Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Culinary Smackdown Round-Up - and Winner Announcement

If I were judging purely on entertainment value, Boxer, that crafty diorama queen, would have taken it with this hilarious post. She threw herself into the Smackdown with a vengeance, even though she’s allergic to eggplant and didn’t actually cook (let alone cook meat). But I’d still love to try her recipe for lamb-stuffed eggplant!

Another competitor who went all out is Grumpy Granny, with two entries! Her Battle Eggplant Part 1 post was the first I received, and I found her Eggplant and Yogurt Spread with Red Onions and Olives on flatbread a scrumptious appetizer to the festivities that lie ahead.

Alessandra Zecchini, a food blogger friend from New Zealand, contributed this lovely recipe for Turmeric Eggplants and Chickpeas before heading off on holiday to the Polynesian isle of Niue. Whatever your personal predilections about this month’s theme ingredient, I’m sure you’ll find plenty to savor among the breath-taking photos from that trip in recent posts on her blog.
Photo and Recipe © by Alessandra Zecchini

Another Aucklander, Sue of Couscous + Consciousness, joined in the fray, with this tantalizing Roasted Aubergine, Mango + Soba Noodle Salad she adapted from a recipe by Yottam Ottolenghi, who our own La Diva has written about.

I’d like to welcome another newcomer to the Smackdown, Cincinnatian Stephie from Small Girl Adventures! Stephie took a break from working on her sister’s wedding cake to venture to the savory side, with this impressive Eggplant Lasagna. You can tell Stephie has been to culinary school by the precision of her knifework and excellent step-by-step instructions, although what set her entry apart for me was her fabulous herb-cheese filling (yes, I’m a sucker for all things cheese)!

If you’ve been following Buzz’s adventures at his community garden/farm (because, what with his job and his honey-do list and taking his son to Boy Scout camp, yadda yadda, he just needed to commit himself to one more thing, lol), you know that his plot was producing a single eggplant. Fortunately, it ripened in time. And even more fortunately, eggplant is one of the few vegetables The Mrs. actually likes. Buzz took his inspiration from Fishy’s recipe for Grilled Spanish Style Eggplant, which intrigued me for being marinated, with jalapeno, chili powder, soy sauce, and olive oil – a tempting, if not particularly “Spanish” sounding, combination. Quoth Buzzy: “Eggplant is one of those things that never really looks appetizing, no matter how you prepare it. It comes out of the garden, so you eat it.” However, he did a smashing job with the grill marks on these puppies! And paired them with bbq cocktail weenies and rice plus a tomato-cucumber salad with fresh basil. Now that’s a “make it work” dinner!

Buzz wasn’t the only busy blogger. Several bloggy friends and Smackdown supporters had mishaps, travels, and general what-not to contend with.

Aunty Belle had to dart off to Cajun country and rassle with Uncle over the winner of this week's haiku contest, but she shared her recipes for Moussaka and a cooling Mint Vinaigrette!

In addition to providing the inspiration for Buzz’s dish (well, not the cocktail weenies part), Fishy got derailed with a client meeting (in triple-digit heat), then found herself without internet service. But I am captivated by her recipe for Eggplant Fituras, featuring shredded eggplant, scallions, cornmeal, and nutmeg, which I’m happily imagining would blossom as they fried to look something like this gorgeous photo she did manage to post.

La Diva, alas, is sidelined with a serious leg injury suffered at the gym – Caution: exercise can be hazardous to your health :) But I want to thank her for supporting the revival of the Culinary Smackdown with this contribution, and for sharing her own recipe for Eggplant Caponata from her archives for the occasion. I would have been much better off going the caponata route than those disappointing eggplant pickles Cindie and I mangled. Sadly, no caponata photo included in either post, but Diva sure knows how to find some lovely pics on the web.

When I selected eggplant as this month’s ingredient, I failed to realize how many blogger friends (or their spouses) are averse to this veg. Sorry, and be glad this was a virtual dinner party :) Thanks to everyone for supporting the revival of the Culinary Smackdown with your comments and unique contributions – including the awesome Chickory, who, in addition to creating a stupendous painting for submission to a juried art show last week – and sharing the fascinating journey of her creative process on her blog – designed multiple variations of a our new badge!

So who will serve as the host, judge, and “theme picker” of the next Culinary Smackdown?

The winner is – Grumpy Granny! She gets a giant “E” for “[eggplant] effort” for her two delectable dishes. I mentioned her yogurt-y Middle Eastern flatbread spread above, and I fell in love with her second entry, Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille, where she describes her strategy thus: “Eggplants are notorious for soaking up oil like sponges. This dish is great because it slowly releases the other vegetable juices and the eggplant grabs that instead of more grease.”

Granny is training for an epic swim around Alcatraz on September 17, and she’s pretty determined in the kitchen as well. She was one of the people who prodded me to revive the Smackdown, and I’m confident I’m passing it into good hands. So, GG, head on over to Chicky’s place and select whichever version of the new badge you’d like to claim your wall, then let us know what theme you’re throwing down to test our culinary imaginations for the August Smackdown. It need not be a single ingredient – and I sure hope you come up with something more popular than I did :)

Thanks to all for playing, commenting, and all 'round supporting this little contest. And I can’t wait to see what Grumpy Granny comes up with!

xoxo, eggy


GrumpyGranny said...

WOW!!!!! I'm a winner! This is so cool and I'm grinning from ear to ear--A grinning Grumpy Granny, how about that? And I already have my "theme" so I'll have to post it tomorrow. Right now I'm going to go do a happy dance. Wheeee! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!


Jenny said...

Congrats to Grump Granny and to Eggy for doing a great job of hosting. I look forward to the next installment of the Culinary Smackdown.

LaDivaCucina said...

Eggy, you didn't pick a sucky ingredient, I LOVE eggplant. It's just one of those ingredients people either love or hate....like okra! It was nice to see new participants from the world over and thank you for hosting and reviving the smackdown! It was fun! Hopefully, I'll be a more active participant for the next one!

moi said...

Grumpy Granny had me at that dip. Reminds me of babaganoush, which is one of my absolute favorite things in the world to eat. Congrats and best of luck on your swim, GG! I look forward to the theme and hopefully participating.

Buzz Kill said...

I just read through your write-up and realized I missed some of the participants. Pretty good turn out (Karl - Little help, I was the only dude here?) and some really inovative ways for using the ugly, old eggplant. I hope you continue the smackdowns IE.

Congrats to Granny. You're going to need all the carbs you can get from that eggplant if you're going to swim around Alcatraz. Clint Eastwood is the only one I know who has successfully done it. Bwahahaha

Sharon Rudd said...

Thanks to all for joining in! I'm happy I decided to revive the good ol' Culinary Smackdown, even if it is a whole lot of work :)

Grumpy Granny is up with her announcement of the August Smackdown: http://grumpygranny.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/i-won-and-the-new-challenge-is/

I have a feeling her featured ingredient will have a wider audience than eggplant did. And that Boxer will come up with another creative contribution, since I know she won't be eating this one either :)

Aunty Belle said...

whooo hoo! WAYTOGo GG!!

Eggy, thanky fer the swell write up--an revivin' the Smackdown.

Jen said...

Congrats to Grumpy Granny! I'm so sorry I missed this one--time got away with me, though I did enjoy experimenting with my garden's eggplant.