Food & Drink June 9, 2010

Cooking with Idaho’s Best

A Southern foodie finds more than smoke and potatoes


A few years ago, when I was living in Scotland, I had become more attached to pasties and fried cod than I now like to admit. While eating the country’s largely tan-colored foods, I was also searching for jobs, anywhere and everywhere. I eventually scored a position in Sun Valley, Idaho, a place I had never heard of in a state I could only associate with famous potatoes and Napoleon Dynamite. But I was promised mountains and beautiful Indian summers, and being from New Orleans, I thought, “What the heck, I haven’t done this before.” And I was on my way.

The voices in my head were of Bubba and Forrest Gump, but talking potatoes instead of shrimp.

I’m a foodie, so on my long drive to Idaho, my thoughts ran amok with things to do with those storied spuds: baked potato, mashed potato, potato pancakes, scalloped potato, hash browns, fries, etc., etc. (The voices in my head were of Bubba and Forrest Gump,
but talking potatoes instead of shrimp.)

Dizzy with potato options, I was joyously planning on plumping up on carbs (my guilty pleasure). What I didn’t know was that I was moving to a bountiful state, a place where farmers and ranchers produce hundreds of fruits, veggies, jams and jellies. These days, each visit to a farmers market adds to my growing list of yummy Idaho recipes and I eagerly anticipate my long summer of fresh, local and innovative treats.



Pear Chutney

Pear chutney is a great side for any picnic—or keep it in your fridge for every day.
Recipe courtesy Idaho Preferred.

3 large Bosc pears
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon grated orange peel
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice


Peel, core and chop pears. In medium saucepan, combine fruit with other ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 50 minutes. Uncover and simmer over low heat for a few minutes more to cook off excess liquid; let cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks. This chutney is great served on a cracker with goat cheese, prosciutto and a sprig of arugula. Would also be great glazed on roast pork tenderloin or spooned over cream cheese for a simple and tasty homemade appetizer option.



Elk Sausage with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Apples and Onions

The sausage and tangy cheese paired with sweet apples equals a perfect sandwich. Yum!
Recipe courtesy Idaho Preferred.

4 Elk sausages
1 yellow onion thinly sliced
1 apple peeled and chopped
3-4 tablespoons Stone ground mustard
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
4 sandwich rolls


Put sausages in oven at 325 degrees. Heat oil in sauté pan. Add onions and cook until very soft, stirring occasionally. Add apples and sugar and cook until browning occurs. Add mustard and finish with salt and pepper to taste. Remove sausages from oven. Put 1/4 of blue cheese on one side of each roll, put in oven until cheese is melted. To serve, remove rolls from oven and top with sausage and apple mixture. Serves 4.



Idaho Potato & Smoked Trout Cakes

With potatoes and smoked trout, these tasty cakes are an all-Idaho appetizer.
Recipe courtesy Idaho Preferred.

1/2 pound smoked trout
1 pound Idaho Russet Potatoes
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 egg whites
2 cups fine bread crumbs
1 cup canola oil
Fresh dill or parsley for garnish


Bake potatoes in 400-degree oven or microwave until tender. Cool and grate as for hash browns. Dice smoked trout and remove any bones and discard skin. Combine potatoes, trout, red pepper, green onions and egg whites. Salt and pepper to taste. Form cakes in 2-ounce rounds that are approximately 2 inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick. Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium heat. Press cakes into bread crumbs and immediately place in skillet. Cook until golden brown on one side, about 90 seconds, then flip and repeat on other side. Place cakes on paper towels to absorb excess oil. To serve, place one or two cakes on a warmed plate, drizzle with tarter sauce if desired, and garnish with wedge of lemon and sprig of fresh herb.



Parmesan-Crusted Zucchini with Barley Pomodoro, Ballard Farms Danish Pearl Cheese & Wilted Greens

This fabulous recipe won the “Best Vegetarian Entree” in the Taste of Idaho competition.
Recipe by Chris “Mac” McDonald, C.C.C., Arid Club.

3-4 Zucchini (banana sized)
1 cup parmesan cheese, Grated
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 Cup Flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 pound pearl barley
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
6 large basil leaves, chiffonade
1/2 pound Danish Pearl Cheese
cut in 1/4 inch thick slices
1/2 pound assorted young greens
vegetable, Olive, or canola oil for cooking


In a bowl combine grated Parmesan and panko bread crumbs. Slice the zucchini into 1/2 inch planks. Roll zucchini slices in flour. Shake off excess flour and roll in beaten egg. Let excess egg drip off and press in Parmesan and panko mix. Bread all the zucchini and set aside. Cook barley like pasta in salted water until it is tender to bite. Strain and rinse with cool water. Set aside. In a large sauté pan heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Pan fry the zucchini to brown on both sides. Let the zucchini drain on a towel then place on a baking sheet. In a large sauté pan sweat onion, shallot and garlic in 3 tablespoons of light olive oil. Once the onions are translucent, add the basil and tomatoes. Cook over medium heat for a minute or two and add the barley. Stir everything together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat through. Top each Parmesan-crusted zucchini with a slice of Danish pearl. Bake in a 350-degree oven until the cheese has melted. For the greens, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat until it just begins to smoke. Remove the pan from the heat and toss in the greens to just barely wilt. Season lightly. The greens may need to be done in multiple batches. To plate, spread the barley mix into the middle of the plate. Set some wilted greens on top and the zucchini on top of the greens.



Insalata Idaho

A fresh take on caprese—an easy, yummy and beautiful classic. Change the ingredients to what is to what is fresh and locally available.
Recipe by Lillie Lancaster.

2 large Heirloom tomatoes,
sliced 1/4 inch thick; or halved cherry
or yellow pear tomatoes
8 ounces local Cheese, such as Ballard Farm’s Golden Greek Haloumi-style, Blue Sage Farm’s feta or fresh mozzarella
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin
olive oil
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
(to taste)
8 leaves fresh basil


Arrange tomato slices on a large platter and top with cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix oil and balsamic vinegar and drizzle over tomatoes and local cheese (feta, mozarella or other favorite). Cut basil into very thin slices and sprinkle over tomatoes and cheese. Garnish with fresh whole basil leaves. Serve immediately. For variation, take this recipe and make a grilled sandwich, pizza, or throw on top of greens.



Roasted Beet Salad

I altered this recipe to fit my tastes and the local produce available. Mix it up to your liking! Substitute green beans for asparagus or goat cheese for the feta. It’s a beautiful salad and always a big hit when I serve it.
Idaho Preferred recipe adapted by Lillie Lancaster.

6 fresh beets, washed and trimmed
20 asparagus stalks, trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup pecans, toasted
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup crumbled feta
3 tablespoons chopped chives

sugar cornstarch glaze option:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon butter


Heat oven to 450 degrees. Rub vegetables with olive oil; sprinkle with salt. In baking dish, roast beets 45 minutes and asparagus 15 minutes. While your veggies are roasting, toast your pecans, chop, and set aside (or any other nuts you prefer—I have a friend allergic to walnuts so I play around here). Chill veggies 15 minutes. Peel and chop beets. Chop asparagus. In a food processor, mix pecans and garlic to form a paste. Fold in yogurt. Mix with veggies. Top with feta and chives. Serve over greens. Serves 6.

Another great way to enjoy beets is to simply roast them. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 6 beets on large sheet of aluminum foil, fold edges together and seal tightly. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until the beets are tender; remove from oven and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, combine 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of cornstarch and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir in 1/3 cup water, 3 tablespoons of vinegar and one tablespoon of butter. Cook and stir on stove top or in microwave until thick and bubbly. When beets are cool, remove skin and cut into chunks or slices. Add beets to sugar/cornstarch mixture and heat through, about 5 minutes.



Plum Tart

When my friends were married in Germany, I was invited into the home of Olli and Betty Pagels. Betty served this tart. I had never had a plum tart or thought of cooking plums, and this was absolutely delish.
Recipe by Olli and Betty Pagels.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1-1 1/2 pounds plums, halved, pitted, sliced
6 tablespoons brown sugar
nutmeg, ginger or cinnamon to taste


To make the crust, blend first three ingredients in a food processor or mixer. Cut in butter. Add ice water, one tablespoon at a time until your dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour, then roll it out on a flat pizza tray or oven dish. Let it rise again for half an hour.

Cut plums in half and remove the pits. Arrange evenly on the pastry. Cover with brown sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes. To spice it up a bit, add ground ginger, cinnamon, and ground nutmeg to taste.



This article appears in the Summer 2010 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.