If you've ever thought that cooking with local and seasonal foods in Minnesota is limiting, Beth Dooley's "The Northern Heartland Kitchen" may change your mind.
Dooley's book pairs an abundance of seasonal recipes using local foods with informative asides: a blurb about Lake Superior smoked fish accompanying the recipe for smoked trout/apple/fennel salad; a description of the restoration of chestnuts by Minnesota nut-tree farmers is next to instructions for fresh chestnut soup.
Soon, the book suggests, we'll see "kiwi, pawpaw, artichokes, frost-tolerant apples, farro, chickpeas, pecan-hickory nuts, hazelnuts, and nut oils coming in from around our region, not from around the world." Combine that with a growing selection of artisan cheeses, increased availability of meats such as goat and heritage pork, and reintroduction of various heirloom vegetables, and it all bodes well for cooks and lovers of local foods.
"There is so much wonderful food that comes from this area," she said. "My god, we're in the heartland."
Dooley shares her book and her thoughts about writing next Sunday at the LeDuc Historic Estate in Hastings, in the first of the "Authors' Sundays" series.
"The reason that we are doing the first one is that the LeDucs were very much into food," said Margaret Goderstad, senior educator at the estate. "We talk a lot about sustainability."
Dooley, who has covered the local food scene as a food writer for 20 years and who co-authored "Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland" with Lucia Watson, was just appointed co-chairwoman of the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, an attempt to deal with food issues at the policy level.
The longtime locavore said she really learned how to cook seasonally when she joined a CSA (community-supported agriculture) group. "It's a much different paradigm. You come up with some really great options. I don't need to think I can cook everything at once. As Americans, we have really high expectations of what will be available to us all winter long."
"I'm not trying to be preachy and not trying to be restrictive," she said. "It's more about just being mindful of those kinds of choices."
Rounding out next Sunday's program, another food-related talk comes from Anne Gillespie Lewis and her discussion of her book "Ingebretsen's Saga: A Family, A Store, A Legacy of Food," which pairs traditional and new Nordic fusion recipes with a history of the Lake Street store, which celebrated its 90th birthday in 2011.
"Some the recipes may take people back to some of the things they might have had in their grandmother's kitchen," said Lewis, who has authored several books on immigrant history. The cookbook includes traditional recipes like "Sigurd's Skaarne Pepperkaker" as well as traditional ingredients used in contemporary ways, such as Julie Ingebretsen's Norwegian burritos, made with lefse and salmon. People often think about lefse during the holidays, Lewis said, but "don't think about it the rest of the year."
For the first event in the series, in honor of Food Share Month, guests are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items for the Hastings Family Service Food Shelf.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Minneapolis freelance writer.