The PPK Chopped / Vegan Challenge: Chili Chocolate Pan-Seared Tofu with Mint Quinoa Pilaf & Creamy Blackberry Purée

The amazing Isa Chandra Moskowitz set up a Chopped challenge, vegan style.  40 minutes to prepare an entree that will be judged on taste, creative use of the mystery ingredients, and presentation using these mystery ingredients:

Blackberries, Fresh Mint, Canned Black Eyed Peas, Bittersweet Chocolate

I set the clock for 40 minutes and just like the real show, I raced to put an entree on the plate.  I looked at the mystery ingredients and decided to marinate tofu in the chocolate with chili and red pepper flakes, use the mint in a quinoa pilaf and use the beans to make a creamy blackberry sauce.  I had been given a bottle of blueberry port as a gift (for loaning out our generator after Hurricane Irene) and I thought  it would be perfect in this dish.

Chili Chocolate Pan-Seared Tofu with Mint Quinoa Pilaf 
& Creamy Blackberry Purée

Chili Chocolate Pan-Seared Tofu
1 block extra firm tofu
1 block vegan bittersweet chocolate
Chili powder
Crushed red pepper flakes
Grapeseed oil

Mint Quinoa Pilaf
1 cup uncooked quinoa
4 scallions, white and green part
1 handful of mint
The juice of 1 lime

Creamy Blackberry Purée
1 pint blackberries
1 teaspoon vegan cane sugar
1 bottle blueberry port
2 big shallots
1 can black eyed peas
1/4 cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper

  • Press the tofu.
  • Get the quinoa going.  Melt chocolate in a double boiler over the quinoa.
  • Cover blackberries with water and sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
  • Chop up shallot and place in a saucepan.  Pour the port over the shallots and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and let the port reduce down into a thick sauce.
  • Mix chili powder and crushed red pepper flakes into the chocolate until it has a nice spice to it.  Use a lot.
  • Cut the tofu into four pieces and score with a pairing knife in a cross hatch pattern. Pour the chocolate into a shallow dish and marinate the tofu, turning it over, until there is ten minutes left. 
  • Chop the mint.  Slice the scallions thinly.  Cut the lime in half.  
  • Open the can of black eyed peas. Rinse and drain.  
  • Strain the blackberries through a very small mesh strainer and add into the beans. Add the shallot/port mixture and coconut milk.  Use an immersion blender to puree completely.  Season with salt and pepper.  
  • Heat up grapeseed oil in a pan.  Shake off excess chocolate and pan sear until crispy, 3 minutes on each side.  
  • To plate, make a swish with the sauce.  Press the quinoa pilaf into a ramekin and plate.  Place the tofu alongside and garnish with a sprig of mint.

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