June 24, 2012

VEGAN CHOPPED: Portobello Steaks with Bittersweet Blackberry BBQ Sauce, Black Eyed Rutabaga Puree, and Green Bean Salad with Mint Gremolata

UPDATE: What the what? I am super honored to have been named a Runner Up!!!! Many thanks to Isa, Jess, and Katie for judging the competition, and many hats off to my fellow competitors for creating some truly amazing dishes. You can see the full list of Winner, Runner Ups, and Honorable Mentions over on the PPK's facebook page.

Portobello Steaks with Bittersweet Blackberry BBQ Sauce, Black Eyed Rutabaga Puree, and Green Bean Salad with Mint Gremolata 
The many, many hours I've wasted invested watching competitive cooking shows have finally come in handy. Isa over at the Post Punk Kitchen came up with the brilliant idea to do a vegan version of Chopped, a show that challenges chefs to create awesome dishes utilizing a requisite array of ingredients (ranging from head-scratching to WTF in their strangeness) while under the clock. For the first Vegan Chopped, Isa challenged vegan cooks everywhere to create a killer entree in under 40 minutes which included the following ingredients:

1. Blackberries
2. Fresh Mint
3. Canned Black Eyed Peas
4. Bittersweet Chocolate

Yeeeah. Three of the four ingredients are traditionally used in desserts. This challenge is for an entree. Isa, you tricksy little vegan minx. This challenge is crazypants. 

I decided to go for it anyway.

After cooking like a crazy person and turning my kitchen into a culinary warzone (I now understand why so many competing chefs' stations look like a hurricane blew through), my entree was complete. The blackberries and chocolate became a spicy, tangy BBQ sauce that glazed hearty mushroom caps. Black eyed peas got friendly with oft-ignored rutabaga in a creamy, earthy-sweet puree. A classic side of green beans was re-imagined as a cool salad dressed in minty-lemony goodness. It's the perfect meal for summer entertaining, really - a dish that feels both fancy and familiar. We're not reinventing the wheel here. Just making it tastier.

Here's the breakdown of the dish's components (all conveniently gluten-, soy-, and nut-free!):


portobello mushroom caps, 4 large, brushed clean and stems removed
olive oil

Saute mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat until tender and caramelized, glazing in BBQ sauce as you go.

frozen blackberries, 1 cup
ketchup, 2 tablespoons
adobo sauce, 1 tablespoon (the saucy goodness in a can of chipotle chiles)
balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon
olive oil, 1 tablespoon
lime zest, zest of one lime
bittersweet chocolate, 2 squares of a 3.5 ounce bar (a little less than 1 ounce)
salt to taste

In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the blackberries until they break down a bit and release their juices. In a blender, puree all ingredients except the chocolate until smooth. Bring a saucepan to medium heat and pour in the sauce, bringing to a simmer. While simmering, finely chop the chocolate. Add chocolate to the sauce, stir until smooth, and taste for seasoning. Remove from heat.


black eyed peas, 1 (15 oz) can, drained and rinsed
olive oil, 2 tablespoons, divided
rutabaga, 1 lb, peeled and diced
sweet onion, 1 small, diced
garlic, 2 cloves
unsweetened non-dairy milk, 1/2 cup
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the rutabaga, onion, and garlic in one tablespoon of oil over medium heat until softened and caramel in color (I partially covered the pan to speed the process up, but this still was cooking in the background for most of the challenge time). Remove from heat and transfer mixture to a food processor. Add the peas, milk, and remaining tablespoon of oil. Puree until smooth, seasoning to taste.


green beans, 8 ounces
mint, 1 cup leaves, minced
garlic, 2 cloves, minced
lemon, zest of whole lemon and juice of half 
olive oil, 1-2 tablespoons, depending on your preference
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. In the meantime, fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water (you'll shock the beans in this "ice bath" after cooking). Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook until just tender-crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to the ice bath and cool completely before draining. In a bowl, combine the mint, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss the green beans with the gremolata and check for seasoning.

So there you have it. Check out all the entries on the PPK Facebook page - winner to be announced on Tuesday!!!! 


  1. I am impressed with how savory-good that meal looks!

    1. Thanks! I'm super pleased with how well the caramelized barbeque-ed-ness came through in the photo.