Lessons from my mystery box

Since I did not get any ingredients from anyone, I decided I would take one of the mystery boxes from Chopped and create something with them. Before I talk about the ingredients and what I made, I want to reflect a bit more on what it is about Chopped that I find so spiritually inspiring.

One of the things I enjoyed most when I was pastoring, especially when I was going by the lectionary, was taking a series of scriptures that seemed to have nothing to do with each other and seek a way of bringing them together into a cohesive and inspirational message. Chopped for me is similar to that just with food. You can take four ingredients that make you go hmm, how are those going to go together and then you take ingredients which seem unrelated and weave them together in a symphony of tastes and textures.

One of the other things about the show is that I am always learning something new about human beings. Granted, you only get to see what the producers want you to see. However, it is interesting to see the difference between those chefs that are humble and those that are egotistical. It seems that for the most part, it is those who cook with a humble spirit who create these amazing dishes and ultimately wind up winning the competition or at least being in the final round.

As I have written about before cooking for me is spiritual. Whenever I prepare a meal, I am reminded of a conversation between Ram Das and his teacher where he learns that you come to know God through feeding them and become enlightened through serving them. I have long viewed the Creator as a multimedia artist who weaves together hues, tastes, scents, and textures to create something greater then the sum of its parts. Cooking for me then becomes similar to this, you have the opportunity to create something which is greater then any of the ingredients individually and then you learn so much more about yourself and others as you serve them what you created.

So this week, my mystery box contained scotch, dragon fruit, pickled herring and firm tofu. I was not sure I could do this as I have never seen dragon fruit in the grocery store. Hmm, seems as if the Creator had something else in mind however, as they had a few of them when I went to the store this past week. Something they never have. So what do you create out of these four ingredients? I have never had scotch before, so when I went to the store I bought the smallest bottle they had. Tofu, I know quite well and pickled herring takes me back to my childhood, especially mixed with sour cream. Dragon fruit I had never seen before and had no clue what to do with.

My inspiration actually came from a dish I had made the week before. It was tofu marinated in spicy peanut sauce and then served over sliced cucumbers and baby spinach. So I thought maybe I could do something similar with these ingredients. So I chopped the dragon fruit, drained the herring and mixed them with some mixed spring greens. I pressed the tofu to remove the excess water, marinated in some spicy peanut sauce and then stir fried it. Mixed them together and served them with scotch vinaigrette. I also added some parmesan cheese to the salad.

Strange as it might sound it was pretty good. The pickled herring had a salty taste and went nicely with the sweetness of the dragon fruit and the spiciness of the tofu. There was also a nice mixture of textures as you had the crunchiness of the dressings, the softness of the dragon fruit and tofu and the chewiness of the small pieces of herring. The scotch vinaigrette was not overpowering and reminded Zoë of a good seasons Italian salad dressing mix.

As I was preparing this dish, I was reminded of how so often we do not try new things because we do not know if we will like them or not, so we eat the same things over and over again. How much of the Creators ingenuity and creativity are we missing out on when we do not step out and try new things. I had never had dragon fruit before and so this was an opportunity to push myself outside of my comfort zone and learn something new about this world. As I learned about dragon fruit I came to know that like people, there is not A variety of dragon fruits, but multiple varieties. In that respect, they are similar to tofu, there is not A type of tofu. Tofu comes in noodles, soft, medium, firm, extra firm, baked, seasoned, and unseasoned. There are so many different kinds of scotch, and even my herring jar had several different sizes of herring each with their own texture.

Isn’t that like us as human beings? On the one hand we look alike, but each of us is unique and precious just as we are. How often do we miss out on getting to experience some amazing people in this world because we have never had a conversation with someone like them before. Yet when we come together in unity, we are greater then the sum of our parts. This is just some of what I learned this week from my dragon fruit, spicy tofu, and pickled herring salad with scotch vinaigrette.


Dragon Fruit, Spicy Tofu, and Pickled Herring Salad


  • 4 cups mixed spring greens
  • 1 dragon fruit
  • 16 oz firm tofu
  • ½ cup spicy peanut sauce
  • 4 oz jar pickled herring with onions
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese


  • Place mixed spring greens in bowl.
  • Drain tofu and cube and toss with ½ cup spicy peanut sauce. Allow to marinate for a few minutes and then stir fry in hot pan until heated throughout. Add more sauce if needed.
  • Drain herring. Chop herring and add onions and herring to salad.
  • Remove dragon fruit from peel and chop and add to salad.
  • Allow cooked tofu to cool slightly. Then add to salad and toss all ingredients together.
  • Serve with scotch vinaigrette.

Scotch Vinaigrette


  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons scotch
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until well combined.  Adjust seasoning to taste.