What comes to mind when you think of summer produce?
For the two chefs competing in the culinary challenge at the Minneapolis Farmers Market last weekend, it was corn soup and more corn soup, each with a Tex-Mex or Mexican theme.
And the judges couldn’t have been happier (or hungrier).
Executive chef Joe Rolle of Il Foro won the title of Master of the Market for his version that included a fresh vegetable medley of green beans, marinated tomatoes, jalapeño pesto and tomatillos, along with an unexpected ingredient of smoked trout. Rolle noted that this was his favorite time of year to cook.
Executive chef Steve Hesse of Libertine presented a soup that incorporated jalapeños, radishes, cilantro, Cotija (the Mexican cheese) and Tajin seasoning, with a surprise garnish of kettle corn. On this hot and very humid day, as contestants and onlookers wiped their brows, Hesse noted that only the day before it had been 120 degrees in his restaurant kitchen.
“The biggest challenge today was the heat,” he said.
Rolle won by the slimmest of margins; a single vote determined which of the silky soups went home with the prize.
The competitors were the first in the four years of the contest to both feature corn.
The contest began with Rolle and Hesse racing through the farmers market for 20 minutes to gather the ingredients they would need for the recipes. Contest rules allowed them to bring vinegar, milk, spices and sugar from their restaurant; at the market they were provided with olive oil, salt and pepper. All of the remaining ingredients had to come from the market itself.
Then they had 30 minutes to prepare the dish, with the aid of an assistant (Jordan Young from Il Foro and Niki Heber from Libertine).
The dishes delighted judges Chris Nye, chef de cuisine from Spoon and Stable of Minneapolis; Stephanie Meyer, author, photographer and cooking instructor, and me.
In all likelihood, most of us will need more than 30 minutes to prepare these soups — unless we have an efficient assistant and a good set of knives. But it won’t take much longer, at least with a little practice.
I intend to practice.