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Jul 22, 2008 04:08 PM

ICA: Battle Zucchini

Hmm. No one seems to like the shows I like judging from my past few threads. LOL That's ok. I'll try another one I'm also surprised no one's talked about.

Sunday's Iron Chef America: Battle Zucchini (though I think they should have called it summer squash myself).

Thought it was one of the better ones. A difficult dish to bring out to the forefront.

I thought Hamilton was excellent. Amazed at her composure during the competition, though after she was like wow that was rough.

Thought they both came up with interesting dishes. Thought Bobby Flay, known for his big bold flavors was able to work with something so delicate (compared to a side of Bison, for instance) and do such a nice job. Ruhlman thought the same thing.

And such a close battle. I think the taste was either tied or one point off and she had three more points than he on originality, so if she hadn't done that odd thing in the glass, it could have been a tie.

All in all I think the best battle since the Battle Rice one with Batali a couple months back.

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  1. I don't catch most of the ICA episodes, but saw this one. I have to say that I liked this one, partly because I like Hamilton and partly because it was a non-protein one. The non-protein ones are more interesting.

    One thing that really puzzled me were the scores for plating. I thought Bobby definitely outdid Gabrielle Hamilton in the plating department. I don't think it was even close, especially as Hamilton kept referring to her 4th dish as the ugly duckling. But I believe their scores were tied!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Miss Needle

      i wanted to eat all of it. i really liked this one as well.

      1. re: Miss Needle

        I also thought Bobby had this one in the bag. Especially with Karine Bakhoum as a judge.

      2. I thought it was a good battle. The dishes looked interesting, inventive without being too weird. I wanted to try everything! And it certainly looked to me as though Hamilton deserved to win -- as much as one can judge without actually tasting the food.

        But either Michael Ruhlman needs to be smacked, or he needs to smack the editors of the show for making him look like someone who needs to be smacked.

        9 Replies
        1. re: jlafler

          >>> But either Michael Ruhlman needs to be smacked, or he needs to smack the editors of the show for making him look like someone who needs to be smacked.

          LMAO! That's Ruhlman's, ahem, "charm". :)

          I loved it when, after Ruhlman said squash has no flavor, then the next round commented on how that dish "brought out the flavor" of the squash, Karine Bakhoum said "I thought it had no flavor, Michael. Make up your mind." Zing! LOL!

          1. re: HarryK

            Michael Ruhlman (and Andrew Knowlton for that matter) is a pretentious a** that really gets under my skin. He's a writer that focuses on the food/restaurant industry who parlayed it into fanciing himself as a critic who can pick apart established chefs. I know other ICA judges also critique dishes but Ruhlman just has this condescending smug arrogance that rubs me the wrong way. Even Jeffrey Steingarten doesn't come across this way on his harsher evaluation of dishes...Steingarten seems to know that he's just a critic voicing his personal opinion, not someone who thinks that he knows better than the chefs.

            1. re: Bunson

              Having read all of Ruhlman's books and occasionally reading his blog I have a very different take on him. I think his opinions should be respected.

              1. re: tofuburrito

                I agree tofu. I've only read the Making of a Chef, but my opinion of Ruhlman changed drastically after reading it. I wasn't a fan at all of his before, he seemed very egotistical and obnoxious. Soul of a Chef is next on my reading list!

                1. re: sibeats

                  part of ruhlman's problem is his facial expression with the way he curls his lip. the first time i ever saw him i couldn't decide whether he was constipated, or had just gotten a whiff of something putrid. either way, it makes him seem as though he's perpetually on the verge of snarking at someone.

                  i thought this was a great battle, and chef hamilton was very impressive. i've never eaten at prune, but i want to go after watching this. i liked the fact that they introduced a new judge, although i'd have been even happier if she had *replaced* KB. she was actually rather tame in this episode, but that woman just rubs me he wrong way.

                  i have to ask...did anyone else find it odd that the judges were so impressed by the pairing of zucchini with mint & lemon? they were all acting as though it was a totally unique & brilliant combination that no one had ever tried before. i don't know about you guys, but i've been using those ingredients together pretty much since i started cooking.

                  i also agree with harry - it should have been called battle summer squash.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    >>> did anyone else find it odd that the judges were so impressed by the pairing of zucchini with mint & lemon?

                    Though I've never tried that combination, when I heard of it it sounded to me like something one might find in say Sardinia or Greece; definitely very Mediterranean flavors there. And supposedly these folks, the judges, love to talk about how they travel the world, so yeah, seemed very odd.

                    Thanks GHG, I'm going to have to try that combination now that your reminded of it!

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      I don't specifically remember the mint and lemon remarks, but it often seems to me that the judges are struggling to think of something to say about the food besides "I like it." Even for a food expert, it's hard to come up with interesting or novel things to say off the cuff.

                      Mint, lemon, and zucchini strikes me as a perfectly natural combination.

                2. re: Bunson

                  I think Bunson may not like guys with long, flowing locks?

                  1. re: youngho

                    I find Mario Batali and Jamie Oliver quite charismatic and debonair!

            2. So, I wonder if Bobby will clean her apartment for real!

              I enjoyed this episode. It was a really good challenge. Bobby's plates were beautiful, but Gabrielle Hamilton ruled!


              2 Replies
              1. re: puppymomma

                I just saw this last night. While watching I was thinking Bobby has Bakhoum in his pocket because she always gushes over the Iron Chefs and turns her nose up at the challengers and Hamilton had Ruhlman because they're tight. So I saw the third judge as the deciding judge and it was hard to get a take from her on which she liked better.
                As good as Bobby's food always looks the judges may be getting a little tired of the same plating style for every challenge. Whatever he makes you know it's going to be decorated with the green and orange squeeze bottles.
                There is a very interesting panel discussion that can be downloaded in the itunes audio book section. It's called How I learned to Cook. It's a 1.5 hour discussion hosted by Ruhlman with Bourdain, Hamilton and Ripert discussing various food topics.

                1. re: tofuburrito

                  >>> Whatever he makes you know it's going to be decorated with the green and orange squeeze bottles.

                  Glad you brought that up. I was thinking the very same thing. That even though Flay was not sticking peppers in everything this time, and was doing a very nice job overall bringing out the subtler flavors, there was this one moment during plating when the camera was hovering, and here came out the old green and red squeeze bottles, and I thought: geez, the same flavors, the same colors, doesn't that get tiring for the judges over and over and over again?

              2. I liked this episode too. And I really liked Hamilton. Now I want to go to her restaurant.

                1. An interesting show. Ruhlman's opening remarks about zucchini being flavorless set me to wondering about his tasting ability. Is he "flavor blind"? I have known people who were unable to percieve certain flavors, just as color blind people can't distinguish certain colors. One of my favorite snacks is to nuke a whole zucchini, slice it down the middle lengthwise and stuff it with butter. He made me wonder whether he can go home and duplicate the flavors of a dish he had in a restaurant if he thinks zucchini has no flavor!

                  Some of the sous chefs had me speculating whether Kitchen Stadium is all that well equipped? Grating zucchini (or anything that needs shredding) by hand is so time consuming and knuckle threatening. I have all sorts of blades that grate, shred, slice and julienne for my Kitchen Aid. Strikes me as strange they only use a food processor with the cutting blade.

                  Anyway, when I get to it, I will have to watch the show again because either I fell asleep, the phone rang, or they didn't show the judges tasting the cockles (clams?) dish. I was really looking forward to hearing how it tasted and whether the zucchini was a good flavor point. Did I miss this completely or was it just (I hope) not there?

                  The "terrine" the challenger made looked delicious, then she served it as a "casserole." I expected it to be cooled, unmolded and sliced, showing all the color layers of the vegetables. I make a similar dish of layered (and well drained) vegetables in butter baked in a terrine lined with several layers of well buttered phyllo, the ends of which are folded over the top before baking, then turned out onto a plate, chilled to set, then allowed to warm a bit at room temperature before slicing and serving. When I saw the loaf pans, I really thought she was going for a variation on that theme. Never occurred to me to serve it hot with a panko topping. I'll have to try it some time.

                  I don't really care for truly hot/spicy things (pain is nature's way of telling you not to do something), so there's no chance of me ever becoming a chili head, but even so, that zucchini and "harissa" dish looked pretty darn tempting! But it did look more like a Moroccan variation on a salsa than a harissa paste. I do wish they would give recipes as they go!

                  Sometimes I find the "Secret Ingredient" so disappointing I change channels. I watched this one all the way trough. Well, except maybe for the cockles tasting...?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Caroline1

                    the only thing i thought was that maybe he meant that zucchini was delicate tasting because i "believe" (that means i could remember wrong!) that he mentioned that with bobby flay's pairing with smoked salmon. it looked like something i'd really want to eat but even i remember thinking when i saw it, that smoked salmon is a flavor that would overpower almost everything else.

                    1. re: AMFM

                      I just watched it again to see what happened to the clams... They were clams and not cockles. They showed the dish during judging, but strangely they never showed a judge actually tasting a clam, only the zucchini that was in the dish with them. Curious.

                      Anyway, as the show progressed, the other two judges gave Ruhlman such a hard time about him saying zucchini has no flavor that he relented and started talking about its taste in the dishes. Now, whether he was doing that as an "oh, me too!" reaction to their prodding, or whether the man really thinks zucchini has no taste is another matter.

                    2. re: Caroline1

                      "pain is nature's way of telling you not to do something"
                      unfortunately some of us grew up believeing that pain is the universe's way of telling us we're too weak & need to "toughen up."

                      perhaps that explains why i *adore* spicy food, and often happily eat things with levels of heat that most others find intolerable.

                      re: the cockles...they did show the tasting. and the odd thing was that throughout the preparation portion of the battle alton was referring to them as cockles, but when he presented the dish to the judges bobby called them clams.

                      btw, they weren't just using FPs, some of the zucchini was sliced on mandolines/v-slicers.

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        True. I noticed the mandolines (one was a Benriner exactly like mine, but I'm sure not nearly as old) and the v-slicers, but they're still labor intensive, the same as a manual grater. I'm just wonderig why the different CuisineArt disks haven't caught on? Is it because whatever brand of food processor they use doesn't make them, or is it because... Well, because why? Admittedly, it's been more than a decade since I bought my last new addition for my Cuisine Art wardrobe, but I would hate to have them taken away! The only quirky thing about any of them is that if you have a problem with julienne in an arc, you do have to fall back to the knife. I can shred cole slaw or potatoes for pancakes to serve 50 in about a minute and a half flat.