Monday, August 9, 2010

Cook-off, Jonathan vs Tara: SOUP!

Sorry for the long hiatus loyal internet!  We had kind of a long break from cook-off due to everyone except myself (Kaitlyn), leaving town for various exciting locales.  Finally we got back together at Rachel's house on a hot Memphis evening to consume copious amounts of soup. The ingredients were tomatoes and cheese. 

Tara was very excited about all the prep she was doing.  And she was wearing an adorable dress/belt combination.
Dear Jonathan seemed more contemplative about his prep than excited.  I believe he was, at this point, stirring cornbread batter.
Eva, in the front-left, seems astonished by something that is being said.  This is not surprising as Eva is very expressive.  She's also a waitress and works at a museum here in Memphis.  She's newish in our group of friends, introduced by Tara (and her husband John Paul).  Tara works with Eva and they live in the same building.  Good story, no?

This is Tara's plate.  She served us a home-roasted heirloom tomato and curry soup, roasted red pepper goat cheese fritters, and three tomato lettuce wrap.

Again, Tara's plate.  Her soup was incredible.  I couldn't eat it fast enough, in fact, I quickly dispensed with the spoon and drank it.  It was complex and multi-layered and delicious. Her salad was also perfect.  It was well dressed and juicy and good.  I do not have words for her fritters.  Ho-ley crap.

This is Jonathan's plate, or rather, bowl.  He served us a blackeyed pea soup that had been cooked in a delightful vegetable stock and poured over goat cheese.  Goat cheese and blackeyed peas do not seem like a likely combination but... wow.  Wow.  He also made a delicious fire-roasted tomato parmesean cornbread.  It was awesome.

In the end, after much deliberation, Tara came out on top.  She won both the taste and presentation categories though Jonathan won creativity.  (Goat cheese and blackeyed peas...)

Next up:  Cocktails!!! (That was interesting.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cook Off Challenge #3: Asian! Emily vs Sam

Special Ingredients: Honey and Leeks

Here is where we should probably start addressing a few more rules of the Memphis Summer Cook-Off Club. Because, see, several of us are in relationships with each other--most importantly, several of us live with each other, or see each other every day, or are passed out drunk on each other's couches, or whatever. And everyone admits that they do trial runs--I mean, this isn't Chopped (yet). So there could always be conflicts of interests, of people aiding and abetting a cook-off winner.

Are we really conflicted in interest, whatever that really means? Probably not. I think we're just hungry. Still and all, the fact remains that biases could exist and it may be hard sometimes to keep a level head when deciding between delicious food and a clear slate for impartial judging.

I was ridiculously excited when Sam stepped up to do the Asian-Off because I knew what that meant for me--living with the man, I would get to live through several days of his Asian trial and error.

It really probably wasn't all that helpful for him, as I was mostly, "Yeah, this is okay, give me some more, I don't know, do what you want." I kept hoping he'd think he was really screwing up and needed to try it just one more time because he was cooking tofu like a mad man and I was getting fat and happy. And I couldn't just go a few blocks over to Emily's to pop in on her own trialing.

Then the day came for the final run-through. NO MORE SAMPLING ASHLEY GET YOUR FINGERS OUT OF MY TOFU. Fine, damn.

Emily hosted. We got there and she was flipping some eggs.

Sam quickly got down to plating. Everyone had nice plates thanks to a dish donation from Emily's mom!

We had a large crowd with us; 12 folks RSVP'd and a few others came out, as well. All-in-all, we had 15-16--our largest yet.

Also, can I take a moment to say that the night before many of us (including the two competitors) were out very late doing trivia, taking home the win for not only best team name (The Kagan Exercises) but also THE WHOLE DAMN THING. Thanks for listening.


Emily served honey marinated steak over a citrus fried rice over the earlier pictured egg-and-leek. She also had blanched cabbage wraps tied with a leek, and pork wontons.

Sam offered both Korean-BBQ style Asian-honey-glaze marinated tofu and pork lettuce wraps. He also had honey tofu fried rice with leeks.

Sam explains his Asian vision. Tara's into it.

By a margin of HALF A POINT, Emily went for the win. She was also the first host to win a cook-off. She won golden chopsticks--that are still in the works. (We're trying to stop being lazy about a lot of things, such as posting about our cook-offs and actually making the prizes.)

We congratulated ourselves yet again for coming up with the best club idea, ever. We are never lazy about this.

We stayed around for another several hours, making another run or two or three to the gas station for beer. I became enthralled with the fact that the Coors cans really do turn blue, and then stop being blue when you touch them, and then go back to blue once you lift your finger--and then went on to try to remember what the hell those thermal-heat shirts that we all wore back in the 90s or whenever were called. I think we figured it out, but I don't remember what it was we figured out.

And then Jon spent some time with Emily's weird cat.

John and Michael took up the call for the next challenge: BURGERS! Secret Ingredients: Green Chillies and Avocado. It was this week we determined officially that vegetarian options had to exist at each challenge.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cook Off Challenge #2: Breakfast! Jenny vs Jonathan

We had conflicting camps in terms Jenny and Jon's breakfast-off. And by "conflicting," I don't mean conflicting so much as a little hemming and hawing.

Hem #1: Well, this really needs to happen on a weekend morning, since it's breakfast and all [not that any of us really had morning jobs at this point or anything].

Hem #2: If we have breakfast, it's going to be so early, guhhh.

Hem #3: Well, we'll make it at brunch time.

Hem #4: But brunch is entirely different from breakfast and the challenge is for breakkfassst [very true and practical hem].

Hem #5: Stop your whining; you're going to get awesome free breakfast food and the chance to get drunk in the early hours (if you so choose, and you usually so choose) without any judgment.

[Some of those hems were probably haws and some may not have existed at all.]

People started gathering at Jon's at 1ish on May 15. Sam, Antonio, and I bought some kind of citrus vodka and tomato juice because why not? I'd never made Bloody Mary's before, though, and I will say that I definitely would not have won the Bloody Mary-off had it been that day (not that I would win it were it to happen tomorrow, either). Maybe I should have brought something else. Oh, except, hey I did--stale donuts. I was pretty much 0 for 2.

[Also, the quality of these pictures are not so good--making me 0 for 3, then. Though, in my defense, I got kicked out of that kitchen pretty early on.]

The Ma'am and Sir had to include turmeric and potatoes. No hemming or hawing about it.

It's a good thing that Jonathan totally had it together.

Here he's cooking up a great potato dish with turmeric--and the beautiful looking pot in the back is an amazing blueberry reduction.

There were bowls made of tomato shells and eggs and turmeric turmeric turmeric--we will get the recipes put up as soon as we gather them together.

Potatoes! They were served in a tomato bowl. All of us ate our bowls.

Jenny made sweet potatoes with turmeric. She offered also her own stuffed tomato (again, we ate the bowl) as well as an amazing breakfast filo pie.

Both cooks made entirely vegetarian meals, even though Jonathan had previously said he would include bacon.

It was all amazing. Sam was the one to first say, "Best club, ever," and I got a thrill (I assume everyone else did, too) when I realized that this could really keep happening.

We had approximately 10 in attendance, and Jenny won the shining breakfast star award. Around 3, we all went home to nap, and Sam and Emily went home to prepare for the next challenge: Asian with honey and leeks.

Sandwich Cook-off

To bat at this particular cook-off are Ben and again, Miss Kaitlyn (me).  The ingredients are eggs and basil.  We decided this time (and for all future cook-offs) that taste will be worth 10 points rather than 5.  We think that this will result in more accurate judgement.

I made a homemade challah (egg bread), which I spread with homemade basil mayonaise.  The sandwich contained granny smith apple, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, and farmers' market bacon.  I included a small side salad of arugula and apple dressed with olive oil and salt, a basil deviled egg, and cherry basil ice cream.

My plate.

Ben's sandwich was pretty incredible as well.  

He made a panko crusted salmon with cucumber from his garden, arugula (we both have a great deal of love for this green), heirloom tomatoes, and a fresh pesto aoli.  He served it with a fresh caprese salad and these AMAZING kale chips.  

Ben's plate.  (We're sorry for the crappy iPhone pictures, our resident photographer Jenny gets back from Nebraska tomorrow [!!!])  

Overall, I won in all three categories, all by very small margins.  I was promised a piece of golden toast.  Excellent.  My recipes will be posted tomorrow.  (I'm also including Ben's recipe for kale chips because they are fantastic and I've been eating crazy amounts of them since Saturday.) 

Next up:  Jonathan and Tara go head to head with SOUP!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

We're Still Here

We're trying to get pictures together from the first several cook-offs and I think that what we'll do from this point forward is post as the cook-offs happen and then re-post old cook-offs as the pictures are uploaded.

Deal?  Deal.

Upcoming.  Ben and I go head to head in a sandwich cook-off.  Ingredients are eggs and basil.  We'll see how it goes...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cook-off #1 Pasta!

In the ring for the first cook-off of the season we have: Kaitlyn (ME!) and Antonio.  The rules of the game are as follows:
  • Competitors are given two ingredients- in this case eggplant and walnuts.
  • Competitors are given a food category- pasta.
  • Competitors must use the two ingredients creatively throughout their dishes.
  • Judging is conducted by everyone who attends the event in three categories, five points each for taste, presentation, and creativity.  
Antonio plated and served first.

Walnut ricotta tortellini.
 Served in hollowed out eggplants in an eggplant tomato sauce with walnut ricotta on top of basil leaves.

He's so happy when he plates his food!

Ashley is a very serious judge.

Ben is not a very serious judge.  At all.  

I served my food next:

Black pepper fettuccine drying.

Stirring my walnut Alfredo sauce.

Plating.  I served eggplant rounds topped with black pepper fettuccine and black walnut Alfredo,  topped by eggplant chips and chives from my garden.

This was the prize!  Jenny made us a golden fork.  
Antonio won!  I was super disappointed.  If I remember correctly (which is somewhat unlikely) I won the presentation category and he won for taste and creativity.  Or maybe I won creativity and he won presentation.  Later posts will be better about documenting these things.  

Next up:  Jenny vs. Jonathan in a massive breakfast cook-off.  

Secret Ingredients:  tomato and tumeric.