Answering the Age-old Question: What's for Dinner?

Four ingredients, three local chefs, three different dishes.
Pan seared salmon with a black bean, corn and red pepper salsa and zucchini straws; Citrus rice

Welcome to Plymouth Magazine’s first food challenge. Inspired by the Food Network show Chopped, the chefs from Rock Elm Tavern, La Cocina de Ana and Kobe were asked to include these four ingredients in their creation: red pepper, corn, zucchini and rice. It’s almost like Chopped, but with a lot less pressure and easier ingredients to incorporate into a meal. Plus, no eliminations here. These meals are all winners!

La Cocina de Ana
Owner Ana Rayas

“I saw the ingredients were very basic so I had to get creative,” says Ana Rayas, owner of La Cocina de Ana. “[What I added] were ingredients in my pantry that were easy to work with. When I’m at home, I’m inspired by what’s in my pantry. That’s how I cook … I don’t follow recipes.” Her advice for home cooks? Use fresh ingredients for better flavors. For an enchilada sauce, blend together some peppers instead of buying a canned version, Rayas says.

For the challenge, saffron provides a subtle flavor and golden hue to the rice. For those who haven’t used saffron, Rayas recommends buying it in small quantities because the quality of the expensive spice can decline quickly. The lightly steamed corn from the cob, along with the red onion and queso fresco, created a lighter side to accompany the filled pepper. The delicious light and velvety zucchini sauce can be drizzled on everything.

Optional twists to the dish include using chicken instead of clams and adding jalapeno for some fiery heat.

Saffron rice

1 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 pinch saffron
2 tsp. chicken bouillon (or omit water and chicken base and use 3 cups of chicken broth)
1 ½ cups rice
3 cups water
1 cup canned cooked clams (drained)
1 large or 2 small diced zucchini
Salt to taste

Cook onion in olive oil until soft. Add garlic and saffron, cook 2 minutes. Add rice and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add water and bouillon. Stir and let water evaporate until almost dry. Add clams and zucchini and cover. Turn off heat. Let sit for about 15 minutes and check seasoning. Add salt if needed.


3 bell peppers, red orange and yellow or your choice. (Green not recommended).
Olive oil

Wash and dry peppers. Slice vertically in half  transversally to remove top. Coat inside and outside of all pieces with oil and salt. Cover stems with foil to protect from burning. Roast for about 20 minutes.

Corn side dish

2 cups corn kernels, cooked
½ cup red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. lime
Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients until blended and heat. Crumble queso fresco for garnish.

Rock Elm Tavern
Executive chef Kyle Darling

“[All these vegetables] are in season during the summer. It’s great using fresh ingredients. There’s also minimal cooking besides the fish and rice,” says Kyle Darling, executive chef at Rock Elm Tavern.

While in-season cooking is preferred, the dish could be made throughout the year. A perfectly seared salmon has a crisp crust and is tender and succulent. Darling says a home cook can do this by heating a nonstick pan at a medium heat and adding olive oil. Sear the salmon — seasoned with salt and pepper on each side — for two minutes. Lastly, finish the fish in a preheated oven at 350 degrees. Depending on the thickness, it’s about 3 to 4 minutes for medium, and 5 to 6 minutes for medium-well.

To give the rice a citrus flavor, Darling cooked 1 cup of rice with 1 zested orange, lime and lemon, and used the juices, along with 1 ½ cups of water. The zucchini is deep fried, which adds crunch to the dish.

Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper salsa

8 cherry tomatoes cut in half
½  cup black beans cooked
½  cup roasted sweet corn
1 Tbsp. diced red pepper
1 Tbsp. diced red onion
1 Tbsp. diced jalapeno
1 lime, juiced
1 Tbsp. cilantro
Half an avocado, diced
Pinch of cumin, coriander, salt and pepper

Mix well in a bowl with a spatula.

Kobe Japanese Restaurant
Owner and head chef Sunny Ma

What drives Kobe owner and head chef Sunny Ma when he cooks? “I just want to make good food for my customers,” he says. Ma studied and cooked in Japan for 10 years before moving to New York City; he and his family eventually found their way to Plymouth.
While home cooks can make teriyaki sauce at home or buy it at the grocery store, Ma’s teriyaki sauce is something that cannot be easily replicated — it’s truly a special sauce. Fruits such as apple, melon, honeydew, ingredients for chicken stock, soy sauce and Japanese sake are boiled for more than 12 hours to achieve a subtly sweet and salty flavor combination. Stirring also needs to take place every half hour.
At the restaurant, you can try the teriyaki sauce on vegetables, steak, salmon, seafood and more. The steak is cooked perfectly—lightly seared with a tender and juicy texture. Typically, the proteins are served with stir fried onion, mushroom, baby corn and zucchini.   

Wok Seared Filet Mignon

Lightly salt and pepper the steak
Heat up a wok (or pan)
Sear the steak in the wok on both sides for about 20 seconds
Finish the steak in the oven at 200-250 degrees. Depending on the cut, it’s about 5 minutes for medium and up to 15 minutes for well done.
Let the steak rest after taking out of the oven to seal in the juices before cutting.