I’m never too busy to lend my palate as a culinary judge, especially when it involves six of the most popular food trucks in Orange County and supporting local farmers at one of my favorite local farmers markets. So when, SoCo Farmers Market came a callin’, I jumped at the chance to act as a judge for the Farm 2 Food Truck Challenge 3.
Farm to Food Truck may not seem synonymous at first, but this is how it works:
The event begins with the judges choosing one ingredient each, which are mandatory ingredients to be used in the Challenge. The rules are simple: Chefs have 60 minutes to dash through the market to choose their ingredients, plan their dish, and make a small tasting portion for six judges. The chefs must include the six farmers markets ingredients pre-chosen by the judges, a protein of choice, and their choice of one “cheat” ingredient, such as tortillas, not sold at the farmers market. They are welcome to use any additional Farmer’s Market ingredients and their pantry ingredients such as olive oil and spices.
The ingredients chosen by the judges for this challenge were fresh orange juice from Bautista Creek, Bee Ladies local honey, cherimoya, squash blossoms, artichoke, and Baba Foods pita chips. All available at the farmers market that day. A last minute substitution had to be made when it was determined that the cherimoyas were not at their sweetest ripeness and they were replaced by brussels sprouts. What!? As you’ll see, the results were amazing!
Chomp Chomp Nation’s chefs drew a crowd, as they worked feverishly.
At the end of the allotted time, the judges are served one dish at a time for a blind tasting and score the competing Food Truck Chefs based on the rules above and the following criteria.
1. Creative use of farm fresh ingredients, worth 50 point. Not using a mandatory ingredient is a 15 point deduction
2. Taste, worth 25 points
3, Presentation, worth 25 points
Barcelona On the Go created a stunning dish with grilled octopus.
Taco Maria left us speechless with their sublime summer salad.
The competition was intense with appealing dishes that wowed our palate created by each of the trucks. In the end, the winners were:
- 3rd Place: Barcelona OntheGo with octopus three ways over artichoke-brussel sprout hash, saffron carrot puree, orange beurre blanc, beer-battered squash blossom, and a jerez vinegar pita crisp
- 2nd Place: Taco Maria with sage honey ricotta, apricot orange puree, black garlic aioli, artichoke scented with coriander, baby squash and squash blossoms
- 1st Place: Seabirds Truck with an artichoke & cashew cream cheese-stuffed squash blossom over a salad of baby mixed greens, summer cilantro, California cherries, grilled brussel sprouts and pita croutons with a sage honey & orange juice vinaigrette
Seabirds truck took first place with their stuffed squash blossoms punctuated with cherries for a taste explosion.
SoCo Farmers Market manager Anais Tangie has hinted that Seabirds truck will have their winning dish on the menu next Saturday, July 7th. In the meantime, Chef Stephanie Morgan has generously offered the recipe for her winning Stuffed Squash Blossoms. Head over to SoCo, located at the SoCo Collection Retail Center at 3315 Hyland Avenue in Costa Mesa, and pick up some squash blossoms (better get there early – squash blossoms go quickly), fresh fruits and veggies for the week ahead, enjoy the beautiful day and start the weekend off right with music, fun, and lunch from one of the many gourmet food trucks that gather there every Saturday.
Seabird’s Stuffed Squash Blossoms
“Artichoke and Cashew Cream Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossoms over Brussels Sprouts and Mixed Greens with Orange Sage Honey Dressing”
4 Squash Blossoms (or 1 per person), rinsed and dried
2 cups baby mixed greens
1 cup cashew cream cheese (recipe below)
2 cups beer batter (recipe below)
½ cup Orange Sage Honey Dressing (recipe below)
¼ cup summer cilantro, leaves only (not the same as regular cilantro)
½ cup farmers market cherries, halved and pitted
4 brussels sprouts, stems removed and sliced thin
2 shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cooking oil
1. Artichoke: Cut off the outer leaves, and an inch off the bottom and top of the artichoke and steam in water with lemon for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Then cut away leaves and remove choke until you are left with the heart and stem. Remove outer layer of the stem and any rough part on the bottom. Roughly chop what is left- the heart and stem. Heat a sauté pan with 1 tsp oil. Add 1 diced shallot and 1 minced garlic clove and satue for a few minutes. Before garlic starts to brown, add the chopped artichoke and cook for 5-10 minutes or until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. Brussels: Heat a sauté pan with 1 tsp oil over medium heat. Add the sliced brussels sprouts and the remaining shallots and garlic. Let them cook down, stirring requently. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove when they start to brown. Set aside to cool.
3. Salad: Rinse and dry the mixed greens and summer cilantro leaves. Toss with the salad dressing, cooled brussels sprouts and cherries. Top with pita chip croutons if desired.
4. Stuffing the Blossoms and Plating: Squeeze cream cheese filling ¾ of the squash blossom. Twist the top gently. May need to use a toothpick to keep it tight at the top. Gently dip into beer batter (recipe below) and fry for 30 seconds or until light golden brown.
Place a handful of the prepared salad on a plate and gently rest the fried squash blossom on top or next to the greens. You can use any left over salad dressing to drizzle over the squash blossom.
For the Orange Sage Honey Dressing:
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 T apple cider vinegar
3 T sage honey
½ t salt
½ t pepper
Whisk or blend all ingredients. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. May need to adjust honey amount based on how sweet the sweetness of the orange juice.
For the Cashew Cream Cheese:
1 cup raw cashews
½ lemon, juice + zest
1 tsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp Black Hawaiian Lava Salt (or a good quality salt if you have it, if not than kosher)
½ tsp Granulated Garlic
Soak cashews in water overnight. Drain and dry. In a food precessor, mix cashews with the rest of the ingredients. Fold in the sautéed artichokes from above. Scoop mixture into a ziplock bag with the corner cut off.
For the Beer Batter:
1 cup flour
1 T baking powder
1 tsp agave
1 tsp hot sauce
½ tsp salt
If you haven’t tried Seabirds, you know from this sublime seasonal recipe full of farm fresh goodness, that you absolutely must!
The fabulous photos and collages are courtesy of Anne Watson Photography.