Episode 6 Food Network Star
Blog 6 – Shark Week
Sink or swim?
Coming off a high from last week’s episode, I was feeling good walking into the kitchen. I felt at ease and finally got my groove in this competition.
That is until….our first challenge, we had to create a new spin for a favorite family recipe. Everyone has a family favorite recipe that has been passed down for generations, so I was looking forward to sharing another Patel clan recipe. Throughout the season, I’ve taken such pride in sharing my family’s connection to food, recipes, and stories. There’s just something magical about making tried-and-true family recipes. Passed down from generation to generation, these favorites evoke such nostalgia. From classic cakes and cookies to comforting dinners, soups and sides, find traditional dishes—and the stories behind them—that will take you back to your grandma’s or your mother’s kitchen. I’ve really enjoyed connecting my culture, tradition and family history.
But nothing is ever so simple in this competition. This challenge was no different. Bobby and Giada informed us that even though we may love our family recipes just as they are, our cooking stations would have a card with a new culinary twist to make to our recipe. In addition to this twist, we had to film an Instagram story about the process while we cooked, and food blogger Molly Yeh popped in to help judge. My feeling on this challenge was simple – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Family favorites are just that – favorites! I really didn’t see the need to muck up a perfectly good thing. But that didn’t change the fact that our mentor challenge required us to modify our family recipe. I found myself in a ‘situation’.
My favorite family recipe is a lentil stew. Lentils are a staple in the Patel household. With dozens of varieties and colors, there’s never a lack of options. They are inexpensive, hearty and most of all packed with so much goodness. You can see why I was excited to make lentil stew. However, when I got to my cooking station and turned over my card, I was shocked to see the words “make a sandwich”. What? That meant turning my stew into a sandwich!
Ok, that’s just cruel. Lentils take almost 20 minutes to cook and we only had 30 minutes to finish our dish. In a stroke of brilliance (luck?!), I remembered my favorite Indian street food, which is essentially a sandwich made out of vegetables, served on a bun. Ok, now I had a direction to go in. Lentils are watery, so I added starchy vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots to soak up the liquid to form a patty. I seasoned the lentil burger with a blend of North African spices containing cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice. These are most often used in savory dishes, rubbed on meat or fish and, in my case, my lentil sandwich.
To further complicate matters, I had to run around with a phone in my hand and do Instagram stories throughout the challenge. Instagram and I are dear friends trust me! I’d never miss an opportunity to story, live, boomerang or hyper zoom, but the stress of the challenge got the best of me. Honestly, the social media piece was an afterthought. I know how to use all the features, but I placed more importance on my food this go round.
During judging our special guest judge, Molly Yeh, Bobby, and Giada all agreed my sandwich was quite creative and delivered on taste (yay). But I bombed the Instagram portion royally. Can’t win them all.
Manny aced the Mentor Challenge with a series of Instagram Stories that were not only fun and funny but also with a Macaroni and Cheese Egg Roll that leaves Bobby wanting (many) more. Manny earned the win and won an advantage in the Star Challenge. Keep this fact in mind!
The list of seafood was diverse, including crab, clams, and yellowtail. Remember Manny’s win? Well, he got an advantage in this challenge. That advantage was that he could switch the main ingredient for his dish in the main challenge with any of us – that meant me. He took my crab and left me with yellowtail. What kind of soup was I going to make with a fish that’s served raw? Oh, Manny! I was not thrilled to be working within the confines of yellowtail soup. The irony! I had just turned the soup into a sandwich and now I had to turn raw fish into a soup!
In another set of twists and turns, I was the only one to get a half of a fish to butcher. Everyone else had seafood that was already prepared. Much of my hour went into meticulously butchering fish. I should mention that I’ve butchered whole fish before, but never with dull knives.
I decided to do a cold soup similar to green gazpacho, with apples, celery, cucumber and yellowtail, topped with pickled apples and chilies. The soup had a bright and bold flavor, served cold and is a perfect preparation for the yellowtail.
We opened as a team and then individually presented our dish to the judges. Special guest judge for this challenge is none other than Man v. Food's Casey Webb who helped Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay decide which one of us would be shark bait. Get it?
My problem started when the judges said my dish didn’t have balance. Too much acid, they said. I respectfully disagree. It is unfortunate that they thought this of my soup and even though it wasn’t a hit with the judges, the mentors finally noticed my presentation skills. And Bobby said, “I was bright and energetic and smiled”. Score!
The top dish was clearly Christian’s pasta dish and then Amy’s squid. Manny struggled with his execution of the crab fritters and Katie was eliminated this week. She is the warmest, kindest and most vivacious person I met in this competition. I think she is a talented chef, but according to the judges, the clam dish was not her best execution. I guess sometimes it's a shark-eat-shark kind of world.
Love hearing from you all; please keep the comments coming. Thank you so much for following my journey.
1 cup cooked red lentils
1 cup chickpeas, canned (drained)
1 egg, whisked
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cup cauliflower, grated
1 small zucchini, grated
1/4 red or green bell pepper, finely chopped (optional)
2-3 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
3-4 tbsp vegan mayo (or sub for hummus)
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon garma masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons oil, additional for sauteing
Kosher salt to taste
Brioche buns, toasted
- Lightly mash chickpeas with a fork. Add the lentils and mix well.
- In a medium pan, add oil cook onions, carrots, peppers, cauliflower, zucchini, cook for 5-7 minutes. Season with salt and spices. Cool.
- Add cooled vegetables, mayo, egg, lemon juice, spices, and salt. Mix thoroughly with a fork.
- Mix lentils and chickpeas with vegetables thoroughly with a fork to even out the texture.
- Form into patties and chill for 3+hours.
- Add oil to a pan and sear patties on both sides
- Serve on top of buns topped with fig jam
- 4 cucumbers—peeled, seeded and chopped
- 3 sticks celery, chopped
- 2 cups apples, chopped (plus 1/4 cup small diced)
- 1 red chili, sliced thinly
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup of water
- 4 ounces, hamachi sliced
- Kosher salt to taste
In a blender, combine the cucumbers, celery, apples, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and 1 cup of water; puree until smooth. Season with salt. The soup can be refrigerated overnight. Garnish with apples and chilies.