Updated 2008-08-26 11:44:22 ID=69:0

© 2008 The Romantic Table
©2008 The Romantic Table Susan McGourty at the judges table of the Paso Robles Olive Festival Recipe Competition, Saturday, August 23rd, 2008. 2008-08-24 17:21:22:39
©2008 The Romantic Table

Susan McGourty at the judges table of the Paso Robles Olive Festival Recipe Competition, Saturday, August 23rd, 2008.

The Paso Robles Olive Festival Saturday, August 23, 2008 Downtown City Park 11 A.M. - 4P.M.

The fifth Annual Paso Robles Olive Festival was held in its picturesque downtown park. There were over one-hundred different vendors in attendance with everything from olives and olive oil tastings, to olive soaps, spices and fragrances as well as , artists, an "Open" cooking competition as well as a Chef cook-off and of course wine-tasting offered by over fourteen wineries.

This year I was honored to be a "Guest judge" at yesterday's Olive Festival's "Open cooking competition." I was anxious to see all the different interpretations of olive cooking that were going to be presented. I was also joined by four of "Paso's Finest" Emergency Services Paramedics as judges.

There were four food categories to compete: Appetizers, Tapenades, Main Dishes and Desserts.

©2008 The Romantic Table 2008-08-25 14:31:33:42
©2008 The Romantic Table

Sam Conaty, Olive Festival Co-Chair and cooking competition organizer.
There were fourteen entries from people as far away as Fresno California!

The competition started at 11 A.M. and we took each course, one entry at a time. There were five categories to evaluate each entry.: Appearance, Flavor, Creativity, Use of Ingredients, and Texture. We had to do all fourteen entries and determine the winner in each category in about forty-five minutes.

Some of the appetizers were very whimsical and showed some imagination such as a flock of penguins made by stacking a small California black olive on top of a large California black olive, with a white cream cheese breast and carrot feet.

The tapenades entries were traditional, though one had had a little more flavorful spunk and flair and a better presentation. That was the winning entry by Fresno resident Mimi Koligian.

Though there were only three entries in the Main Dish categories, they were very different recipes showing the imagination our local home-cooks.

©2008 The Romantic Table 2008-08-26 14:33:52:41
©2008 The Romantic Table

Two time First Place winner Mimi Koligian from Fresno.

First Place for "Tapenade" and First Place for "Main Dish."
The first place winner was a grilled eggplant sandwich with roasted peppers, greens and cheese in a firm- textured olive bread. I know from making sandwiches like these, the bread can make or break the quality of the sandwich -this cook had chosen wisely. This too was made by Mimi Koligian from Fresno. Her husband Keith had grown the vegetables himself.

Second pace finish was a chicken pasta. Finally a large baked red snapper with onions and black olives rounded out the entries at third place.

Finally the dessert category. We were all anxious to see how olives or olive oil were put to work in a dessert. There were only two entries in this category: A peaches and rosemary olive oil cake and a chocolate tort. Both entries were very good, but we felt that the first place winner, the Olive-oil cake, had a slight edge in presentation and flavor.

The competition ended a little before noon. I would have loved to get the names of all the winners, but everyone "took-off" with their prizes before I could get down from the Gazebo.

The volunteers that put on this event deserve an acknowledgment and a big thank you. It was quite an effort! And a special thank you to Sam Conaty who organized and ran the cooking competitions.

Competitive cooking is not an easy thing and ALL the entrants deserve kudos for their effort and willingness to share their recipes with the rest of us. It was a fun day!

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A tip from Sue!

Sauteing whole garlic

If your recipe calls for whole garlic, it doesn't burn as easily when in larger pieces. But you do need to score your garlic cloves all over in order to release the garlic juices and fragrance .Always be careful to avoid burning the cloves. It'll make the garlic cloves bitter and ruin what you're cooking.