Archive for August, 2013

Fair’s Fair! Don’t Miss the Crop Art*!

Friday, August 30th, 2013
Crop Art Rocks!

Crop Art Rocks!

I was raised to speak “state fair.” I learned the basics in South Dakota when my parents set my brother and I loose to go on the rides, make spin-art pictures, and eat caramel apples, yes, on a stick. Later, my high school band marched at the fair and the day always ended with the grandstand show. The South Dakota Fair in Huron is just six days. In the 70s, they booked an entertainment act in the grandstand just  two or three nights and featured the rodeo the other evenings. My bandmates and I preferred to see a musical act, that being more special than a rodeo. One year we hit the jackpot. The pop group, The New Vaudeville Band performed, including their hit  single”Winchester Cathedral.” The best part? Somehow, several of us were invited on stage during one of the songs. What can I say about this sole groupie experience? It was thrilling, though I think I recall that we giggled through most of it.

Speaking of giggles, it's not true that gophers ride the ferris wheel in Minnesota.

Speaking of giggles, it’s not true that gophers ride the ferris wheel in Minnesota.

Earlier this year, during a networking event, I met a delightful student studying at the University of Minnesota. He’s kept in touch with me and we had lunch a few weeks ago. Before he returns to France, his Minnesota pals wanted him to experience our state fair. They wanted him to have the experience of all manner of deep-fried food on a stick.

“I’m nervous about it,” he confided.

Bad-seed Santa: Scary!

Bad-seed Santa: Scary!

“There’s more to the State Fair than all that crazy, odd food,” I protested. “There’s even food that isn’t extreme, say the pork chop-on-a-stick, watermelon slices, fruit sorbet, Middle Eastern mint lemonade.”

A tropical touch at the Minnesota State Fair

A tropical touch at the Minnesota State Fair

He returned a doubtful half smile. I couldn’t stop. “Then there’s Creative Activities, the 4-H building, the Art Show, and the ikebana and dahlias in the Horticulture Building where Crop Art is housed.

A proud agricultural heritage

A proud agricultural heritage

I walked the fair today with my friend Malinda, our annual outing. I thought of that young Frenchman discovering our State Fair, as we hit our own highlights. We tasted one of the new-this-year foods: hot dish on a stick. Not a winner. However, the slow-roasted split pork shanks were delicious. They go by the name of “Porketta Pork Wings.” Malinda loved the very minty lemonade from the Holy Land deli. I enjoyed the vanilla, non-dairy frozen dessert at the Dole booth.

Hey!  It's not on a stick!

Hey! It’s not on a stick!

We strolled by the usual places. It was a lovely day, first with a cool breeze in many days. 

Vincent would approve.

Vincent would approve.

 

DId I mention the honey ice cream in the Horticulture Building?

DId I mention the honey ice cream in the Horticulture Building?

 

Another fair food:  Sweet Corn for All!

Another fair food: Sweet Corn for All!

I have re-affirmed for myself.

1. The fair always evokes fond memories of fairs past.

2. I love the Minnesota State Fair.

3. Crop Art never disappoints.

*All images in this post are Minnesota State Fair Crop Art, 2013

 

Salsa or Gazpacho? It Depends

Monday, August 26th, 2013

One day it dawned upon me that I have the same intention when making salsa or making the chunky summer soup, gazpacho. Either way, I’m going for a tomato base with veggies and a complex mix of sweet, salty and sour flavors, plus heat from chiles. That same day, I realized that most of the ingredients are identical, save a little more cilantro in the salsa and chopped cucumber added to the gazpacho. But, really, the combinations change every time. Jalapeno or habanero? Lemon or lime juice? Red or yellow or white or green onions or all four? Garlic cloves, garlic chives, or shallots? Red, green, yellow or orange sweet peppers? Salt or Vulcan Salt? Ground Black Pepper–always a resounding “Yes!” to that.

Today’s version started with the beautiful, meaty tomatoes from the Nicollet Mall Farmer’s Market, Thursdays, in Downtown Minneapolis. My own garden finally offered the first and then a second ripened San Marzano tomato to add to the mix. Lemon-colored peppers, green onions, chopped garlic cloves. I can’t help but stop and admire the burst of colors at this point.

IMG_2650

 

 

The vegetables always outdo themselves. The seasonings take a bit more thought. I use fresh lemon or lime juice and a splash of olive oil. Vinaigrette calls for about 1/3 lemon juice to 2/3 oil. I flip those proportions and lean into the lemon or lime juice for an assertive, bracing quality to the dish. Sometimes, I augment the chiles’ heat with Crystal Hot Pepper Sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. If gazpacho has the upper hand, I splash in some Worcestershire sauce. Instead of giving you exact amount, I advise calibrating these ingredients by your taste preferences as I do for mine.

Before the mix

Before the mix

The chunkier the tomato, the more the dish tends toward gazpacho. Yet, it’s easier to scoop a salsa’s single, large tomato chunk onto a tortilla chip (in Minneapolis/St. Paul, I recommend those from El Burrito Mercado, sold across the metro area and in their St. Paul HQ). OK, it may be even easier to scoop the more uniformly, chopped vegetables. It just depends.

For certain, I know that from now until frost, salsa/gazpacho will be on the menu almost daily.