The Daring Cooks’ April 2012 Challenge – Create Your Own Recipe!

Our April 2012 Daring Cooks hosts were David & Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking. They presented us with a very daring and unique challenge of forming our own recipes by using a set list of ingredients!

This has got to be one of the most interesting daring cooks challenges so far. The idea of creating your own recipe from a list of ingredients reminded me of chopped “the TV show” with the exception of the fact that we were given a month to come up with our recipes.

David and Karen were kind enough to give us some tools and guidance. They provided us with three lists of ingredients from which we were asked to create our meal. The lists were intended to be a source of inspiration or a starting point for us to build out recipes on. Of course, this a challenge, so there had to be a catch and the catch was that you have to use at least one ingredient from each of the three lists – this will force you to think carefully about flavor combinations.

The three lists were

List 1: Parsnips, Eggplant (aubergine), Cauliflower
List 2: Balsamic Vinegar, Goat Cheese, Chipotle peppers
List 3: Maple Syrup, Instant Coffee, Bananas

The thought process:

I wrote down all the available ingredients, we don’t get parsnips here and chipotle peppers was out of the question too because I can’t stand the heat.The next step was to think of all the possibilities for each ingredients, should I grill it? fry it? mash it? stuff it? After that came the combinations, what were the flavours and textures that worked together to form a main meal?

Take one

My first take on the challenge was a salad, I love serving salads as a main meal and I thought I should start with one. I started with the eggplants and thought of what flavors, textures and other ingredients to add to build a harmonious salad. I know from one of our favorite recipes “Turkish pilaf” that eggplants go really well with chickpeas and tomatoes. I used some roasted tomatoes I had on hand (they were roasted with olive oil and thyme and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar). I added lettuce and fried pita for crunch and goat cheese to add a creamy and light note to the salad.

1/2 big eggplant cut into cubes

1 cup goat cheese cubed

1 cup roasted tomatoes (you can replace them with sundried tomatoes)

3 cups romaine lettuce

1 cup chickpeas

1 pita bread cut into slices

Salad dressing

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 clove garlic minced (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Fry the eggplant in oil till it is golden brown (for a healthier version you can grill or roast the eggplant), drain, set aside.

Layer the lettuce in your serving dish and add the other ingredients

To make the salad dressing

Whisk the vinegar, maple syrup,lemon juice,garlic, paprika, salt, pepper then slowly drizzle the olive oil while whisking. You can also add all the ingredients in a jar and then cover it and shake till the dressing is well combined

Drizzle with the salad dressing and top with the fried bread.

Take two

I knew I wanted to make something with chicken, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. My initial thought was to make something similar to my honey glazed chicken or my 5 spice honey chicken but then decided to make a spinoff chicken adobo which is a popular Filipino recipe. I was first introduced to chicken adobo through Korena’s post and I fill in love with it just by reading the recipe. I decided to try replacing balsamic vinegar instead of regular and adding maple syrup for a hint of sweetness to balance off the vinegar. I served this with baba ghanouj and  rice. The meal was a hit and a definite keeper

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs and breasts

4 tablespoons soy sauce

1 can of coconut milk

6 tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 tsp  whole pepper corns

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2-3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon soya sauce

In a ziplock bag or bowl, combine the chicken and soya sauce.Marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove the chicken from the soy sauce, let the excess drip off, and place the chicken, skin side down,in a pan or pot. Reserve the soy sauce in a bowl.

Cook over medium heat until the chicken skin is golden brown , 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the reserved soy sauce with the coconut cream, garlic, pepper corns, vinegar, maple syrup, the additional tablespoon soya sauce and bay leaves

When the chicken has browned, remove it to a plate and pour the fat out of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side down, and pour in the soy-coconut-vinegar mixture.

Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.

Turn the chicken over and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 175˚F on a thermometer.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with steamed rice

For the eggplant component of the meal, I made baba ghanouj. The famous Lebanese dip. It is one of my favorites dip to make, along with mutawam “rosted zucchini garlic yogurt dip”.You can serve it with pita bread, crackers, toast, sliced baguette, celery, or cucumber slices. It also makes a wonderful companion to any meat or chicken dish.

Baba ghanouj


1 large eggplants

1/4 cup tahini sauce

Juice of one lemon – less thank 1/4 cup

Salt to taste

Olive oil for drizzling

1 Tbsp torn mint leaves


Poke the eggplant in several places with a fork

On the stove top, roast the eggplant on the open flame and turn it every couple of minutes untill it is  all soft and charred.

Place the eggplant in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and allow to steam for 5-7 minutes

Peel the eggplant (you can keep a little of the charred peel for more smoky flavor)

Chop the eggplant finely,then mash it a little with a fork. You can do this in a food processor but don’t make it too smooth. Baba ghanouj is supposed to be chunky

In a bowl, mix the tahini sauce with the lemon juice and salt. At first the mix will be flowy but with mixing it will thicken .

Add the chopped eggplant to the tahini and mix to combine

Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with torn mint.

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  1. YAY!!!!!! I love both dishes! I was sooo waiting for you to post the recipes after seeing the pictures on the DK forum! AMAZING job as always Sawsan! I have a big thing for eggplant and I am sure I would have a hard time not to eat ALL that salad by myself!!! I absolutely have to try and make your Baba ghanouj, it looks fantastic!

    • Thank you so much Manu!
      I was actually waiting for yours, it was love at first sight at the forum. I just know I will love your layered eggplant salad.
      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your sweet comment Manu

  2. I saw the title of this post and new you were going to smash it – boy was I right!
    What divine perfect creative delicious recipes :D
    That’s saying the least! :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  3. Eva Taylor

     /  April 14, 2012

    I like that show Chopped, I can’t believe you get it over in Jordan! Small world indeed.
    Your salad looks and sounds incredible, Sawsan. What a cool club to belong to. I adore egg plant, and the baba is right up my alley! Have a great weekend.

    • It is a small world indeed :)
      We get food network here Eva and we have a channel called fatafeet (it translates into crumbs) that broadcasts many of the food network famous shows.
      I love being one of the daring cooks Eva, I think you should join too. You’ll have loads of fun and with your creativity and taste in food you’ll make amazing recipes.

      • Eva Taylor

         /  April 16, 2012

        Thanks Sawsan, I shall look into it.

  4. I love reading how you rise to these challenges! Everything you created appeals to me. I love the way that chicken was cooked too, it looks so moist and packed full of flavour. And now I am excited about the summer and having our aubergines ot make baba ganoush…Mmmmmm!

    • Your comments always put a smile on my face Tanya, thank you!
      I am really glad you like the recipes and baba ganoush is one of my favorite things to make with aubergines too

  5. A challenging task, and wonderful ingredients to “play” with! Absolutely love your spinoff chicken adobo, it looks mouthwatering! I love Baba ghanouj, it is easy to prepare and so tasty (I love it with fresh pita bread, mmmh…) You did a wonderful job Sawsan! :)

  6. Great job and your photos are fabulous!

  7. Love your dishes, very creative. The chicken dish is making me hungry and I just had breakfast. Beautiful presentation.

  8. I think I’ve just fallen in love with the chicken dish as well. I don’t often cook meat, but the ingredients and combination of flavours have sucked me right in.

  9. Fabulous photots, the chicken looks deliciuos and I love the lemons and oil–fresh and appealing. Well done.

  10. I feel like I hit the lottery. Look at all this great stuff!

  11. mjskit

     /  April 14, 2012

    Sawsan – You really met this challenge head on and created some delicious and unique dishes! I love that salad! I love fried eggplant, but cubing it, frying it and putting it in a salad is ingenious! Love the touch of sweetness in the dressing with the maple syrup. And that chicken – WOW! Love braising in coconut milk and all those other seasoning. Great job and absolutely beautiful presentations!

    • Thank you so much MJ,
      I love eggplant too and I think you will really enjoy it in this salad. I always cube the eggplant for salads,smaller pieces are easier to eat, plate and I think look better in a salad

  12. Everything looks fantastic, nice job! Beautiful photo of the chicken meal too.

  13. everything looks delicious!!!! the photos are great too!

  14. Great job! I love the look of both of your dishes, but that salad truly stands out! Wish I could have a bowl! :)

  15. LOVE LOVE LOVE your maple-balsamic twist on chicken adobo!!! That is one of my favorite flavour combinations and I’m so flattered that you used my recipe as inspiration. :) What a great challenge, it must have been so much fun!

    • You are really too kind Korena, all thanks really go to you for the inspiration. Chicken Adobo is now one of my family’s favorites.
      The challenge was more than fun. It was really nice trying to come up with a recipe or adapt one

  16. How beautiful! The chicken and baba ghanouj is calling to me. *bookmarks* Your photos are stunning, Sawsan. Great job. :) p.s. I love your tiny red dish with the handles. It’s so sweet!

    • Thank you so much Suz for your sweet comment and for noticing my little red dish.
      I found it a few weeks ago in a little store and couldn’t wait to use it in a picture

  17. What a glorious feast, you really are a very talented woman!

  18. It all looks so wonderful, but I am grabbed by the salad dressing that includes both balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Looks wonderful!

  19. What a gorgeous job! Looks so fresh and your photography is beautiful :)

  20. I’m soo glad you’re in this club.. I get to see your creations!! (without the stress!) I love them all but I think my favorite is the Baba Ghanouj!

    • It is not that stressful, in fact it is loads of fun and an amazing group of people :)
      I am glad you liked today’s recipes and the baba ghanouj is hard to beat

  21. What a fabulously delicious meal Sawsan! I wish I could have been there. It all looks right up my alley and those chicken pieces look to die for! :)

  22. Well done and you have certainly come up with some amazing recipes. I love the look of the chicken and the babaganoush. Looks like very tasty food xx

  23. What an excellent job you did for this month’s challenge! Love all the recipes especially the salad!

  24. Everything looks great, specialñy the salad!!

  25. What an inspiring post. The recipes are tempting and your photos are equally inviting.

  26. I adore the creativity of this challenge! I think you far exceeded what I would ever even think to come up with. Well done, Sawsan!

  27. First of all, as an aspiring photographer, your food pictures put me to shame! They are stunning!

    Also, I love that you tried a bunch of different meals, and it was also cool to read some about your thought process. I’m definitely going to have to try your baba ghanouj recipe — I’ve tried to make it before, and it turned out completely gross, so I clearly did something wrong.

    Great job on the challenge!

    • Thank you so much David for the amazing challenge and for your kind comment about my photography
      I hope you’ll enjoy the babaghanouj and if you happen to give it a try I would love to hear how it went

  28. What a creative twist on the ingredients given! I adore baba ghanouj and the chicken adobo with maple is exquisite! This is a meal I could dig into every night! Beautifully done!

  29. Dishes are awesome. These are unique & easy to cook as well. I love salads & they are most favourite in my whole food. Thanks for this sharing.

  30. I loved them all, wonderful post. Thank you dear Sawsan, have a nice day, with my love, nia

  31. Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! I’m so glad it led me back to your site. What delicious looking recipes and the photos! Wow, I really love your photos!

  32. marcyl

     /  April 16, 2012

    Love your recipes and photos! Mmmm, baba ghanouj. I have never made it at home before, but I love homemade hummus, and you make it look very easy to do.

  33. Lovely job with this challenge & beautiful photos. I enjoyed reading your post!

  34. Brilliant, inventive, gorgeous and without a bite, I know delicious!!! Really beautifully done, Sawsan!! :)

  35. Blessings From The Kitchen

     /  April 16, 2012

    Your comments put a smile on my face, thank you. You hit the ball right out of the park with the 3 ingredients- a king’s feast, I must say. It all looks yummy, the baba ghanouj is a must try for me and so is that salad. Amazing job, Saswan and beautiful photos to match.

    • Thank you so much. I am really gald my comment made you smile.
      I hope you’ll enjoy the babaghanouj. It is so easy and one of my favorite things to prepare with eggplant
      Thank you again for stopping by my blog

  36. Amazing Saswan, you hit the ball right out of the park with the challenge ingredients. I love baba ghanouj and will have to try that and of course, the yummy salad. Your photos- very beautiful, indeed. Thanks for your warm welcome and kind words

    • Thank you so much Tisa,
      You did a brilliant job yourself on your first challenge. I look forward to seeing what you come up with in the next challenges.
      Thank you for your kind comment about my pictures :)

  37. You really knocked this one out of the park Sawsan. All of your dishes look spectacular. I think I might whip up some babaganoush tonight! I had no idea how easy it was and I adore it. Thanks so much as always for your detailed instructions. You’re the best!

  38. vanessalillian

     /  April 17, 2012

    I can’t believe I didn’t think to make a salad! Love your photos, too. Thanks for stopping by my post :)

  39. Yum, yum, yummy! Three great original recipes.

  40. WOW! its hard for me to decide what dish I like the bet! I love eggplant and i love that salad. You are truly daring and you do this club proud!

  41. The baba ghanouj looks simple, and promising to try out for myself….especially because aubergines are my favorite vegetable!

  42. Beautiful!!!
    i have to say I love everything here….
    Eggplant is really a very favorite of mine, I am so drooling over that salad!!

  43. What wonderful creations!!! Love all of them!

  44. Wonderfully done!! This looks like it was a fun challenge, and you did a great job with all your dishes. They look delicious!!

  45. Wow, Sawsan, I don’t think you could have done a better job with this challenge…everything looks/sounds incredible! Such a great meal. Way too much good food here. :)

  46. Christiane

     /  April 19, 2014

    Thank you for this recipe Sawsan! – I threw in a clove of garlic to taste. Your recipe is just how I like it.

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