There were no losers at this culinary contest

This past weekend, I was one of three judges at the Culinary Arts Competition at the Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts. I'll be writing more about the event and sharing a recipe in my upcoming Table Scraps column in the South Shore News.

I took pictures of the heated battle between Sickles and East Bay high schools, and I wanted to share them with you.

You may see some of these future young chefs on the Food Network one day.

The common ingredient the students were required to use was fresh, locally caught bass.

Mango Salsa over Poached Grouper Ceviche

Seared Mediterranean Grouper Pyramid

Deconstructed Seafood Gumbo with Cajun Risotto.

Tropical Mango Coconut Cobbler with Coconut Creme Anglaise

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Baby Roquette and Pickled Ginger Vinaigrette

Team East Bay High came in second, winning $300 for its school's culinary program.

By a slim margin, Sickles High School emerged victorious, winning $500. Great job, chefs!


This weekend: "Let the battle begin!"

The 18th Annual Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts takes place in Apollo Beach this Saturday and Sunday, where the top event for food lovers is the Culinary Arts Competition. I have been asked to be a judge again this year.

Watching three teams of local high school students in a 1-hour cooking showdown is always exciting! The students will be provided with a whole, locally caught fish and a secret ingredient.

It's always fun seeing what chefs produce under pressure. These culinary students may sweat, but they always put out a great dish.

The cooking battle begins at noon on Saturday at Teco SouthShore Community Event Center, 202 Noonan Branch Road in Apollo Beach.


A taste for hot-oil cuisine - funnel cakes

I was doing so well this week.

Healthy low-fat, no-fat Thai dinners, yogurt parfaits for dessert, nibbles of edamame in between meals AND four mornings on the dreadmill.

Then yesterday, my Facebook friend Jeff Houck posted a video taken at the Florida Strawberry Festival. He and a buddy wolfed down huge bowls of strawberry shortcake with scads of whipped topping in a minute and fifty-four seconds. Let me just say, "Wow, wow, wow!"

I so love all those tempting eats at the festival.

I woke up this morning jonesing for funnel cake - one of my top five must-eats at any fair or festival. A ramekin of homemade strawberry sauce on the side wouldn't hurt either.

Yeah, wholesome breakfast this ain't. My entire, health-conscious week went to custard.

I used to make funnel cakes when my girls were small. The recipe I used came from "Farm Journal's Homemade Breads - 250 Naturally Good Breads."

To find recipes for funnel cakes, donuts and fritters, you have to go all the way to the last chapter of the book.

This is a traditional German recipe for fried doughnuts (funnel cakes). Each one has its own lacy shape, because the batter is poured into a funnel, then drizzled into hot oil and fried to a golden brown. And let me just say: mmm, mmm, mmm!


About 1 qt. vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
Powdered sugar

In a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, heat 1" of oil to 375 degrees, using a deep-fat thermometer.

Meanwhile, into a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix milk and eggs, until well blended. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients; stir until batter is smooth.

Holding forefinger over tip of the funnel, pour a 1/2 cup of batter into it. Remove finger and move funnel in a circle to drop batter into hot oil, forming a spiral. Fry, turning once, for 2 minutes or until the batter is golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining batter. Sift powdered sugar over cakes. Serve warm.

Makes 6 cakes.


Some liked it hot

2010 Annual E.G. Simmons Chili Cook-off winners:

1st Place - Fat Boys Chili
2nd Place - Paul Caldorni's Chili
3rd Place - Patrick Pruitt's Chili
Best Decorated Booth - Tracy McLellan
Trash Talking Award - Tracy McLellan

Congratulations to everyone!

To read more about the chili cook-off, I wrote about it in this weeks Table Scraps column.