A not-so-depressing dish

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I went to Tuesday afternoon’s Farmers Market and marveled at the array of produce that has suddenly become available. A couple of weeks ago, the options were quite limited, but now it seems that everything in the garden is ready to be harvested. There was sweet corn, kohlrabi, tomatoes, onions, carrots, raspberries, zucchini, broccoli — even fresh-from-the-bakery loaves of bread.

But I was on a mission to find the ingredients for one of my favorite dishes — what DotMom always called Depression Dish.

From here on out, I will just call it DD — which could stand for Delicious Dish, or Devoured Dish, or whatever other D word that would be suitable — because it is far from depressing. The only reason it would cause me any depression is because the availability of the ingredients means that summer days are now waning — definitely a reason for me to feel blue as summer is my favorite season.

But I believe the “Depression” in the title refers to its popularity during the 1930s Depression era, when people stretched their food resources, especially spendy items such as meat — in this case bacon — with foods from their expansive gardens.

But the key ingredient in DD is green beans — fresh-from-the-garden green beans. And I found those in abundance Tuesday. It also requires potatoes, and the “new” potatoes that vendors were selling are just the ticket, along with some freshly dug onions.

Here’s the DD recipe as it appears in DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook.” She chose to title it “Old Fashioned Green Beans and Potatoes,” but I think it deserves a brand new name.

Definitely Delicious Green Beans and Potatoes

4 strips bacon, diced

4 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and halved

1 cup water

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 cup diced potatoes

¾ cup sliced green onions

In large skillet, cook diced bacon for 5 minutes or so. Drain off part of the bacon drippings. Stir in green beans, water, salt and pepper. Simmer 2 or 3 minutes. Add potatoes and onions. Stir well. Simmer about 15 minutes.

Serve as either a main dish or side dish.

 

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Connecting the Dots

Dot's Tavern

Having written often about road trips in our Jeep Wrangler, Hubby Bryan and I often get asked, “Where are you going this summer?”

We generally go on one extended trip and several shorter long weekends over the course of a summer. During the long pre-Fourth of July weekend, we went on one of those shorter excursions to one of our favorite places — Wisconsin.

Wisconsin in the perfect place to venture if you love beer, cheese, sausage and windy roads. We fit that description to a T: Bryan is an avid homebrewer (I help, usually by naming and consuming the resulting brews) and we enjoy craft beers; we both love cheese; Bryan’s favorite meal would be a platter full of sausage; and taking those S-curves in the Jeep with the top off is a navigational delight. (And amazingly, the Jeep gets its best gas mileage in such terrain.)

This is somewhat of a generalization, but just about any town of any size in Wisconsin has at least one bar (if not four, often all at a crossroads on the four corners), a cheese factory and a butcher shop that specializes in sausages. We have our favorite such locales in Wisconsin, many of which I’ve shared in previous stories about our travels.

This time, we went in search of a very small tavern in a very small town. Friends Kevin and Kami Lease, former Worthingtonians who now live near Madison, had told us about a place called Dot’s Tavern. I was immediately intrigued, because we lovingly called my late mother — Dorthy Rickers — Grandma Dot, and now I often refer to her as DotMom in these writings. The Leases also refer to Kevin’s mom — another Dorothy, albeit different spelling — as Grandma Dot. So the name holds significance for us all.

The Leases weren’t able to guide us to or meet up with us at Dot’s Tavern, so Bryan and I ventured there on our own. It is located in a tiny little unincorporated town called Basco, just south of Madison, Wisconsin. Our GPS doesn’t recognize Basco, but we managed to find the place by plugging in Dot’s official address.

There it was — a house in a small cluster of houses (think Org) on the edge of a Wisconsin pasture. If the Dot’s Tavern sign hadn’t been posted out front, we would have surely thought we were in the wrong place. The tavern is actually located in the basement of the house, and the sign indicates it’s been there since 1948.

On this particular day — a Sunday — a meat raffle had taken place earlier, and some vintage cars were parked around the perimeter when we arrived. As the clouds let loose with a few sprinkles, those vintage rides quickly disappeared. But by the time we went downstairs to the bar to fetch a beer and re-emerged, the sun was shining again, so we sat outside on some plastic lawn chairs at a picnic table.

Yes, Dot’s is one of those unique Wisconsin small-town watering holes, to which, in all likelihood we will return again.

Here’s a seasonally appropriate recipe that features two prime Wisconsin ingredients — cheese and beer.

Wisconsin Berry & Cheese Salad

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons beer (preferably a pale ale or fruit-based beer)

2 tablespoons honey

1 small garlic clove, finely minced

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups mixed greens or romaine lettuce

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1½ cups fresh blueberries

½ cup Cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes

⅓ cup chopped pecans

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, beer, honey, garlic and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine greens, berries and cheese. Add dressing, tossing well. Sprinkle pecans over all and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

 

When was the last time you played croquet?

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I probably hadn’t played croquet since I was in my early teens, and back then I’m pretty sure I didn’t play it right.

But I got a lesson in the classic yard game of croquet (not to be confused with a croquette — a small roll of vegetables or meat, fried in breadcrumbs, since this blog does most often focus on food) on the Fourth of July at a holiday gathering of friends. For the most part, it was a friendly competition, with no mean-spirited “sending” of an opposing player, although that doesn’t mean we weren’t all playing to win. Beginner’s luck was on my

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side, as the rest of the competitors had already played one round, and I managed to come in second on my first go-round. I’m sure that luck won’t carry through next time.

But I did enjoy the endeavor and will be eager to pick up a mallet again. It’s a fun game that can be enjoyed by all ages. Besides, I just like saying the word “wicket,” which for those not familiar with croquet is the arched wire through which you must hit the croquet ball. Most particularly, I like the idiom “sticky wicket,” used to describe a difficult situation, although I hope I don’t find reason to utilize it any time soon.

Now on to a recipe, but not for croquettes because at the moment it’s too hot to consider deep-frying anything. But it is perfect weather for a salad, and this one is a favorite from my recipe file. I’m sure it was originally printed in DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing” column in the Daily Globe, although it isn’t in her cookbook.

The title on my recipe card is for “Mean Salad,” and since it’s not a particularly spiteful dish, I tend to think that the title comes from somebody saying “I make a mean salad.” That’s my explanation, and I’m sticking to it. This version utilizes cauliflower, although I’ve also made it with broccoli, both of which should be forthcoming from area gardens. It’s a great accompaniment to a grilled chicken breast.

Mean Salad

1  Romaine lettuce heart , torn into bite-size pieces

1/2 head cauliflower, chopped into florets

8 slices bacon, fried (or cooked on the grill or in the microwave!) and crumbled

1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

For dressing:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 small onion, chopped

Mix dressing ingredients. In a large bowl, combine romaine and cauliflower. Add the dressing and stir to coat. Sprinkle in bacon and Parmesan and toss.