In case you missed the update I posted on The Food Guy blog this week, here's a bite-by-bite rundown of the recent cooking competition at Edgewood Country Club . . .
Held in conjunction with FestivALL on the club's patio overlooking the city, more than 100 guests mingled, listening to the awesome Fort Hillbillies band, socializing with friends and sipping wine while local "Wine Boy" John Brown and Charleston doctor Stefan Maxwell battled it out over a hot grill.
During a culinary throw down in the style of the TV show "Chopped," each team had to prepare two different dishes for four judges using a "mystery box" of ingredients revealed just 15 minutes before the stoves were fired up.
Among their choices: sea bass, ahi tuna, ribeye and a selection of fresh produce, herbs, grains and full use of Chef Jeremy Still's Edgewood Country Club pantry.
I immediately started plotting what I would make under the circumstances, but these fast thinkers came up with their own great menus on the fly.
Chef Maxwell crafted a menu of a fire-grilled Caribbean Angus rib-eye roast with a rum-infused jerk reduction over warm potato salad. He paired that with a cored curried apple stuffed with goat cheese, figs and warm berry compote.
I loved the interplay of heat and sweet in his dish, but my steak was a little overcooked compared to the plates I saw fellow judges enjoying on the left and right. Ah, consistency. But that sweet-savory-fruity apple dessert was one of the most ingenious, delicious I've had.
Chef Brown's team offered a summer salad medley - a single plate featuring small tastes of crab Louis, grilled asparagus and a Caprese salad of sliced tomatoes, Buffalo mozzarella and julienned basil. Those are three dishes I love individually and never would have thought to pair them together on the same plate. But why not?
The Brown team's main course featured a Southwest-seared rib-eye, grilled broccolini and a farrow-stuffed grilled pepper. I dream of broccolini and farrow, so this was a winner in my book. The steak was cooked nicely, too, so there was little to find fault with here.
But that's what judges do, so we filled out our scorecards to name an ultimate winner. And in the spirit of the show that inspired it . . . "Chef Brown, you've been Chopped!"
Chef Maxwell's Caribbean-inspired menu won by the narrowest of margins, just 1.3 points out of a possible 60 - so very close.
No matter, it was an awesome night - and yet another feather in FestivALL's cap.
When the farro dish above was presented, there were lots of "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd. Followed by more than a few "What the heck is farro?"
Wonder no more!
Farro is a European grain derived from wheat that dates back to the ancient Egyptians. It has a nutty flavor and firm, chewy texture, yet is lighter than most traditional grains. When cooked, farro releases a creamy liquid similar to that found in Arborio rice. Unlike a traditional risotto, however, farro maintains its firm texture during the cooking process.
High in fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and E, farro also is known for its low gluten levels, making it easier on the digestive system than most wheat-based grains. (You can also grind it into flour to make pasta and breads, cook it into soups or just boil to enjoy on its own.
Can you tell I love the stuff?
Here are a few more serving suggestions . . .
* Cook toasted farro in stock and mix with vegetables and herbs for a healthier "comfort" meal. (See this week's recipe for Farro Vegetable Harvest.)
* Combine cooked farro with olive oil, tomatoes, feta and olives for a Mediterranean-inspired salad.
* Substitute farro for rice in any of your favorite soups or stews for a heartier, earthier flavor.
* Cook farro with vegetable or chicken stock and your favorite vegetables for a warming and delicious meal.
* Grind farro into a flour to use for baking.
* Use farro in place of your morning oatmeal, mixed with apples, maple syrup, and cinnamon.
Another grain I'm hot on is quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), which packs a high-fiber, high-protein punch. Try it in this week's delicious recipe for Baked Salmon over Apple-Ginger Quinoa.
Contact writer Steven Keith at dailymailfood...@aol.com or 304-348-1721. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy/.
Farro Vegetable Harvest
1 1/2 cups farro (uncooked)
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup apple juice
1 butternut squash, diced
1 apple, diced
4 carrots, cut on bias