Top chef: Microgreens star in Jr. Iron Chef competition at Nevada Union High School | TheUnion.com

Top chef: Microgreens star in Jr. Iron Chef competition at Nevada Union High School

Amanda Thibodeau
Special to The Union

Harvest of the Month just got serious. Earlier this month, 38 teams from five culinary classes competed in Nevada Union high school's Jr. Iron Chef Competition to craft the winning recipe featuring April's Harvest of the Month ingredient: Microgreens (pea shoots and sunflower greens).

In addition to being tasted in 300 classrooms across Western Nevada County through Sierra Harvest's farm to school program, these sassy sprouts were given the star treatment as the "secret ingredient" in this fun, inventive competition.

These special microgreens were grown by Natural Trading Company out of Newcastle, Calif., and other produce for the recipes were sourced through the Briar Patch Food Coop.

Curious about what a microgreen is exactly? You're not alone.

Technically different than a sprout (sprouts are grown in water, not soil), microgreens are the first cotyledon leaves of an edible plant and are usually grown in a dense mat and cut fresh before they get too big.

Filled with nutrients and enzymes, microgreens pack a healthy punch and are bursting with flavor. In short, they are an excellent secret ingredient.

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Through Kelli Morris's Nevada Union High School culinary program, 150 students showcased the pea and sunflower greens in a number of innovative ways including salads, pizzas, smoothies and wraps.

These budding chefs presented their recipes to a talented panel of guest judges from the community that included many accomplished restaurateurs and entrepreneurs: the mayor of Grass Valley, Howard Leving; the Assistant Superintendent of Nevada Joint Union High School District, Dan Frisella; a former Sunset Magazine writer and recipe creator, Stephanie Spencer; owner of Tess's Kitchen store, Steve Rosenthal; former San Francisco Restaurant owner, Kwong Chew; curator of local favorite Polly's Paladar, Megan Hart, and one of Sierra Harvest's best volunteers, Rick Baron.

The winning teams went on to put their recipes to the real test — a sampling of their recipes shared with their peers at lunchtime.

The winners? A turkey veggie wrap and pineapple bacon pizza with microgreens. The wrap will be featured in the school lunch program.

If you want to get in on the action, turn on an episode of Iron Chef, don your apron and get cooking. The winning recipes are here to inspire you.

Bacon & caramelized pineapple pizza with microgreens

3 ounces bacon

8 ounces pineapple chunks

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 large prepared pizza crust

1/2 cup pizza sauce

4 ounces shredded Monterrey jack cheese

2 green onions

1 1/2 cup sunflower shoot micro greens

Slice the bacon into one-inch pieces. Cook in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown on the edges, but still slightly soft in the center (about five minutes).

The bacon will finish cooking on the pizza. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and pour off most of the bacon grease from the skillet.

Drain the canned pineapple well. Cut the chunks in half to make smaller pieces.

Add the pineapple chunks to the skillet along with the brown sugar. Sauté over medium heat until the pineapple gets brown and sticky on the edges (about five minutes). Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Stretch the pizza dough to fit a 14 inch pizza pan. Chop up 1/2 cup microgreens and mix in sauce.

Spread the sauce over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle the shredded Monterrey Jack cheese over the sauce.

Finally, top the pizza with the cooked bacon and caramelized pineapple pieces.

Bake the pizza for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly on top. After removing the pizza from the oven, top with sliced green onions and 1 cup of microgreens, cut into eight pieces, then serve.

Turkey wraps with microgreens

1 whole wheat tortilla

3 ounces deli turkey

1/3 cup hummus

2 slices cucumber

Handful of fresh spinach

Sliced tomato

1/4 of an avocado, sliced

Handful micro greens

Sliced up basil leaves

Spread hummus on the bottom 1/3 of wrap, about 1/2 inch from the bottom edge but spreading out the side edges.

Layer cucumber, spinach leaves, tomatoes, avocado slices, micro greens, and basil.

Fold the wrap tightly, as you would a burrito, tucking in all of the veggies with the first roll, then rolling firmly to the end. Cut in half and enjoy.

Amanda Thibodeau was the director of the Farm to School program for six years and now writes the Harvest of the Month article each month for Sierra Harvest.

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