Four Pennsylvania cooks were declared winners in the seventh annual Pennsylvania "Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious" Vegetable Recipe Contest Cook-Off.

First-time finalist Karen Parish of Fleetwood, received the highest score of the contest for her "Butternut Squash and Apple Soup." The other first prizes in the three other categories were won by Elysa Boffo of Camp Hill, Debra Deis of Harrisburg, and Kathy Rohrbaugh of Shrewsbury. The Cook Off was held on Friday, Aug. 6 at the Olewine Center for Culinary Arts at Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg.

Parish received 36 of 40 possible points from the judges for her "absolutely delicious" and "addictive" soup that smoothly blended the flavors of butternut squash with apples, carrots and onions in a chicken-stock base, garnished with sautéed prosciutto and apple, earning her the top prize in the Winter Squash/Pumpkin category.

Rohrbaugh, a veteran contestant and winner, earned the top prize in the Summer Squash/Zucchini category with her "Zucchini Japanese Style," a simple but flavorful side dish featuring zucchini and onions in an oriental, sesame-seed sauce.

Deis is a three-time first-place winner with "Cucumber and Shrimp Margarita Cocktail." She took top prize in the Melon/Cucumber category.

Boffo, another first time finalist, topped the Tomato/Peppers/Eggplant category with her "Ciotola di Panzanella."

Four finalists in each category competed for the top prizes. Judges choose the finalist recipes for the Cook-Off from 110 written recipe entries submitted by 43 cooks from across the state. Recipes were chosen on the basis of creativity, nutrition/healthfulness, ease of preparation, and overall appeal. Recipe entries had to contain as a major ingredient at least one vegetable in the category. Recipes had to be created or modified by the contestant or a member of the contestant's family.

Finalist recipes are available on the Vegetable Marketing and Research Program's website at www.paveggies.org [2], or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: PA Vegetable Mktg. & Res. Program, 815 Middle Road, Richfield, PA 17086.

Judges were Sue Gleiter, food editor, Patriot-News, Harrisburg; Autumn Patti, chef instructor at Harrisburg Area Community College; Fay Stricker, retired extension educator, Penn State Coop. Extension; and Teresa Yoder, nutritionist, formerly with Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Program.

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Cucumber and Shrimp Margarita Cocktail

Debra Deis, Harrisburg

6 cucumbers, fresh, pickle-type or 2 long greenhouse type

Salt

2 tomatoes, large, very juicy and ripe, cut into 1/2" pieces.

2 cups tomato or vegetable Juice (V8)

cup sweet onion, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped

cup sweet pepper, diced

2 limes, juiced

2 lemons, juiced

cup cilantro Leaves

Black pepper, ground

1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, cooked

1 avocado

Tortilla chips

Salt, flaked or coarse

If cucumber skin is tough, peel it. Otherwise just slice in half, then cut into -inch thick chunks. Add to a large bowl and salt lightly. Let sit 10 minutes, then add tomatoes, tomato juice, onion, jalapeno and sweet pepper, lime and lemon juices, cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt and some ground black pepper. Slice shrimp in half, then into bite-size pieces and add into vegetables. Let sit 1/2 hour. Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice. If not spicy enough, add more jalapeno or hot-sauce.

Right before serving, pit avocado and cut into 1/2-inch chunks. Gently stir into bowl of vegetables To serve, choose oversized goblets or margarita glasses. Rub rim with a cut lemon slice and dip in flaked salt. Carefully ladle in shrimp cocktail with a lot of juice. Top with additional cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips and a spoon. Pass hot sauce at the table.

Zucchini Japanese Style

Kathy Rohrbaugh, Shrewsbury

Serves 6

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 onion, medium thinly sliced

2 zucchini, medium, cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Black pepper, ground

Warm oil in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions and cook 5 minutes. Add zucchini; cook while stirring about 1 minute. Stir in teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, and sesame seeds. Cook until zucchini are tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir in ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Ciotola di Panzanella (Panzanella Bowls)

Elysa Boffo, Camp Hill

4 tomatoes, large, of different colors if available, about 3 pounds

3 tablespoons, plus red wine vinegar

Kosher salt

Black pepper, fresh cracked

1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

cup-plus olive oil, garlic-flavored (If you don't have garlic oil, you can infuse oil by adding garlic to heated oil and then cooling or use olive oil and add garlic powder carefully to taste.)

4 ounces grissini (bread sticks), thin, broken into 1/2-inch pieces

8 rounds pancetta (or slices of bacon)

Cut top -inch off each tomato and reserve. With serrated knife, cut tomato meat away from outside skin without cutting through completely. Scoop membrane and seeds out and transfer to a strainer over a bowl to drain.

Season hollowed tomatoes and membrane in strainer with drizzle of vinegar and some salt and pepper. Put onion slices in a small bowl and cover with 2 tablespoons vinegar and pinch of salt. Let stand 10 minutes to remove sharp flavor of onion.

Whisk together 1 tablespoon vinegar, the garlic oil and cup of drained tomato water. Season well with salt and pepper. Coarsely chop drained tomato and put in mixing bowl. Drain onions and add along with grissini pieces.

Drizzle the dressing over the bowl and toss very well. Season again and add more oil, tomato water and vinegar, as needed, to evenly moisten the stuffing. Stuff each tomato with of the stuffing and garnish with the tomato tops. Chill until ready to serve. Fry pancetta/bacon and set aside for assembly. Before serving, top with the crisp pancetta or bacon.

Butternut Squashand Apple Soup

Karen Parish, Fleetwood

Serves 6

Garnish:

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 slices prosciutto, cut into thin strips

1 apple, thinly sliced

Soup

4 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cup onion, diced

2 apples, large, peeled and diced (use a sweet apple like Gala or a tart apple)

2 cup carrots, diced

2 pounds butternut squash, 1 medium, peeled and diced

8 cups chicken broth

Salt, kosher preferably

Pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 1/2 cup half and half

Prepare garnish. Sauté prosciutto in oil and remove from pan. Sauté apple in same pan.

In a large stock pot, melt butter and add garlic, onion, apple, carrots, and squash. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Simmer about 35 minutes until tender. Purée with hand blender or beater. Return to pot and season with salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Add cream and stir. Return to heat and simmer 3-5 minutes. Top with prosciutto and apple.