Today we have an entrant for the first course of the Diced! competition. Contestants were instructed to create or find a recipe for an appetizer, soup or salad containing the following ingredients: Peach Preserves (or jam or jelly), Pita Bread, Regular carrots (baby ones would be acceptable) and Prosciutto. They were instructed to make their dish and create a blog post about it, including pictures. You can help determine who advances to the next round. On Friday, after the last post, I will post a poll where you can vote for up to four of the contestants to move on. Vote for the post you like the best. You can vote because of the inventiveness, the yummyness, the use of ingredients, the quality of the writing and pictures or for any other reason. The poll will be active for one week only. Check back and vote. In the event of a tie, the Ranting Chef will choose who advances. More information about Diced! can be found here.
Today’s contestant, AJAX is a former F-16 pilot and blogger over at Like A Fighter Pilot. His posts, as demonstrated below, contain entries for mind, boy and spirit. Check out his blog and his Diced! entry below…
Buck a Bullet?
Top Hat F-16 Strafing (Photo by Brian Lockett)
Mind – Here’s to the Ranting Chef for putting on the Diced Cooking Competition! After reading Pat’s blog, I knew I wanted in because fighter pilots love to compete. LIKEAFIGHTERPILOT.com focuses on Mind, Body, and Spirit through attempts at humor, fitness, tasty yet expedient food, and good thoughts—sometimes with success, sometimes not so much. LIKEAFIGHTERPILOT.com attempts to describe how to think, train, eat, play and pray like a fighter pilot, or at least laugh along in the process. Since the Ranting Chef threw down the gauntlet, a quick story about a favorite fighter pilot competition is in order. For the starving foodies, skip to the recipe of the day.
As I put my ideas for the cooking competition together, I felt like I was strapping into my jet, and as the plans formulated, my adrenaline flowed. Who would have guessed cooking and flying could evoke some of the same emotions? Believe it or not, flying fighters and cooking require similar traits—creativity, adaptability, and perseverance.
Competition can spark new friendships, develop teamwork, build esprit de corps, and improve overall performance; great reasons to compete no matter the endeavor. Bombing and gunnery competitions, tracked closely by all fighter squadrons, usually spark the most interest. When flying fighters everyone wants to be the Top Gun, but when it comes to cooking and blogging, we want to be The Ranting Chef!
Pilots spend a copious amount of time studying flight parameters, tracking aircraft performance, evaluating previous missions, and working on techniques to improve scores. We also experiment to see what works best and adjust on the fly during the competition to adapt to current conditions. Each bomb we drop is scored by the range control officer and is called out over the radio. Four aircraft circle the target from high above, each taking turns hoping to hear the call “Shack 1!” meaning the bomb hit the target directly. The pressure mounts as the other aircraft roll in and the scores are called out. Low angle strafe marks the last event of the mission and the winner usually walks away with the prize, but until the tapes are reviewed, the outcome is uncertain.
Bomb On Target (Photo by Brian Lockett)
Once the mission is over, the four-ship debriefs and evaluates individual performance looking for any violations of the rules, or deviations in airspeed, altitude, and other specific parameters. Offenses on a pass cause the score to be thrown out and a loss of points for the errant pilot. Points and reputations are not the only thing on the line; pilots usually make the “standard bet”—a quarter for each strafing pass and bomb dropped, equating to $3.50 per pilot. On rare occasions brazen wingmen chime in and try to raise the stakes to a “Buck a Bullet!” meaning $100 for most training missions. For high stakes competitions the gun limiter is removed making 5 seconds of trigger time available… or 500 bullets/bucks! One thing about competitions, know your competitors. I have zero intel, so I’ll stick with quarters until the culinary chefs-d’oeuvres of Maggie, Mikaela, Ellie and Jenna are posted.
Body – Strength Day
LtCol Frank “Bruiser” Bryant
“The Bruiser” – In memory of Lieutenant Colonel Frank “Bruiser” Bryant Jr.
3x Progressive Ladders
A progressive ladder is 1 rep per rung, then 2 reps per rung, then 3 reps per rung. Each ladder is a set rungs of the exercises below with weights prescribed. Scale as required for ability and strength.
Bench Press, 225lbs, 205lbs, 185lbs
Dead Lift 355lbs, 335lbs, 315lbs
Front Squat 185lbs, 165lbs, 135lbs
Overhead Squat 135lbs, 105lbs, 95lbs
Standing Military Press 135lbs, 105lbs, 95lbs
Squat 355 lbs, 335 lbs, 315lbs
Weighted Pull Ups 40lbs, 20lbs, Body Weight
Recipe of the Day
Seared Jumbo Scallops Glazed with Peach and Carrot Sauce
By AJAX, inspired by Lisa and Janice
Photos by AJAX
When Pat sent out the required ingredients list for the Diced Competition my mind started to churn on the possibilities. Should I go for the salad? Spring greens, carrots, peach vinaigrette topped with prosciutto, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and pita croutons…sounded easy enough. Hmmm, maybe a split pea and carrot soup filled with peach fried prosciutto and pita on the side for dipping? Then my mind went to the appetizer category. Maybe I would try a pita wrap sliced into rounds filled with peach glazed lamb, prosciutto, goat cheese, peppers, and carrots? All of them sounded wonderful. Each was from scratch and formulated in my head. Remember the creativity thing? I didn’t want to cook from some recipe I had found. This might be risky …what if the recipe was a total flop? “Don’t be lame.” I thought, “Attack!” “Go for it!” I felt like the new wingman chiming in with “A Buck a Bullet!” Surely my competition is filled with steely-eyed veteran chefs and bloggers, but I have learned with risk will come reward if properly prepared.
As I discussed the possibilities with my wife Lisa, I decided to go for the appetizer. I initially settled on the Pita wrap, but then my friend Janice suggested scallops as the protein portion of the appetizer. “Perfect!” I thought, now I just need to execute the mission.
Serves 4-6, prep time ~20 minutes
1 medium carrot
1/3 cup of 100% carrot juice
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 Tablespoons of Tamari sauce
1/3 cup of peach preserves
1/2 cup of dry cooking sherry
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1/2 pound of fresh jumbo dry scallops
3 ounces of thin sliced prosciutto
4 ounces of goat cheese
1 peach in small 1/2” wedges
1 red pepper from jar grilled, peeled, seeded and cored (better if fresh but I went for time savings).
2 rounds of 6” pita bread
1. Assemble all the ingredients. Pre-heat the oven broiler to high with a shelf on the top and middle. Place a pizza stone on the middle rack for toasting the pita.
2. Peel and slice the carrot into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Place into a blender or food processor with the carrot juice and puree.
This is where I ran into my first hiccup. I guess I figured since the button said liquefy I could make carrot juice out of carrots. All it did was make little tiny chunks, so I added 100% carrot juice to give the blades slurry with better results.
3. Heat a skillet on high heat with the canola oil until just prior to smoking. Sear the scallops until brown on each side, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
4. Combine in a medium bowl 2 tablespoons of the carrot puree, peach preserves, brown sugar, and tamari sauce.
5. Dump extra oil out of the hot skillet. Pour in the cooking sherry; reduce and scrape any seared scallop off the bottom. When the sherry has reduced to about a quarter, pour in the bowl of carrot, peach preserves, brown sugar, and tamari. Continue to reduce until sauce thickens and turns darker, about 4-5 minutes on medium-high heat, stir frequently. Set aside.
6. Cut the scallops into approximately one half by three quarter inch cubes. Depending on the size of the scallop this is probably about sixths. Place the pieces on a plate and brush them with the peach carrot glaze. Tear pieces of the prosciutto into roughly 2”x2” squares and wrap each scallop. Place each prosciutto-scallop wrap, seam down, on a 1”x1” piece of the red pepper in a small baking pan and then brush generously with glaze.
This is the second area where I went wrong. I initially had larger pieces of scallops and had a good chuckle as Lisa tried to muck down a “bite” size piece of the final product. Several iterations revealed the best size.
7. Separate the pita pockets horizontally in to two round halves, like a mini-single layer pizza crust.
Adapting on the fly and learning was key for this step. We tried the pita toasted several ways, whole, quartered, etc., but found that the best taste was with a pita that was broiled crispy like a cracker as a single layer sheet.
8. Place the prosciutto wrapped scallops on the top rack and the pita on the pizza stone. Keep an eye on them both so as not to burn either. Broil the scallops until the prosciutto starts to brown crystallizing the glaze as the pita toasts light brown. The scallops should be done first in about 2-3 minutes with the pita done shortly after.
9. Remove the scallops and pitas from the oven. Cut the pita into sixths. Smear a thin layer of goat cheese on the pita then stack with the peaches and prosciutto-scallops held together with a toothpick. Variations included peppers, peaches, or pears.
Final assembly took several iterations and experiments to see what we liked best. At first we just used warmed pita, red peppers and the prosciutto wrapped scallop but the pita was too gooey and didn’t add to the appetizer. Here we adapted on the fly and decided to toast the pita until crispy like a cracker then spread a layer of goat cheese on before adding the prosciutto-scallop. Bingo! This was the taste I was looking for. Here I tried several iterations with and without the pepper, then tried the sliced peaches as a replacement to the pepper. What we finally liked best was the toasted crunchy pita, goat cheese, sliced peach and glazed prosciutto scallop.
As a final note, although I didn’t have the time to try this, I believe the absolute best combo would include caramelized baked peaches.
Spirit – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
Remember – check back after the last post to vote on who advances in the Diced! competition.