Monday, June 25, 2012

Vegan Chopped: Black Eyed Pea-Stuffed Blackberry Arepas with Chocolate Mole and Mint Cilantro Pico de Gallo

After my pseudo-Persian fail, I decided mole was the way to go for this challange. I've only had mole a few times, both when I was very young, and I hated it--though my tastes have changed--so I'm not sure if the flavor is that of a typical mole. I used a David Lebovitz recipe as a template and some advice I remembered from Rick Bayless. 

I toasted the whole ingredients to add intensity and cut the sauteing to save time. I think sauteing would round out the flavors better and add a layer of depth, though, so if you have time, saute the onions and garlic.  I also omitted the tomatoes and dried fruit. I intended to add raisins, but couldn't find them, so I thought about adding a little sweetener, but my chocolate is very sweet, so I decided the blackberries and chocolate would balance those flavors. I think the mole was missing a bit of brightness, so I'd serve with a lime wedge.

I knew my blackberries were tart, and would add just a faint flavor, but a ton of color if I put them into the water for the masa, but I didn't want the photos to be too muddy, so I went with bi-colored masa.  You can't taste the blackberries at all, but they add a brilliant color. The extra sugar seemed to caramelize a bit when the arepas were fried, so the outside browned up more than the regular arepas, which JD loved, but they also stuck a bit. I would definitely use this trick to make masa more festive in the future.

The black eyed filling was very simple due to the time limit, but if I had more time, I would have sauteed onions and garlic and simmered the beans with them for ten minutes.

If I made this dish again, I'd stuff the plain arepas with slices of avocado, and maybe add some Daiya or Follow your heart to the black eyed pea filling. These changes would give great color contrasts and add some moisture to the bean filling.

The addition of mint to the pico was nice, and it gave a light, fresh flavor. I omitted garlic, because I thought it might overpower the mint, and the mole.

All in all, this was a good dish. I probably wouldn't make the mole again, because it's not really our thing, and it's both time and ingredient intensive, but JD and I both enjoyed this meal. I make arepas, stuffed arepas, and salsa often, and as I said, I would use the blackberry trick again, especially since JD loved it. The top presentation was really pretty, but after eating one, I knew you needed some mole and pico in each bite, so the last picture is a much representation of well balanced flavors, and I could imagine serving this a party food.

"Quick" Blackberry Chocolate Mole
by Christina Terriquez

2 guadillo peppers
2 pasilla peppers
1 cup water
1 teaspoon fennel or anise seeds
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano (I forgot to add this)
1/2 cup almonds
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (I used a mix of beige and black)
1/4 fresh or frozen blackberries
2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
 2 cloves garlic

 Lightly toast the peppers, they should puff up, and change color, but not become totally black of they will taste acrid. Cut the tops of the peppers off and discard the seeds. Tear or cut the peppers into small pieces, and place in your blender with the water.

Gently toast the fennel, coriander, cloves and cumin seeds, then add them to the blender. Add all remaining ingredients and blend well.

Strain mole into a heavy 2 quart saucepan and simmer over medium low heat for at least twenty minutes, stirring throughout.

Black Eyed Stuffed-Bi Color Arepas
by Christina Terriquez

1/4 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
1 cup masa harina, divided
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder, divided
Black Eyed Pea filling, recipe follows
safflower or sunflower oil for frying

Blend blackberries with 1/2 cup water. Strain and set aside.

Mix 1/2 cup masa harina, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder in a medium bowl. Add half of the water and mix well. Add remaining blackberry water, if needed, or plain water if additional liquid is needed to achieve soft earlobe consistency. Set dough aside.

In a medium bowl, mix remaining masa harina, salt and baking powder. Add water to achieve soft earlobe consistency.

Divide each ball of dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a small ball, then working one by one, flatten ball using your fingers and place a teaspoon of black eyed pea filling inside. It may help to compact and roll the filling into a ball as well. Flatten dough and fold it over the filling, completely encapsulating the filling. Smooth out dough and flatten out shape to small flat cylinders, like little hockey pucks. If your dough becomes dry, use a little water.

Once all dough is used, cover a heat-proof plate with two paper towels. Put oil into a heavy pot. You'll need about 1/2" of oil. Heat oil to medium high and fry the arepas in batches, draining on paper towels.

To serve, cover each arepa with blackberry chocolate mole, top with a spoonful of Mint Cilantro Pico de Gallo and garnish with lime wedges and mint leaves.

Black Eyed Pea Filling
1 can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
sea salt
garlic powder
onion powder
Place the beans in a bowl, season to taste with garlic and onion powder and salt. Lightly mash.

Mint Cilantro Pico de Gallo
by Christina Terriquez

1/2 white onion
sea salt
1/8 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, washed
1/8 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, washed
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 roma tomato, diced
lime juice

Dice onion, put into a wire mesh strainer and rise with cool water. Put into a small bowl, add a pinch of salt and mix.

Mince mint and cilantro, and add to onion. Add jalapeno and tomato. Mix and season with lime and salt.

Vegan Chopped: Pseudo Persian Fail

Black Eyed Pea Cutlets in Chocolate Blackberry Walnut Stew with Mint, Basil, and Parsley over Jasmine Rice 

On Thursday afternoon, I saw a post on Facebook from Isa about a Vegan Chopped contest she was running.  This was perfect timing as I had three days off and was eager to do some hardcore cooking.

The premise and rules were simple: 
You have four mystery ingredients. Create an entree using all four ingredients as little or as much as you want, and you can use anything else in your pantry.

The dish must take only about 40 minutes to prepare. You must from-scratch, vegan ingredients. You must include a title, picture and description of methods used.

Submissions will be judged on taste, creativity and presentation. 

The four ingredients are: mint, blackberries, bittersweet chocolate and black eyed peas.

I love a good cooking challenge, and while the first three ingredients were no problem, the black eyed peas threw me for a loop. I've only used them once, in a hoppin' john, and I think I've only eaten them twice besides that. I've way more familiar with these Black Eyed Peas

My first thought was to make sweet black eyed pea fritters, similar to the savory fritters a local West African place, Wasota makes and top them with a chocolate blackberry sauce and garnishi with mint, but that's not an entree, and it seemed like a "safe" choice.

I had a ton of ideas at once, all revolving around a similar sauce, chocolate mole, chocolate curry, and chocolate Persian stew. I figured I could make black eyed pea and gluten patties, kind of like the famous chickpea cutlets, but browned in a pan, then simmered in broth, and simmered in sauce or steam black eyed pea-gluten sausages and simmer them in one of those sauces. Then reality hit. Forty minutes. Forty minutes wouldn't be enough time to do all of that, but maybe I could use the chickpea cutlet template, and let them simmer in the sauce.

I decided to do a take on a Persian walnut pomegranate stew that I make frequently, since it already had fruit and tons of richness, and was garnished with more fruit and copious amounts of fresh herbs, it seemed ideal.

I made the black eyed pea cutlets, and everything was looking great. My rice was almost done, my sauce was on its way, and I had browned the patties. I sliced the cutlets into strips to help them cook more quickly, since they seemed a little soggy still. I still had about twenty minutes, and the sauce takes a while to reduce, so I added the black eyed pea cutlet strips and hoped for the best....

I should have scrapped the idea then. I knew that I needed to simmer those cutlets, but I thought maybe, just maybe simmering in the sauce would work. Blech. They were disgusting. soft and obviously not done, which is a shame, because the sauce was actually pretty good. Not as good as the original, but it could have been tweaked to be a little more tangy, a little less chocolately, and probably would have been great. There was just no way these cutlets would have worked in the time allotted.

All was not lost, though. I learned a few things. First, ALWAYS STRAIN YOUR BLACKBERRIES. These blackberries had crazy huge seeds, as big as sesame seeds and they were so hard I thought I chipped a tooth. I usually love blackberry seeds, but these monsters had the. worst. seeds. ever.

Second, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. My first thought about those cutlets was to brown them, simmer them for 30-60 minutes, then use them in a recipe. I went ahead and tried that, and lo and behold, perfect, amazing cutlets. I love them, and I can already tell they will be in frequent rotation at my house. I could even see making a big batch and freezing some, and using different types of broth.

I also gave the challenge another go.

So, here's the super easy but time consuming recipe. Don't worry, for the long simmering time they can be left mostly-unattended. 

Black Eyed Pea Cutlets
by Christina Terriquez

1 can black eyed peas
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground poultry seasoning
safflower or olive oil
vegan broth or bouillon

Drain the liquid from the can, then rinse once, and fill the can with water just to cover the black eyed peas. Puree black eyed peas completely.  In a medium bowl, mix bean puree, gluten, soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and poultry seasoning. Knead well.

Separate dough into four equal portions, roll each portion into a ball, then flatten. 

In a large cast iron skillet, heat enough oil to barely cover the bottom of pan. Brown both sides of each cutlet. Add broth or water and bouillon and simmer for an hour, adding more water as needed.

Try other seasoning in the cutlet or other broths.

This a great, basic cutlet that has flavor on its own, but can be prepared in a huge variety of ways.

This could be left to simmer in a crock pot, but I would increase the cooking time.

Dijon Mustard Potatoes, Almond and Panko Crusted Black Eyed Pea Cutlet and Water Sauteed Red Kale