During the holiday season we celebrate with food: glazed ham, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, cookies shaped liked Santa.Without knowing it, you may even be celebrating with food grown in Iowa.
Looking for chestnuts to roast on an open fire? Iowa grows them. Want to cook ostrich this season? You can find them here in Iowa.
A new Iowa Public Television show — “Iowa Ingredient” — showcases the breadth of Iowa’s food production each Saturday morning. Sandwiched between “America’s Test Kitchen” and “Martha Bakes,” it is a cooking show dedicated to Iowa’s farmers, restaurants and chefs.
And this week, the chef in the spotlight is Gaby Weir of Lone Tree.
“ ‘Iowa Ingredient’ is really all about Iowa,” says IPTV executive producer Deb Herbold of Urbandale who created the show, which debuted in April 2013. “Our agricultural heritage is totally found in the growers that we meet. Food is part of who we are here in Iowa.”
Each show centers around one ingredient. It starts with a trip to the farm where the ingredient is grown, travels to a restaurant that incorporates that ingredient into its dishes and ends up in the IPTV kitchen where a local chef cooks with that ingredient alongside “Iowa Ingredient” host Charity Nebbe.
Nebbe of Iowa City, also the host of “Talk of Iowa” on Iowa Public Radio, says the show is an excellent way to learn about the array of food Iowa produces.
“One misconception about Iowa is that there is not a lot of variety here in what we grow,” Nebbe says. “Celebrating the diversity of what we grow here and being able to show people that agriculture in Iowa does go beyond corn and soybeans and pigs and cows is really exciting. I also think being able to demonstrate that there are so many incredibly gifted individuals that are really doing innovative and interesting thing with food is exciting, too.”
For the holiday special featuring Weir, Herbold veered from the typical show format.
Instead, the show traveled to All About Pie in Monroe for a holiday-inspired pie baking lesson and Reiman Gardens in Ames to learn how to make a wreath using Iowa-grown greens.
Instead of featuring a restaurant, “Iowa Ingredient” features an Iowa City holiday party, run by personal chef and caterer Gaby Weir.
Herbold met Weir, owner of Chef Gaby, during the 2012 Culinary Ride in Iowa City.
“When we met her, she was standing in a field with a machete,” Herbold says. “She was cutting down weeds to make a seating area for bikers to sit and eat. You can’t really miss a chef with a machete.”
Herbold also liked Weir’s focus on local ingredients in dishes inspired by her native Venezuela.
“One of the reasons why I love being a chef in Iowa is the access to the local product,” Weir says. “I have great connections with a lot of the farmers.”
When Weir plans her menus she thinks about what is in season.
“I think about who is growing what right now and think about what I can make out of those ingredients.”
For the holiday party on “Iowa Ingredient,” Weir used local pumpkins to make a pumpkin soup with coconut milk and cilantro and a pumpkin puree crostini with caramelized apples. She also created a holiday cocktail with sparkling cider, pineapple juice and Grand Marnier.
“Iowa Ingredient,” which is in production of its third season, makes “us proud of who we are as Iowans,” Herbold says. “Our mission is to get out all over the state.”
Pumpkin Crostini with Caramelized Apples and Onions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the pumpkin on a baking pan and drizzle with oil, salt and pepper. Cover with foil and roast until soft. Smash with a fork and set aside.
Place the onion, apple and balsamic vinegar in a small baking pan and roast until caramelized.
Place the bread slices on a baking sheet, drizzle a little bit of oil on top and bake until golden brown.
Assemble the crostini appetizers by spreading the smashed pumpkin on the toasted bread and top with the caramelized onion and apple mixture.
Garnish with fresh fennel greens.
Source: Gaby Weir
Drizzle a little bit of oil in a cold, large soup pot. Add onion, carrots, fennel and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Heat the pot on medium and sweat the vegetables until they are translucent and soft but not browned.
Add the pumpkin, season with another pinch of salt and pepper. Cover with water until veggies are just about covered.
Bring to boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the pumpkin is very soft.
Transfer to a blender in small batches and blend with coconut milk and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For a spicy variation, add smoked chipotles and/or curry powder.
Source: Gaby Weir