by Nancy Sweet
Each year, Lincoln Land Community College participates in both judging culinary contests and performing food demonstrations at the state fair. We often sponsor a cooking competition that we then judge, while also doing several food demonstrations on the stages of the Arts, Crafts, and Hobbies building and this year expanding to the Department of Agriculture tent, too.
For the culinary contests, categories include more traditional things like breads, quick breads, cakes, decorated cakes and cookies, to more non-traditional categories like family heirloom recipes, recipes using cottage cheese, diabetic cooking, meatloaf and even recipes using Spam. Open to non-professionals, the recipes must not use “mixes” – they must be from scratch and all ingredients in exact portions must be on the submitted recipe. Flavor, texture, appearance, display and creativity are all to be considered.
In addition to the food judging, LLCC often does food demonstrations. With that, I try to utilize recipes that use seasonal central Illinois fruits or vegetables that are fairly simple to prepare while still being from scratch. I like to show people the “right” way to do things but to also add in a few tricks of the trade to make cooking easier and more approachable for those who might feel intimidated. Below are recipes myself and LLCC Chef Instructor Sean Keeley demonstrated at this year’s 2017 State Fair. Maybe next year we will see your name as a contestant in one of the culinary contests or as a new face in the audience at our demonstrations!
(Bread and Tomato Salad)
4-5 slices day-old crusty French or country bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 large tomatoes (about 1 pound), trimmed and chopped
3/4 cup peeled cucumber, chopped
½ red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup Kalamata olives, chopped
2 TBS capers
2 TBS red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
8 ounce fresh mozzarella, chopped
10 fresh basil leaves, torn
Toast bread in a 400 degree oven for 6-8 minutes, until dried out.
Toss together tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, pepper, olives, capers, bread cubes and vinegar. Stir in mozzarella, basil and olive oil and serve.
Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil
Adapted from the New York Times
Serves 3- 4
12 ounces farfalle or penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, keeping white and green parts separate
about 2 large ears of fresh corn, shucked and kernels cut off (about 2 cups total)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for serving
1/3 cup basil, roughly chopped or torn
pinch red pepper flakes
fresh lemon juice from one lemon
In a boiling pot of well-salted water, cook pasta just until almost al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water.
In the meantime, heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the white part of green onions and a pinch of salt and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add ¼ cup water and all but ¼ cup of the corn. Simmer until corn is heated through and almost tender, 3-5 minutes. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, transfer to a blender, and puree until smooth, adding a little extra water if needed to get a thick but pourable texture.
Heat skillet over high heat. Add butter and let melt. Add reserved ¼ cup corn and cook until tender, 1- 2 minutes. Add the corn puree and cook about 30 seconds to heat and add flavors.
Reduce heat to medium. Add past and half the reserved pasta cooking water, tossing to coat. Cook for about 1 minute, then add a little more of the pasta cooking water if the mixture is too thick. Stir in ¼ cup of green onions, the Parmesan, herbs, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Finish with fresh lemon juice. Serve.
Sambal Chicken Skewers with Asian Slaw
1/2 cup light brown sugar
½ cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup hot chili paste, like sambal oelek
1/4 cup fish sauce
¼ cup Sriracha
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2 inch pieces
8 bamboo skewers soaked in water about 30 minutes
Heat grill to medium high. Whisk brown sugar, vinegar, chili paste, fish sauce, Sriracha and ginger in a large bowl. Add chicken pieces and toss to coat. Remove chicken and thread 4 or 5 pieces on each skewer. Transfer leftover marinade to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half (about 1 cup), 7-10 minutes. Grill chicken, turning and basting often with reduced marinade, until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 head Napa cabbage, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 red onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
2 tablespoons mint, minced
salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, water, and lime juice. Whisk in sesame oil. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, pepper and onion and then mix in dressing. Just before serving, mix in cilantro and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
From LLCC Chef Instructor Sean Keeley:
3-3.5 lbs whole peeled, stemmed tomatoes, rough chopped
1 cucumber peeled and rough chopped
4-6 oz tomato juice (Bloody Mary mix works well)
1-2 oz fresh basil leaves
3 slices bread, torn into 1” cubes (can use gluten free bread)
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Place all ingredients in bowl of a blender, stir and let rest in cooler for 20 minutes until the bread is soft. Blend well and chill for one hour to overnight. Ladle into bowls and serve with garnish below.
Fire-Roasted Salsa Recipe
2 lbs. Roma tomatoes or fresh garden tomatoes
1 jalapeño pepper
1 large white onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 bunch cilantro, rough chopped
1 fresh lime, juice of
½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For a richer salsa add 3 TBS olive oil, see below
Preheat grill to a medium-high heat. Place the tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, and garlic in a single layer directly on grill or use a grill pan.
Grill the vegetables until blackened on all sides, 5-10 minutes per side.
Transfer the cooked vegetables, lime juice, cumin, oregano and cilantro to a food processor and pulse until coarsely pureed. You may add 3 TBS of olive oil before mixing, or add the oil to a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat and pour your salsa in pot for authentic Mexican flavor. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Refrigerate or serve warm right away.
Remove seeds from jalapeño before blending for milder salsa. Add an extra jalapeño (or two) for spicier salsa. Try replacing jalapeño with one or two minced chipotle chilies packed in adobo for a smoky salsa.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.