Chard and Lentil Soup from MasterChef contestant Amanda Saab

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The Detroit Free Press did a food story about the start of Ramadan a few weeks ago and featured home chef Amanda Saab, a former Detroit-area resident who now lives in Seattle where she’s a hospital social worker.

Amanda’s claim to fame is that she was (as of July 25 at least) a contestant on Fox TV’s cooking contest program, MasterChef.

Hosted by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, the show has contestants complete various cooking tasts each week, including “Mystery Box” challenges. The winner receives a cookbook deal, $250,000 and the title of Master Chef.

Amanda, 26, has been a “foodie” since the age of 5, when she stood on a step-stool to pass tools to her mother in the kitchen. For her 16th birthday she requested, and received, a KitchenAid stand mixer.

Amanda, of Lebanese heritage,  is also a fellow food blogger, who gave me permission to reprint one of her posts. So below is her description of meeting one of the Mystery Box challenges on MasterChef, which she posted on June 11.

Unfortunately, the MasterChef rules prohibit Amanda from sharing the corn cheesecake recipe she made for the show, so I’m offering her recipe for Swiss Chard and Lentil Soup, which she says is a favorite for breaking the daily fast during Ramadan.

Crabs and Corn! (from

If you missed last night episode of MasterChef, you can watch it here.

Mystery boxes are always a little nerve wrecking. You never know what is under there and you really want to impress the judges and win the advantage.

To my surprise and delight, I lifted the wooden box to find live crabs!

After Hussein and I moved to Seattle three years ago, we of course did some food exploring. One of my favorite spots was Pike’s Place Market. There you can find the freshest fruits, vegetables and of course seafood! We love crab, especially the Dungeness crab, so when I saw that under the Mystery Box, I knew exactly what to make!

I made Dungeness crab cakes with a mango and arugula salad and an avocado cream sauce, and it earned me a spot in the top three dishes of the night!

Beside me was Olivia, who made a beautiful crab Benedict, and Jesse, who made a crab dumpling soup with a crab, avocado and apple salad! Jesse came out on top and won a huge advantage!

Jesse was able to decide who would make a sweet or savory dish. He asked which basket I preferred (what a gentleman) and I said “sweet” and that is what I got.

A sweet using corn

Once we entered the pantry, we learned what the ingredient was: CORN! I would have never guessed that! How was I going to make a sweet corn dish?

Well, corn is naturally sweet, so in my mind including it in a dessert was not that far out. I also knew that Chef Christina Tosi has a corn cookie (amazing) and uses corn flakes in several of her desserts, including her famous cereal milk!

I decided to roast the corn and make a cheesecake! The kernels were little golden nuggets in the smooth creamy, cheese filling. The crust was made with crushed corn flakes and corn pops! I also popped some popcorn and made a popcorn ball with salted caramel. For garnish I pulled some sugar (I also added corn syrup to the mixture) and crushed some tortillas for a “dust” on the plate. I was very proud of this dish and wish you could have seen it.

I may just have to remake it for you all.

The youngest contestant, Justin, was sent home. He is an incredibly bright young man with an even brighter future ahead of him! He just graduated high school and is on his way to culinary school!

The two best dishes in the elimination challenge were by Shelly and Stephen who will act as team captains in LAS VEGAS!!!!

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