Texas Rio Star grapefruit recipe challenge winners announced
MISSION, TEXAS — TexaSweet Citrus Marketing Inc., the promotional and marketing arm of the Texas citrus industry, sponsored its first recipe challenge and winners have been announced.
A $500 cash prize went to contestants having the best recipe in each of three categories: salads, main courses and desserts and two divisions – home cooks and professionals. The contestants creating the best recipe from each division were awarded an additional $1,000, making the total purse for the recipe challenge $5,000.
TexaSweet Citrus Marketing Inc. and Taste of the South magazine co-sponsored the challenge. Judging was held at Hoffman Media in Birmingham, Ala. Hoffman Media is the publisher of Taste of the South, Cooking with Paula Deen and Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade among other magazine titles.
The editorial and test kitchen staffs of Taste of the South prepared and helped judge the finalists’ recipes along with officials aligned with TexaSweet Citrus Marketing Inc.
“We were impressed with the quality and quantity of recipes submitted in the competition. The contest validated the versatility of Rio Star grapefruit. We plan to feature the winning recipes along with a photograph of each in our October/November issue,” said Lorna Reeves, editor of Taste of the South magazine.
“We know how delicious the Rio Star grapefruit is in a spectrum of recipes, and it was so exciting to see the unique and versatile ways that both the professional and home cooks used the Rio Star grapefruit,” said Eleisha Ensign, executive director of TexaSweet Citrus Marketing Inc.
“We are looking forward to sharing these impressive recipes with other grapefruit lovers, and hope to encourage them to create their own unique Rio Star recipes,” she continued.
Chef Brett Blute from San Luis Obispo, Calif., won in the salad category and is the grand-prize winner in the professional division for his recipe for Rio Star Grapefruit & Roasted Beet Salad. Blute has worked in the restaurant industry since he was eighteen. When he isn’t in the kitchen he enjoys painting with acrylics and an airbrush. He is also a sculptor, working in bronze, clay, stone and metal. He is experienced in pairing wine and food.
“I’ve held every job there is in the industry over the last 22 years but I feel most fulfilled when I’m cooking, creating menus and developing new menu ideas,” Blute said. “This is the first recipe contest I’ve entered. My inspiration for this dish was, first of all, Rio Star grapefruit since it is one of the best grapefruit available. Secondly, the season falls at the same time of year that baby beets are available at my local farmers’ market,” he continued.
The grand-prize winner in the home-cook division is Karl Witter from Bloomfield, Conn. His winning recipe was Steak Salad with Rio Star Grapefruit.
“Aside from fruit salad, I hadn’t thought about cooking with grapefruit before this contest caught my eye. I was not prepared for how much sweeter, juicy and red Rio Star grapefruit are than other grapefruit varieties,” he said.
Karl enjoys motorcycling and bicycling, cross-country skiing, swimming, the theater, classic movies, and amateur radio. The Rio Star Challenge is the third recipe contest he has entered.
The best dessert in the professional division was Brownies Con Rio Star Grapefruit & White Chocolate, submitted by Haley Nelson, Superior, Wis. Ms. Nelson works as a pantry chef at a fine dining Italian restaurant in Duluth, Minn. This is the first recipe contest Haley has entered.
“My favorite way to enjoy a Rio Star grapefruit is to remove the rind with a paring knife and segment the entire fruit so there’s no pulp remaining. That allows me to savor the juiciness of Rio Star,” she said.
Roast Salmon with Texas Rio Star Grapefruit Chutney was voted as the winning main course dish in the professional division and was submitted by Diane Nemitz, Ludington, Mich. Diane is a part-time writer for a local newspaper and contributes food columns, feature articles, community news and information on area weddings. Besides entering recipe contests, Diane loves to garden and is fond of reading mystery books.
“I usually eat grapefruit straight up, with a spoon out of the shell, so it was very interesting to me to be able to create new ways to use it through this contest,” she said.
Recipe contestant Priscilla Yee, Concord, Calif., won best dessert in the home-cook division. Her entry was Rio Star Grapefruit Dessert Nachos.
“The first thing I love about Texas Rio Star grapefruit is its beautiful ruby color. It looks so appetizing, I just have to try it. And when I do, the dazzling sweetness does not disappoint. I like to eat it right out of the shell or in a simple recipe that doesn’t mask its refreshing flavor,” she said.
Frequent recipe-contest participant and winner Greg Fontenot, The Woodlands, Texas, submitted an original recipe for Chicken in Rio Star Grapefruit Apricot Sauce.
Greg is a scientist studying diabetes and various aspects of reproduction. He uses cooking to remind him of his origins and to honor his ancestors. “Whenever I cook Cajun recipes or good old Southern dishes, I think about the past and try to emphasize our family’s background to my eight-year-old son,” reflected Fontenot.
“I enter as many as five recipe contests weekly. It can be a rewarding hobby. I’m happy to report that I usually win several competitions each year. It’s fun to try out new recipes on my family. Sometimes I hit a home run, and sometimes I strike out. I started cooking when I was about 12 and have been cooking ever since. I’ve learned primarily from the Food Network, cookbooks and culinary magazines,” he continued.
Greg prefers casual cooking. “There should never be pressure on the cook or on those who are being cooked for,” he said.
Rio Star grapefruit is grown exclusively in the southern-most tip of Texas — the Rio Grande Valley where warm tropical breezes and a temperate climate offer excellent growing conditions. Texas citrus is tree-ripened and handpicked to ensure superior quality throughout the season. Rio Star grapefruit is distributed nationally and exported to Canada and other countries each season from October through May.
Editor note: Recipes and generic product photography are available at www.texasweet.com.