At the end of each summer, as we leave our cottage on Madeline Island, I dream of staying there year-round.
So it was with anticipation and envy that I opened “Life in a Northern Town: Cooking, Eating and Other Adventures Along Lake Superior,” by Mary Dougherty (Wisconsin Historical Press, 194 pages, full color, hardback, $29.95).
About 10 years ago, Dougherty and her family moved from St. Paul to the tiny port town of Bayfield in far northwestern Wisconsin, across from the Apostle Islands.
“It’s fantastically beautiful living on the shores of Lake Superior,” she writes, evoking waterfalls, sailing adventures, beach picnics and barbecues. We share her discoveries of the local organic farms, farmstead cheeses, fresh fish, apples, berries, ciders, and brews.
After devouring every word of the book’s warm, earthy prose and making several winning meals from her recipes, I felt as if I’d been cooking with a dear friend.
To create bold, interesting dishes, Dougherty stocks her pantry with exotic spices to whip up the likes of Corn and Smoked Trout Chowder; Nicoise Salad in a Jar, Wild Rice Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes, Apple Strudel Cheesecake, and Maple Glazed Duck.
A former restaurant owner, Doughtery is a blogger (the cookerymaven.com) and mother of five, who is deeply engaged in the community, including founding the nonprofit Farms Not Factories and serving as a rabble rouser for the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project.
Her book is one I will return to again and again, as much for its winsome recipes as for its charming stories, insights and wisdom.
“Life is too short to spend all my time in the kitchen,” she declares. “As I’ve knit myself into this community, I’ve learned that my experiences aren’t unique. Generations of men and women have stood on these beaches, listened to water rushing over the basalt rocks and picked wild blueberries. … To focus solely on food would tell only part of the story of what and why I cook.
“My visits into the natural world, the stories of the families who’ve raised their children here, and my deep love and gratitude for Chequamegon Bay and the Apostle Islands are the invisible legs under my kitchen table, keeping me rooted to this place.”
Dougherty reminds us of how cooking creates a life and makes a home.
Apple Cider Farro With Gorgonzola
Note: Farro is a hearty grain from Italy with a nutty earthiness well-suited to the fall flavors of Gorgonzola and apples. This salad is super easy to throw together and is a nice accompaniment to roasted duck or chicken. Be sure to use the semi-pearled variety — semiperlato in Italian — which cooks more quickly. From “ Life in a Northern Town,” by Mary Dougherty.
• 3 c. apple cider
• 1 c. water
• 2 tsp. kosher salt
• 1 1/2 c. semi-pearled farro, uncooked (see Note)
• 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
• 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
• 1/2 sweet-tart apple, cored and chopped
• 1/2 red onion, sliced
• 1/2 c. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
• 2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
• Salt and pepper to taste
Combine apple cider, 1 cup water and salt in saucepan, and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Add the farro and reduce to a simmer. Cook until farro is al dente, about 30 minutes, and drain. Let cool.
In small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar and Dijon to make a vinaigrette. Place cooked farro in large salad bowl and add enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Toss to thoroughly combine.
Add apple, red onion, Gorgonzola, thyme and rosemary, and toss again. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve at room temperature.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 665 Fat 34 g Sodium 1,240 mg
Carbohydrates 82 g Saturated fat 7 g Total sugars 21 g
Protein 14 g Cholesterol 15 mg Dietary fiber 11 g
Exchanges per serving: 2 fruit, 3 ½ starch, ½ high-fat protein, 5 fat.