Everything’s Better When You Put It On A Stick

It’s Iowa State Fair time again, and we are so excited for this annual celebration of the best (and the biggest) that Iowa has to offer.

Maybe best of all is the big, big food available at the fair. There are over nearly 300 different cooking contests taking place over the 11 days of the Iowa State Fair, and there are 200 different menu items available for purchase at the dozens of food vendors around the fairgrounds.

Everyone has their favorite fair-food indulgence (Bauder’s peppermint-hot-fudge-Oreo bar, anyone?), and for many it is one of the fifty-seven different foods on a stick.

Some of the foods on a stick are practical, like popsicles and corn dogs, when you’re feeding a young child. Skewered food is practical, too, to alleviate the need of a bowl or plate and utensils, along with a table and chair. Foods on a stick are handy when you’re on your feet while you munch.

Some foods on a stick are just silly, like the “salad on a stick” of a couple years ago. These kinds of “innovations” can’t help but make you feel deprived; you’re eating plain skewered iceberg wedges when your kids are having ice cream and hot dogs.

And other foods-on-a-stick are just over-the-top, like this year’s newcomer, the Double Bacon Corn Dog (a hot dog “wrapped in bacon, deep fried, dipped in bacon bit enriched batter and deep fried again to golden perfection”).

Not that we want to in any way pass judgement on your food choices. [But a bacon-wrapped corn dog that’s deep-fried twice? Seriously?]

In the spirit of the wildly imaginative, sometimes wildly indulgent, and occasionally even tidy and practical, food-on-a-stick at the Iowa State Fair, here are some skewered foods that you can make yourself, any time of year.

Snacks and hors’ d’oeuvres: Skewered fruits make a great snack or appetizer. Chunks of melon or pineapple, or strawberries or peaches are pretty and colorful, and are cool and refreshing. Serve skewers with a dash of Balsamic Vinegar (our Chef Amy recommends something fruity, like Black Cherry Balsamic or bracing Peach White Balsamic in the warm weather, and Cinnamon Pear Balsamic and Red Apple Balsamic in the fall and winter).

Soft vegetables like cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and colorful bell peppers can be served fresh and uncooked, perhaps with a dish of hummus or other spicy dip on the side. Harder vegetables like carrots, potatoes, squash, and onions will benefit from a marinade and/or roasting or grilling.

If you must eat a “salad on a stick,” give it a classy twist, and try this Mozzarella, Cherry Tomato and Balsamic skewer. Beats pale iceberg, hands down.

Main dishes: Staples at the fair include all manner of meaty kebabs and roasted meats on a stick (like the classic pork chop on a stick, right).  Ribs even have their own built-in stick.

You can even re-create the quintessential fair food, the corn dog, at home. This recipe makes a more sophisticated corn dog (!), with batter spiced with Cayenne and Red Rooster Rub.

No deep fryer necessary.

Treats and dessert: Some of the most fun foods-on-a-stick are the sweets. Candy bars, cannoli, tiramisu, and even cheesecake get batter-dipped and deep fried at the fair.

Chef Amy suggests that you forsake the deep-fried desserts at the fair in favor of “grown up” desserts-on-a-stick (that kids will love, too) at home: balsamic fruit popsicles, cake pops (“made with olive oil cake batter, of course!”), and even fondue (made with olive oil, or with Toblerone, honey and Kirsch, YUM).

Need even more ideas? We’ve found a lady who has a different food-on-a-stick for every week of the year. She blogs at 52 Foods on a Stick for “impaled food fans” everywhere.

(You’re welcome.)

Photo credit(s): Elisabeth Lewin, Food On A Stick on Flickr