June is Dairy Month, an annual tradition that promotes the dairy industry and its many contributions to society. OK, besides giving us ice cream, milkshakes, and assorted other summertime treats, what has the dairy industry done to deserve a month of devotion?
Well, consider that June is also Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, Turkey Lover’s Month, National Accordion Awareness Month, National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, and National Papaya Month. These are, of course, all worthy subjects in their own rights. But if a musical instrument and one tropical fruit are worthy of such attention, it’s certainly appropriate that the dairy industry be appropriately recognized and rewarded in the proper way.
Illinois has 1,210 dairy farms and more than 100,000 dairy cows producing 1.97 billion pounds of milk annually. What began as National Milk Month in 1937 to celebrate the dairy industry changed names a few times and shifted its focus to the greater use of dairy products. Today, Dairy Month is celebrated by communities across the country with dairy-food demonstrations, coronations of dairy princesses, cow-milking contests, and free ice-cream cones.
If you want to mark the month in a more low-key way, say just by having some ice cream, cheese, or a creamy, cold milkshake or two, there are plenty of area restaurants, diners, and businesses serving up tasty treats that include dairy products.
Here are just a few:
• Krekel’s Custard. Try a cone or concrete (ice cream packed with chunks of candy bars or brownies) at this simple, old-fashioned institution. Floats come in such flavors as chocolate Coke, and shakes and malts are available in flavors such as lemon, cherry, butterscotch, banana, and marshmallow. 2121 N. Grand Ave. E., 525-4952, www.krekelscustard.com
• Corkscrew Wine Emporium. Sure, there are lots wine options here, but Corkscrew also offers a good variety of imported and domestic cheeses. Add some locally made artisan bread from Incredibly Delicious, some ripe strawberries from the farmer’s market, and you’re ready to head to the park for an afternoon picnic. 2613 Chatham Rd., 698-1112, www.thecorkscrew.com
• Saputo’s and Tuscany. Many great Italian dishes, such as eggplant Parmesan, are loaded with cheese. Saputo’s, 801 E. Monroe St., 544-2523; Tuscany, 3123 Robbins Rd., 726-5343.
Check out these Web sites for more information on dairy products, recipes, nutrition facts and more: www.3aday.org (recipe and snack ideas, expert tips and coupons), www.whymilk.com (milk recipes, trivia, and events), www.ilovecheese.com (say “cheese”), and www.nationaldairycouncil.org (nutrition info and more).
Here are a couple of recipes perfect for a summer meal:
Balsamic Yogurt Grilled Vegetables
1 1/4 cups plain fat-free yogurt
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup diced roasted red peppers
One sweet onion, sliced in half-inch rounds
Two baby eggplants, sliced in half-inch rounds
Three zucchini, sliced in half-inch rounds
Two cloves garlic, minced
Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan. Simmer to reduce to 3 tablespoons and cool. Add cooled vinegar to yogurt with oil, garlic, and parsley. Divide mixture in half. Place prepared zucchini, eggplant, and onion on a sheet pan and brush with half of the yogurt mixture. On a lightly oiled preheated grill, cook vegetables until golden and brown (three or four minutes). Place cooked vegetables on a platter and sprinkle with red peppers. Drizzle remaining dressing over vegetables and serve. Makes four servings. (Recipe courtesy of Dannon Yogurt.)
Zippy Fruit Dip
16-ounce container of cottage cheese
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons honey
Sliced honeydew melon
Sliced fresh pineapple
Combine cottage and blue cheeses in small mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until well blended, about three minutes. Fold in nuts and honey. Refrigerate, covered, one to two hours to allow flavors to blend. Serve with apples, melon, and pineapple. Yields 3 1/2 cups. (Recipe courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association.)
Be a baker
A new bakery in Girard is selling its artisanal breads at the downtown farmers’ market. Bun Appetit, owned by Nancy Standen, opened its doors in January and is offering items such as rosemary-garlic and chipotle-chile breads at the market.
Bun Appetit also is taking reservations for its schedule of summer cooking and baking classes, which run through Sept. 27. To register, call 217-627-3764.
Ken and Ginny Costa have opened Tea Room on the Square in downtown Petersburg. They’ve moved into the space previously occupied by Morning Glory Café. The Costas, who own Costa’s Fine Chocolate in Petersburg, remodeled the interior and expanded the seating space. The backroom of the building, previously filled with antiques for sale, is now available for private parties, business meetings, and other events. Sue Kastelic, who formerly worked at Morning Glory Café, is the manager.
The menu includes salads, homemade chili, soups, sandwiches, olive-nut spread, Italian beef, hot dogs, Polish sausage, and fruit and cream pies. Daily and monthly specials, such as lasagna, chicken pot pie, and crab salad are offered as well. Beginning at the end of June, grilled specials, such as marinated pork chops, will be served.
Tea Room on the Square is located at 115 S. Seventh St., Petersburg; 217-632-0177. Lunch is served 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tue.-Sat.; dessert is available until 3 p.m.