Lori Motyka's Sicilian Flatbread Pizza and Dan Rich's appetizer extravaganza swayed the judges in the final Round 2 challenges. Here's what they had to say about the recipes.
Sicilian Flatbread Pizza
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John Engle: I love pizza and I love sardines (and anchovies) on pizza. The idea of a "pizza sauce" made from chickpeas, sardines, lemon and garlic is very creative! This will be a tasty recipe that I will try at home with two slight adjustments/recommendations. Use the extra-virgin olive oil from the sardines along with the wonderful cracked and whole peppercorns in your recipe for roasting the garlic and mixing your base sauce. And place the remaining sardines on the top of the flatbread pizza along side those shrimp for an even grander dining experience and visual appeal.
John Junior: I love pizza, you can even call it a flatbread, crispy, cheesy, with great unique ingredients. The "sweet and sour" raisins are a nice touch and compliments the main items of this dish, and the micro greens give this pizza a very high end look.
Penny Kazmier: Flat bread seems to be a vehicle for just about everything these days, and provides the perfect canvass for this unique blend of ingredients. I like the sweet and savory flavors created by the raisins, honey/vinegar reduction and hummus, along with the crunch and freshness of the micro greens. Very creative use of the sardines.
Karen Vidoni: Interesting and tasty flavor combination with the sardines and shrimp. Nice use of fennel (doesn't get lost in the ingredients). Clean up is easy with minimal mess to the kitchen. Great for weekday meals or casual dining.
J.E.: I really like the sound of this recipe. It makes wonderful use of all the required ingredients. The combination of the ratatouille, polenta, and brisling sardines is a masterful combination of all of the ingredients. The presentation is fresh and colorful ... very appetizing. I will definitely try this at home. My recommendation to the chef would be to use the extra-virgin olive oil and cracked and whole peppercorns from the sardines within the recipe to saute the garlic, rosemary, thyme, onions, squash, zucchini, and herbs. It will add a wonderful flavor to the recipe. Outstanding creativity!
J.J.: This is a very simple dish with classic ingredients and the raisin polenta has some great sweet and savory components, and I really like the pre-roasting of the eggplant and the tomatoes which are the guts of this dish. The added touch of chickpeas gives this an ultra high protein kick.
P.K.: I plan to make this polenta myself, the crunch of the nuts and chewy sweet raisins sound delicious together, especially with the texture achieved by finishing the squares in a grill pan. The ratatouille is colorful and a beautiful bed for the sardines, but would have made an even better compliment if made with a bit of the olive oil from the sardines. Very pretty plate.
K.V.: Visually appealing. Nice flavor combination, although the ratatouille may overpower the subtle and smoky taste of the sardines. Seems to use lots of different pans, lots of transferring from one utensil to the other and seems to require a lot of cleanup.
Beef Wellington with Twizzlers-Port Sauce et al
J.J.: This app looks amazing, how could you go wrong with Beef and Bacon, wrapped in buttery/nutty phyllo. Good use of ingredients and they could be made a day or two in advance.
Dan Marquardt:I love the variety and the creativity. Very interesting use of the licorice in a port sauce; sounds great!
Michael Pennisi: The celery boats are a clever twist on the well-known "ants on a log" after school snack. The phyllo bombs have a great savory flavors but filet mignon seems a little wasteful in the recipe and not as "beefy" as other cuts. Perhaps braised short ribs or brisket would work better? Mini-beef Wellingtons are also a classic appetizer but a lot of flavors are forced together in these and I'm not sure the mix is harmonious. I love the savory Baklava idea but again I am a little confused by all of the flavors. The celery dipping sauce is definitely something I would like to try and it could be the hidden gem in the all of these unusual creations.
Suzy Singh: Twizzlers? Seriously?! These contestants had a lot of hurdles this round to create delicious small bites for a party. This contestant went above and beyond the challenge by not only creating edible bites for partygoers but delicious enough for the party to continue all night long! The use of filet and bacon in these bites were absolutely genius!
Mini-Meatballs with a Twist et al
J.J.: The ambition of this cook is a 10, really interesting uses of these ingredients, the meatballs look phenomenal, and the use of phyllo with the celery and blue cheese with chopped Twizzlers I think works with this flavor profile. Well done.
D.M.:The meatballs look intriguing and tasty. Great way to incorporate the licorice.
M.P.: The leek and celery bites are simple and have a bright flavor which is perfect for a starter appetizer. The blue cheese tasters are simple and tasty but the celery doesn't really seem to be incorporated well. The beef and blue cheese appetizers are a little more hearty, which is great if appetizers are "the meal" and blue cheese pairs so well with beef. I like the creativity of using Twizzlers in meatballs since most meatball appetizers feature a sweet sauce but I'm really wondering about how those red bits will affect the texture of the meatball while chewing it. The almond-butter cups look great and dark chocolate is a better pairing choice with almond than milk chocolate. I would take these to the next level by using real chocolate and not morsels, which have stabilizers and other weird things in them.
S.S.: I like that this contestant kept it simple with the number of ingredients and preparation of the dishes. Amazing job in creating mini meatballs as a perfect appetizer! Overall this contestant kept it simple and it may have worked out very well for them!