The challenge from Marx Foods this time around was to make an appetizer and entree using four of the following ingredients (which they provided): adzuki beans, maitake mushrooms, mochi rice, dried starfruit, millet, and hijiki seaweed.
I decided on my appetizer immediately: a red bean Fluffernutter.
The Fluffernutter is an especially New England thing, I think: a sandwich of peanut butter and Massachusetts' own marshmallow Fluff. Alone, it's way too sweet for a lunch, but beloved by kids; buttered and grilled, it's oozing and sticky to boot, perfect for a dessert or a semi-sweet appetizer. In this case I replaced the peanut butter with a starfruit red bean paste.
Adzuki beans are the red beans that are sweetened and mashed to make a filling for various Asian pastries, to flavor ice cream, to top shaved ice, and probably a million applications I've never heard of. I like them in pastries myself, but with this cook-off I wanted to use Asian ingredients in commonplace American foods.
Red bean Fluffernutters
1/4 cup dry adzuki beans (overnight soaking optional)
1/4 cup sugar
4 dried starfruit
Martin potato bread
Simmer beans and starfruit in separate containers - the acidity of the starfruit could slow the beans' cooking - until soft. The starfruit will probably be done first. Add the sugar, salt, and starfruit to the beans, cooking down and mashing until it forms a sweet paste. Let cool.
Spread red bean paste on half of the bread slices, Fluff on the other half, combine and grill with butter.
For the entree, I knew which flavors I wanted to combine - the umami flavors of mushroom and seaweed - but was thinking of a soup until my friend Erin pointed out Lifehacker's eggs baked in avocado halves.
Instead of baking the eggs, though, I remembered Jacques Pepin's mother's technique for pan-frying deviled eggs.
Eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
Dried maitake mushrooms
Chopped roasted green chiles (because of the small amount involved, it was easiest for me to use canned chiles)
I'm not giving quantities because it depends on how many eggs you're making, the size of the eggs, and so on. It's all eyeballed.
Combine one or two dried mushrooms, depending on their size and the quantity of eggs you're making, with a couple pinches of hijiki seaweed. Blitz in a food processor and sift, so that you have a fine mushroom-seaweed powder.
Halve eggs, scoop out yolks, and mash with mushroom-seaweed powder and a pinch of salt. Add a small amount of chopped green chiles, and as much mayonnaise as is necessary to make a creamy filling. You can use a little mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise. Stuff eggs.
Remove avocado pits and insert an egg half into the cavity. Depending on the size of your eggs and avocados, it may be necessary to scoop a little avocado out in order to make room for the egg.
Melt butter in a non-stick pan and sear the egg-stuffed avocados, face-down, for about five minutes. (The easiest way to do this is to put the eggs in face down and put the avocados down on top of them. Remove the avocados from the pan when finished, by placing a bowl or plate on top of the pan and flipping the whole thing over.)
Dress avocados with a very simple vinaigrette made by thinning XO sauce with very small amounts of sesame oil and rice vinegar - about 4 parts XO sauce, 1 part oil, 1 part vinegar, though it will depend on the brand of your XO sauce. XO sauce is a spicy sauce from southern China, made with dried fish and shellfish - it goes well with the umami flavors of the mushroom and seaweed, and the richness of egg and avocado. Alternately, use sriracha thinned with fish sauce and rice vinegar - not as a substitute for XO sauce but as a dressing equally suitable for the eggs.
Garnish with additional seaweed, sesame seeds, or furikake.