August 16, 2011

I won! (der why I didn't win)

This year’s Tomato Art Fest recipe contest was anticlimactic (read: I lost).  Lesley, Amy and I bantered all week long in preparation, swapping theories, words of support, contest details and even a little smack talk.  We vowed to keep our individual recipes secret until the actual contest, where we were sure we’d get to view and sample each others’ brilliance.  Not so much. 
Upon arrival, we signed away our lives and dropped our entries at the door.  That’s right.  We couldn’t even go inside.  We weren’t privy to anything.  I don’t know how many dishes were entered or what was made.  I don’t know who the judges were.  I certainly don’t know what they said while tasting my dishes. Though I didn’t win, here’s how I imagine it went:
JUDGE 1: This is the most unique tomato salad dish I’ve ever laid eyes on.  I must try this creative culinary creation immediately!
JUDGE 2: Never have my taste buds encountered such flavors.  It’s as if the tomatoes are serenading the other ingredients, and it’s the sweetest song ever written.

JUDGE 3: The wheel! Fire! Sliced bread! And now, this salad! The world will never be the same.
Since I’ll never know what was really said about my entry, I’m going to go with this.  Humor me and do the same.  Joking aside, I do wish we knew more.  A fellow Nashville blogger took home third prize, but I wouldn’t have known that without Twitter.  We all stood outside in the heat, anticipating an announcement of winners that never came.  Ah, well. 

So, want to make the losing recipe?  If nothing else, I have to give myself points for creativity.  I’ve never heard of this recipe before.  There may be others out there, but if there are I don’t know it and this one is 100% mine.  So there’s that.  You should make it, if nothing else for the bonus Bloody Mary mix that’s left over.  Yeah, I planned it that way.
Bloody Mary Panzanella
Six slices good quality bakery bread, cut into squares
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
5 fresh, local medium-sized tomatoes (2 peeled & chopped, 3 chopped skin-on)
1 tbs worchestershire sauce
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp hot pepper sauce (I used Texas Pete)
1 tsp prepared horseradish
coarse salt & cracked black pepper to taste
¼ c vodka
½ c red onion, chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 tbs fresh jalapeno, seeded and diced
12 Spanish olives, cut into thirds + 1 tbsp reserved juice
Preheat oven to 400˚. Place bread cubes in large bowl, drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil slowly and toss to coat.  Arrange bread cubes in single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake 15-18 minutes, turning once at 10 minutes, until toasted.  Cool bread to room temperature.

Peel two of the tomatoes and chop.  Place tomatoes in blender and puree until smooth.  Add next six ingredients and olive juice, and blend until fully incorporated.  Add 1 tbs olive oil and blend.

Heat remaining tbs of olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat.  Lightly sauté onion, celery and jalepeno until translucent but still crunchy.  Cool to room temperature.

Place remaining four tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, olives and celery in large mixing bowl and toss with bread cubes.  Just before serving, add desired amount of Bloody Mary dressing and toss to coat.  Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, then serve. 
Makes two entrée or four side dish servings.
I actually threw together a second entry about two hours before the contest, which they chose to publish.  Can’t lie – I’m pretty stoked about that. 
Win or lose, I had a good time doing this.  My family rallied.  My food friends were the best competition I could ask for.  It was a fun process, which is what it’s all about.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the title of my blog.  Though if I had won, I may have had to change it to “Heck Yeah I Won Two Years in a Row: The Blog.”   


  1. I'll be honest, I don't like bloody marys and I probably wouldn't have tried your salad (good thing, too since Worchestershire is not vegetarian), but I felt like yours was the one to beat because of the creativity, originality, and use of tomato. As a marketer, I feel like yours has a great hook. Unlike mine (and some of the winners), and like Amy's it doesn't work without tomato, which I think should have been a predominant factor in the choosing of a winner.

    But I'm not a judge...

  2. Next year, I'm gonna turn in a pizza and call it a salad.


  3. So does NFM sponsor the recipe contest? I'm confused since they're the ones that published your recipe. Also, how did you even know your recipe was on their website?

    Both of your salads sound absolutely delicious, so I'd be curious to see what the winners came up with....

  4. Lesley - I'm the worst vegetarian-savvy person ever. I tend to think things like "oh, so there's anchovy paste in that sauce? no worries, it's not like that's actually meat." I'll work toward full disclosure in future!

    Beth - NFM sponsored the contest this year. We had to sign a form giving them rights to publish our recipes. They didn't publish all entries, but selected some. I knew they posted it because I stalked it to see if/when they'd choose one of my recipes. (no shame)

    I believe the winning dishes are posted on their site as well. First place went to a Thai tomato shrimp concoction (which sounds great), and second place went to a raw-sagna. I'm sure it's a bucket of un-cooked loveliness, but to Chris's point, is decidedly not a salad. Raw does not a salad make. But really - not bitter at all.

  5. ha! i'm glad we participated, even though it was sort of a clusterfork. it definitely brought the three of us together, which was fun. + next year we'll win!

  6. So sorry you didn't win. Your recipes look great. We had meant to go to the festival this year but hope to go this coming year because it sounds like a lot of fun!