I love to watch Iron Chef on The Food Network and have always been envious of the people who have the job of analyzing and critiquing the food prepared by the contestants. So when the Cancer Institute Foundation(CIF) asked me to be one of the judges at their second annual Kitchen Khiladi cooking contest, it was a dream come true.bc53758e7909304ec5aa6158bd48d479-2

The Bay Area cooking competition is conducted by volunteers of CIF, which is affiliated to the Adyar Cancer Institute in Chennai.

The first Kitchen Khiladi contest was held in July 2008. It garnered such a good response that it has now become the signature event of the year for CIF. The contest requires participants to create tasty entrées with cancer-preventing vegetables.

This year the preliminary round had tomatoes as the main ingredient. The recipes were made at home and presented for tasting. There were thirty-five entries; stuffed tomatoes, tomatoes baked into a cake, tomato ice cream, and refreshing summer drinks made with tomatoes. It was a tough job selecting the finalists from the array of tasty choices. Each participant had spent hours creating an edible work of art but the thirty-five entries had to be whittled down to eight.

For the final round, the participants were given one hour to cook an entrée, with broccoli as the star ingredient.

Here are three of my favorite recipes from the contest. At the end of each recipe I have added my variations.

Broccoli Dahi Chaat

Recipe by Swarna Krishnan

2 cups broccoli, grated
2 potatoes, baked and grated
1 onion
2 green chilies
sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons cereal crumbs
oil to shallow fry

Green Chutney
Grind 1 bunch of cilantro, 7 green chilies     and salt.

Date Chutney
Grind 8-9 dates, 1 tablespoon tamarind paste, 3 teaspoons brown sugar, ½ teaspoon coriander powder, and salt.

Yogurt dressing
Blend 1 cup plain yogurt, ½ teaspoon cumin powder, chili powder, and salt to taste.

Grate the broccoli in a food processor.
Add grated potato, chopped onion, green chillies, and salt. Form into a patty and coat both sides with cereal crumbs.
Shallow fry the patties in a little oil on medium heat till golden brown.
Cool and serve with green chutney, date
chutney, and yogurt dressing.

Hema’s Hints:
Replace the 2 potatoes in the recipe with 1 potato and ½ cup of pureed edamame beans.
Saute the green chilies and onion in ½ teaspoon oil with ½ teaspoon each of ginger and garlic paste before adding to patty.
Instead of cereal crumbs, use Panko(Japanese) breadcrumbs roasted in 1 teaspoon oil. Coat the patty in these roasted bread crumbs and bake it in the oven for 20 minutes at 375º F.

Broccoli and Basil Fried Couscous

Recipe by Mahalakshmi Lakshminarayan

1 cup plain couscous
2 cups vegetable stock
5 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon cilantro
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 cup chopped broccoli
15 basil leaves, julienned
2 tablespoons soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the stock to a boil. Add couscous, 2 tablespoons oil, and salt.
Remove from heat, place a tight fitting lid over the pot and set aside for 10 minutes.
Chop the broccoli into small florets and put them in a microwaveable bowl. Add 2 tablespoons water and place a piece of bread on top of the broccoli. (The bread removes the odor of broccoli being cooked.)
Microwave the contents at high for 2 minutes.

Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook the chopped onion until soft. Add ground coriander and garam masala and cook for another minute. Add broccoli, salt to taste, and sauté for 2 minutes.
Decrease the heat and add cooked couscous. Add chopped basil and cook until wilted. Add soy sauce and stir for another 2 minutes.

Turn off the heat and season with freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.

Hema’s Hints:

For a complete meal, add 1 cup of sliced red bell pepper, baby corn, and 8-10 chopped roasted almonds.
Reduce oil from 5 tablespoons to 2½ tablespoons.

Broccoli and Sweet Potato Strudel

Recipe by Dhanya Sukumaree and Murthy Parthasarthi

There are three parts to this recipe which is then assembled at the end.

Broccoli-Leek Fry

½ head of broccoli
2 leeks
1 clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled
½ teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Chop broccoli into small florets and reserve stalk (stalks can be used for soups). Use the peeler to make long strips of the carrot. Wash leeks carefully and chop into small pieces. Add oil to a frying pan and fry the minced garlic and leeks. After 2 minutes add broccoli,  carrots, salt, pepper, and thyme. Stir for 7-8 minutes. Keep aside.

Sweet Potato Mash

2 sweet potatoes
100 ml half-and-half
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 2 inch chunks. Place in a bowl with ¼ cup water and microwave for 10 minutes. In a food processor, add sweet potato with milk and puree into a smooth mash. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Broccoli Dill Spread

½ head broccoli, chopped into small           florets
8-10 sprigs of dill
¾ pound low-fat ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons ground sage
1 teaspoon paprika
8 sheets (whole wheat) phyllo  dough          4 teaspoons butter

Transfer ricotta cheese into a bowl. Chop dill finely and add to bowl. Add paprika and salt. Microwave chopped broccoli for 4 minutes and add to bowl. Mix well and keep aside.

Preparing the Strudel

Phyllo sheets need to removed from freezer and kept in the refrigerator for 7-8 hours before preparation. Before assembling, keep the strudel sheets under cling wrap and cover with a damp towel.
Preheat oven to 400º F. Line baking tray with aluminum foil. Place parchment paper on it and keep aside.
Use a small brush to apply butter to the phyllo sheets.
Stack 5-6 layers of phyllo sheets on the tray with a butter spread between each layer.
Spread the broccoli-leek fry in a rectangular fashion on the sheets, allowing enough space around the border.
Spread the sweet potato mash on the broccoli-leek layer. Then layer it with the broccoli dill mixture.
Cover the ingredients with remaining phyllo sheets to form a loaf. Apply butter on the top of the loaf and place in the oven for 10 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375º F and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven, slice, and serve.

Hema’s Hints:

Replace the half-and-half in the sweet potato mash with 2 tablespoons of frozen orange juice.
For variation, replace dill with basil in the broccoli spread.
Coat the phyllo dough with olive oil instead of butter, for a healthier alternative.

Information about the Cancer Institute Foundation and the Kitchen Khiladi contest can be found at http://www.cifwia.org.

Hema Alur-Kundargi is the producer, editor, and host of the television show Indian Vegetarian Gourmet. Visit her website at http://www.massala.com.