The chefs on the FoodNetwork’s show, Chopped, do wonders at the strange ingredients presented to them. One show used canned jackfruit. Another show had the chefs make an appetizer with live eel, peas and ugly peaches. On the show, they’re three rounds: an appetizer, a main course and the dessert. After each round, a judgment is made. The contestant’s dish that’s on the “chopping block” after the silver dome is lifted, is eliminated from the competition. The winner takes home a $10,000 prize. These chefs are brave to display their knowledge and skills in front of the camera. There are no factors that would give one chef a competitive edge. It’s creativity that wins the game.
With inspiring confidence from these chefs, I challenged myself to make a healthy lunch from what appears to be an empty refrigerator. A novice cook would be quick to call take-out. Fennel was the “wild card” ingredient. One tart apple was sitting on the counter. Italian Parsley, two slices of Cinnamon-Raisin bread, and a red onion were wrapped tightly in the refrigerator. Sharp Cheddar cheese would be a difficult ingredient to include, too. The taste buds wanted sweet, tangy, green and comfort on a cloudy, chill day.
A quick salad with the anise flavor of fennel; the sweet, tart taste of the apple; the mild sharpness of the red onion; and the peppery, green taste of the Italian Parsley were combined with a simple lemon juice vinaigrette. Olive oil was used in this vinaigrette, but walnut oil would have been a better choice. Feeling that a salad would not completely satisfy a hungry appetite, a warm sandwich was prepared. Opting for a comforting taste, a sweet and tangy Grilled Cheddar Cheese, Apples and Raisin-Cinnamon Bread sandwich was made to complement the anise-flavored salad.
Lunch became unexpectedly creative, and it didn’t meet the chopping block.
Apple Fennel Salad
1 Granny Smith Apple or any tart apple, peeled and thinly sliced (place a few aside for the sandwich)
1/2 cup fennel, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 cup Italian Parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 to 3 Tbps. wine balsamic vinegar
The juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1. Toss all ingredients and set aside until ready to serve.
Grilled Cheddar Cheese and Apple on Raisin Bread Sandwich
Ingredients (makes 1)
3 to 4 slices of Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced
3 to 4 slices of Sharp Cheddar Cheese
2 slices of Raisin Cinnamon Bread
1. Heat 1 tbsp. of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Place apple and cheese slices on one slice of bread and top with the other slice of bread to make a sandwich.
3. Place the sandwich in the skillet when it’s hot. Using a heavy object (such as a potato masher), firmly press on the sandwich for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the bottom slice is golden brown. Flip over and repeat until the other slice is golden brown. Don’t worry if the cheese is not completely melted.
4. Serve with the Apple Fennel Salad and enjoy.