The Illinois State Fair is serving up a full menu of cooking competitions this summer, with contests devoted to dishes featuring Malt-O-Meal, Spam, meatloaf, chocolate, olives and much more.
If you’ve ever wondered how your pies or cakes would stack up against those entered in the Illinois State Fair, now is the time to find out.
The application deadline for 2009 state fair cooking events is July 15, except for the Blue Ribbon Culinary Contest, which has a June 1 deadline. This year’s fair runs Aug. 14-23.
“I’m excited about the variety of contests this year. Because there are so many different kinds, people with all types of culinary skills will have the opportunity to be showcased,” said Billye Griswold of White Hall, superintendent of the fair’s culinary department.
For entry forms and contest rules, look for the general premium book on the state fair Web site, www.illinoisstatefair.info. A limited number of hard-copy versions of the premium books are expected to be available beginning this week. To request one, or for more information, call the state fair’s competitive events office at (217) 782-0786.
There are several new sponsored contests this year:
* Olive Lovers Salad Challenge. Create a salad using two types of Lindsay Olives and win $100 or $50.
* Make it with Malt-O-Meal. Use any kind of Malt-O-Meal cold cereal to develop a snack, dessert, entrée or any other kind of dish. First place wins $100, second gets $50 and third wins $25 worth of cereal.
* King Arthur Great Cake Contest. Make a scratch cake — any kind or shape, frosted or not – to win $150, $75 or $50.
* Family Heirloom Recipes. Enter your best scratch family recipe – created before 1950 — suitable for a family or community dinner and the Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance will award prizes of $150, $100 and $50.
* Anton and Helen Holas Meat Loaf Contest. Prepare your best meatloaf to win $75, $50 or $25.
Returning contests include:
* Calling All Chocolates. Create a dessert using any form of chocolate and The State Journal-Register will pay a sweet $125, $50 or $25 to the winners.
* Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts Pie Baking Championship. Make any two-crust fruit pie with the sponsor’s product and win $200 plus a chance at a $1,000 national grand prize. Second place receives $100 and third place wins $50.
* Hidden Valley Fresh Taste for the Family Contest. Use fresh and wholesome ingredients and the sponsor’s ranch seasoning mix to create an appetizer, side dish or entrée. Winners can take home $200, $100 or $50; a $2,000 grand prize will be awarded to the first-place winner from one of 46 state and county fairs.
* Bake for the Cure. Make any type of baked good using Fleischmann’s Yeast and win $150, $75 or $50. Or make a batter bread and be awarded $100.
* The Great American Spam Championship. Prepare a simple main dish with any type of Spam to win up to $150 and a chance to go to Hawaii. For cooks ages 7 to 17, there is a separate contest offering prizes of $150, $50 and $25, plus a chance to win a $2,000 grand prize.
There also are contests for eggs, brown sugar, honey, pizza, low-fat yogurt, soy and gingerbread houses.
Besides sponsored contests, the fair invites exhibitors to submit their best cakes, cookies, candies, jellies, pickles and canned fruits and vegetables.
For people 17 and younger, there is a slate of junior culinary events.
Unless otherwise noted, all events are open to Illinois residents 18 and older who are not professional cooks. The entry fee is $1 per item.
Prize premiums for culinary events and sponsored contests this year total $11,448.
This sample contest recipe was provided by Lindsay Olives.
Fresh-From-the-Garden Olive Toss
1/2 cup black pitted olives, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup green pitted olives, drained and coarsely chopped
1 small celery stalk, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1/4 Maui or other sweet onion, diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 small green zucchini, unpeeled and diced
1 small yellow squash, unpeeled and diced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh chives, thinly sliced or 2 tablespoons dried chives
1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon peel
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a medium bowl combine olives, celery, carrot, Maui onion, cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, parsley and chives.
Add lemon peel, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil to bowl; mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Do ahead: The salad can be made up to two days in advance. Place in a covered container and refrigerate. Thirty minutes before serving, remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. It will keep five days under refrigeration.
Makes 10 (1/2-cup) servings.
This was Hidden Valley’s “Fresh Taste for the Family” 2008 grand prize winning recipe, chosen from the Arizona State Fair.
Fresh Veggie Crisps
1 cup peanut oil for frying
2 burrito-size flour tortillas (10- to 11-inches)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 (1-ounce) packet ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 medium zucchini squash, seeded and chopped
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
In large frying pan, heat peanut oil on medium-high heat.
Fry tortillas, turning once, until browned and crisp. Place on paper towels to drain; set aside.
In medium bowl, whisk together cream cheese, sour cream and ranch mix. Add dill and mix well again.
Spread mixture evenly over fried tortillas, then sprinkle with the chopped fresh vegetables in order given. Top with parsley. Cut in wedges to serve.
Note: For baked tortillas: brush both sides with vegetable oil, place on baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 4 to 6 minutes, turning once, until crisp.
Makes 16 appetizer wedges.
This recipe earned grand prize honors in the 2008 Pillsbury refrigerated piecrust contest. It was the Kansas State Fair’s first place winner.
Merry Cherry-Plum-Berry Tart
Crust and topping:
1 (15-ounce) box refrigerated piecrusts
1/4 cup chopped almonds
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar (see note)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup amaretto
1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries
2 plums, cut into pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
White Amaretto Truffle Sauce:
2 ounces white vanilla baking chips (1/3 cup)
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons amaretto
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Let 1 piecrust stand at room temperature 15 minutes to soften; unroll crust into 9-inch tart pan. Lightly press crust into fluted edge of pan. Run rolling pin across top of pan to cut off excess crust. Prick side and bottom of crust with fork. Bake 10 minutes.
In 2-quart saucepan, heat dried cranberries, dried cherries and 3/4 cup amaretto over medium heat 5 minutes. Add blueberries and plums. Cook 15 minutes longer. Stir in cornstarch. Pour into partially baked crust.
Remove remaining piecrust from refrigerator. Chop cold crust into small pieces, adding almonds and sugar while chopping, to make crumbly topping. Sprinkle over filling. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes.
Place baking chips in medium bowl; set aside.
In 1-quart saucepan, heat cream over low heat. As soon as bubbles form around edge of pan, remove from heat. Pour warm cream over baking chips in bowl. Stir until chips are melted and completely smooth. Stir in 2 tablespoons amaretto.
Refrigerate 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Stir sauce well before serving. Drizzle each serving with about 2 tablespoons amaretto sauce. Cover and refrigerate any remaining pie and sauce.
Note: Turbinado sugar is a blond-colored, raw sugar that has a molasses flavor. It’s available in most supermarkets.
Makes 8 servings.
Kathryn Rem can be reached at 788-1520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Blue Ribbon Culinary Contest — the Illinois State Fair’s premier culinary event — comprises seven separate competitions: pork entrees, beef entrees, chicken entrees, desserts made with dairy, cakes, pies and yeast breads. The first-place winners of those challenges compete head-to-head at a bake-off in the fairgrounds’ Hobbies, Arts and Crafts Building on the last Saturday of the fair.
Recipes for the Blue Ribbon contest must be submitted by June 1; applicants will be notified if they are eligible to enter.