Before I could protest (it’s not disgusting; it’s merely falling apart), she told me that she thought of my nailed-shut cabinets while reading about the Aetna Healthy Food Fight, a contest with a grand prize of $10,000 in new kitchen appliances.
“You’re a great cook, and a healthy cook, too,” my sister said. “You should enter one of your recipes and try to win.”
It was the height of summer here in the Garden State, with bins overflowing at every farm stand. So I entered “Salmon Smothered in New Jersey Summer,” which I adapted ever so slightly from the original recipe in Leslie Glover Pendleton’s 2000 cookbook “Simply Shrimp, Salmon, and Fish Steaks.” The recipe is not only healthy, but it’s also one of my biggest crowd-pleasers, with the fish doused in freshly diced heirloom tomatoes, basil, lemon juice, and olive oil. I serve it at least once a week every August alongside height-of-the-season New Jersey sweet corn, with local blueberries for dessert. Rave reviews every time, I typed into my online entry form.
And then I promptly forgot about the contest. With thousands of entrants, I figured, my chances were slim.
The call came today, alerting me that judges from the Culinary Institute of America have selected my recipe as one of the top-scoring entries from my region of the United States. I now move on to Round 2, in which I will cook this weekend against about 45 other contestants. While Round 1 was judged on nutrition value alone, Round 2 is also judged on taste and presentation.
Ten of these Round 2 cook-offs are happening around the country, and the 10 regional winners will be flown to Los Angeles for Round 3, which is cooking a “healthy Thanksgiving dinner” from the same ingredients as the other contestants. Iron Chefs Bobby Flay and Cat Cora will be among the judges. The winner will take home the $10,000 in kitchen appliances.
I figure that if I win, it will actually cost me $10,000 because I’ll need new cabinets and counter-tops to go with the swanky new fridge and stove. Maybe I’ll put my name in at “Extreme Home Makeover,” too, just in case I’m the lucky 1-in-45 this weekend.