Episode 3 Food Network Star
Moroccan Feast & Tastemakers
Wow, three episodes down already. Going into this week I wanted to work on a few things. First - be relaxed on camera; second - smile more. I felt a lot of pressure after the prior week's so-so presentation and knew I couldn't afford to have anything less than stellar for my on-camera segment.
My head was running loops trying to figure out our next challenge. Were we finally going to work solo? What surprises did the judges have for us? What would I cook this time around? But there's really no use in trying to guess because, as we learned, that's a waste of time!
This third episode started with us preparing to cook for a private event for tastemakers. We had exactly eight minutes to shop the pantry and fill the cooler with everything we needed. Keep in mind this includes thinking of recipes as you’re running around. The images of utter chaos around the kitchen still flash through my head - overly ambitious chefs running around at top speed, hands grabbing at ingredients before someone else gets to them, produce being tossed left and right – just like Black Friday, but without the bargains. Running around in circles while mumbling recipe ideas to myself. You could say I felt like a chicken with its head cut off! Thankfully, I did manage to secure all my ingredients in the nick of time and packed up my cooler.
Outside, three brand new Volkswagen Tiguans were waiting for us. Feeling confident that I had a game plan, I settled in for the car ride. Finally thinking I would get a solo mission to show off my cooking chops. But wait... Yes, there’s always a but! En route to our destination, Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay called us in the car to reveal a twist – we would be working in teams again, with our fellow passengers. The challenge? Pull together an international-themed party and do a team demo for the crowd, which included Bobby, Giada, and special guest judge Tyler Florence. When we arrived at a mystery location, we discovered our event theme, ingredients, and decor in the trunk of our vehicle.
I was beyond delighted to learn we were team Morocco! I’ve not only traveled to Morocco, but I also learned to cook their traditional cuisine from a local woman in Marrakech, with my sister. I felt a sigh of relief because I know these flavors very well. Opening the mystery basket, I eyed the package of lamb and immediately planned to make a lamb burger with spices like coriander and cumin. Bring it on! In my original basket, I had tri-colored cauliflower and decided to make couscous with it as a side. The texture of cauliflower is very similar to the small grains of couscous and, when flavored with saffron, almonds and preserved lemons, it’s a winning combo. The hour flew by so fast that at the ten-minute mark, I was still grilling my lamb burgers. This is the part where I started praying. Nailing the presenting at the Bites Bash was my goal. To be honest, it was my only goal. With two minutes per person, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to tell your story, do a demo, and interact with the audience. But that’s what I came here to do.
Adam and Amy have a distinct advantage in this competition, as this is their second time around! I loved our team dynamic. They are both so supportive and I felt we really shined together as a team. The highlight of the Bites Bash was opening with a heartfelt story about my trip to Morocco with my siblings. Once I started to engage the room, I was on a high and remembered why I came on the show in the first place.
Now for Amy’s demo to blindfold someone on stage… Well, we win as a team and go down as a team. In hindsight, I probably should have said something, but these types of situations you have to roll with the punches. In the end, her dish saved her.
By the time elimination came around, I was confident about my dish, but Giada thought the harissa overpowered the lamb burger. Personally, I didn’t agree with her assessment and always enjoy a little kick to my food. Note to self – don’t serve Giada spicy food.
Our team was safe. Unfortunately, Rebekah’s dish and the demo did not make the cut and she was eliminated. She’s incredibly vivacious, sassy and really funny. She’s some kind of good, ya’ll.
Love hearing from you all; please keep the comments coming. Thank you so much for following my journey.
- 1 1/3 pounds ground lamb
- 4 hamburger buns or small ciabatta rolls
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1 small onion, grated
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Kosher salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- ½ cup yogurt
- 2 tablespoon harissa
- Mix all ingredients and 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in medium bowl; mix in lamb. Shape into four 3/4-inch-thick patties. Cook patties in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes per side for medium.
- Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Broil buns until golden, about 2 minutes. Top each bun bottom with the burger. Mix yogurt and harissa, place atop burgers. Cover with bun tops, pressing firmly to compact.
- 1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), coarsely grated
- 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup dried currants or raisins
- 1/4 cup sliced dried apricots
- Kosher salt to taste
- Optional - preserved lemons
- Toast almonds in a large dry skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally until lightly browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Wipe out skillet.
- Meanwhile, working in batches if needed, pulse cauliflower in a food processor fitted with a blade, or grate using the largest holes of a box grater until rice-like in texture (you should have about 4 cups).
- Whisk broth and honey together in a small bowl.
- Heat oil in the same skillet over medium-high. Add cumin, saffron, and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Immediately add cauliflower and stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until cauliflower is softened, 3–5 minutes. Add broth mixture, currants, and apricots; stir to combine. Cover and continue to cook until just tender, 3–5 minutes more.
- Transfer cauliflower mixture to a serving platter and stir in half of the almonds. Top with remaining almonds before serving.