Last week we talked about difficult choices. Well, apparently our main course basket from our Chopped Challenge was full of difficult choices because the winning basket which was contributed by Kelly at Inspired Edibles and included pistachios, smoked paprika, artichoke hearts and black beluga lentils only won by one vote.
It literally came down to the last hour when the tie breaking vote came in (and no, it wasn’t cast by anyone in our household). We weren’t quite sure what we were going to do in a tie situation and I have to admit I was quite sweating the other basket that was a possibility. So which basket stayed neck and neck with our winner until the end and was making me very nervous? It was ChgoJohn’s basket which featured whole trout, peanut butter, acorn squash and escarole. I have to admit, I was relieved not to have to cook a whole fish. Although ChgoJohn does make it seem easy…Perhaps next year.
Black beluga lentils are among the smallest of the lentils, full of protein and fiber and glisten like beluga caviar when cooked. They are also not easy to find. We knew our regular grocer wouldn’t carry these beauties, so we first stopped at Trader Joe’s. I couldn’t find them there, but I did manage to come out with a few bags full of goodies – frozen artichoke hearts, Miss A’s favorite banana chips, Japanese mochi, several bottles of wine. It’s like shopping at Target, I can’t seem to go in for just one thing without ending up with several other things that were not on my list. But I digress. Back to the search for the little beluga lentils. At this point we figured it was probably in our best interest to start calling grocers. We started with the high-end and went to the specialty. Many of the produce managers seemed to think I was crazy, “Black beluga what?” “We have lentils, but not anything with beluga in the name.” One nice manager even went down the whole aisle reading off every can, bag and color of lentils he could find. Still no luck. I felt a little bit like Karl Pilkington.
Unlike Karl’s fruitless search (Incidentally I too remember cartoons when I was a kid that featured hijinks with jumping beans.), we finally found our mysterious black beluga lentils at Williams Sonoma. Shwoo! We were getting nervous about missing a basket ingredient and certainly did not want to let our fans (or Kelly) down! Fortunately we found them and the rest as you know is history. We had two very different results for this round. Mike and Mr. N made the Black Beluga Lentil Burgers with Muffaletta Olive Salad, and Team Girls went with the Pistachio Pasta with Black Beluga Lentils and Mussels. We’ll start with the Burgers which are great vegetarian meal!
Once the desired thickness, Mike cut the patty into bun-size circles to make several burgers. Next he and Mr. N peeled the leaves off of the artichokes and pitted the mixed olives. These were then mixed together with some minced garlic and Dijon mustard and set aside to marinate.
Finally, Mike added the burgers to a well-greased griddle and cooked them on high for 4 to 6 minutes per side. He then brushed some olive oil on the buns and toasted them on the griddle. He added slices of Dubliners cheese to the burgers to melt and then placed them on the buns. Before adding the top bun, he chopped the olives and artichokes to make a muffaletta olive salad. This was then spooned over the burger before the last bun was placed.
As you know from following our challenge, most of us really enjoyed the lentil burger, and surprisingly so. The muffaletta olive salad really brought a lot to the sandwich. It gave it some intense zing and salty goodness. The burger itself was also good – very “meaty” and flavorful. The lentils were almost black bean like.
While we all enjoyed the burgers (except Miss A that is) and ate them numerous times throughout the following week, Mike was by far the biggest fan. That in and of itself speaks volumes considering he is very much a carnivore. I think he took a burger to lunch every day that following week! So while it came in second place, it was merely due to the fact that I won the kids over with the inclusion of mussels in my dish – Pistachio Pasta with Black Beluga Lentils and Mussels.
I too started with my lentils. I cooked them in water with a bay leaf and salt for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, I heated some oil and sautéed the onion, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin and coriander. Then I added some white wine, the artichoke hearts and some sun-dried tomatoes. After these cooked for a bit I tossed in my drained lentils.
Next I made my pistachio linguine. I figured if you could incorporate veggies and squid ink to create different colored pastas, then why not pistachios! So I chopped some pistachios in the food processor and then ground them in a sieve over a bowl. The powder that came through was then mixed into the all purpose flour and I made a pasta dough with eggs and water.
I refrigerated the dough for about 30 minutes before running it through the pasta machine. First I ran it through the flat pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid to thin the dough. Then I ran it through the linguine attachment.
Then I set the fresh linguine on baking sheets and dusted it with flour so it wouldn’t stick together while I made the rest of the noodles. The pasta was then added to boiling, salted water to cook for about 3 or 4 minutes until it was al dente.
The last thing I worked on was the mussels. After they were cleaned and debearded I sautéed some more olive oil with onions and garlic as well as a generous teaspoon of smoked paprika. Next I added some white wine followed by the mussels. The mussels cooked for about 4 or 5 minutes. I gave the pan a little shake every now and then, and once the shells opened, we were good to go. (Don’t forget to discard any mussels that do not open.) Then all that was left was plating the meal.
I topped the pistachio pasta with the black beluga lentil and artichoke mix. Then I added some smoked paprika mussels. To finish off the dish I gave a squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkle of lemon zest and ground pistachios. I also added about a tablespoon of goat cheese to each dish. The result as you know, was in our opinion, quite off the hook.
I have to thank Kelly for her basket ingredients. For years I have not enjoyed artichoke hearts. I do love a good stuffed artichoke, but the hearts were just not my thing. Until now. I have since made another pasta with artichoke hearts and I have also put them on a Mediterranean inspired pizza. The combo of artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and lemon juice are like heaven to me. I never would have guessed. And as for those little black beluga lentils, well, I even enjoy those quite thoroughly. In fact, we all do.
Now if I could just figure out how to get these little lentils to stop jumping all over our kitchen! I swear I find some every day. I’m not joking. And they travel. They are sneaky little things. Almost like the famed Mexican jumping beans of my childhood cartoon memories.
Thank you again to everyone that contributed baskets, voted and has followed along. Next week…dessert. Have a great week everyone!
Print the winning recipe: Pistachio Pasta with Black Beluga Lentils and Mussels
Print the pasta recipe: Pistachio Pasta
Print the Burger recipe: Black Beluga Lentil Burgers with Muffaletta Olive Salad