September 30, 2011

The Northern Heartland Kitchen

The Northern Heartland is governed by the seasons. The long and cold winter, bright and warm summer, and crisp and refreshing spring and fall shape our physical and emotional landscape. Shouldn't the seasons and their harvests also shape the way we eat?

My new book, The Northern Heartland Kitchen (University of Minnesota Press), presents delicious and practical solutions to the challenge of eating locally in the upper Midwest. Celebrating the region's chefs, farmers, ranchers, gardeners, and home cooks, this is the essential guide to eating with the year's local rhythms. Recipes are organized by season: fall and winter inspire Chestnut Soup and Venison Medallions with Juniper and Gin, while summer harvests contribute the ingredients for Watermelon Gazpacho and Grilled Trout with Warm Tomato Vinaigrette. Other chapters provide instructions on pickling and preserving food, as well as tips on growing your own food and getting the most out of your CSA or farmers' market. There are also profiles of local farmers, butchers, and chefs who are using new technologies--as well as rediscovering heritage practices--to enrich regional selections.

Far from being a sacrifice, eating in season and locally is a tribute to the year's changing riches--encouraging an appreciation for the unmatched flavor of a juicy July tomato or a crisp October apple with garden salads, soups and stews, free-range meats and poultry, fish and game, farmstead cheeses, wholesome breads, pastries and fruit pies. The Northern Heartland Kitchen presents delicious recipes alongside the stories and compelling research that illustrate how eating well and eating locally are truly one and the same.

For more information on The Northern Heartland Kitchen, visit the book's webpage, and join me at and upcoming book signing!

September 29, 2011

Bring on the Fall Harvest: Tips for Preparing and Preserving Your Veggies Through Winter

Image from Creative Commons.
Late summer is nature’s gift to Northern Heartland cooks. Unlike those who live in temperate climates, we are governed by the seasons. Our weather is dramatic; nature shapes our physical environment as well as our emotional landscape. To live well here is to celebrate the year’s changing riches: summer’s shimmering corn, blowsy tomatoes, autumn’s crisp air, brilliant color and snappy apples. This time on the calendar, we are rewarded for our January patience, feasting on fresh, local foods denied us the colder months of the year. Except . . . except . . . it all comes at once!

Did the beans talk to the tomatoes and corn? Are the cabbages in cahoots with the carrots? How come all it’s all here now, demanding our attention, threatening to race from ripeness to rot? Our midwinter dreams become September’s dilemma. This season, the bountiful challenge seems especially welcome given a slow start to the agricultural year, a late spring, cold temperatures and too much rain. So here, now are those mounds of eggplant, early apples, late raspberries, zucchini, carrots, cabbages, Brussels sprouts. The markets are exploding and our CSA boxes seem ready to burst.

Every cook needs a strategy to decide what to enjoy now, what can keep, and what to put up for a snowy day. In a mad rush to catch the last of the good weather, our hungers seem to surge as the shadows lengthen and we realize that the temperatures will soon start to dip. To eat locally means paying attention to light, temperature and the land’s bounty. It means understanding how to be thrifty, of course, but also how to celebrate the year’s bounty. When our appetites follow the arc of the sun, we bring balance to our plates.

So here are several ideas for FAST fall dishes ready in five minutes followed by a simple recipe for classic corn relish to make now and then enjoy on a snow-covered day.


Autumn Garden Slaw: Shred Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, onion together and toss with just enough hazelnut or extra-virgin olive oil to coat. Sprinkle in cider vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for a few minutes so the flavors marry before serving. 

Fresh Apple and Sage Sauce: Peel an apple or two and chop fine along with equal amounts of onions, several sage leaves, parsley, a little lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grilled or roast pork or chicken. 

Roast Pears: Cut pears into quarters and brush all sides liberally with butter. Sprinkle with a little sugar and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast in a preheated 400-degree oven for about 5 minutes. Serve with a cheese plate, or with dark greens for a salad, or alongside roasted meats.  

Spiced Roast Carrots: Cut carrots into ½-inch sized sticks. Roll in melted butter, then dust with curry powder or cumin, and roast in a hot (400-degree) oven until just tender, about 10 minutes. Serve as an appetizer or side dish. 

Grilled Radicchio: Slice radicchio heads in half, brush with oil and place, cut side down on a hot grill until just charred, about 5 minutes. Serve drizzled with oil and vinegar.  

RECIPE: Fresh Corn Relish 

Makes 3 pints. 

About this time of year, we’re all getting a little weary of corn but come January, we’ll be counting the months until it’s back in town. Here’s a quick way to capture corn’s sunny flavor.

4 cups cut corn (about 9 ears)
2 cups chopped green cabbage (about 1/2-head)
1/2-cup chopped onion (about 1/2-medium onion)
1/2-cup chopped sweet green peppers (about 1 small)
1/2-cup chopped sweet red peppers (about 1 small)
1/2-cup sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1-1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1-1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups vinegar
1/2-cup water

1. Prepare a stockpot/canner and jars. (Confused? The Northern Heartland Kitchen offers some helpful hints for this.)
2. Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer 20 minutes.
3. Ladle the hot relish into the jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove the air bubbles; re-measure the headspace. If needed, add more relish to meet the recommended headspace. Wipe the rims, center the lid on the jars. Screw on the bands until fingertip-tight.
4. Process the filled jars in boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove the stockpot lid. Wait 5 minutes. Remove the jars. Cool and store in a cool, dark place.

This post first appeared on The University of Minnesota Press blog.

September 23, 2011

The Wild Rice is In
Check the Farmers Markets in town for the season's harvest of wild rice. Look for hand harvested rice that's been toasted over open fires and winnowed. It's tastier and cooks in half the time of cultivated rice. For the whole store, check out the Wild Rice Story link.