Before rushing back to the Delaware State Fair, Food Columnist Judi Leaming tried out Green Bean Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette, Dill Pickle Meatloaf and Coconut Macadamia Bars.


I readily admit that I’m writing this in a hurry so that I can rush back to the fun of Opening Day at the 91st Delaware State Fair. However, as you are reading this on July 28, the fair is more than half over and your opportunities to check out this spectacular, uniquely Delaware celebration are too rapidly coming to an end.

The Delaware State Fair showcases Delawareans at their best. Thousands of volunteers come together on the fairgrounds each July for a “fair family reunion work opportunity”. Families with animals to show, and therefore to care for, frequently bring their human families and their extended family (which may include cows, sheep, hogs, chickens, rabbits, exotic birds, etc.) and temporarily move down to the fairground to live 24 hours a day — although some would tell you that during fair week each day stretches to 36 hours or more. The very coveted Grove camping sites near the barns and under the shade trees are so sought after that one maturing friend of mine admitted to owning and showing several sheep (after he moved off the farm) just so that he could remain qualified for the camping spot that his family has occupied for several generations.

Before the fair ever opens to the public, hundreds of us have spent hours and hours (and hours) behind the scenes scrubbing away the dirt and grime that have accumulated on the displays since they went into storage a year ago, decorating miles of shelving with brightly colored cardboard, and overseeing the judging of entries that arrive early so that they can be judged and arranged. The items viewed by fair guests include hand-painted birdhouses, intricately patched quilts, and lovingly preserved jams, pickles and jellies that other Delawareans of all ages have been creating during the past year.

Sometime between now and Saturday evening, I urge you to come down to the Delaware State Fair in Harrington. The gates open at 8 a.m. and there are no crowds early in the day. Just stroll straight through the main gate (past the temptations of the Midway, which doesn’t come alive until later) and walk on down to the Dover Building where the home arts are on display in a large, air-conditioned building and then visit the amazing animal barns and the large 4-H/FFA building that really and truly are heart of the Delaware State Fair.

The following recipes have been tested, adapted and thoroughly enjoyed in our home just before I hustled off to enjoy the fair. The Green Bean Salad recipe comes from www.realsimple.com and the Dill Pickle Meatloaf (don’t you dare turn up your noses until you’ve tried it) and Coconut Macadamia Bars are from www.allrecipes.com .

Green Bean Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon salt (Kosher preferred)
1 1/2 pounds combination of fresh green and yellow waxed beans, ends trimmed off
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon sherry or red-wine vinegar
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (*)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and green beans and cook until very tender, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.
Drain and run under cold water. Drain again and rub the beans vigorously between your hands to break them in half lengthwise. (Sounds strange but it will work.)
Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Whisk together the mustard, vinegar, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Drizzle over the green beans. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and serve.
(*) I toasted the almonds by placing them in a small skillet and stirring them constantly over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.) Serves 6.

Dill Pickle Meatloaf
1 egg
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup dill pickle juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 sliced bread, torn into small pieces
1 pound lean ground beef
Topping:
1/4 cup chopped dill pickles
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8x8-inch baking dish and set aside. Beat the egg in a mixing bowl. Whisk in onion, pickle juice, salt and pepper.
Stir in the bread until soggy then mix in the ground beef until evenly combined. Form into a loaf and place into the prepared pan. Stir together the chopped pickles, ketchup, water, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce; spread evenly over top of the meatloaf.
Bake in the preheated oven until no longer pink in the center, about 1 hour. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 160 degrees.

Coconut Macadamia Bars
1/3 cup butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup flaked coconut
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (1/2 of a 14-ounce can)
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts (OR pecans or almonds)
1 cup vanilla OR semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon butter

Place the chunks of 1/3 cup butter into an 8-inch square microwave-safe casserole. Cover and microwave on high just until butter melts – less than 1 minute.
Stir in cracker crumbs and sugar to mix well; press firmly onto the bottom of the dish. Microwave uncovered on high for 1:30 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. In another bowl, combine coconut, milk and nuts; spoon evenly over the cooked crust. Microwave on high uncovered for 1 minute; rotate dish and microwave for 1 minute more. Set aside.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine chips (flavor of your choice) with 1 teaspoon butter. Microwave uncovered at 70% power for 1 minute; stir. Heat 40 seconds longer or until melted, stirring once. Quickly pour over coconut mixture and spread evenly.
Cool on a wire rack and cut into small bars or squares.