Beth Riffel of Tampa loves competition, especially when it comes to cooking.
“I’m competitive by nature,” she said, “and I’m obsessed with competitive cooking.”
She has a group of friends who enjoy competing against one another.
Riffel, a native of Peabody, grew up competing in 4-H and has always enjoyed cooking and baking entries for the state fair.
This year, for the first time, she decided to enter Kansas Beef Council’s What’s for Dinner Beef Cook-off and took fourth place.
She developed a variation on a recipe she found on the Internet and named it “Taste of Summer Beef Orzo Salad.”
“I was trying to appeal to a wider audience, so it is not typical farm fare,” she said.
In addition to orzo pasta, the recipe incorporates many fresh items such as tomatoes, raw corn, lime juice and zest, and fresh herbs — basil, thyme, and oregano.
She tops it off with strips of marinated and broiled top sirloin steak sprinkled with feta cheese. Warm pita triangles are served on the side.
She submitted the recipe to the judging committee — a dietitian, a radio broadcaster, and an ag journalist — early in August.
Riffel’s recipe was one of eight finalists selected from more than 30 entries.
The finalists prepared their dishes Sept. 18 at the state fair on stage at the domestic arts building.
In her presentation, Riffel explained what was going into the salad but she also talked about her experiences growing up on a farm. She also talked about food safety.
When finished, the salad was divided and served to people in the audience.
Finalists were scored on taste, ease of preparation, overall appeal, and presentation.
Judges described Riffel’s recipe as “a great fast, healthy, and tasty way to capture all the great tastes of summer in a single dish that the entire family loves to eat.”
Riffel’s fourth-place finish earned her $100 in cash, beefsteaks, and a gift basket from KBC.
“It was fun,” Riffel said. “It was something my 4-H experience definitely contributed to.”
Cooking competitively appears to run in the family. Riffel’s son Kyle placed third in a Spam contest and son Karl placed third in a Curley’s Barbecue contest.
Looks like the Riffel family won’t ever lack for good eating!
Taste of Summer Beef Orzo Salad
1 pkg. orzo pasta
2 pounds top sirloin steak
2 cloves garlic, minced finely, divided
4 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 cups fresh raw corn
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 limes – zest and juice, divided
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
1 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Marinate steaks for 30 minutes in 2 T. olive oil, juice of one lime, and one clove minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper and grill until medium. Slice on the diagonal and serve over orzo salad.
Prepare orzo as directed on package. Orzo should still be a bit firm to the bite. Rinse well with cool water and set aside.
Dice tomatoes, remove corn from the cob, and finely chop basil, thyme, and oregano.
In small bowl, stir together juice of one lime, ½ tsp. lime zest, and 2 T. olive oil. Toss together with vegetables, herbs, and orzo. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let stand at room temperature while grilling steaks.
To serve, place orzo salad on large platter, top with steak slices, and sprinkle with feta cheese. Serve warm with pita triangles on the side.