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Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County

By Heidi Sutton

Teamwork was the key ingredient at this year’s Junior Iron Chef competition. The annual event, now in its 7th year, was held on March 9 at Whole Foods in Lake Grove. Hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, the one-day cooking challenge, described as “part ‘Chopped,’ part ‘Iron Chef,’ and part ‘Food Network Challenge,’” gave middle and high school students the opportunity to work in groups of three to five to complete a delicious dish of their choosing in under an hour. Fifteen teams from all over Long Island competed this year for the ultimate title of Junior Iron Chef.

“This is an amazing event,” said DJ Anthony Cafaro, from WEHM, who has served as the event’s emcee since its inception. “It’s cool to see some repeat competitors from year’s past and it’s awesome to see a lot of new competitors here,” he said.

The purpose of the event was to encourage budding chefs to learn new cooking skills and lead a healthier lifestyle while promoting the use of local food to support our local farmers and environment. Each team was required to  create a new healthy vegetarian or vegan based recipe that used local ingredients and could be easily implemented into school cafeteria menus.

“This is the seventh year I’ve done this and by far this was the greatest year with the best flavors,” said Cafaro as he tasted all the dishes.

Celebrity chefs Kayla Mitchell and William Connor helped judge the event last Saturday.

Among the 11 judges who graded the dishes based on flavor, health value, creativity and presentation was 14-year-old William Connor from Northport, a past contestant on “Chopped Junior” on the Food Network,  and 13-year-old Kayla Mitchell of Center Moriches who was a contestant on the third season of “MasterChef Junior” on Fox Broadcasting.

High school teams were given a secret ingredient at the last minute, a Sumo Citrus, to incorporate into their dish. Some chose to use the peel, others the juice. While the teams created their dishes, Cafaro kept the ever-growing crowd entertained with fun trivia and giveaways to places like the Long Island Aquarium and concerts.

While the judges deliberated, Executive Chef Jason Keubler and Anthony Cafaro visited each station, tasting each dish and giving feedback to the aspiring chefs. While Cafaro raved over everything that was put in front of him, Keubler gave positive feedback, from “These eggs are spot on,” “Flavors are very balanced,” “Great knife skills,” to pointing out the cleanliness of their workstation and asking them what their greatest obstacle was. “It’s all about teamwork and it shows in your work,” he complimented one team.

First place in the middle school division went to Team G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) from Seneca Middle School in Holbrook. Students Leah Ferraro, Sofia Iacono, Jacqueline Volo and Gianna Scolaro, guided by coach Robert Frontino, won the judges over with their creative Caribbean Breakfast Salad, which was comprised of cinnamon sugared French toast, grilled pineapple and arugula salad with goat cheese, topped with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

“That’s insanely good,” drooled Cafaro as he reached for a napkin. “The cinnamon and the goat cheese go so well together,” agreed Chef Jason. “The color is super vibrant, the spiciness goes with the sweetness with nice textures. Beautiful presentation,” he said adding that he was impressed by how nicely they worked together “just like in a professional kitchen.”

Second place was awarded to The 3 Breakfasteers from Suffolk County 4-H Trailblazers of Yaphank for their Vanilla Fruit Crepes filled with whipped cream and diced strawberries and garnished with blueberries. Corey Burke, Alexis Vladikin, Nora Nemickas and coach Nicole Vickovich made up the team.

The Junior Porters from Greenport Union Free School District grabbed third place for their Mediterranean Breakfast Crepe with an Herbed Whipped Cream. Coached by Katherine Ryan, Rocio Azama, DeShawn Solla, Aleyana Gungar, Ayania Smith and Brynn Dinizio were awarded for their healthy crepe stuffed with baby spinach, sundried tomatoes, black olives and low-fat feta cheese.

Team Almost Master Chef from Sachem North High School in Ronkonkoma captured first place in the high school division. Kaitlyn Seitz, Hailey McKishi, Kayla Salvate and Victoria Corcaran, under the guidance of coach Lindsey Shelhorse, impressed the judges with their Brunch For Lunch Chilaquiles dish featuring homemade tortilla shells topped with fried egg, cheese, onion and cilantro.

Second place was awarded to the Greenport High School’s Bacon Bits – Jhon Ramirez, Tommy Tsaveras, Colin Rossetti, Mateo Arias and Charles Staples – for their Gyro Style Veggie Burger on Whole Wheat Pita, which was served with sautéed onions and tzatziki sauce with a cucumber garnish. The team was coached by Marianne Ladalia.

The Salt Shakers from the Suffolk County 4-H Trailblazers garnered third place. Olivia Unger and Lexington Carrera, under the guidance of coach Adrienne Unger, were given high marks for their crispy Potato Latkes topped with a dollop of sour cream and garnished with chives and scallions.

The Mise en Place (everything in its place) awards were presented to Seneca Middle School’s Taco Bellas (Emma Bollinger, Amanda Madigan, Madeline Turano and Adrianna Sigler with coach Robert Frontino) and Almost Master Chef.

The Public Presentation awards, for the team with the best poster/informational display and judge presentation, were presented to G.O.A.T. and Bacon Bits.

“The kids today were just tremendous,” said Vito Minei, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. “This is truly a Long Island Junior Iron Chef competition with teams coming all the way from Floral Park, Franklin Square and Greenport,” he added. “I want to thank all the parents and families.You should be proud. These kids were fabulous. They all practiced teamwork and each child had an opportunity to shine.”

Brunch for Lunch Chilaquiles 

by Team Almost Top Chef, first place winners in the high school division

Ingredients

Tortilla Shell

10.5 ounces of all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup vegetable oil

7-8 ounces of hot water (110-120F)

Sauce

Diced yellow onion

Diced and seeded jalapeño

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon ground chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon salt, to taste

Pinch of cinnamon

Can of tomato paste

2 cups vegetable broth

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Filling and Topping Ingredients

Can of drained and rinsed black beans

12 oz. Fiesta Blend Cheese (365 Everyday Value Brand)

3 oz. cotija

Diced red onion

Cilantro

6 Eggs

Directions

 Instructions for sauce

  1. Sauté the diced onion and jalapenos to the pan.
  2. Crush and smash cloves of garlic and salt and add to the onion mixture.  Add the cumin and chili powder.  Add the flour, oregano, garlic powder and salt into a small bowl and place it near the stove.
  3. Add the flour/spice mixture.
  4. While whisking constantly, cook until fragrant and slightly deepened in color, about 1 minute. Whisk the tomato paste into the mixture, then slowly pour in the broth while whisking constantly to remove any lumps.
  5. Raise heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, whisking often, for about 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, then whisk in the vinegar and season to taste with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Add more salt, if necessary.
  7. Stir in the black beans

Instructions for tortillas

To make the dough: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour in the lesser amount of hot water (plus the oil, if you’re using it), and stir briskly with a fork or whisk to bring the dough together into a shaggy dough.Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead briefly, just until the dough forms a ball. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Round the pieces into balls, flatten slightly, and allow them to rest, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Preheat ungreased cast iron griddle or skillet over medium high heat, about 400°F. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into a round about 8″ in diameter. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Fry the tortilla in the ungreased pan for about 30 seconds on each side. Then cut into wedges and fry them and add salt to taste.

Assembling

Fry the eggs. Layer the fried tortilla shell with spoonful of sauce and cheese.  Top with the fried egg, more cheese, dice red onion and cilantro.

Caribbean Breakfast Salad

By Team G.O.A.T., first place winners in the middle school division

Ingredients

16 oz of arugula

8 oz of goat cheese

2 boxes of raspberries (7 oz. each)

1 pineapple

1 loaf challah bread

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. oregano

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

1/4 cinnamon

4 eggs

2 tbsp honey

Directions

Challah French Toast

Preheat skillet to 350 degrees. Mix eggs in large bowl. In a separate bowl mix sugars and cinnamon. Dip the challah bread slices into egg mixture and then the sugar blend. Cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Arugula Salad

Mix oil, vinegar, honey and mustard and whip until blended. Strain the raspberries. Add raspberry juice to oil mixture until smooth to taste. Toss arugula, whole raspberries and cheese together with liquid dressing.

Pineapple

Cut outside skin of pineapple. Cut one inch horizontal slices. Dip in sugar mixture. Grill on both sides for 2 to 3 minutes.

All photos by Heidi Sutton

Two people enjoy a paddleboarding ride along Huntington’s shore. Photo from Katie Buttine

By Victoria Espinoza

Kayakers, canoeists and water enthusiasts in Huntington may be singing a different kind of blues in the near future.

The Huntington town board approved a plan at a July meeting to create a blueway trail, that would span from Cold Spring Harbor to Northport Bay, and highlight both historic and cultural areas along the town’s shoreline.

According to the National Park Service, a blueway trail is a water path that provides recreational boating opportunities along a river, lake, canal or coastline.

The Huntington blueway trail would be geared toward increasing awareness and use of coastal resources, while also encouraging ecotourism.

“This will provide an opportunity for residents to provide their own input, experiences and recommendations.”
—Carolyn Sukowski

Huntington Stand Up Paddle business owner Katie Buttine said a blueway trail would be an asset to both her business and customers.

“That would be awesome,” Buttine said in a phone interview. “Water sports are continuing to grow and people don’t know where they can and can’t go in the area. This would help so people would no longer be frustrated when they get to a beach and realize they can’t load there.”

Town board members unanimously approved a resolution to apply for a $76,000 New York State Environmental Protection Fund grant to undertake the project with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, a nonprofit community education agency that works to preserve the county’s heritage, protect ecosystems and provide opportunities for young people.

The project, which would begin next year and be completed in 2020, will plan a blueway starting from Cold Spring Harbor, through the Long Island Sound and the Huntington and Northport Bay complex, and ending at the mouth of Fresh Pond in Smithtown Bay.

The grant will be used to create a blueway trail map-and-guide smartphone app, and a video tour.

The guide app would include a map of the trail, as well as natural and cultural heritage points of interest. It would allow visitors easier access to trail information, better options in trip planning and increased safety through use of georeferenced maps while on the trail. Trailheads, amenities and downtown assets such as paddle sport establishments would also be identified. It could be used by people on land or water, and would be similar to guides the town has compiled for land-based activities. 

Currently, Huntington’s website features detailed information on nature trails in the area, complete with addresses, parking fees, hours and animals that may be seen in the area.

The Huntington trail would resemble others on Long Island.

A woman and dog enjoy a paddleboarding ride during sunset. Photo from Katie Buttine
A woman and dog enjoy a paddleboarding ride during sunset. Photo from Katie Buttine

Oyster Bay started working on a water path in 2010, with a similar grant and help from a community planning firm that inventoried the best-suited trailheads and amenities that provide access to recreational facilities, commercial establishments, and ecological, historical and cultural resources along the proposed trail, according to Friends of the Bay. A community survey was also conducted to let residents give input on what they thought the trail should look like.

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto praised the project in a 2012 statement:

“[It created] an exciting and unique way for people to learn about and enjoy this beautiful natural watershed and promote the many attractions in and around the harbor. The whole purpose of the blueway trail map is to provide a simple and easy way to discern the best places to stop and take in the wonderful attractions our town has to offer.”

Huntington is hoping their blueway trail will have the same effect.

Cornell Cooperative said it will be working with the town to collect public opinion, field research and more.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) introduced the resolution to the town board in July, and said the nonprofit approached him with the idea.

“[The organization] came to Huntington with a very strong project proposal, and we are very delighted to be partnering on this endeavor,” he said in an email.

Carolyn Sukowski, resource educator for the nonprofit said Huntington’s blueway path will be enriched with community contribution.

“This will provide an opportunity for residents to provide their own input, experiences and recommendations,” she said in a phone interview. She also said Cornell Cooperative plans to hold public meetings and distribute surveys that will help determine stops and points of interest on the blueway trail, and the app as well.

Cuthbertson agreed that resident feedback will be an invaluable part of the process.

“We anticipate extensive community input,” he said. “Clearly we expect that our parks, beaches, marinas and historic sites will be included, but our list will be compiled with community input.”

Sukowski said the path will have stops on the shoreline, suggestions for destinations near the water and a list of town parks.