I've never participated in a chopped/vegan challenge before, but when I saw the ingredients for this challenge I knew I had to give it a shot. The challenge is to cook a brunch dish incorporating butternut squash, apricot preserves, fresh rosemary, and popcorn. I had butternut squash ready to harvest in my garden, homemade apricot preserves in the pantry from this summer's harvest, and my rosemary bush needed pruning anyway. If only I'd grown my own popcorn I'd feel pretty hardcore.
In any case, I had a lot of ideas for these ingredients, but settled on a sweet popcorn-coated patty with a tangy balsamic sauce, because I like my brunch to be both sweet AND savory.
I began by roasting the squash, and was able to prep all my other ingredients while the squash cooked. I saved the squash seeds to use as a garnish on the patties, and the seeds crisped up nicely when fried in just a touch of oil.
I thought tempeh would add a nice protein punch and some umami flavor to the patties, so I steamed some and crumbled it up.
For the popcorn breading, I pulsed freshly-popped popcorn in the food processor until it formed coarse crumbs (and then got a bit of a surprise when I opened the food processor and static electricity made popcorn crumbs fly all over my kitchen). When I formed the patties, I decided they could use a little more bulk, so I added some of the popcorn crumbs into the patties and used the rest for breading.
I like rosemary with both squash and apricots, so I incorporated it as a seasoning into both the patties and the squash.
I was worried that the popcorn would burn if I fried the patties, so I decided to bake them. They turned out great, soft on the inside with crispy popcorn bits on the outside, and I was pleased with how the tang of the apricot sauce offset the sweetness of the patties.
1 medium (about 2 1/2 pound) butternut squash
8 oz. tempeh
1/4 c (unpopped) popcorn
1/3 c maple syrup
1/3 c almond butter
1/3 c vital wheat gluten
1/4 c flour
2 t miso
1 t fresh, minced rosemary
1 1/2 c apricot preserves
6-8 T water (depending on thickness of preserves)
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T maple syrup
1 1/2 t dijon mustard
3/4 t fresh, minced rosemary
a pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Halve squash. Scoop out and set aside seeds. Place squash in an oven-safe dish and bake until very soft, about an hour. When squash is done, remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, rinse seeds, separate out the stringy bits, and toast the seeds in about 1 t oil over medium-low heat until they hiss and pop. Set aside to cool.
- Make apricot sauce: if preserves are chunky, process them in a food processor until mostly smooth. Whisk together all sauce ingredients in a saucepan, and heat to a simmer, then cover and set aside to allow the flavors to meld.
- Cube tempeh and steam for 10 minutes. Crumble into a mixing bowl when cool.
- To the crumbled tempeh, add maple syrup, almond butter, vital wheat gluten, flour, miso, and rosemary.
- Pop the popcorn. Set aside 1/2 c of popped corn for garnish, and pulse the remainder in batches in a food processor until it forms coarse crumbs. Add 1 c of popcorn crumbs to the tempeh mixture; put the rest in a shallow bowl for coating patties.
- Add cooled squash flesh to tempeh mixture (discarding the squash peel), and mix together using your hands or a hand-held mixer until well-combined.
- Heat oven to 425 degrees.
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Form patty mixture into golf-ball sized balls, flatten into patties, and carefully place in popcorn crumbs to coat. Place completed patties on the parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Bake patties for about 25 minutes, flipping them after 12 minutes.
- While patties are baking, re-warm the apricot sauce.
- Serve patties drizzled with sauce, and garnish with popped corn and toasted squash seeds.