The Potluck: Taking a Midwest Tradition Local
Story and photos by Aryn Henning Nichols • Photo/Food Assistant Thea Satrom
Getting together with friends is the stuff of summer.
Getting together with friends, eating food grown by friends, is the stuff of a Driftless summer.
When you live in a place like the Driftless Region, you sometimes forget that you’re even eating local…you’re just serving up the produce grown by farmers up the road! They might even be sitting across the table from you – ‘cause this is the Midwest, people. We’re friendly. And we like to potluck.
In case this is your first day in the Midwest, a potluck is “a gathering of people where each person or group of people contributes a dish of food to be shared among the larger gathered group.”
It’s a beautiful thing not just because it’s a great format for a party, but also because sometimes summertime livin’ isn’t so easy; it’s busy. Make it a little simpler by having your friends make all the food. Okay…you still have to make one dish, but that’s a lot better than a whole meal.
What goes into planning a potluck? Just an email, text message, or phone call with a loose “you do a main course, I’ll do veggie, they’ll bring dessert” sort of thing. Take it a step further and challenge potluck-goers to use local produce in their dishes. Buying locally is good for your environment, economy, and – most importantly – yourself. And shopping in season at your area farmers markets and food co-ops is also way more affordable than you’d think!
We put together our own potluck of local foods for this issue – from local shrimp (yep!) to bacon-wrapped dates to a beet and apple salad to cheese curd caprese skewers, we’ve got you covered. We’re featuring the recipes online here throughout the summer. Today, we’re highlighting finger foods!
Make it a potluck-y summer, friends, and enjoy!
FINGER FOOD RECIPES – PRINT HERE
Cheese Curd Caprese Skewers
1/2 C balsamic vinegar
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 lb fresh cheese curds
fresh basil leaves, cut or ripped in half if large
salt & pepper
Drizzle of olive oil
Bring balsamic vinegar up to a boil in a saucepan, then lower heat to medium and simmer until it’s the consistency of very thin maple syrup, about 10 minutes. Pour into a bowl and let cool.
Cut large tomatoes in half / leave small ones whole. Thread a small cheese curd, basil leaf, and a tomato onto a toothpick. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, then alternate a drizzle of balsamic reduction and olive oil on top.
Bacon-wrapped dates (makes 36)
12-ounce package of bacon, cut into thirds
8-ounce package of pitted dates
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Position oven rack in the center of the oven. Cover a cookie sheet with tin foil. Using scissors, cut bacon slices into thirds. Wrap one (third) piece of bacon around each date. Make sure the bacon seam is on the bottom, so it is less likely to unravel. Repeat until all of the dates are wrapped in tasty bacon.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp (go a little longer if they don’t look crispy). Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.
12 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 C mayonnaise
2 T milk
1 tsp yellow mustard
1/4 tsp salt ( or to taste, I use seasoned salt)
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Paprika for dusting
Slice the eggs in half lengthwise; remove the yolks, and set whites aside. Add all ingredients except for paprika into food processor (it makes it so much smoother!), or whisk by hand if you must. Spoon mixture into a plastic bag, snip one corner, and pipe into the whites. Sprinkle with paprika and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 C plain greek yogurt
1/2 C sour cream
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste
Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for 2 hrs. before serving. Serve with fresh veggies and pita triangles, or try it on top of grilled or roasted meats like lamb, chicken, or gyros.