Monday, September 25, 2006

Brooklyn Beet Off 2006

1st Annual Brooklyn “Beet” Off:

September 2006

Location: Kitchen Stadium Brooklyn

The Ingredient:

The Rules:

Use of Goat Cheese is Strictly Forbidden,

Arugula and Candied Walnuts are Highly Discouraged.

Wine must be a Chilled Red.

Iron Chef Amuse-Bouche: Cristina

Iron Chef Entrée: Michelli

Iron Chef Main: Greg

Iron Chef Dessert: Ian



Pan Seared Garam Masala Dusted Sea Scallops

Served in a Roasted Cipolini Cup

Red Beet, Bitter Orange, Cipolini and Pepita Chutney

Garnished with Beet Green-Chive Puree, Honeyed-Beet Puree and Toasted Coconut

Medici Ermete Reggiano Solo Tenuta Quercioli 2005


Beets Three Ways

La Poussie Sancerre 2003

Vodka Flambéed Golden Beet Soup

Roasted Golden Beets, Roasted Golden Tomatoes and Yellow Peppers

Candy Cane Beet Ravioli

With Salt Cod Ricotta and Garnished with Fresh Pea Shoots

Raw Yellow Pepper Pesto

Caprese Salad of Smoked Mozzerella, Tomatillos, Roasted Beets

And Sautéed Beet Greens in a Mustard-Lemon Vinaigrette


Red Beet Ricotta Lasagna with Fresh Egg Noodles

Garlic-Onion Bechamel, Greyere and Parmesan

Tuscan Bread with a Grape Must and Pumpkin Pesto

Salad of Wild Field Greens, Heirloom Tomatoes and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Cantine Federiciane Monteleone Peninsola Sorrentina Gragnano 2005


Curried Farmers-Cheese Cheese Log

In a Sweet Beet Chip Cradle

Salted-Caramel and Roasted Golden Beet Ice Cream

And Red Beet Sorbet

Drizzled with White Truffle Honey

Les Clos De Paulilles Banyuls Rimage 2003


It was late in the afternoon and between the rain and endlessly subways delays, the cause of which came in a barely discernable announcement over the din of crackling loudspeakers and subway station acoustics, my trip to the Grand Army Farmers Market and to my favorite fish monger, Fish Tales in Cobble Hill, ended up taking ten times longer than expected. I jumped on the subway home, but I knew by my second transfer and making the trains within seconds of each other, that my luck would soon run out. And it did, at 59th Street when suddenly and without warning, the train was being put out of commission and there would be no more subways running on that line for the foreseeable future. Accepting my lot in life living on the worst possible subway line in New York City, rather than wait for a train that my never come, I hopped off and hoofed it the remaining 16 blocks to my house, weighed down with bags of scallops, beets, wine and various other ingredients. In three hours, three friends, all fellow professional cooks, would be arriving for our 1st Annual Brooklyn Beet Off, and I hadn’t even begun cooking. Iron Chef “Beets”, we’d been talking about it for weeks with the enthusiasm of five year olds at Christmas time. So many ideas, so many things we could do, and of course the double-entendres flowed like cheap beer at a college tailgate...

I’d walked through the farmers market, a basket of perfect cipolini onions called to me, for what, I wasn’t sure but I’d find some way of incorporating them into tonight’s dish. Back at home I carved them into little cipolini cups and began roasting them off in the oven while I prepared the chutney, beet green puree, beet puree and other little garnishes. Beet tops, a fresh and healthy plumage in green and red, made for a festive centerpiece jammed into an antique Ball Mason jar; with cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, peppercorns and chili’s working their way into the final display. I set the table, worked my way through my prep list and tried not to think too much about what everyone else might be doing (lest I starting get nervous about it).

At 7o’clock the doorbell rang. I felt as if Morimoto himself was waiting, I hurriedly rushed to greet my friends. Like a troupe of Cheshire Cats, they pranced through my door with their tales in the air, grinning from ear to ear. Each one of us knew we had stretched our imaginations and had something great up our sleeve. Michelli set to unpacking quart containers on to the speed rack. Ian was put to task on the laptop picking out this evenings soundtrack and Greg had the ever important task of making room in the refrigerator for the wine and assisting me with concocting some sort of martini. Throwing together seemingly random ingredients we created an espresso-coconut martini with a cardamom-sugar rim. Several toasts and a round of fresh pomegranate martini’s later and we were sufficiently lubricated set to begin.

I was the first up with an amuse-bouche. Amuse-bouches are fun because the possibilities are endless and it can be a little bite of just about anything, as long as it’s pretty and flavorful. An amuse make people feel doted upon and taken care of because it’s a surprise, something they weren’t expecting. And, because it’s just a simple bite, it’s a great opportunity to play up expensive ingredients – in my case, day boat scallops.

I sprinkled the scallops in garam masala, a blend of cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper and nutmeg and then pan seared them. For the chutney, I caramelized cipolini’s, deglazed the pan with fresh orange juice and added orange zest, bitter orange marmalade, sugar, currants, pepita’s and spices. I did my best Kandinsky on the plate in beet puree and pureed beet tops, a roasted cipolini cup with two scallops topped with the beet chutney and garnished with toasted coconut, pepitas and long chives. Against black ceramic plates, the colors were bold and bright and made for a nice presentation. I only hoped that they would be as tasty in the mouth – and I think they were…

Prepared to be impressed, I watched as Michelli plated her masterpiece of Beets Three Ways. Roasted golden beets, roasted yellow peppers and roasted yellow tomatoes pureed into a bright golden soup and ladled into antique art-deco champagne glasses was lush and rich – the roasted vegetables giving it dimension and texture; thinly sliced candy cane beets fashioned into ravioli wrappers with an ethereal bacalla-ricotta filling and a raw yellow pepper pesto was fresh and vibrant in both presentation and flavor; beet “caprese” salad with smoked mozzarella and tomatillos all made for a sublime creation, beautifully presented and a delight to eat. Her pairing with an ‘03 La Poussie Sancerre was perfection.

Still basking in the glory of Italy’s World Cup win and in celebration of an up coming trip, Greg went strictly Italian with his creation, not only with his use of the Italian colors on his plate – but with his delicate pasta and bright, farmers market greens and heirloom tomato salad. Layering fresh egg noodles with a beet and ricotta mixture gave the lasagna a bright and festive look, the béchamel was light and well balanced, not heavy and laden as can often be the case, so the beets shined through and the sweetness was a nice counterpoint to the sauce. His use of Gruyere was a masterful act in that it added depth and dimension and played off of the more subtle flavors. Of course, Gruyere is a French cheese – but it’s said that Catherine di Midici’s cooks taught the French everything they know about food, so one way or another it can all be traced back to Italian.

The piece de resistance came in the form of dessert. None of us having a clue what the other was doing, we could only have imagined what this course would be like… The salted-caramel and roasted golden beet ice-cream with truffled honey was rich and intoxication, thick and creamy almost like a gelato, the contrast of salty and sweet played a game with our pallets and immediately making addicts of us all. The salt pushed and the sugar pulled and when the creamy-rich-salty-sweet became too much, a bite of the red beet sorbet proved to be the perfect pallet cleanser. Accompanying this heavenly creation was a curried farmers-cheese cheese log piped into a sweet-crispy beet chip – again a play on flavors and textures – and our taste buds loved it.

By the end of it all we were drunk on laughter, lively conversation and lots and lots of wine. And as my kindergarten teacher would say, “we’re all winners”.

For the next Brooklyn Iron Chef: Chestnuts paired with wines from the Mediterranean. Stay tuned…

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