I’ve been missing the challenge. Oh, sure, I challenge myself with most every meal I prepare, but it’s not the same as being given a category and told to run with it. That’s stoking the fire, revving the engine, jumping off a cliff. That’s exhilarating! Especially when it works.
I have more than 10 pages of food challenges on this blog. Most notably, Our Family Food Fights and 3-years running of A Culinary Tour Around the World. Then there were also a few Royal Food Jousts, Marx Foods contests and the 3 rounds I lasted in Project Food Blogger … loved the challenge, hated the vote-pandering!
I gave up.
Enter 5 Star Makeover Cooking Group.
I’ve followed several of the members since I began blogging. I also admired the group’s monthly challenges from afar — on one hand, wishing to be a part of it — and on the other, somewhat intimidated by their consistent high levels of creativity. But, one day, I got my nerve up and boldly asked ‘if there was ever an opening…“. I was thrilled with the immediate response and welcome from Natasha and Laz.
And you, dear readers, will be happy to know NO VOTING! It’s all about the personal challenge and showcasing the group’s creativity. According to Natasha, “the 5 Star Makeover was originally a contest … but it evolved to a cooking group because of my realization that blogging should be about sharing ideas and interacting, rather than competing.” (my emphasis)
I can’t wait to see what everyone in the group did. Individual group members will be publishing their creations over the next couple of days and Natasha will post the round-up on February 23 on her blog.
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Golden Beet + Plantain Empanadas with Smoky Rum Glaze …and Raw Red Beet Salad with Plantain + Roasted Golden Beet Dressing
Within an hour of learning the mystery ingredient (beets), I came up with about a dozen ideas. Some were really ‘crazy'; I wanted to knock it out of the box with my first entry.
…but, the combination of beets and plantains came to me early on — and stuck — so I decided to embrace it two ways.
I chose golden beets for the empanada filling based purely on the fact they blended perfectly (visually) with the plantain and they don’t bleed (I’m a kitchen neatnik).
Balancing the Flavor. It could have been very ‘one note’ with just the beet and plantain. Bacon and scallion balanced it out beautifully. In fact, the combination worked so well, I saved a little as a base for the salad dressing.
The Glaze. I normally just egg wash empanadas when I bake them, but I wanted these to have some additional pizzaz so I made a glaze of rum, sugar and chipotle.
With all due modesty :), I give this 5 stars. It hit all the notes I was hoping for … sweet, heat, salty, smokey, and spicy.
I also wanted to feature beet greens and made a red beet raw salad with a golden beet and plantain dressing (see recipe notes).
I had a great time with this challenge and can’t wait to do it again next month. I hope group members like my first contribution.
*Bacon and scallions added balance to the sugary beets and sweet plantain with a touch of spice and a little salt. **Similarly, a dash of chipotle was added to glaze so it would not be overly sweet. ***Save 1 teaspoon of filling for dressing. Add ¼ cup evoo and the juice of one lemon. Pulse and serve over raw beets and greens.
Note: FOODalogue suggests this recipe as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with…in your own kitchen…to your own spice and taste levels…and to your preferred portion sizes.