Sunday, May 17, 2009

Get up with the get down

Or the Takedown. Whatever.

Last Sunday, May 10, was the first ever Tofu Takedown! Presented by Matt Timms, of Chili Takedown fame, at the Highline Ballroom, the Tofu Takedown was a chance for people to compete to the death for the honor of the cherished soy product.

Or something.

I entered the competition with vegan cannoli, not so much because I wanted to compete, but because I wanted to participate. I'd never done anything like this before, so I knew winning wasn't an option. However, feeding a couple hundred people cannoli was. Despite the preparation difficulties (which everyone has come to expect when I'm in the kitchen), I'm really glad I did this and would definitely do it again. The next event is a Curry Takedown, which I'm not really feeling, but I've already got some ideas for then next tofu one.

I'm not posting my recipe because I really just mixed and matched aspects of recipes I found online and I don't think a recipe that includes lines like "Add sugar until contents of bowl no longer smells like tofu" is all that helpful. However, I will give you a basic outline of how to make cannoli (I wanted to take pictures of the various steps, but got too lazy. Shocking, yes?):

Make some dough. It usually has egg in it, but I used ground flax in water instead.

Roll the dough out, cut it into circles, wrap the circles around cannoli forms (by the way, anyone need THIRTY-EIGHT CANNOLI TUBES?!? What the hell am I going to do with THIRTY-EIGHT CANNOLI TUBES!?!) and fry it in a pan of 360 degree oil for two or three minutes.

Make your filling. It's usually mostly drained ricotta cheese, but I used really well pressed firm tofu, some lemon juice, granulated and confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, and some mini bittersweet chocolate chips, of course.

Pipe your filling into your shells and viola! Cannoli! Simple, right? It might be a little less simple when you think you need to make 200 of them. It gets even less simple when you show up and the organizer says you actually need 300 of them. It gets even less simple when instead of coming out like this:

about half of your shells come out like this (and I still have no idea why):

That made dealing with runny filling a cinch by comparison. I just drained it overnight in my handy dandy cannoli filling draining apparatus (not pictured: two pieces of pizza used to apply pressure and wedge the bowl tightly in the fridge):

It took four tries on the shells and two tries on the filling to get them right. Thankfully, even when they were wrong, they were tasty. My family is still snacking on fried dough.

Here's another picture of the cannoli:

The event itself was very fun. So many people showed up that I would have run out of cannoli really early on if my friend hadn't been there. She washed off her pocketknife and cut as many as she could in half. We still ran out before everyone got to try them, but two other people ran out first, so that's not so bad.

There were seventeen entrants: four savory dishes and thirteen sweet. Maybe about half were vegan, though one of the dishes (a winner) was called vegan despite including honey. Whatever I tasted was quite nice. I think I would have given the prize to the vegan cheesecake, but mostly savory dishes won. This may or may not be because they were so scarce and people just got tired of looking at desserts.

Since things covered in powdered sugar are pretty, here's another shot of the cannoli. Please ignore the awkward-looking human with the tongs. That's just me.

For more pictures from the Takedown, including my failed attempts and other entries, click here.
For the Village Voice writeup (with pictures) click here
For the Metromix writeup (with pictures) click here.
For the Time Out New York writeup (with pictures) click here.
For a New York Times writeup of NYC cooking competitions that includes a mention of the Takedown click here.
Grub Street didn't say much, but they did mention my cannoli!
Slashfood writeup.

And that's it. Unless you've seen this mentioned someplace else on the Internet that I've missed. If so, please comment with a link!

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