Last week, I was stunned, thrilled, and honored to find out that among thousands of recipes, one of mine (Grilled Portobello Mushroom Eggplant Parmesan Rounds) was chosen to be one of the seven finalists of the 2010 Cooking Light Ultimate Reader Recipe Contest!!!
This dish was conceived in a dream I had one morning. I woke up soon after “tasting” it, and I wanted more! I made a replica of my dream version that evening and served it for dinner. It’s a lightened version of a family favorite: Eggplant Parmesan. No breading or frying is involved — just roasting and grilling. It’s served with a portobello mushroom (rather than pasta) that forms the base of the eggplant parmesan stack and is topped with a fresh slice of vine ripened tomato and cheese.
I’ve always loved Cooking Light and have been a subscriber for many years. They have great recipes that are generally a lot healthier and less fattening than recipes you’ll find in other food magazines, such as Gourmet and Cook’s Illustrated (also favorites).
In 2006, I was actually a Cooking Light Reader Recipe finalist for my Grilled Skirt Steak and Mesclun Salad with Miso Dressing, (which was later included in the Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2008 cookbook). There were twelve finalists, and we were all invited to Birmingham, Alabama for a cook-off on-site at the Cooking Light test kitchen. Three finalists in each of the four categories of Appetizer, Side Dish, Main Entrée, and Dessert competed against each other, with one winner per category, and one grand prize winner among the category winners.
Sadly to say, I was not a grand prize winner, nor even a category winner. I remember vividly how horrible my cooked dish was, in fact. The judges couldn’t finish eating it, I’m sure! My problem that day was that I had to grill the meat on a gas grill, and: 1) We do not have a gas grill at home and 2) I do not grill – that is my husband’s job (and still is). Also the meat I was supplied with looked twice as thick and much, much denser from the skirt steak I buy here in NY. It looked more like flank steak than skirt steak. I was completely thrown off my game: I totally overcooked the steak; the marinade barely flavored the meat… In the end, my prepared grilled steak was as delectable as chewing on a leather sandal. I was mightily embarrassed.
On the plus side, Cooking Light treated us to a fun make up and hair session before our photo shoots (we were all featured in later issues) and fed us wonderful meals. More importantly, I made a friend that I still have today – Anna of Cookie Madness, who was a finalist in the dessert category. So that made up for all the kitchen disappointments! We still see each other now and then when Anna visits NYC with her lovely family.
Cut to the present: Here’s my chance again to try for the prize and redeem myself! Unlike in 2006, Cooking Light is not flying anyone out for a cook-off.
Basically the 7 finalists’ dishes are posted on the Cooking Light web site and readers get to vote on their favorites between June 29, and August 2. The voting results make up 30% of the final score of each dish. The remaining 70% of the score is determined by Cooking Light Executive chef, Billy Strynkowski.
So the good news is: I don’t have to grill! (Though it is way easier to grill mushrooms than an unwieldy slab of mystery meat…)
The bad news is: There’s only ONE winner. So I’m imploring you, dear readers, to go to the Cooking Light site and PLEASE vote for my dish Grilled Portobello Mushroom Eggplant Parmesan Rounds. I am not allowed to. But you can. Every day. You’ll also be automatically entered to win the Readers/Voters Sweepstakes ($1,000 worth of sponsors’ products).
Many, many thanks!