Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Family's Version of CHOPPED

I am a BIG fan of the FoodNetwork program, CHOPPED. On this program, four chefs compete for a $10,000 prize by creating a three course meal consisting of appetizer, entree and dessert from a basket of unknown ingredients that they get to open at the beginning of each round. They must use and transform each ingredient in the basket in their presentation.

On the program, one chef is eliminated each round, until there is just one chef left standing. The rounds on TV are appetizer = 20 minutes and entree and dessert, each 30 minutes.

Our family's version took place during a regular "family style" Sunday dinner. Just like on TV, there were four chefs. Our "take" was to do the appetizer and dessert rounds as a competition. The regular, family style Sunday dinner was prepared in advance by the host family (and without any competition) That would be the middle course, the entree.

Our prep times were strictly controlled by the "judges" and, to tell the truth, because I was one of the contestants, I didn't pay any attention to time. I think the prep time was between 20-30 minutes. As a contestant, I didn't pay attention to anything except getting my offering prepared and plated and presented to the judges. I didn't even look to the right or the left to see what the other contestants were doing.

One thing I do know is that we made the most colossal mess ever. There were spills and crumbs wall to wall. The labradoodles were in "heaven"  trying to keep it clean. If you never got to meet these puppies, I had the pleasure of spending a week with them one time. Check it out here: My Week Went To The Dogs

The basket ingredients were chosen by an impartial individual. For the appetizer round the basket ingredients were: Canned Vienna chicken sausage, pickled jalapino peppers, dill pickle chips, and stove top stuffing.

Each contestant had a cutting board at their very tight station (remember-this is a family kitchen not a commercial one-we are stuffed at the counter like sardines), plus knives, aprons, etc. and liberal use of pantry and fridge.

As soon as the clock started on the appetizer round, I dove into my basket ingredients, chopping up those strange looking sausages, adding about a tablespoon of drained jalapinos to get chopped up too. Into a bowl that went along with some stove top stuffing. I added a beaten egg to that and formed it into a "slider". Crushed some of the dill pickle chips onto my cutting board and pressed the crushed chips onto both sides of the sliders. Then browned them in oil in the grill pan. All my secret ingredients were transformed and in use. All I had to think about now was attractive presentation. I sliced up a tomato and layed the crispy slider on top of it. The dish looked unfinished. I took a green bell pepper from the pantry, sliced it into circles, put them into the grill pan and browned the edges. Set those askew onto the sliders, put a spoonful of ricotta cheese into the middle of the pepper circle, salt and peppered it and dolled it up with a sprig of parsley. Done!

These are the appetizers made by the other contestants. All using the exact same ingredients but each dish totally different from the other three.

Laney's dish - sausage~stuffing~chips~pepper hash on bed of arugula topped with fried egg

Michael's: Hushpuppy with same ingredients (pulverized)~Handmade Jalapino catsup~pickle from pantry

Sorry, I did not get a picture of the forth dish. It was an empanada made with hand made dough which the contestant made using the potato chip and stuffing basket ingredients plus pantry ingredients. The deep fryer was in use for the hush puppies so she had to pan fry her empanadas. Unfortunately this happens on the TV show as well and the contestants have to think on their feet. This entire contest was conducted in the most military, rushed atmosphere that there was little time to snap pix as well as cook. The main reason for rush - 3 babies, ages 3,1 and 3months who had one parent in the contest, and the other was a judge plus the babies all had to be in bed by 7PM or the parents turn into pumpkins.

Unlike the TV version, two contestants were eliminated in round one. Between round one and dessert, we had the already prepared grilled dinner which everyone (14 people) ate together.

In the final round of our family CHOPPED competition, there were two contestants. Myself and the nephew. The ingredients we discovered in our baskets were: a golden yellow honeydew melon, Neopolitan Soy Ice Cream, French fried potato chips, and crescent rolls.

Again, not paying any attention to the other contestant, I peeled and chopped up melon, added sugar, flour and cinnamon to it then opened the crescent roll tube, floured my board and rolled out the dough triangles and put a tablespoon or so of the melon mixture into the center of each. Folded them up so no filling would escape, sugared the tops and put them into the oven. Next I made a chopped French fried potato and chopped nut brittle. I melted some of the ice cream in a separate pan, to use for a sauce, adding a bit of ricotta to it to make it less sweet. When I had two minutes left on the clock, I removed the tarts from the oven onto a plate (by this time we were using plastic plates), Put down some of the sauce on the side of each tart and garnished with the brittle. Here it is. The winning dessert !!

This is the nephews dessert. Because I was so crazy busy, I had to make some phone calls to find out about it. He flambed then pureed the melon adding a bit of the ice cream to it to make a sauce to pour over the  rolled and deep fried dough. He crumbled the French fried stix to use as a topping.

The unwinning dessert

According to one participant: "we have to do this again, this was the most fun we ever had at a Sunday dinner".

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What to Bring For Dessert Tutorial

I am invited to have dinner at one of my niece's homes tonight. I asked if I could bring something. She said "bring dessert".

Since it's Summer and all these fruits are succulently in season, I planned to make a fruit tart.



I made it in a 9" spring form pan. I will remove the sides of the pan at service time. So, this is what you need:

1- get some mouth watering looking fruits (any kind) at the market of farm stand
2- one small package of vanilla instant pudding
3- 1/2 cup of Nutella
4- 1/2 cup of clear jelly, not jam (I used plum)
5- 1 package of refrigerated, ready to bake, 24 cookie, sugar cookies

1- Put the fruits, one type at a time, into a collander and spray with water. Lay fruit out on tea towels to dry. They must be totally dry before arranging them on the tart.

2- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

 3- Smoosh, with your floured fingers, the sugar cookies around and a bit up the sides of the spring form pan. Smoosh remaining cookies over the pan bottom.

4- Put the cookie crust in the oven. It does take longer to turn golden than the manufacturers directions for baking individual cookies. Keep your eye on it. Remove when golden. Cool on rack.

5- Spread the Nutella over the cooled cookie crust.

6- Prepare the instant pudding using 1.5 cups of milk, not the 2 cups the manufacturer suggests.
Spread the thickened pudding over the Nutella.

7-  I hulled and cut the strawberries in half. I also cut the grapes in half. Arrange the fruits you have chosen in an artistic design over the layer of pudding.

8- The final step that makes this all look gorgeous is: melt that 1/2 cup of jelly in the microwave about 1 minute. With a pastry brush, paint all the fruit, covering each piece completely with the melted jelly.

That's the secret of making it look divine, all shiny and bright and irresistible.

Bon Appetit

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Life Started In A Garden Part II

As promised last week, here is part II of the RMSC 2015 Garden Tour. This part of the tour took place in the western end of our county in the little historic town of Scottsville, NY  To see Part I, click on this link

The first garden we visited was the home of a family who live on and operate a flower farm and are in the "flower" business. They have a roadside stand where they sell bouquets and also sell at the local farmers market. The farm was idyllic.

row of bachelor's buttons

busy little bee sipping some nectar from this sunflowers center

treehouse built right over the sandbox

 The owners so friendly. We asked directions from them on how to get to the next stop on the tour. While they were giving us directions, they mentioned "turn right at the Scottsville Diner". That's all we needed to hear. It was time for lunch. What better to eat than at a small town diner.

We had a delightful lunch there. Greek chicken Souvlaki salad in a pita and iced tea. You see the "CLOSED" sign in the window because the diner is just open for breakfast and lunch. By the time we left, it was indeed closed.

Next stop, a town house and garden in the old town of Scottsville.

grape arbor - much cooler under there

Just couldn't resist taking pictures of some of the houses on the street where this garden was. All of them built circa 1830

The final house and garden on the tour was the most expansive, awesome, restful, peaceful............don't have words to describe it..

there was a sandy beach on this pond and two Adirondack chairs to sit and rest in

shady hosta filled path and almost invisible rope hammock attached to two trees here

I sneaked a little picture of the front porch with its white wicker furnishings, including a porch swing

arched entrance to the patio overlooking the garden