The Winning Recipes

Christopher Bakken
Contest Winner

Saturday, September 22, 2001

Menu:
Caramelized Fennel and Beet Salad
Chicken and Figs Stewed in White Wine
"Halvah" with Oranges and Kiwi

Caramelized Fennel and Beet Salad on Bibb Lettuce

Ingredients:
One bunch beets
One large bulb of fennel
One head of Bibb lettuce
Butter
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Dried mint
Dried chives
Sugar
Salt
Pepper

Method:

  1. Wash beets thoroughly and trim off greens and bottom sprout. Boil whole until tender, which is approx. 40 minutes. When tender, drain and rinse under cold running water to remove the skins. Slice into thin strips. Set aside to cool.
  2. Pull fennel bulb apart and wash well. Slice into long thin strips. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet along with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When butter is melted and pan is hot, add fennel and 1 teaspoon white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some grinds of fresh black pepper. Caramelize the fennel by sauteing over medium/high heat until gold brown. Be careful not to burn. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a blender, combine one teaspoon garlic powder, one teaspoon dried mint, one teaspoon dried chives, one teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar. While blender is running on low speed, add 1/2 cup olive oil and blend for approx. 30 seconds until the dressing is emulsified.
  4. Arrange whole leaves of Bibb lettuce on a plate and spoon a small amount of the cooked fennel, then add the beets, and spoon some dressing on top.
Chicken and Mission Figs stewed in Orange Juice and White Wine Orzo with Red Bell Pepper Confetti

Ingredients:
One whole chicken, cut up
2 cups whole mission figs
One package of orzo
One large red bell pepper, diced
One large red onion, diced
One pint orange juice
White wine or white cooking wine
Olive oil
Butter
Bay leaf
Dried chives
Crushed chili pepper

Method:

  1. Begin heating a large pot of boiling water for orzo.
  2. Wash chicken pieces thoroughly under cold water, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and brown the chicken over medium heat (approx. 2-3 minutes on each side). Remove chicken from pan into a large bowl and cover.
  3. If the dutch oven appears dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil and sautee red onion with a pinch of salt and pepper for about one minute over high heat, until it begins to get slightly limp. Add 1 1/2 cups white wine and deglaze pan (scraping chicken remains from the bottom to loosen).
  4. Return the chicken to the dutch oven, layering figs in between chicken pieces. Douse with the whole pint of orange juice. Add a little water if necessary to submerge all chicken pieces. Add one bay leaf, 1 teaspoon dried chives, and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer with lid on for about 20 minutes or until chicken begins to loosen from the bone and is fully cooked.
  5. Remove chicken to a covered bowl to keep warm. Turn heat to high and reduce sauce by about one third (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile, pour orzo into boiling water and cook until al dente (approx. 6 minutes).
  6. In a large skillet, melt two tablespoons butter. Sautee diced red bell pepper with a pinch of salt and pepper until it begins to soften.
    Drain orzo and add to saucepan, combining with butter and red pepper mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. To serve: Place a mound of orzo on a plate. Place a few chicken pieces on top of orzo and spoon out a few whole figs. Drizzle with reduced sauce and top with a sprinkling of dried chives.
"Halvah" with Oranges and Kiwi

Ingredients:
2 cups coarse semolina (plain couscous)
3/4 cup canola or sunflower oil
1 1/2 cups white, granulated sugar
4 cups water
2 teaspoons dried orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sliced kiwi
Oranges, cut into thin wedges
Ground cinnamon
1/2 cup honey

Method:

  1. In a large saucepan, combine water, sugar, and vanilla extract. Heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large heavy pan, heat oil until almost smoking. Add the semolina (couscous). Stir it constantly with a wooden spoon, toast it over medium heat until it begins to turn golden brown (about 3 to 5 minutes). Add dried orange peel and toast one more minute.
  3. Carefully pour water/sugar/vanilla extract mixture into hot semolina (be careful of splattering because the sugar can increase the heat) and stir. Lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently until all the liquid is absorbed and semolina becomes very thick (it should begin to pull away from the pan when you pull the spoon through it). Remove from heat.
  4. Lightly oil a shallow bowl or copper mold and fill with cooked semolina, pushing down lightly to fill every bit of mold. Smooth off the top with a knife and let cool in mold for about 10 minutes.
  5. Place plate on semolina-filled mold and carefully turn over. Lift the mold off semolina. Surround the semolina with kiwi and oranges. Drizzle the semolina with honey. Dust with a little cinnamon and serve.
About the winner:
Christopher Bakken and his wife, Kerry, reside in Meadville, Pa. He based his recipes on his years living in Greece. He and his wife are both professors at Allegheny College. She teaches creative writing. and he teaches English.

He recently published a book of poetry titled "After Greece," which was awarded the T.S. Eliot prize in poetry.

You can find his book at major bookstores and online at www.amazon.com.

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