Saru Gazpacho, and a Food Obstructions IV Recap

We have a new champ of the Food Obstructions, and a winning recipe that I hope everyone cooks up real soon. But first, a big, fat thank-you from Karol, David and myself to everyone who came, ate, and cooked. Together, we raised almost $600 for Just Food, the nonprofit promoting access to fresh, good food for all residents of NYC. It seems that definitely includes us, because what was even more impressive about Sunday was the smorgasbord of delicious, summery treats prepared by our new friends and neighbors. And all of them followed these rules: 1) Must be vegetarian; 2) Must contain locally-sourced honey; 3) Must contain a locally-grown vegetable; 4) Must have an ingredient that’s spherical in shape; 5) Must have a crunchy garnish.

Those were the five obstructions to the cook-off this time around. And here are the dishes contestants cooked within these constraints:

Spencer Beggs’ blueberry gelato, raspberry-rhubarb syrup and pistachio sundae

Noah Berland’s honey currant truffle with salty beet chips

Megan Spence’s scones with coddled cream and currant preserves

Emily Hanhan’s glazed carrot cupcakes with currants, walnuts and carrot-vanilla frosting

Mike Caprio’s blueberry buckle

It was a bit of a battle between the savory and the sweet, as about half the contests went for a dessert (honey was one of the must-have ingredients, after all). As you can tell, blueberries and currants made a big splash, and as overheard from some of the contestants, it was because they were the only spherical things to be found at the Greenmarket this past Saturday. I didn’t snag a photo of one entry, which was a colorful carrot cake drizzled with syrup and strewn with nuts made by Gelseigh Karl and Dima Kislovsky — apologies, and it was great! And here are the rest:

Shana Wright’s spinach and chickpea dumplings with cashew-lime sauce

Meredith Bethune’s cucumber honeydew gazpacho

Dave Klopfenstein’s sweet pea suppli (fried risotto balls) with honey-olive oil sauce

Christina and Alix’s Indian-spiced quinoa with lots of veggies and peanuts

Among the savory entries, peas, peanuts and chickpeas all made appearances as the spheres, but aside from that, everyone went in pretty different directions. I should note that I learned a lot from the contestants: thanks to Dave for explaining that the proper name for deep-fried balls of leftover risotto is suppli to Italians; and Mike, I’m ashamed I never knew before the Southern term for something similar to a cobbler or crisp, “buckle.” Keep ’em coming, folks.

Gelseigh helps an attendee fill up a plate

Spencer (left) and Megan prepare their bite-sized tastes

Mike shows how a blueberry buckle is done

The other food discovery of the day for me — and the one that took home first prize — was saru. It’s an Indian tomato and lentil soup, a humble-sounding dish that Chitra Agrawal turned on its head first by serving it chilled, like a gazpacho, and second, third and fourth by adding chunks of creamy avocado to it, topping it with cotija cheese, and sprinkling crisp balls of chickpea flour called boondi for garnish. And a whole lot more, as evidenced in the recipe below (the photo of this dish is at top). Served hot, I’m sure that this soup would have been yummy. But chilled and pleasantly thick from the pureed lentils, and bright with spices and lime, it was the perfect slurp for the hot summer day.

A lot of other voters agreed. As usual, everyone who attended the Food Obstructions was given a scorecard on which to rank their top five favorite entries. After adding up all the favorites and calculating the average, we came up with the five ultimate winners of the day. Here they are:

5th Place: Honey Currant Truffle by Noah Berland
4th Place: Scones with Currant Preserves and Coddled Cream by Megan Spence
3th Place: Sweet Pea Suppli by Dave Klopfenstein
2nd Place: Spinach Chickpea Dumpling (the official name on the ballot was actually, “You Want A What? A Dumpling!”) by Shana Wright
1st Place: Saru Gazpacho by Chitra Agrawal

Honorable Mention: Indian Quinoa by Christina and Alix

left to right: Chitra Agrawal, Shana Wright and Noah Berland

It looks like the audience voted they wanted their savory meal first, desserts second. I’m just glad there was both to go around. It was hard to see so many good entries walk away without an official mention, but our hope is that everyone just had a good time above all. Each contestant came away with a gift certificate for a freebie egg cream at the newly opened Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Shoppe (owned by our good friend Petey). Many thanks to the other local businesses who donated generous prizes, too: The Brooklyn Kitchen with a $50 gift certificate to the 2nd place winner; Radish restaurant and food shop with a gift certificate for the 3rd place; Anarchy in a Jar jams and My Friend’s Mustard; and Analon for providing the big kahuna prize, a ten-piece Ultra Clad cookware set. We’ll sure Chitra will put it to good use.

Finally, here’s Chitra’s winning recipe for the chilled soup that sunk them all. Cold, spicy, sour, sweet, rich and filling, I really can’t say enough good stuff about it. Oh yes — cheap and healthy! This dish happened to win by a landslide, more than thirty points, so I’ll shut my mouth and just let that speak for itself. Was it your favorite out of them, too?

Chitra Agrawal’s “Saru Gazpacho”
(makes 3 quarts)

Follow this saru recipe, spicy tomato lentil soup from South India (Note: For the cook off, I substituted raw, unfiltered honey for the jaggery — concentrated cane juice — in the recipe.)
1 red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed
1 green bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed
2 kirby cucumbers, peeled, seeded
1 medium tomato, rough chop
1/4 pint yellow cherry tomatoes
1 medium red onion
2 garlic cloves, rough chop
1/4 cup good olive oil
lime juice to taste
sherry vinegar to taste
tabasco sauce to taste
black pepper
1 avocado, cubed small
1 handful of cilantro leaves chopped
For garnish:
queso fresco
cilantro leaves
boondi (fried chickpea flour balls) – can buy in the Indian store
*Please note that you can use more or less of the gazpacho ingredients above depending on your preference so could be helpful to add and taste as you go.
Chill the saru and puree in a blender or with a hand mixer. Leave aside a small portion of red and green pepper, cucumber and red onion that you will chop into little pieces and add to the soup at the end to give some more texture. In batches, puree the remaining peppers, cucumber, onion, garlic, tomatoes with the olive oil and add some of the pureed saru to help the blending.
Combine all of the purees into one dish with the chopped veggies you had put aside. Add sherry vinegar, tabasco sauce, lime juice, salt, pepper to your liking. Chill in the fridge for minimum 3 hours or overnight.
Add in the chopped cilantro and avocado. Right before serving garnish with queso fresco, cilantro and boondi.
Cost Calculator, Health Factor and Green Factor ratings respectfully omitted for guest recipes

8 Responses

  1. Betty Roderick

    Great event with lots of good food. Congratulations Cathy, David and Karol. I had a great time.

  2. Meredith

    Thanks for posting the pics. It was a great event!

  3. Jack Welsch

    Great pictures… Indian food is really tasty and also easy to make.

    I nowadays make this ready to eat Indian curries. Very very easy to make..
    Order them online from the indian store ( ) and just heat and eat

    I am sure then all of you would like Indian food.

  4. Simply Sunday…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  5. Tony Bors

    Interesting article.. Would love to see more of this.. Awesome blog btw! Subscribed

  6. […] …which gets fried into pea risotto suppli for the fourth edition of the Food Obstructions. […]

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  8. […] Last Sunday, I prepared a dish for the 4th Food Obstructions Cookoff. I was really excited for this event because it was also a fundraiser for Just Food, an organization I volunteer for. I made my recipe for saru gazpacho and it won! […]

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