Chef Spotlight: Chef Toni Elkhouri of Cedar’s Café

Meet Chef Toni Elkhouri of Cedar’s Café, one of five winners of the 2016 James Beard Foundation Blended Burger Project. She is the first in a series of Chef Spotlights, which offer a behind-the-kitchen look at the inspiration behind chef-created blended burgers.

Chef-Toni-Elkhouri-Cedars-Cafe-Spotlight

“Food is not just something that keeps us alive, it literally encompasses our lives and memories.” This phrase is something that Chef Toni Elkhouri of Cedar’s Café lives by as she works everyday to keep her local community’s taste buds happy with her Lebanese cuisine.

Elkhouri co-owns her restaurant with her mom, Marlene Elkhouri, which they started more than 14 years ago. Their dishes are a mix of traditional Lebanese and “hodge-podge” Progressive-Mediterranean creations, which she develops largely based on preferred flavor profiles of her customers. She loves cooking with fresh ingredients and inventing new experiences for guests, so participating (not to mention being one of the five winners!) in this year’s James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project was a no brainer. For her, this win was one for her community, and she loved how her friends, family and customers came together to show how far the town of Melbourne, Florida has come in the culinary world.

Her winning blended burger? Ground beef blended with portobella, shiitake and cremini mushrooms, topped with pomegranate ketchup, banana pepper curry mustard, tahini remoulade, balsamic onion, goat cheese, bacon, spinach and avocado. Prior to the contest, she and her staff taste tested burgers from several nearby restaurants, making note of their favorite aspects of each burger. After putting their heads together, they reimagined the traditional hamburger and created a blended burger that her guests fell in love with. Shortly after its debut, she had lines of people eager to try it – some patrons coming in almost every single day to enjoy her blended burger. In the end, their 30 seat (48 if you count outside seating) restaurant made over 2,000 burgers in the 2 months.

Fun fact: Her favorite mushroom is Hen of the Woods (or Maitake). She loves this variety for its almost nutty flavor. For her, with a nice sauté it’s perfect atop hummus with pine nuts.

Recipe Handout Chef-Toni-Elkhouri-Cedar-Cafe-Spotlight

Chef-Toni-Elkhouri-Cedar-Cafe-Spotlight-Recipe

 

Celebrate Summer Nights with Steak, Potato and Mushroom Kebabs

Soak up the last few days of summer with these mouth-watering steak, potato and mushroom kebabs from bell’alimento.

Steak, Potato and Mushroom Kebabs

What goes great with steak? Mushrooms and potatoes of course. This is a great variation on steak and potatoes. Who doesn’t love food on sticks, right? These kebabs are great served as is or for more of a mouthful, serve them over a bed of rice or even with a side salad.

Steak, Potato and Mushroom Kebabs Recipe

Yield: 8 kebabs
Prep Time: 30 minutes marinating, 15 minutes active prep
Cook Time: 5 – 10 minutes

1 lb strip steak, cubed
1/2 cup olive oil and vinegar salad dressing
24 white button mushrooms, stems trimmed
24 small new potatoes

Directions:
Place steak in a large zip top bag, add salad dressing. Transfer to refrigerator and allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

While steak is marinating, soak wooden skewers.

Place a medium pot with water onto boil. Add potatoes and par boil.

Assemble skewers: mushroom, steak, potato; 3 of each on each skewer.

Grill skewers on grill or stove top on grill pan until meat is to desired done-ness, mushrooms have softened and potatoes have cooked through.
Steak Potato and Mushroom Kebabs

WATCH: How to Make Muffin Tin Meatloaves

Make a big batch of these muffin tin meatloaves in advance and freeze for up to one month. Dinner just got a little easier – and a lot more fun.

When life gets busy – be it work, school, family obligations, or vacations – we understand there’s not always time for an elaborate meal. That’s where mini muffin meatloaves come to the rescue!

These mini mushroom meatloaves are blended with ground chicken – making it easier than ever to incorporate a serving of lean protein AND vegetables into a weeknight dinner. Tip: Be sure to make extra servings of these kid-friendly meatloaves to pack in lunches the next day!

Watch how to make muffin tin meatloaves:

Find the full Muffin Tin Meatloaves recipe here.

Event Recap: Culinary Institute of America’s Inaugural Blended Burger Bash

As a part of the Stars and Stripes Weekend, Culinary Institute of America students battled for the best blended burger on campus!

This summer, The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) hosted its first-annual Blended Burger Bash at Hyde Park Campus. Cooking off in front of family, friends and instructors, eleven teams of culinary students battled for the best blended burger.

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Each of the eleven teams prepared two unique blended burgers (one consisting of at least 25 percent fresh mushrooms and one freestyle burger), for chefs, instructors and other students to try.

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A panel of burger-experts judged the burgers, including CIA alumni Chef Jehangir Mehta, Produce Business writer Mira Slott, mushroom industry representatives from Monterey Mushrooms, Joe and Karen Caldwell, as well as several instructors and dietitians from the Culinary Institute.

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Burgers were judged on overall flavor, appearance, creativity and adherence to the Menus of Change principals. The Menus of Change principals, developed by CIA, encourage chefs to re-think how they source ingredients and meal preparation for more nutritious, sustainable, responsible and delicious menus.

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At the end of the bash, Team “Bob’s Burgers” came out triumphant with their winning “Ooooh! Mami Burger” blended burger (a 50/50 mushroom-beef blend featuring crimini, maitake and shiitake mushrooms blended with ground beef and topped with caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, arugula and white truffle oil), as well as their freestyle burger: “Silence of the Lambs” (a mushroom-lamb blended burger with yogurt, lemon zest, garlic and mint). In addition to claiming bragging rights for winning the best blended burgers on campus and a $1,000 cash prize for each burger, the students’ winning blended burger recipes will also be featured in the campus dining grill menu!

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2016 Blended Burger Bash Teams and Burgers:

Team #1: The Fungi Fun Guys – Showmanship Winners
Kimberly Camara, Kala Singleton, Aaron Tarpley, Gabi Rodriguez
Blended Burger: Meatloaf on A Bun- meatloaf style burger with vegetable tater tots
Freestyle: Jackfruit of All Trades Banh-Mi- pork burger with cauliflower fried rice

Team #2: International Pit Masters – 3rd Place Freestyle Winners
Judith Lanza, Dan Fehnel, Andrew Fares, Frank Guido, Luis Cordero
Blended Burger: Korean BBQ Burger- Korean style burger with kimchi slaw
Freestyle- Jamaican Jerk Burger with Jalapeno, apple and kale slaw

Team #3: Tomodachi Squad
Blended Burger: Oh Shiitake Wafu Burger- Asian style burger with vegetable fries
Freestyle: Oat-Kare-Sama Burger- Vegan burger with curry and oat

Team #4: Fresh Meat
Blended Burger: Guiness Burger with vegetable skewers
Freestyle: Seoul Burger- Asian style burger with kimchi

Team #5: Burgers of Change – 2nd Place Free Style Winners
Marisa Klomp, Zach Moquin, Cody Fitchett
Blended Burger: Hard Apple Burger- Apple Cider burger with cauliflower side
Freestyle: Lamb burger with goat cheese

Team #6: New Asian Burger – 3rd Place Blended Winners
Sangjun Yoon, Nathaniel Wandell, Bongjung Ko
Blended: Dduck-Galbi Burger- Korean style burger with soy sauce marinade and side salad
Freestyle- Dou-Ban-Jiang Burger- Chinese style burger of lamb and tofu with fermented bean sauce

Team #7: Burger Bleus
Blended: Crime Beef- Burger with bleu cheese and apple, with vegetable fries
Freestyle: Bad Morels- Veal burger with pepper bowls

Team #8: Miso Hangry – People’s Choice and 2nd Place Blended Winners
Benjamin Huss, Alex Ye, Alan Meckdala, Kyle LeBlanc
Blended: Sake Sake- Asian style burger with wonton and pepper salad
Freestyle: Nam Nam- Asian style pork burger with wakame Asian salad

Team #9: Bob’s Burgers (The Belchers) – 1st Place Blended and 1st Place Freestyle Winners
Isabella Fiattarone, Cesar Cazares, Ann Molyn So, Travis Zissu
Blended: Ooh Mami- Burger with bleu cheese and fried enoki garnish
Freestyle: Silence of the Lambs – Lamb burger with yogurt, lemon zest, garlic and mint

Team #10: The Tea Party
Blended: The Damned Yankee- burger with smoked apple chutney, and sriracha aioli
Freestyle: La Frita Cubana- Pork Chorizo burger with sweet sriracha and tropical slaw side

Team #11: The Beefy Boyz
Blended: South of the Border- Veggie and Beef burger with avocado, pepper jack and Jack Daniels reduction
Freestyle: Veal burger with caramelized onions, chipotle garlic aioli and grilled veggie kebabs

More About CIA and The Blend:
The introduction of the Blended Burger Bash is only one of the Culinary Institute’s commitments to The Blend, which was incubated and supported by the Healthy Menus R&D Collaborative – an educational initiative of high-volume culinary leaders developed by the Culinary Institute of America in partnership with The Council. The Culinary Institute believes that The Blend is a perfect example of the innovative and strategic culinary insights that are emerging to address the substantial health and environmental imperatives that face the foodservice industry and consumers in general. The Culinary Institute perceives this groundbreaking development as an opportunity to change the way Americans eat.

Take Dinner to the Next Level with Marinated Mushrooms

This simple, yet flavorful marinated mushrooms recipe from bell’alimento will help take your mushrooms to the next level.  

If you’re strapped for time but want to put dinner on the table, turn to mushrooms! This recipe takes 5 minutes to prepare (and less to devour). Button mushrooms quickly absorb the flavors of olive oil, red wine vinegar and robust seasonings – allowing the dish to stand on its own or compliment your main course.

Marinated Mushrooms 1

5-minute Marinated Mushrooms:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces button mushrooms – stems removed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic – minced
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
kosher salt/black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley – roughly chopped

Melt butter over medium heat into a sauté pan. Sauté mushrooms until just softened. Set aside.

In a jar add olive oil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, red pepper, Italian seasoning. Whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk to combine.

Add mushrooms and parsley. Toss to coat.