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, Echo is new here on the Rantings of an Amateur Chef but is bringing the fight to the other contestants. Check out her blog Wine to Walnuts and her entry below…
Hi! I’m Echo, a 24 year old foodie and wine lover living in South Florida. I fell in love with cooking in high school and haven’t looked back since. I love creating new flavors, experimenting with presentations and most of all seeing happy faces on those who eat my food. I’m also a huge animal lover, an avid gardener, neon-lover, computer-game-geeker, photographer, and a website designer. I’m a Jill of all trades! My blog, focuses on delicious recipes and the even more delicious wines that pair with them.
I am a HUGE Chopped fan. Huge. I watch it almost every day to get myself in the mood for dinner. I’ve even had dreams about competing – in which, ironically, the most stressful part was picking the correct dish to plate. Not that I’m a perfectionist or anything.
I love thinking of what I would do given whatever ingredients present themselves in the baskets, and watching how the competitors can work so quickly to achieve such wonderful results. Because of this, I obviously JUMPED at the chance to apply to compete in an incredible competition for food called Diced! on Pat’s wonderful blog, Rantings of an Amateur Chef. Given a list of ingredients that much each be showcased, we have to create a dish that is beautiful, unique, and most of all, yummy!
So what did I decide to do when given puff pastry, roasted red peppers, sliced almonds and pears for the appetizer round?
Pear & Goat Cheese Puffs With Sliced Almonds & Bell Pepper/Balsamic Glaze!
makes 12(ish) puffs
1 sheet store-bought puff pastry (or homemade if you’re the adventurous type)
8 oz. of goat cheese
1/4 c. sliced almonds
1 anjou pear (or any other variety you have on hand)
1 red bell pepper OR 1/4 c. jarred roasted bell peppers
1/4 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar (regular works in a pinch, but you may need to up the sugar)
2-3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2-1 Tbsp. honey (optional)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
20(ish) small fresh basil leaves (3 for the sauce, the rest for garnish)
For the sauce (can be done ahead and refrigerated until needed): If using a fresh bell pepper, slice half of it up, broil at 400 F for about 10 minutes, and put in your blender. Otherwise, take 1/4 c. of the jarred red bell peppers and dump ‘em in just the same. Add the olive oil, (white) balsamic vinegar and the chicken stock. Blend it up until it’s formed a nice, smooth consistency.
it ain’t pretty, but sure is tasty
Heat a small saucepan on medium and add the mixture. Bring to a simmer and stir in some of the sugar, erring on the “less is more” side since the flavor will concentrate as the sauce cooks down – and you can always add more later! Roll a few basil leaves in the palm of your hand to release that yummy fragrance and throw them in the pot. Let that simmer about 5 minutes to really get the flavors throughout the sauce. Stir in the honey (if using) and simmer another 5 minutes, or until reduced by half – we want a glaze that will stick to those pretty puffs without making them soggy. Taste it and see if you need to add more sugar – you want this to be a little on the sweet side since everything else (save the pear) is savory in this dish.
bubble bubble toil and basil
Now for the fun part – the puffs! Take your sheet of puff pastry and dust it on both sides with a small amount of flour. Dust your work surface, too.
Roll your puff pastry with a floured rolling pin (or wine bottle! gotta plug the blog name Wine to Walnuts somehow, right?) just a bit – too much and you will crush the layers that allow this pastry to live up to its name. Use a round cookie cutter or, for the more unconventional/crazy chefs like me, a small mason jar lid works just fine.
perfectly sized “cookie cutter” without the price tag
Make as many puff-circles (I’m sure there’s a refined term for this, but hell, let’s call it what it is) as you can, rolling out the remnants of the dough to squeeze a few more out. Place those on an oiled baking (cookie) sheet or serving tray and put back in the fridge. For positively perfect puffery, puff pastry needs to be cold when it goes in the oven.
Speaking of the oven – turn it on! About 400 should do it. While you’re waiting, slice up your pear. Very thin slices make for very pretty puffs for those especially discerning dinner guests.
pretty pear pieces for puff pastry perfection
Take your puff pastry out of the fridge and poke holes in the middle, leaving an unpoked circle of about 1/2″ all around. This keeps the middle from rising while allowing the edges to puff up, forming a little bowl of sorts as it bakes. Transfer them to an oiled baking sheet if you haven’t chilled them on it.
poking the pre-puffs
Put a dollop of goat cheese on each round, followed by a few slices of pear.
almost ready to bake!
Sprinkle with the almonds and put in the oven for about 15 minutes – adjust the time accordingly. You want slightly/deliciously browned – not burned! – edges. Once they look done pull them out and let them cool.
mouthwatering apps are on the way…
Top each with a basil leaf and drizzle with your balsamic red pepper reduction. Serve them, eat them, love them… I challenge you to try NOT to devour all of them in one go and ruin dinner. Because, with the help of your votes, that’s sure to be phenomenally rockin’ too. Stay tuned for the next round of Diced!
plate of goodies
A delicious wine to pair with this appetizer is a white that isn’t too sweet and has a little minerality to it – those characteristics will enhance the sweetness of the glaze and compliment the goat cheese beautifully. I’d recommend my FAVORITE white of all time (which for the life of me I CANNOT find in south Florida…):
Delaille Domaine du Salvard Cheverny
Delaille Domaine du Salvard Cheverny, from the Loire region of France, about $15/bottle. Don’t let that price fool you – this stuff is bananas. The sauvignon blanc/chardonnay blend is perfect on its own and I could drink it like it’s water… but that’s another story. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a cliffside overlooking the ocean on a summer day. Seriously. Pair it with these puff bites and you’re sure to be on your way to a delicious entrée – if you vote, that is