Raita and Wilted Spinach

samosa tempeh burger
samosa tempeh burger

Burgers:
1/2 Tbs peanut oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/2 lb tempeh, finely crumbled
1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
1 cup potato buds
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup + 3 Tbs water

Raita:
1 cup soy yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup finely diced seedless cucumber
3 Tbs finely chopped mint
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp kosher salt
olive oil spray

Chutney:
large tomato, coarsely chopped
1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 serrano pepper, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp kosher salt

6 pieces flatbread
baby spinach

1. Heat peanut oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add onion, ginger and garlic and saute 4 minutes, until onions start to soften.
2. Meanwhile, combine all other burger ingredients in a medium bowl. Once cooked, add onion mixture. Mix very well.
3. On wax paper, shape mixture into 6 patties by pressing into a large circular cookie cutter.
4. In a large flat pan sprayed with olive oil, cook patties on medium heat for 3 minutes. Gently flip patties, top with spinach, and cook 5 more minutes, until burger is browned and spinach is wilted.
5. Meanwhile, prepare chutney and raita. Combine chutney ingredients in a blender and blend until almost smooth with very small pieces. In a small bowl, mix together raita ingredients.
6. To serve, spoon raita onto one half of flatbread. Place patty on top, then chutney on top of the patty. Fold flatbread over onto patty and secure with a toothpick.

Makes 6.

Notes:  I couldn’t find plain soy yogurt (rawr) so I used Better Than Sour Cream.  Hydrogenated, yes, but it got the job done just the same.  Also, don’t be intimidated by the long ingredient list, most of it is pantry stuff and some are repeated.  Also, for any tempeh haters, you can’t really taste the tempeh in this at all once cooked, so go for it.

Amidst the stress of getting the burgers done right, I forgot the mashed cauliflower I wanted to have as a side, so I whipped it up right quick at the end.  I added spinach to use up some of the huge package I bought.

mashed cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower & Spinach

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 cups packed baby spinach
heaping spoonful plain soy yogurt or better than sour cream
1/2 tsp salt
dashes curry powder and turmeric
black pepper

1. Steam cauliflower for 7 minutes. Add spinach on top of cauliflower and steam 5 minutes more.
2. Mash well, add rest of the ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serves 3-4.

This would also be good pureed smooth, but both my blender and food processor were dirts, so chunky it was.  Also I’m sure it would be good with different seasonings, like oregano and parsley.

So yeah, I’m going to submit my burger.  I’m not expecting anything, I really just wanted to challenge myself.  I don’t even know how many entries get picked or if there’s a prize or anything.  I’ll be sure to update if anything comes of it.

eta:  changed the amount of onion in the chutney from 1 medium to 1/2 large.  didn’t make sense.  it’s basically the same amount anyway.

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1 Comment »

  1. Val said

    You amaze me.

    Top Chef can take its veal and shove it.

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