Today we have an entrant for the first course of the Diced! competition. This round includes ingredients that are vegan friendly. Contestants were encouraged to add any additional ingredients they wished (even non-vegan ones). Contestants were instructed to create or find a recipe for an appetizer, soup or salad containing the following ingredients: Roasted Red Peppers, Puff Pastry, Sliced Almonds and Pears (their choice of variety). They were instructed to make their dish and create a blog post about it, including pictures. You can help determine who advances to the next round. After the last post, I will post a poll where you can vote for contestants to move on. Vote for the post you like the best. You can vote because of the inventiveness, the yummyness, the use of ingredients, the quality of the writing and pictures or for any other reason. The poll will be active for one week only. Check back and vote. In the event of a tie, the Ranting Chef will choose who advances. More information about Diced! can be found here.
Due to the generosity of the following companies, we have some really awesome products as a prize to the winner of this Diced! competition. The winner will receive:
- Zak – The winner receives their choice of a four piece setting or set of three serving bowls from their new Moso line. This is made from biodegradable bamboo and comes in a choice of four stylish colors. Look for a review of this product in the near future. Check them out here.
- Chobani - The leading brand in Greek Yogurt, the winner will receive a case of their choice of flavor of Greek yogurt. I’ve been using quite a bit of Chobani in my cooking lately and love it. Look for those recipes soon. Check out the selection at: http://chobani.com/products
- Microplane – Microplane will provide the winner with four items: Microplane Elite Series Fine Grater, Home Series Coarse Grater, Bartender’s Garnishing Tool, Cut-Resistant Glove. I recently reviewed these products here. Check out their products at their facebook page: www.facebook.com/microplane
- Youcopia – Maker of organization products, they would like to offer the winner a choice of a product from their web site. I recently reviewed the Bake Stack.
Today’s contestant, Naomi has been a guest blogger here before. In one of her first posts I had envy over her immersion blender which makes an appearance once again. Check out Naomi’s other posts on the Guest Blogger tab above and her entry below….
Context & The Cast of Characters
Our senses, especially sensual pleasures, so often conjure up strong memories. We hear a piece of music, we eat a specific food, we smell a fragrance and a memory of a significant experience we associate with it comes to mind. I am sure that I will forever associate roasted red peppers, pears, puff pastry and almond slices with … Greased Lightning!
Let me explain. And tell you some about myself and how I came to enter the Diced! contest. I am the mother of three daughters aged 14, 11 and 8 and they all wanted us to enter Diced! They knew that I had known the Ranting Chef since high school and that I sometimes write a guest blog or consult about vegetarian or kosher issues. Our family is vegetarian and they had been eagerly awaiting a vegetarian Diced! Daughter #1 was already away at sleep-away camp when the cooking for round one was to take place. And daughters #2 and #3 were at a theater day camp.
Daughter #2 was in the cast of a production of Grease and daughter #3 in High School Musical. The two musicals have similar plots – boy and girl meet over school vacation and fall in love; returning to school they are surprised to discover they go to the same school; cliques and social pressures challenge their love; and love, of course, triumphs in the end. (For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to focus on Grease in this post.)
Our home became a rehearsal studio. Every waking hour had lyrics floating through the air from the classic songs … Summer Nights, Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee, Beauty School Drop-out and, of course, Greased Lightning. None permeated our home more than the audition song We Go Together:
We go together
Like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong
As shoo-bop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom
Thinking that creativity would breed more creativity, we added into the mix discussions of food and culinary experimentations for Diced!
Act I: Experimentation
The music from the two shows intermingled and flowed into the kitchen. Before I knew it I was dreaming and thinking metaphorically… And this brings us back to the ingredients. I was not initially worried about the puff pastry and almond slices. They were flexible foods and could accommodate different modes of culinary expression. It was the roasted red peppers and pears I knew immediately would challenge me. How would they go together?
I googled the two ingredients I found a surprising number of soup recipes. They looked great! I love thick, hearty vegetable soups. But now re-enter the puff pastry. I couldn’t imagine how soup could go in a puff pastry shell, so I decided to start experimenting.
I bought a variety of seven different kinds of pears and my family tasted them uncooked. Daughter #2 made pear fries (with Asian pears). They were delicious – crispy and salty on the outside and sweet and mushy on the inside.
I became intrigued by the prospect of roasting my own peppers, which I had not done before. I roasted six peppers so that I would be able to experiment with different recipes. This was my favorite part of the process (except for eating the yummy final product!).
Act II: Trial & Error
The movie Grease came out in 1978 when I was 8 years old, based on a 1971 musical. I saw it in the movie theater and was captivated by the surface level love story. And I hadn’t thought much about it since then; that is until I was inundated by it this summer. As an 8 year-old I had missed how this early 70s movie was a parody of 1950s culture. As an adult I came to recognize and enjoy how the movie was playful and mocking, including the awkward high-pitched, musical notes with which the male protagonist Danny Zuko (aka John Travolta) ends the song Summer Nights.
The leading couple, Danny and Sandy (aka Olivia Newton-John) did not appear to be a natural pair – and that’s exactly what happened what initially happened with my red peppers and pears. I took pear fries, sautéed Portobello mushrooms, and roasted red peppers and rolled them into a sheet of puff pastry. While edible, the result was a far cry from what I was hoping for. Preparation of the ingredients was time consuming, the recipe had too much oil for my taste, and it came out lacking elegance. I felt like I was in the part of Grease when Sandy walks out on Danny and he sings, “Stranded at the Drive-In.”
Being bombarded with the story and music of Grease, I began to see that the characters were more complex than I initially thought. Ultimately their success came about from cultivating their shadow sides – Danny, the cool Greaser, became lettered in track and field and Sandy found her voice and countercultural side.
I resumed my perusing of the internet and I found myself coming back to the soup recipes. I found all sorts of variations: inclusion of other vegetables, which spices, whether or not it was creamy, which garnishes. And then it happened … I found one soup recipe that placed puff pastry floating on the top of the soup. It was supposed to be spin on pot pie. Such creativity! I was sold. This was how I could make a soup with puff pastry.
The recipe that attracted me the most used jalapeno. I was especially drawn toward making a pear soup that was hot and spicy. I thought that a soup with a punch would taste great and be a bit hit with my family. I also found myself wanting to include ginger, which I saw in none of the recipes. I thought it would go well with both the red pepper and pear and help connect them. My spices would be jalapeno, garlic, scallions and ginger. If you want a milder soup, you can reduce the spices or add in the flavors you would like. It turns out the roasted red peppers and the pears are quite versatile themselves! The recipe I used did not specify type of pear, so I went with Bartlett. I sprinkles almond slices and some chopped greens from the scallions on the top.
The end result? It was amazing. I can’t say more. You’ll have to try it. And make and taste your own memories.
Ginger Pepper Pear Soup
Roasting Red Peppers
I found several websites with instructions for roasting red peppers. As I was roasting several, I opted for using my oven.
- Preheat oven to 450°F. After washing, removing the seeds, and cutting into quarters, arrange the peppers on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven, turning every 15 minutes until done (about 30 minutes). The tops will turn black.
- Place in a ziploc bag while they are still steaming. As the steam from the peppers condenses, the skin becomes easier to peel off.
- Once the peppers have cooled, carefully peel off the blackened skin and discard.
- 3 large red bell peppers, roasted, deseeded and sliced
- 1/2 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and minced
- 3 clove garlic, minced
- ½ tsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 spring onions, white part only and chopped
- 2 cups vegetable bouillon
- 2 pear, peeled, cored and chopped (I recommend
1. Heat the oil in a soup pot.
2. Add the chopped spring onion and garlic, begin to saute. This is when my home began to smell amazing. You can tone down the spices for a milder soup.
3. Add the roasted bell peppers and sauté lightly until the onions begin to soften.
4. Add the vegetable bouillon and bring to a soft boil.
5. Add the chopped pear and cook until the pear is soft.
6. Puree the soup.
7. Season to taste with additional seasonings as needed.
8. I served the soup garnished with a chopping the green parts of the scallions and almond slices.
Serving Size: 4