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Cooking Tournament of Champions

A couple weeks ago I decided one day not to do anything and take a little break, relax and on my relaxation time to either cook, bake, read recipes or watch the cooking channel on television. When I learned that the “Tournament of Champions” featuring some of the best chefs in the country would be taking part competing my choice was made easier. I am not sure how many of you watch the cooking channel because everyone has different interests but I enjoy it and especially when they have the top chefs competing against each other.

This last competition was very interesting because the chefs had no idea as to who they would be competing against, what they would be told to cook and what ingredients they were to use. On top of all these unknown facts each contestant was given a very limited time to prepare what they were to make.

Last year’s winning champion (Brooke Williamson) was competing again this year for the championship belt award. All the chefs competing and taking part in the competition were past winners of many various cooking contests and many owned their own restaurants. The judges of course had no idea as to who the food they were judging was prepared by which is the only fair way to judge any contest.

The judging was based on 50 points for taste, 30 for presentation and 20 points for execution. As a cook, judge and chef I can relate to how nervous each contestant must be especially knowing they were competing with other top ranked successful chefs.

First place consisted of the Championship Belt, a new SUV car plus $10.000 to be donated to a restaurant of their choice that had major problems due to the COVID-19 virus.

Food is an excellent way to display your talent in the kitchen to turn out a dish with a perfect taste and presentation. (Your first judge of food is done with your eyes — especially in restaurants.)

Cat Corra (who incidentally is of Greek heritage) is one of my favorite cooks — also holder of the Iron Chef award and the first female to enter the “Hall of Fame” for Cooking. Another one of my favorite chefs is Maneet Chauhan — also very good and talented who is the 2021 winner of the “Championship Belt for Cooking” along with a new SUV and $25.000.

Keep in mind that all these competing chefs practice just as an athlete taking part and preparing for a sport.

Couple weeks ago I told you that I have a surprise to announce. For the past 10 years I was asked to be a part of the taste of the world dinner that the Marietta morning Rotary club prepares every year. Unfortunately we were always in Europe, but since this year we are not going, I will have the pleasure to participate and prepare two of my favorite desserts to represent Greece. Of course you know my first choice is Baklava and the second dessert is Greek Honey Cake. Those two desserts were the customers’ best choices at the Olympic Deli. So save the date Saturday, June 19, at the Marietta Shrine Club. More details later on.

A couple reminders, this week is the last chance to order geraniums from West Virginia Symphony League-Parkersburg. Please call me at 304-615-5454 or call 304-483-1453, or any league member.

And don’t forget Tuesday, May4, is the “Day of Giving.” Please give generously to the PHS Foundation, West Virginia University-Parkersburg, West Virginia Symphony, West Virginia Symphony League-Parkersburg, Artsbridge and a group of your choice.

Till next week.

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APRICOT TORTE

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar until thickened. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff peaks form. Fold into yolk mixture. Gradually fold in flour.

Divide batter among three greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool in pans for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool.

6 eggs, separated

1/2 cup plus 5 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 cup all-purpose flour

Chocolate Buttercream:

1/4 cup sugar

3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

2 ounces semisweet chocolate

1 cup butter, softened

Apricot Filling:

2 cans (17 ounces each) apricot halves, drained

1 cup apricot preserves

Chocolate curls

For buttercream, in a small saucepan, whisk the sugar, eggs, yolks, vanilla and coffee. Add chocolate; cook and stir over low heat until thickened (do not boil). Cool completely.

In a small bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add chocolate mixture; set aside. Finely chop apricots; drain and place in a bowl. Stir in preserves; set aside.

Split each cake into two horizontal layers; place one on a serving plate. Spread with 2/3 cup buttercream. Top with a cake layer and 2/3 cup apricot filling. Repeat layers twice. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours before serving. Garnish with chocolate curls. Makers 12 servings.

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CASHEW CRICKLE CANDY

2 cups sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups salted cashews

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Cook, without stirring, over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 300 degrees (hard-crack stage).

Remove from the heat; stir in butter, vanilla and baking soda. Add cashews. Pour into a buttered 15x10x1-in. pan. Cool; break into pieces. Yields about two pounds.

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CREAMY BANANA PECAN PIE

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided

3 large firm bananas, sliced

1-1/3 cups cold milk

1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix

Additional chopped pecans, optional

In a small bowl, combine the flour, pecans and butter. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9-in. pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar. Fold in 1 cup of whipped topping. Spread over the crust. Arrange bananas on top. In another bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Immediately pour over bananas. Top with remaining whipped topping. Garnish with pecans if desired. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Refrigerate leftovers. Yields 6-8 servings.

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