Last month, I was busy upstairs with a work deadline, and I realized that it was almost dinnertime and I had zero idea what I was going to make. So I told my husband that he should go through the kitchen and put together a mystery box of 4 ingredients for me a la Chopped and I’d make dinner using those ingredients.
He was beyond thrilled to be able to pick out the challenging ingredients. I heard both him and our toddler giggling up a storm in the kitchen and was pretty terrified that they found something terrible in the depths of our kitchen that I totally forgot about.
When they assembled the mystery basket, I was called downstairs and told that there were 5 ingredients in there, and that I was allowed 1 veto. Game ON.
The mystery ingredients were polenta, pickled okra, bee pollen, zahatar and fresh chorizo. I was excited to start cooking with these ingredients that seemed to not go together.
I was definitely nervous, but without Ted Allen narrating or any time limit or competitors nearby, I was pretty relaxed and got to work on the components of my dish.
I took the chorizo out of the casings and crumbled it into a hot skillet. I added some canned chickpeas and fresh spinach to bulk it up and made it into a sort of spicy play on Italian meat sauce.
I was between the zahatar and bee pollen for my veto, but thought that the sweetness of the pollen would work well with the pickled okra in a tangy relish that went on top of everything. I decided to pan-fry the polenta to get it nice and crispy and make a base for the rest of the dish.
The results totally blew us away! It was fantastic and really unique. The spiciness from the chorizo played off of the tangy relish, and the crispy polenta was the perfect base for everything. And since the chorizo has so much flavor inside it, I didn’t need to add any seasoning to the sauce. Dino even asked me if I’d make it again! That’s high praise in this house!
I think this was a fun experiment, and something that really involved the entire family in dinner planning. We’re going to make it into a regular feature here on Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen. I hope you all enjoy!Print
The tasty results from the first installment of Big Flavors from a Mystery Basket!
- 1 pound fresh chorizo, casings removed
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 4 cups packed baby spinach
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 18 ounce tube polenta, sliced into 8 equal rounds
- Paprika, kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup mild pickled okra, sliced, plus 1 tablespoon of the brine
- 1 tablespoon bee pollen
- 2 tablespoons shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chorizo and cook, breaking it up and stirring with a spoon or spatula as it browns. Once the meat is brown all over, add tomatoes and chickpeas and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly reduced and the chickpeas are heated through. Add spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted.
- While the sauce is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet (preferably nonstick) over moderate heat. Sprinkle each slice of polenta with a little paprika, salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Sauté until brown on both sides.
- While the polenta is cooking, in a small bowl mix the okra slices and brine, bee pollen, shallots and parsley. Set aside.
- To serve, place 2 slices of polenta in each bowl. Top with some of the chorizo & chickpea ragú and a bit of the relish. Enjoy!
Speaking of secret ingredients, last year I got to preview a new, limited edition, seasonal culinary surprise box called MARY’s secret ingredients. The boxes are filled with gourmet and artisanal ingredients to inspire you to get in the kitchen. I really enjoyed the box I received last year – I was definitely impressed with the quality and variety of the ingredients and found several new products because of it!
Each box is $25.95, and a percentage of the profits are being donated to Feed the Children. I’m looking forward to getting my next box full of springtime goodies! 2500 boxes are available for spring 2015, and Mary has offered one for me to give away to my readers as well.
Big Flavors readers also get a discount for $16 off on one year subscription (4 boxes – one for each season) by using promo code MSIBIGFLAVORS (expires April 25th, 2015).
To enter to win, leave a comment below telling me what secret ingredient you would put in a mystery box. The contest will close on Friday, April 10, 2015 at 12 noon (Eastern Standard Time). One winner will be chosen via random.org and will be contacted via email to get mailing information. Prize will be shipped by the sponsor. U.S. residents only. Good luck, everyone!
*Note: I will be receiving a Spring box for sharing this product with my readers, but was in no other way compensated. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.
UPDATE – The winner has been selected via random.org – CONGRATS to Kristin G!