2010 Chefs’ Challenge – Entrées

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The Chef: Lila Y. Cornelio (Johnson and Wales University, Providence, R.I.)
When Lila Y. Cornelio went vegetarian at age 15, she found herself constantly challenged as she tried to create great-tasting food that contained no meat, butter, or cream. This dish is a veg version of a dish her grandmother made every Sunday for breakfast while she was growing up.

Chilaquiles (Mexican Tortilla Casserole)

Serves 8

15 6-inch corn tortillas

3 lb. plum tomatoes (6 to 9), divided

3 lb. tomatillos (about 12), husks removed, divided

1 medium onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups), divided

2 jalapeno chiles, divided

6 cloves garlic, peeled, divided

2 1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

4 cups cilantro leaves

6 large egg whites, beaten

3 oz. queso fresco, grated or crumbled, divided (3/4 cup)

1 oz. part-skim mozzarella, grated (1/4 cup)

3 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

1/2 cup low-fat sour cream

1 avocado, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Cut tortillas into chip-like wedges, and spread in single layer on baking sheet. (You will probably have to bake chips in 2 to 3 batches.) Spray wedges with cooking spray, flip, and spray other side. Bake 7 to 10 minutes, turning once, or until crispy. Cool.

3. Place half of tomatoes, half of tomatillos, 3/4 cup onion, 1 jalapeño, 3 cloves garlic, oregano, peppercorns, thyme, and bay leaf in large pot, and cover with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft but still whole and tomatillos are pale green. Remove bay leaf, and remove pot from heat.

4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to broil. Spread remaining 1 1/2 lb. tomatoes, 1 1/2 lb. tomatillos, 3/4 cup onion, jalapeño, and 3 cloves garlic on baking sheet. Broil 20 to 25 minutes, or until vegetables are browned and charred, turning occasionally. Cool slightly. Adjust oven temperature to 375°F.

5. Transfer broiled tomato mixture to pot of boiled tomato mixture, and stir in cilantro. Blend in batches in blender or food processor until smooth. (You should have about 9 cups.)

6. Coat 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Wipe out pot, and heat over medium heat. Slowly add sauce to pot (sauce will sizzle). Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thickened.

7. Increase heat to medium-high. When sauce boils, stir in egg whites. Cook, and stir 5 seconds, or until egg whites feather into the sauce. Add half of queso fresco, mozzarella and tortilla chips. Toss gently to coat tortilla chips. Spread in prepared baking dish.

8. Cover with foil, and bake 10 minutes, or until tortillas have absorbed most of sauce. Let stand 6 minutes before serving sprinkled with shredded lettuce, sour cream, sliced avocado, and remaining queso fresco.

The Chef: Rachael Zavala (Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, Calif.)

Rachael Zavala had been searching for an exceptional vegetarian dish to serve her catering clients. She got the idea for this recipe while dining at an Italian restaurant that was serving a butternut squash custard as a side dish.

Fall Harvest Lasagna

Serves 10

8 large portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme

2 medium butternut squash (4 lb.), halved and seeded

2 lb. fresh lasagna noodles or 1 lb. dry no-boil lasagna noodles

1 1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

2 cups prepared marinara sauce


2 oz. (1/2 stick) butter

1/4 cup flour

3 cups low-fat milk

1/2 tsp. nutmeg, plus more for sprinkling

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1 bay leaf

2 egg yolks

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss mushrooms with 2 Tbs. olive oil and thyme, and spread on large baking sheet.

2. Rub squash halves with 1 Tbs. oil, and set cut-side down on separate baking sheet. Roast mushrooms 25 minutes, or until they have released their juices. Roast squash 1 hour, or until halves are soft to the touch. Cool mushrooms and squash.

3. To make Béchamel: Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour, and set aside. Bring milk, nutmeg, onion powder, and bay leaf to a simmer in separate saucepan. Remove from heat, and return butter-flour mixture to burner. Whisk 1 cup milk mixture into butter-flour mixture until smooth. Add remaining milk mixture to butter-flour mixture, and cook 3 to 5 minutes over medium-low heat, or until sauce thickens. Remove from heat, and whisk in egg yolks. Remove bay leaf.

4. Preheat oven to 375°F, and coat 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Scoop flesh from cooled squash halves, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Layer 1 1/2 cups squash, 1 cup Bechamel, 4 or 5 noodles, 1 cup mozzarella, 1 cup Béchamel, all of mushrooms, 4 or 5 noodles, 1 cup mozzarella, remaining 1 1/2 cups squash, 1 cup Béchamel, 4 or 5 noodles, and remaining cheese. Spoon remaining Béchamel in center of lasagna, and spread marinara sauce in 2-inch border around edges. Sprinkle center with nutmeg. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour 10 minutes. Uncover, and bake 20 minutes more, or until top is browned and set, and filling is bubbly.

The Chef: Verena Prewitt (Natural Gourmet Institute, New York)

Verena Prewitt’s cooking creativity is fueled by dietary concerns: she came up with this recipe after discovering she had a wheat intolerance and began experimenting with alternative flours.

Mushroom and Leek Quiche

Serves 8


1/2 cup rolled oats

3 Tbs. sesame seeds

1 cup spelt flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing pan


3 Tbs. olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, thinly sliced (1 1/2 cups)

12 oz. button mushrooms, sliced (3 cups)

2 Tbs. dry white wine

6 large eggs

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

1 medium leek, white and pale green parts thinly sliced (2 cups)

10 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed, drained, and sliced

6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Parmesan cheese to taste

1. To make Crust: Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread oats and sesame seeds on baking sheet, and toast 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden-brown and fragrant. Cool, then place in bowl of food processor with flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Blend until oats and sesame seeds are finely ground. Transfer to bowl. Increase oven temperature to 350°F.

2. Combine oil and 1/3 cup water in measuring cup. Stir oil mixture into flour mixture until smooth dough forms. Press dough onto bottom and sides of 10-inch tart pan using plastic wrap on dough to keep from sticking to fingers. Chill in refrigerator while making the filling.

3. To make Filling: Heat 1 Tbs. oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 20 minutes, or until browned and caramelized. Transfer to plate.

4. Add remaining 2 Tbs. oil to skillet, and saute mushrooms 10 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Deglaze skillet with wine to remove brown bits from pan. Let cook 1 to 2 more minutes, then transfer to paper-towel-lined plate to cool.

5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk eggs in bowl until frothy. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Stir in parsley.

6. Arrange mushrooms, leek slices, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and caramelized onion on bottom of crust. Pour egg mixture over top, lifting filling with fork. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and top is firm. Cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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