If there was any doubt that you can make flavorful meals fast, Sameh Wadi and Jack Riebel put that to rest Saturday. The two chefs, from Saffron and Butcher & the Boar, respectively, competed at the Minneapolis Farmers Market for the title of "Master of the Market." Their task was to prepare a dish from fresh items at the market and do so within 30 minutes.
They hardly broke a sweat at the stove after first dashing through the market stalls to find the best produce and meats for their recipes, dodging customers and vendors, as they reached for the bacon and trout, tomatoes, cantaloupe and cheese that would make up their dishes.
Then it was on to the cooking stage. "This is more stressful than 'Iron Chef.' It's Jack Riebel," said Wadi at the start of the competition. By 11 minutes from deadline, Riebel noted, "Stress, stress, stress."
But neither seemed too worried as they calmly -- though hastily -- cooked their way to the end results.
For Riebel, it was a stunning beer-cheese "deconstructed" BLT soup, a mound of tomato slices topped with a thick slice of maple-glazed bacon and sliver of Gouda cheese, with a mild beer-cheese soup poured around it.
For Wadi, it was a fragrant three-course meal of an heirloom tomato salad with charred-tomato vinaigrette, a trout and vegetable tagine, and a chilled melon soup for dessert, which ultimately won the judges' vote. (I was among the four judges.)
Riebel and Wadi have far more cooking prowess than most of us at the dinner table, but their fast work reminds us that good food is possible in even a time-pressed kitchen.
The Chef Challenge was part of a multi-city contest sponsored by Country Financial and, here, the Minneapolis Farmers Market. For more recipes, go to www.countrychefchallenge.com.