Great cooks live everywhere, and luckily some take the time to write great cookbooks. Minnesota has its fair share of great cooks and cookbooks boasting irresistible recipes. These three cookbooks fall into that irresistible category, with recipes written by and for Minnesotans, working with our climate and growing season. They share a theme: local, sustainably-raised meats, fruits, vegetables and herbs from as nearby as your backyard garden or as far as across the state.
Grow It. Eat It.
Written by Linda Larson
Illustrated by Jessica Allen Johnson
Photographs by Arlene Gardinier
From seed to table, veteran gardener Linda Larson inspires readers to get down and dirty. After all, growing your own food is the best way to get a truly local taste. Linda’s garden savvy spills onto every page and encourages you, with help from her knowledgeable tips, to get growing. While the book’s focus is on gardening, Linda includes tasty recipes using your garden’s bounty. Her tone throughout the 144 pages of this spiral-bound book is conversational, like a friend chatting with a friend. You’ll want to keep “Grow It. Eat It.” nearby as a handy reference guide throughout the harvest.
Every Spring, the Minnesota native practices what she teaches in her book. Linda tells readers, “This book combines growing and cooking in one handy place… I’ve included information about what an astute observer might find in the woods, such as chokecherries and wild plums.” She knows because she’s visited the Minnesota woods nearest to her home in a rural community to bring home the wild fruit. Linda gears her expert seed planting information toward home gardeners living in Zones 3 and 4. Zone 3 covers the half of Minnesota where Linda lives.
The introduction alone is worth the price of the book. Have questions about keeping pests out of the garden without using chemicals? Wonder what makes good soil and why rotating crops keeps it healthy? Compost is heavenly food for gardens, but what do you compost and how do you do it? Will any unpleasant odors offend neighbors? This prelude to the book answers these and other potentially perplexing questions.
The book’s eight sections cover fruits, vegetables, culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, wild things, flowers, challenges for the expert gardener and helpful resources. Each section is formatted to include planting, thinning, harvesting, preparing and storing information for every plantable item she features.
The illustrator and photographer do their part, too, in making this book a completely delightful guide. Eye-popping photographs and eye-pleasing illustrations await the reader’s gaze. This 2005 Ben Franklin Award-winning book offers plenty of know-how from a gardener who clearly knows her stuff.
Buy it on Amazon.com.
Related: New Books by Twin Cities Authors
The Spoonriver Cookbook
Written by Brenda Langton and Margaret Stuart
Whether your eating style is vegetarian, carnivore or somewhere in between, Brenda Langton’s cookbook is chock full of time-honored recipes that will please the most discerning palate. In fact, you may never want to eat out again – unless it’s at Brenda’s celebrated organic restaurant Spoonriver in Minneapolis. Brenda is not a chef newbie. Over the past 40 years, she’s owned several restaurants, and she and long-time friend Margaret Stuart authored an earlier cookbook. Commenting on “The Spoonriver Cookbook,“ David Eisenberg, M.D. and Director of “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives: Caring for Our Patients and Ourselves,” heaps tall praise on Langton as a “remarkably talented chef…That she has willingly shared her recipes is a gift to us all…”
Covering appetizers, sandwiches, soups, grains, beans and veggies, breads and entrees, Brenda has created delectable dishes using local, organic and sustainable foods. Take a peek at this tiny sampling of her tempting recipes: Roasted Sweet Pepper, Walnut and Pomegranate Spread; Melon Mint Soup; Greek Black-eyed Pea Salad, Stovetop Caramelized Onions and Squash, Lamb Spoonburger, Chicken Stew, Herbed Port Tenderloin with Apple Sauce, Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa. If your sweet tooth has a death grip on your tastebuds, these desserts will call your name: Cranberry Orange Walnut Tart, Mango Cake, German Chocolate Cupcakes, Pumpkin Custard and Chocolate Pudding,
Some recipes are quickie one-pot dishes, but every recipe speaks to Brenda’s philosophy, “…a healthy diet is one of the best paths toward a long and happy life.” Author Dan Buettner says, “Buy this book if you want to live longer!”
Buy this book at Amazon.com.
The Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook: Local Food, Local Restaurants, Local Recipes
Written by Tim King and Alice Tanghe
Even if you don’t live in Minnesota, you’ll want this cookbook. In the past couple of decades, “food supply” was believed to come from a grocery story shelf. This book reprograms the reader to grow a love affair with “real” food. Beautiful photos connect the readers to farms and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms, which are the ‘real deal’ when it comes to growing succulent, healthy foods.
The book is divided into six regions — North Shore, Minnesota River Valley, Twin Cities Area, Bluff Country, Red River Valley and Pine and Lakes Country — where the authors talk with owners of 35 restaurants, all of which share stories of success and how their menus adapted to incorporate local, fresh foods. These restaurant owners then share recipes used in their eateries; a total of 100 recipes is included. Authors also talk with farmers and CSA owners, where grass-fed beef is raised and grains and vegetables are grown, then tie these food producers to the restaurants they supply.
Minnesota luminaries Garrison Keillor writes the foreward, sharing his love for fresh foods, and author Lynne Rosetto Kasper, host of MPR’s program “The Splendid Table,” weighs in on the book’s promise and impact.
But it on Amazon.com
Herbs in a Minnesota Kitchen
Written by Bonnie Dehn and Jan Benskin
Back in the 1980s, lifetime farmer Bonnie Dehn remembers that “if you grew 20 pounds of basil in a week, you worried about how much you were going to have to compost.” Largely through her influence, that wasteful thinking has changed. “Now” she says, “you need 200 pounds a day to meet customers’ needs—or it doesn’t work” (Excerpted from a Heavy Plate, 2009 interview). If you want these amazing foods in your life, where do you go to learn? Bonnie Dehn is the answer. Her self-published book provides ample learning and recipes.
Bonnie Dehn has roots not only on her farm but in her family history. Her family originated near Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, in the mid-1800s, and has farmed ever since. Bonnie didn’t have to wonder what lay in her future. In 1978, she and her husband Bob Dehn bought her father’s farm. In the 30 plus years since then, she and Bob have reared a new generation of farmers. They mostly grow vegetables and herbs. Bonnie is an integral part of the Minneapolis farmers’ market, where she plays a very active role. Around those parts, she’s known as “the herb lady.”
For years, Bonnie has taught interested folks how to cook with herbs. She couldn’t have foreseen that self-publishing her “Herbs in a Minnesota Kitchen,” would turn into a staple resource for aspiring Minnesotan cooks and gardeners.
Buy it on Amazon.com.
Natalie M. Rotunda is a freelance editor, and, as a freelance writer, has written about her passion for organic foods since 2008. She also contributes articles, on assignment, to The Digest, the quarterly newsletter of the organic food co-op she is a member of. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.