My Top Chef Finale Dinner (Watermelon Radish Salad and Pasta in Cajun Chevre Sauce)

12 Jun

My heart was pounding fast when I got home from work late this evening, I had just realized that today was the Top Chef season finale, the Superbowl for foodies.

I went to work in the kitchen immediately.  I wasn’t having company over, nor was it any personal special occasion.  I just wanted a meal that I would be satisfied with while watching the cheftestants whip up their drool-inducing creations on TV. 

However, unlike the 4-protein final dinner the top 3 cheftestants were making, my finale dinner consisted of just one protein, proscuitto crisps.  Paper-thin proscuitto, when baked (400 degrees for 8-10 minutes), takes on the form of a crispy crackly crunchy airy thing with a distinct smokey bacon-ey flavor.  Wait for the proscuitto crisps to cool for a few minutes, and you can easily break them into tiny little crunchy toppers for salads or pastas (and in tonight’s meal, both).

Watermelon Radish Salad with Mint
(Recipe from the June 2008 issue of Real Simple magazine)

I was curious to try this recipe as I’ve never had watermelon as the main ingredient in a salad (except for fruit salad).  For those who like a little salt on their watermelon, this salad is an expanded version of the simple “salt on melon” concept with a world of texture contrasts.  The sweet juicy watermelon contrasts the sharp bite of the crunchy radish and salty roasted peanuts while the mint gives everything refreshing balance.

3 pounds seedless watermelon, rind discarded and cut into bite sized cubes/chunks
6 radishes, sliced into 1/8″ rounds
4 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh mint, roughly torn
1/4 cup salted roasted peanuts (e.g. Planters)
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Throw watermelon cubes and radish slices into large salad bowl.  Top with scallions, mint leaves, and peanuts.  In a small bowl, combine lime juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper to make dressing.  Dress watermelon and radish salad with lime juice dressing.

Sprinkle with proscuitto crisps immediately before serving.

Serves 4

Pasta in Cajun Chevre Sauce
(recipe from my imagination as I drove home from work, the Cajun spin was added as I was cooking and tasting)


I had a mini log of fresh goat cheese sitting in the fridge that I had bought for an at-home wine/cheese pairing dinner that never came into fruition over the weekend.  I also had a bag of Archer Farms basil linguine that I impulse bought from Target.  I was certain I could make something based on these two ingredients.  The result?  An interesting creamy pasta with a distinct, semi-pungent, sauce that had smokey/peppery undertones from a dash of Tony’s.  The sauteed zucchini and red onion, in contrast to the peppery chevre covered pasta, tasted sweet and caramelized.  Throw in some proscuitto crisps for some crunch, and I think I have a new original.

12 oz basil linguine (regular linguine or spaghetti or fettuccine will also suffice)
1 tbsp olive oil
4 zucchinis, halved lengthwise then sliced into half moons
1 medium red onion, sliced into thin rings
1 clove garlic, chopped
5 oz chevre (fresh goat cheese), roughly chopped/divided into 5-6 small chunks (Guilty confession: I ate one of those chunks with a glass of champagne brut while cooking.  I love the way the barely sweet bubbly complements the creamy, slight bitterness of the chevre.  So maybe you really only need 4 oz of cheese for the recipe?)
1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk, or cream, or half and half, I just happen to have buttermilk in the fridge)
2 tsp Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add in zucchini, onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper and sautee until zucchini slices are tender and onion is translucent, about 4-5 minutes.

Drain pasta when al dente texture is achieved, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.  Return pasta to pot.  Add reserved pasta water back into pot with pasta.  Add buttermilk, chevre cheese, and Tony’s seasoning into pot with pasta.  Stir pasta mixture until cheese is blended with buttermilk and pasta water to make a creamy sauce evenly coating the pasta.

Serve pasta topped with sauteed vegetables.  Sprinkle with proscuitto crisps immediately before serving if desired.

Serves 4

I like how the proscuitto crisps provide an extra crunch to these dishes, but both can easily be made vegetarian when the proscuitto crisps are left out.

The tastiest moment of the evening, despite the allure of the proscuitto crisps, goes to Ms. Stephanie Izard when she was named the first ever female Top Chef!


4 Responses to “My Top Chef Finale Dinner (Watermelon Radish Salad and Pasta in Cajun Chevre Sauce)”

  1. Deacon-Frost 06/13/2008 at 9:40 am #

    That melon and radish thing has got me wondering.
    I mean if watermelon and radish works what about Cantaloupe and pickeled beets? I mean since im not getting any tomatoes anytime soon, might as well get melons right, they have lycopene dont they?
    Im glad to see other people impulse buy food at Target. Now I can tell my girlfriend that “yes, its normal to randomly buy this because I can make something with it later”

  2. bugys 01/26/2010 at 11:01 pm #

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