There's A First Tme for Everything

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At 50 years of age, I am entering my first cooking contest. Yes, "it's about time", some have said. Yes, I am certainly prepared, and yes, I am a nervous wreck! I've always fantasized about entering recipe contests, but lost all nerve long before I could fill out an entry form. This year, The Columbia County Fair is holding it's second annual County Bounty Culinary Cookoff. The premise is very simple and there are only two prizes to be awarded: $500 and $1000. I have to submit my written recipe in advance, using and citing as much locally sourced product as possible. Then, on the last day of the Fair, I deliver 8 plated portions of my submission to the judges, and about 2 hours later the winners are declared. I am a imaginative recipe reader. That is to say, when I read a recipe, I can taste it without preparing anything. I have read about cooks who have this approach to cooking, and because I enjoy the work of cooking and have hundreds of cookbooks, not to mention "recipe world" at my fingertips on the web, I do follow recipes when I get busy in the kitchen. When company comes for dinner, instead of putting a trusted favorite on the table, I try something new. It's for ME that I do this: I want to be surprised by a recipe I read which intrigues me. Hopefully, my guests will like it too. I have never worried abut the outcome and never been disappointed.
So fast forward to last Wednesday. Husband works nights, so I make his "dinner" at noon. He eats a small portion then, and brings a regular portion to the railroad for later. We are heavily submerged in tomatoes and other fresh organic local produce right now. My refrigerator & counters are literally overflowing. Rather than search my database by ingredient for something to cook Wednesday, I simply looked around the kitchen. I had chicken breasts, red onions, whole wheat linguine (a pantry staple) and 6 pounds of tomatoes. I also had a new spice-grinder filled with what was labeled "Moroccan Seasoning". It contains cracked coriander seed, cracked black peppercorns, flaked red pepper & sea salt. I diced a couple pounds of mixed heirloom tomatoes, put them in a bowl with diced red onion & ground a lot of the seasoning on top. Tossed it, added olive oil, lots of grated Pecorino, tossed again and set it aside. I trimmed & pounded a couple chicken breasts, oiled & sprinkled them with the same seasoning & fired up the grill. Next, I set the water to boil for the pasta, cook the chicken, set it aside. When the linguine was done, I drained it & dumped it on the tomatoes, tossing very gently. Plated this, topped with sliced/diced chicken, a dash more cheese, sprinkling of fresh chopped coriander leaf & a few white chive blossoms from my garden.
It was well received at home. A neighbor had been nudging me to enter the Fair contest. It occurred to me rather suddenly that this recipe might be a good entry. I dashed a portion of it off to the neighbor's house for a second opinion. "Yes" they pronounced simultaneously. All that was left to do was source the ingredients from my local markets & farm sands, buy a fresh batch of spices and do another trial of the recipe. I decided to make a custom blend of the same Moroccan spices but using toasted coriander seed & grinding it in my spice mill with the peppercorns, red pepper flakes & Kosher salt. The aroma was intoxicating!
Fate's pendulum has been set in motion. I have seven more days to sweat about this, including making it at least one more time. If Lady Luck has any weight, I'm in good shape, as the recipe got a wink and a nod from her royal highness Ruth Reichel. The former Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine, and restaurant reviewer to The NY Times & The 'Left Coast' Times came into the shop where I work today. I could not help myself, so I blurted out my plans, and she patiently, kindly listened; appeared to be interested, even! Ruth said it sounded delicious, and "Good Luck" as she went out the door. Perhaps since it's my very first time doing this a little extra luck will be on my side.

Ps. It's called Coriander Spiced Chicken with Heirloom Tomatoes, Red Onion and Whole Wheat Linguine.

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This page contains a single entry by Carol published on August 29, 2010 5:08 PM.

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