A few days ago, Isa from The PPK issued a challenge on Facebook – Vegan Chopped! I’m a fan of Chopped and have seen most of the episodes, so you can bet I’ve imagined competing on a vegan version of the show. The mystery ingredients were blackberries, mint, canned black eyed peas, and bittersweet chocolate, and the challenge was to make an entree using all four. Lucky me, I had just picked some blackberries from our back yard!
From watching Chopped, I’ve definitely picked up on some of the techniques the chefs use – “transform” the ingredients but don’t hide them, balance the flavors (sweet/salty/spicy/bitter/sour), and be mindful of the textures in your dish. I tried to create a restaurant quality dish, building as much flavor as possible while still featuring the mystery ingredients.
I’m happy to say that this dish turned out exactly how I had envisioned. The spicy black eyed pea cakes included lots of savory veggies and spices, with a base of oat flour. They browned up perfectly in the pan and weren’t too soft, like some bean patties can be. The cauliflower puree was rich, and the addition of coriander and nutmeg were just enough to make it delicious in its own right. The cocoa-coffee collards were the real surprise hit of the meal. Bittersweet chocolate, coffee, and collard greens are all bitter foods, and I was worried that combining them would lead to one big bitter bite. On the contrary, the chocolate melted and the espresso dissolved (as I had hoped), creating a dark, instantly deep sauce, and the caramelized shallots were the perfect complement. The blackberry-red wine reduction was tangy and sweet, and pulled the whole dish together.
Spicy Black Eyed Pea Cakes with Cauliflower Puree, Cocoa-Coffee Collards & Blackberry-Red Wine Reduction
It seems like a lot of ingredients and steps, but you multitask and cook all the components at once, so it doesn’t take too long.
Blackberry-Red Wine Reduction
1 ½ cups blackberries
¾ cup red wine
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp Earth Balance
Spicy Black Eyed Pea Cakes
1 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup minced red onion
¼ cup minced celery
¼ cup minced orange or red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded & minced
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
A few dashes ground cayenne pepper (less to make it less spicy)
½ tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup rolled oats
1 15-oz can black eyed peas, drained & rinsed (about 2 cups)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
3 Tbs chopped fresh mint, plus more for garnish
2 tsp olive oil
2 large shallots, sliced
1 bunch collards, stems removed, thinly sliced
1 tsp instant espresso powder
2 Tbsp finely grated bittersweet chocolate
2 small heads cauliflower, cut into florets
¼ tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
¾ tsp sea salt
Dash of ground white pepper
2 tsp Earth Balance
Unsweetened almond milk
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place a wide, flat pan and a medium sauté pan over medium heat.
- Puree the blackberries and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a small pot. Add the red wine, balsamic vinegar and agave nectar and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has reduced to half of its original volume. Once reduced, turn the heat to low to keep warm.
- Meanwhile, add the first six black eyed pea cake ingredients (olive oil through jalapeno) to the wide sauté pan and cook a few minutes, just until softened, making sure not to burn. Remove the vegetables to a bowl, leaving the oil in the pan. Mix in the cumin, paprika, cayenne, ½ tsp salt and black pepper.
- Add 2 tsp olive oil, the shallots, and a large pinch of sea salt to the medium sauté pan, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook gently until soft and caramelized.
- Grind the rolled oats in a food processor until they are mostly a fine flour; a few larger pieces is okay. Add the black eyed peas and pulse to combine. Add the vegetable mixture, cilantro, and mint, and pulse until well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. The mixture should still be a little chunky. If needed, move to a mixing bowl and mix more with a spatula to make sure the mixture is thoroughly combined.
- Place the collards in the boiling water and cook a few minutes, until bright green. Use a slotted spoon to move the collards to the medium sauté pan, on top of the cooking shallots.
- Place the wide pan back over medium heat.
- Place the cauliflower in the boiling water and cook until easily pierced with a fork.
- Form the black eyed pea mixture into 8 patties and cook in the wide pan, spraying with more olive oil if needed. Cook 5-6 minutes on each side, until browned.
- Wipe out the food processor. When the cauliflower is done, place it in the food processor (in batches if needed). Add the coriander, nutmeg, white pepper, ¾ tsp salt, and 2 tsp Earth Balance, and puree. Add a splash of unsweetened almond milk if needed to get the mixture moving.
- Add 1 Tbs Earth Balance to the red wine sauce and stir to melt.
- Add the espresso powder and chocolate to the pan with the collard greens, and use tongs to combine the mixture. The chocolate will melt to form a sauce, and the espresso should dissolve.
- Taste the sauce, cauliflower, and collards, and adjust seasonings if needed.
- To serve, place a mound of cauliflower puree on the plate and spread it out a little. Lean two cakes on the puree, and the collards next to it. Spoon the reduction over the cakes and around the plate, and garnish with a little chopped cilantro and mint.