killing time between meals

where talking about what's for dinner while you're at lunch is totally acceptable

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Hi-Yah! You’ve been Chopped!

Thirty minutes to prepare a delicious, visually stunning entree with random ingredients you’ve never even heard of, much less cooked? Definitely not something on my to-do list. But, I’m glad they do it on Chopped. The result is some intense food entertainment, not to mention a few culinary learning opportunities along the way.

Last night started the 5-week all-star tournament of Chopped. The battle began with four favorites from last season’s The Next Food Network Star. I don’t feel the need to recap what happened on the show, because if you’re reading this post you probably already watched it. (And if you didn’t, you can find a recap on host Ted Allen’s blog here.

So, the point here is to find out more about those mystery basket ingredients. Researching this post, I found that Food Network has provided a trusty food encyclopedia.

Last night’s entree round was a doozy! Partridge, karela, fregola—oh my! I’ve heard of a partridge (in a pear tree). Never eaten one, but it’s poultry, so probably not cooking rocket science.

Fregola I hadn’t heard of, and it isn’t even in their food encyclopedia! What?! Wikipedia tells me it’s a type of pasta, similar to Israeli couscous. I like both of those things, so OK.

But karela? (Do you think the ingredients will be more outrageous in general since this is the all-star edition? I think that would be fair.) Here’s the gnarly-looking thing:

Anyway, karela (also not in the dang FN encyclopedia, but surely you can use that link for something) is

a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean for its edible fruit, which is among the most bitter of all fruits.

(Thanks again, Wikipedia.)

So, what did I learn? If I see karela on a menu, I’m gonna order something else.

The next chapter of Chopped All-Stars airs Sunday at 8:00 pm and will feature four familiar Food Network chefs—Anne Burrell, Claire Robinson, Robert Irvine, and Duff Goldman. I’m pulling for the Ace of Cakes guy.