Chatting with the Chopped Teen Tournament, Part 2 Winner
FN Dish – Food Network Blog
Four young chefs-in-training entered the competition on tonight’s second episode of the five-part Chopped Teen Tournament. But only one kid made it through all three rounds of mystery baskets, securing a spot in the grand finale, where he or she will have the chance to win $25,000 in prize money, a $40,000 culinary school scholarship and bragging rights as the first Chopped Teen Grand Champion, which goes pretty far when you’re just a kid in high school. FN Dish has the exclusive interview with the teen-chef winner from Part 2.
Appetizer: jumbo shrimp, chunky peanut butter, jalapenos and sticky rice
Entree: frog’s legs, mafaldine, bok choy and lobster mushrooms
Dessert: black-and-white cookies, fruit leather strips, cashews and agave nectar
First round: Mikayla
Second round: Eyan
Final round: Lucy
Judges: Geoffrey Zakarian, Amanda Freitag and Marc Murphy
Dante came into the competition wanting to prove his doubters wrong and show that he could cook his way to the end. He did just that, using well-practiced techniques that impressed the judges. And when he had trouble in the dessert round, he turned it around by thinking on his feet. He’ll be back Aug. 12 to compete alongside Part 1 winner Jason and the winners of the next two preliminary rounds in the tournament.
How does it feel to win today?
It feels great. I feel like I trained so hard to get to this moment. I think a lot of people didn’t believe in me. And now I can prove them all wrong.
Did you practice before coming on the show?
Yes, I practiced a lot with my chef teacher. I practiced with him every day since I knew I was going to be on the show. He’d make me a basket, then I would train with it. And if I did wrong on that basket I’d get the same basket and try again. Also he taught me different knife cuts to save time, and also simple, versatile recipes using things like tortillas, egg roll papers or spring roll papers. You can put anything in those and make it work.
How different was actually competing than what you might have imagined?
People say time goes fast. It does! And also it feels that the kitchen is smaller than you see on TV. That thing is small! You really have to be careful when you go behind somebody. I almost got cut like six times by someone running behind me.
What was the hardest basket for you today?
The hardest basket for me was dessert. Because I think with the appetizer I knocked it out of the park. My entree was strong on my part, but I should have worked the ingredients differently. The dessert round was a little challenging, because some of the ingredients, like the agave nectar, I’ve never seen or tasted in my life. I didn’t know how to work it. And the ingredients themselves were very temperamental.
In the dessert round, you said you settled for the fritter, that it was your plan B. What would have been your perfect dessert?
I probably would have made an ice cream. And if I would have poured the agave nectar caramel over the fritter it would have been perfect. I think there would be no question. Because I think my compote was delicious. I think that’s the only reason that carried me — that I had a really good, composed dish.
In the entree round, you were the only competitor to debone the frog’s legs and mix them into the pasta. How did you come up with that idea?
I got the idea because I had the presence of mind to think that you would not want to eat a bone in pasta. I saw down the line everybody was doing the same thing. I thought I’ve got to be different. It took a lot of time to do it, don’t get me wrong. But I thank God for it, because that pretty much helped me. And as the case may be, I was a bit more relaxed in the entree round. Still, I did something different.
How did you first get interested in cooking?
When I was in sixth or seventh grade, my mom taught me how to cook big meals and I loved it. I go to a high school with a nationally renowned culinary program. Without those teachers I would not be here today.
What’s your strategy going into the finale?
Season everything. That is my strategy. I think that my first plate was seasoned perfectly — my curry was good. My second plate was not seasoned well. My third plate should have been a little bit sweeter, and that could have been done with a more-seasoned caramel. So, season more.
What do you think your family and friends will say when they see this on TV?
My family would say: “That’s my baby. That’s my man.” They’re the only people that believed in me. Even my friends, a lot of people in my school, didn’t believe I’m good enough to make it past even the appetizer round. I proved everybody wrong. I praise God for that.
How to Fake a Pizza
FN Dish – Food Network Blog
Turn basic flatbread into a quick dinner on the grill: Brush lavash, pocketless pita, naan or other flatbread with oil and grill until marked. Flip, top with cheese and let melt, then remove from the grill and top with arugula, tomatoes, corn or other fresh vegetables, or add some prosciutto or ham. Avoid traditional tomato sauce though — it can make the bread soggy.
Photograph by Justin Walker
Griller’s Ultimate Grocery Store Toolkit
FN Dish – Food Network Blog
Summer is the season of spontaneity — when a passing neighbor can become a last-minute dinner guest, and the plump tomatoes and zucchini you picked up at the market turn into the centerpiece of brunch. And when it comes to go-with-the-flow entertaining, there’s nothing better than a grill: It’s fast, cleanup is a snap, and practically everything tastes better with the smoky, crispy char you can get only from a fire. The following supermarket staples make it easy to improvise at the grill, no matter if you’re cooking T-bones, plums or potatoes. Stock up and you’ll be prepared, whatever the mood brings.
Bottled Vinaigrette: Consider this your shortcut marinade. A 10-minute soak keeps chicken juicy and flavorful and gives steak a subtle tang. Oh, and it’s good on salads, too.
Mayonnaise: The secret ingredient to more grilled dishes than you know. Brush it on shrimp, sea bass or pork chops before they hit the grate and be awed by how it transforms into a tasty sauce.
Vegetable Oil: Reserve the pricey extra-virgin stuff for salads and brush this neutral-flavored workhorse on your grill grates to create a nonstick cooking surface. You’ll get great grill marks on steak and seafood. Also nice for tossing with veggies before they go onto kebabs and for coating superabsorbent eggplant planks.
Potato Chips and Pickles: Whether you’re serving up hot dogs, chicken or chops, a couple of spears and a handful of crisps will fill out your plate so you can call it a meal.
Heavy-Duty Foil: What can’t this multitasker do? Use it to make pouches for cut-up veggies, potatoes or shrimp. (Poke a few steam holes before setting the bag on the grate, or nestle it in the embers for a campfire touch.) Place a sheet of foil flat on the grate and use it as a cooking surface for delicate fish. Or try it as a liner for the bottom of the grill when you’re cooking super-drippy items like country ribs or barbecue chicken. When you’re done grilling, ball up a fresh sheet, grab it with your tongs and use the crumpled edges to scrape up grease and cooked-on food from the grate.
Wooden Skewers: Think beyond dinner kebabs. These wooden sticks are equally nice for spearing bread and sausages for appetizers or fruit and cake for dessert. (They’re also ideal for cleaning out the seams of a waffle iron, but that’s beside the point.)
Disposable Aluminum Pans (multiple sizes): Slip a medium pan under a roast during indirect grilling to catch drips and prevent flare-ups. Or pop one over your burgers to act as a cover and help melt the cheese. Into slow cooking? Stack two of the large pans together and rest your charcoal chimney starter inside when you prepare a second set of coals for long-cooked meats.
Multipurpose Lighter: Thanks to its super-long neck, there’s no easier way to ignite a chimney starter.
Check out our full gallery of Supermarket Grilling Essentials.
Superfood Alert: Is Kelp the New Kale?
FN Dish – Food Network Blog
Are we on the cusp of a full-on kelp craze? Not only have magnetic fake kelp forests recently been touted as an eco-friendly way to repel sharks and prevent attacks on beaches, but the nutrition-packed seaweed is also being hailed as the “next big superfood.”
“Eat Kelp. It’s chock-full of nutrients, it mitigates climate change by sequestering carbon, improves oceans by soaking up excess nitrogen and phosphorus, and has potential as a valuable fertilizer and biofuel,” Patrick Mustain, a communications manager at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, recently wrote in Scientific American, in a blog post titled “Move Over, Kale, The New Super Vegetable Comes From The Sea.”
What’s more, Mustain added, “It’s also delicious.”
On the environmental news and commentary website Grist, Samantha Larson echoes Mustain’s yelp for kelp — hailing its ability to grow without fresh water or land, the way it cleans the water in which it does grow, and its nutritional value: It’s a concentrated source of calcium and iodine and has been found to have natural antioxidant properties and other benefits.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that a typical serving size of kelp, which is not huge, is not going to have magical health effects. In addition, moderation is recommended in consuming it, especially as it can have side effects for some people. (Also remember: Herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and some herbal kelp supplements have been found to have harmful effects.)
Chefs like Bun Lai of Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, Conn., and David Santos of New York City’s Louro have been experimenting with using kelp in their dishes in imaginative new ways.
“It has all the essences of the ocean without the salt; that’s how I describe the flavor profile,” Santos told the website TakePart.
If you’d like slide some seaweed into your family’s diet, try Robert Irvine’s Cucumber and Marinated Seaweed Salad, Barbara Ishida’s Ogo (Seaweed) Salad with Fresh Lemon Dressing or Michael Voltaggio’s Seaweed Mashed Potatoes. Why not catch the kelp wave?
Breakfast of the Month: Toasted Muesli with Coconut
FN Dish – Food Network Blog
In an effort to reduce sugar and sweeteners in general, I recently decided to divert my craving for granola by making toasted muesli. (It’s true that granola can be made by baking the oats in just oil, but I find the mix looks a little lackluster without the shine of maple syrup.) Since plain old muesli was not going to suffice, I decided on toasting it. Getting a rich golden color on the oats is the key to yielding a granola-like result without oil, sugar, maple syrup or honey.
The toasted oats and seeds taste delicious with large shards of fragrant coconut and buttery macadamias. Adding fresh sliced figs and berries adds juice and a subtle sweet flavor to the mix. The muesli stores well (up to three weeks) and will see you through many mornings.
Toasted Muesli with Coconut
Makes about 4 cups
For a delicious flavor combination, try serving the muesli with homemade almond milk made with plenty of cinnamon and vanilla.
½ cup raw macadamia nuts
¼ cup raw hazelnuts
2 cups old-fashion rolled oats
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup flaked coconut
Homemade nut milk or yogurt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Add macadamia and hazelnuts to one tray and spread out in a single layer. Add oats, sunflower and pumpkin seeds to the other tray and spread out in a single layer. Place both trays in the oven and toast for 8 minutes. Stir mixture, rotate trays and return to oven for another 4 to 6 minutes or until fragrant and toasted.
Remove from oven, lift parchment paper and pour into a bowl to cool. Return parchment to one tray and add flaked coconut. Place in oven and toast for 5 to 6 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and add to bowl and toss to combine. Once cool, place muesli in an airtight jar or container and store for up to 3 weeks.
Serve with nut milk of your choice or yogurt and top with figs and berries.
Amy Chaplin is a chef and recipe developer in New York City. Her cookbook At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen will be available fall 2014. She blogs at Coconut & Quinoa.