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updated: 9/26/2012 6:07 AM

Cooks impress with takes on tofu, spaghetti squash

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  • Chuck Federici wrapped chicken legs in spaghetti squash and topped them with a pepita pesto.

      Chuck Federici wrapped chicken legs in spaghetti squash and topped them with a pepita pesto.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Chuck Federici

    Chuck Federici

  • Louann Zundel

    Louann Zundel

  • Louann Zundel's Baja-style tofu tacos earned her a spot in Round 2 of the Cook of the Week Challenge.

      Louann Zundel's Baja-style tofu tacos earned her a spot in Round 2 of the Cook of the Week Challenge.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

By Deborah Pankey
Daily Herald Food Editor

The owner of a beef stand created a tofu taco that won the vegetarian recipe matchup in the Cook of the Week Challenge and will be moving into Round 2 alongside a high school maintenance worker who knows his way around spaghetti squash.

Louann Zundel, a Des Plaines woman who owns a Mr. Beef and Pizza, beat out Joe Moninski of Arlington Heights in the tofu, broccoli, crispy rice cereal and mango chutney challenge. In the salsa, chicken leg, spaghetti squash and pepita competition, Hanover Park's Chuck Federici created squash-wrapped chicken legs that danced past Bloomingdale's Maria Evangelista and her Tex-Mex chicken and salsa-fied squash. Here's what the judges had to say about their recipes:

Baja-style Tofu Tacos with Broccoli Couscous

Chef Suzy Singh: Today the tofu dressed up for the party! I love that this contestant made beer batter for the tofu.

Ale was the perfect choice for the batter and the way that it was dredged created the perfect crispy outer texture. There is, however, a ton of starch in this entree from the beer batter to the tortilla to the couscous. Transforming the mango chutney mixture was pure brilliance.

Chef Spencer Wolff: A nicely constructed dish.

Tatiyana Piper: The tacos appeared to be fish, but upon reading the recipe, they were tofu. I think it's a creative way to get non-tofu eaters to try something new. The couscous seemed a little bit like an after thought. It would have been really cool to see the broccoli used in the slaw for the top of the tacos and the rice cereal used in the batter.

Crispy Fried Tofu with Asian-inspired Slaw in Crispy Rice Bowls

S.S.: This is a dish that I want to serve to my family tonight. The use of Asian ingredients in the dish hit it out of the park. I love that the tofu was dredged in egg whites and Asian seasoning. My only critique is that there was a lot going on. I would minimize the number of ingredients and let the mystery box ingredients shine. Overall this is true artistry on a plate.

S.W.: I like the use of the cereal used as a coating for the tofu. This seems to be a very healthy dish utilizing the brown rice.

T.P.: The stir fry looked really delicious, but the most interesting part of the dish was the edible cup for the slaw. It would have been great if the stir fry was served in the edible dish. The flavors all seemed to marry beautifully together.

Nested Salsa Chicken Legs with Cilantro Pesto and Spaghetti Squash Tots

S.S.: This dish is super creative! Great use of the spaghetti squash in three ways. I have to say that sometimes using this squash in so many different ways ... creates a starchy overload. The use of pepitas is great in the pesto, if the pepitas were toasted, you would bring more of the essence of the pepitas into the dish. Overall very creative and fantastic effort!

S.W.: I think the cilantro pesto is a great accompaniment to the chicken and I find the use of pate a choux for the tots to be unique and different, though may be too "doughy" in the end.

Tanya Kostetsky: I'm very impressed by the creativity of the spaghetti squash tots and using the squash in the breading. Plating looks nice but could have been incorporated together a little better. Also I would have loved to have seen you make a dipping sauce out of the salsa instead of leaving it out of the can. The lime adds a perfect touch.

Tex-Mex Red Chile chicken with Salsa Spaghetti Squash

S.S.: Yum! My mouth was literally salivating while reading this recipe. It is the perfect combination of sweet, salty and umami (savory). I love the use of pesto stuffed into the chicken and the spaghetti squash is absolutely genius! The roasted squash combined with olives and feta bring out the taste in the squash and complement the dish very well. One plating suggestion is to avoid compartmentalizing the dish; stack the chicken on top of the summer squash and tighten up the plate a little bit.

S.W.: I really like the way a traditional pesto is manipulated for this dish using the pepitas and cilantro. I might have went with a different, less salty cheese other than feta, possibly Manchego.

T.K.: I love the idea of the pesto rub under the chicken skin; makes for a super flavorful impact. However, I am not enticed by the combination of black olives, feta and salsa in the spaghetti squash.

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