Platinum Chef Challenge, Round 2

For Platinum Chef Challenge Round 2, we were charged with the task of using corn, citrus, cheese, hot peppers, and blueberries. I found this combination to be extremely colorful and perfect for the summer palate.

We started off with a salad of field greens, southwestern-spiced toasted pecans, pepperjack cheese, roasted red pepper, and a blueberry vinaigrette. For the pecans, I simply sprayed them with some butter cooking spray, sprinkled with Penzey’s southwest seasoning, tossed to coat, and toasted them in a skillet over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring often. This really brought out the flavor of the nuts and made a nice coating. The pepperjack cheese created a nice contrast with the subtly sweet dressing. To make this dressing, I started off with a blueberry-infused balsamic vinegar, then combined with a drizzle of evoo, a squeeze of lime juice, and a dash of honey and adobo sauce. Making fruit-infused vinegar is not difficult at all, and I’d be interested in trying this with other berries. 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
a few slices fresh ginger
zest from 1/2 of a lime
1 tbsp sugar
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes. Pour into a container, let cool, and place in refrigerator for at least two days to blend flavors. Strain liquid through a sieve and discard solids. This will keep in the refrigerator for quite some time.

For the main dish, I made grilled mahi mahi over a roasted corn and pecan polenta cake, topped with a blood orange and avocado salsa. Wow! I love the colors here and it was really delicious.

For the polenta cakes:
-remove husks and silk from one ear of fresh corn. Butter & season with southwest seasoning. Wrap in foil and cook on the grill for about 10 minutes, then remove foil and allow the corn to darken up a little on each side. This charring really brings out the sweetness! Let cool and cut corn from the cob.
-bring to a boil 1 1/2 cups of water with a dash of olive oil. Whisk in 6 tbsp of cornmeal, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes until it thickens. Be careful, it splatters. I usually tilt the pan while stirring with a fork so that the heat is more indirect. Remove from heat and stir in a little salt and pepper, the corn, and a 1/4 cup of chopped pecans. Line a small baking dish with foil, and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Alternatively, I actually used a 5 or 6″ springform pan. Let cool on a rack, and then place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour to firm up.

-For the salsa:

1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 blood oranges, peeled and chopped, remove as much of white parts as possible
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 tbsp chopped red onion
juice from half of a lime
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 an avocado, chopped

Combine all ingredients above and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, to blend flavors.

To serve:
Season the mahi with salt and pepper. Grill for about 8 minutes on each side, or until fish flakes easily and is cooked through. Remove the polenta from baking dish and cut into for portions. Grill each slice for a couple minutes on each side. Serve each piece of mahi over a slice of polenta and top with the salsa. This will make enough polenta and salsa for four servings, so buy your fish accordingly!

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2 Responses to “Platinum Chef Challenge, Round 2”

  1. 1

    Sarah — July 2, 2007 @ 3:15 pm Reply

    your dish looks too good to eat!

  2. 2

    Amber — July 2, 2007 @ 9:29 pm Reply

    Very bright and colorful. Looks great. Wonderful job.

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