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105degrees, L1/W3/D5: crab cakes, chocolate torte, & a challenge

November 12, 2010

Hello, everyone! I just made the 5 hour drive home to Kansas City (in the rain, bleh), so I’m home sweet home! Even if it is for less than 48 hours. It’s late (almost 10pm already!), so let’s get right to the good stuff.

The first thing we did this morning was pull out yesterday‘s falafel. I popped a couple of these while they were still warm from the dehydrator—LOOOVE them!

The blonde macaroons were also done. I really liked the flavor, but if/when I make them again, I’m going to shred the coconut much finer.

You know what else was done? Yesterday’s crab cakes. And boy, were they uuugly.

I have no idea why they turned that unsightly brown color (and neither did Russell), but I worked with what I had. We made a sweet corn ragout and a crisp slaw to serve with them.

I reeeally liked this creamy fresh corn ragout, at least.

I know, I know. They don’t look like real crab cakes at all. But do they at least look like “yummy mushroom-veggie patties”?

I could only hope that’s what they were, because I wasn’t too keen on even trying them. I would never touch a real crab cake, so selling me on a raw one wasn’t easy. I set my plate out for tasting, though, and was surprised when Russell said it was his favorite! He complimented me on being able to pull together the right flavors and execute a dish well even if I wouldn’t enjoy it myself. That’s definitely one skill I really wanted to pick up while at 105, so I couldn’t have been more delighted! (And hey, at least the inside looked kinda crab-cakey.)

My mouth watered much more for what was next: plating our chilled chocolate tortes from Wednesday. We squared them off to make them prettier. Yes, there was scrap-snackage.

Along with a vanilla crème sauce and a fresh raspberry coulis, it was especially fun to get creative with this plating.

Not many words will be needed for this one.

Ohhh…come to mama!

This actually reminded me a little of the chocolate part of that cake that Matt and I just ate in Dallas. It’s light, almost fluffy, and melts in your mouth like a dream.

Cheeky raspberry sticks its tongue out at you!

Want a bite?

YES. Oh, heavens yes.

What on earth could we follow that up with?! Something totally out of the ordinary, in fact. Russell paired us all up and gave each twosome a tray full of almost-past-its-prime produce from the fridge that needed be used up by the weekend. The challenge was to create a dish, any dish, using every single item on the tray. We weren’t allowed any additional ingredients except herbs, spices, and oils. It was like a Top Chef “quickfire”! I forgot to take a picture of our tray before we started, but here’s what we were given:

Cabbage – spinach – mushrooms – butternut squash – red onion – apple –
tomato – sundried tomatoes – oranges – lemons – walnuts – red miso –
chipotle chiles – purple bell peppers

So what did Comenius, my Swiss collaborator, and I put together with this motley medley of produce?

A small masterpiece, that’s what.

Our dish included this cabbage leaf “lasagna” of sorts, layered with marinated mushrooms, orange slices, and a chunky sundried tomato sauce. Comenius had taken the helm with this one…

…while I’d concentrated on the stuffed pepper halves, which we softened in the dehydrator. One contained a spinach-walnut salad tossed with a lemon vinaigrette.

The other (my personal favorite part of our dish) held a tasty, cumin-laced butternut squash-apple-chipotle purée.

Not bad for zero forethought or preparation and only an hour of work, eh? Comenius and I were both super-proud of how it turned out!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

32 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2010 11:49 pm

    Nice work, chefs. That sounds like a hard challenge. I would have done well if the ingredients were cacao-coconut-nuts-agave. 🙂

    That crab cake actually looks good. I am not repulsed by green, it makes me more attracted to it. Plus I made some green veggie burgers last night.

    The choc cake is by far the most drool worthy. Amazing stuff!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:03 pm

      Thanks 😀 Actually, one of the three trays had those very ingredients (and many more). I was kind of sad when we weren’t assigned that dessert tray, but it all worked out in the end, I think.

      Yep, chocolate torte for the win 😛

  2. November 13, 2010 6:44 am

    You are, and will always be, my Top Chef.

    (I kinda want to leave it at that, but I’m absolutely unable to. That chocolate torte! With raspberries and pistachios, two (more) of my favourite things! I can picture myself as a puppy at your feet begging for the raw chocolate scraps…)

    And now, my lovely… go off and have an amazing weekend at home with Matt and your family!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:03 pm

      ::Big grin:: This ‘top chef’ would happily have fed you all her torte scraps! 🙂

  3. November 13, 2010 7:04 am

    That really IS a crazy medley of produce to have to use up! Looks like you did perfect – each part looks delicious. Although…I don’t think annnything could top that cocolate torte. Holy cow, that looks beyond-words-amazing.
    I have a hard time making things I’ll hate, too. I just don’t have ay taste for it, so I feel like I’m…well, in a canoe without a paddle, I guess! Sounds like you passed that challenge with flying colors 😉

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:05 pm

      Thank you! It was a challenging exercise to make something I myself wouldn’t willingly eat, and to make it well. That’s the kind of experience I need, though!

      But yeah, the torte wins, methinks. 😉

  4. November 13, 2010 8:00 am

    So much goodness I don’t even know where to start. Chocolate torte? Yes, please. Raw layered “lasagna” of sorts? Definitely! Butternut squash-apple puree? Pass some my way 🙂

    And the “crab” cakes look delicious to me…I gladly would have eaten it for you!

    So fun that you’re able to spend the weekend at home. Enjoy, and be sure to get in lots of rest and relaxation!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:05 pm

      I’m glad to hear everything here looks tasty 😀

      I had a great weekend, and I hope you did too!

  5. November 13, 2010 8:58 am

    I like that your knife has a name, that’s ridiculous. And you two cranked out an awesome response to your Iron Chef-esque challenge! I’m always most excited by the dessert though, it looks like a swirling vortex of bliss!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:07 pm

      Oh, Comenius? Hehe, that’s actually my classmate; we were assigned to be partners in the challenge…he really IS from Switzerland. But now that you bring it up, my knife really should have a name, shouldn’t it? Maybe I ought to go ahead and name it after Comenius! 😛

  6. November 13, 2010 12:39 pm

    Love your creation! Looks fantastic!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:07 pm

      Thanks Angela! 🙂

  7. juliakatz1996 permalink
    November 13, 2010 4:10 pm

    That choclolate torte looks SO pretty and creative. You you send me one please, with pistachios and raspberries on top 🙂

    Oh, and a side of one of those peppers!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:07 pm

      Hehe – if any of it were shippable, I would!

  8. November 14, 2010 2:28 am

    Hope you’re having a great weekend at home.

    What a fun challenge – I love being handed a bunch of ingredients and told to make something of them. I think you guys did great. All looks delicious. And the choc torte… Well, enough said!

    Glad you’re still sounding so upbeat and vibrant and inspirational. It’s wonderful to see the development and the pleasure streak throughout.


    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:08 pm

      Thanks for the compliments on our off-the-cuff dish 🙂 And the torte too, of course!

      I had a stellar weekend; I hope the same goes for you.

  9. Villo permalink
    November 14, 2010 9:32 am

    Wooow, congratulations, Amber!!! I was supercurious how you’d use fruits together with the other ingredients, for me that is always a challenge, being the eat fruit only on an empty stomach or in a smoothie kind of girl. So I’m curious how you liked the first dish.
    Drooling over your chipotle, I love them and can’t buy them in Belgium, was just googling sites to order some when I saw your latest post featured them. Craving just tenfolded 🙂

    By the way, what kind of pumpkins/squash do you use in the restaurant? Here I can buy round green and orange ones (regular/Halloween/Hokkaido) and butternut squash but apart from the young butternut, the rest I had no success with, tried to marinate, dehydrate, blend etc but remained hard and the taste wasn’t particularly appealing either.
    Have a safe drive!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:11 pm

      I know what you mean about the fruits! Luckily, some good combinations jumped out at us pretty quickly, so it was fairly smooth sailing.

      You don’t have chipotles in Belgium?! SHAME! I hope you were able to find a place to order some online.

      We used butternut squash here; I think that’s the main squash the restaurant ever uses, too. I wouldn’t think that raw squash would be very good either, but if it’s a) pureed, or b) sliced super-duper thinly, I’ve found myself really enjoying it.

  10. November 14, 2010 1:53 pm

    Oh wow wow wow.

    That is all just so so good.

    And purple bell peppers are a new one on me. From the photo they look like aubergines.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:12 pm

      I was taken aback by those peppers, too! Makes me wonder if I’ll ever see purple bell pepps again anywhere else after this.

  11. November 14, 2010 2:24 pm

    I’m getting a huge kick out of reading your blog! I can’t wait to do the same thing when I start my culinary school adventures 😀

    What camera do you use?

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:13 pm

      Yay, glad to hear it! And I can’t wait to read about YOUR upcoming culinary adventures 😀

      I use a Nikon Coolpix P100. I’m still fairly new to it, but luckily it’s pretty intuitive to use. I like it a lot!

  12. November 14, 2010 7:42 pm

    I actually think the crabby cakes look good! Not unsightly at all.

    You guys made the most of your challenge ingredients! How fun! And the torte? Yes, please!!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:13 pm

      Why thank you! That makes me feel better 🙂

      The torte was fantasmic!

  13. November 14, 2010 8:34 pm

    You are right no words needed for that lovely dessert!!! Incredible!! 🙂

    Good job with the crab cakes, I am not a huge fan of the real ones but I would have loved to try your raw one even if the color did not come out just right 😉 All looks great!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 2:14 pm

      Thank you!! It tasted just as good as it looked.

      I feel you on the crab cake part – but a raw version of just about anything is worth trying at least once!

  14. November 15, 2010 5:40 pm

    ooh! The chocolate looks fabulous!

    You definitely have a talent for this. I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I had been given all of those random items and was told to make something good out of it all!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 15, 2010 6:54 pm

      Aw, thank you ::beams:: It’s really gratifying to feel like I may have a true knack for this stuff.

  15. Spumoni permalink
    November 17, 2010 6:07 am

    The only down side to your blog is how much it makes me want to attend the academy! Alas, financial restrictions will not allow 😦
    In the meantime, I’ll just hang on your every post… no pressure 🙂
    Thanks so much for all the photos and comments. They’re all great! I can’t wait to see what you’ve been doing this week. Tell Russel every time I make his recipes for my friends, they all rave!! Wishing I could be there… Spumoni

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 17, 2010 7:22 am

      Thanks Spumoni! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you make it here someday 😀 In the meantime, I’m thrilled to hear you’re enjoying my posts (AND Russell’s recipes!).

  16. November 19, 2010 12:52 am

    come to mama indeed!

    as always, so many things to applaud and to think about!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      November 19, 2010 8:42 am

      😀 Hehe, thank you!

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