The recent crop of cookbooks from Minnesota authors makes the case that we live in a state of great food. Sharing more than recipes, their stories of farmers, foragers, chefs and purveyors connect us all the more deeply to this fertile, vibrant place.

“Chowgirls Killer Party Food: Righteous Bites & Cocktails for Every Season,” by Heidi Andermack and Amy Lynn Brown (Arsenal Pulp Press, 147 pages, $22.95).

Here is a lighthearted guide to serious fun by the renowned Minneapolis caterers. These are surefire recipes and tips from two chefs who spend a lot of time working in challenging environments, such as warehouses, where the access to running water is a janitor’s sink, or the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, where food and equipment are transported to the site by canoes. They share their strategies for sourcing and preparing local seasonal ingredients and preparing the components of a dish ahead, so last-minute preparation is a snap. Their recipes are innovative twists on familiar favorites — pretty mini Iron Range pasties filled with roasted root vegetables, old-fashioned crab gratin sparked with chiles, scaled-down Swedish meatballs, plus “Mad Men”-worth cocktails to cheer you on.

“Dishing Up Minnesota: 150 Recipes From the Land of 10,000 Lakes,” by Teresa Marrone (Storey Publishing, 281 pages, $19.95).

From the author of numerous cookbooks and guides to foraging wild foods comes a love song to Marrone’s beloved home state with stories of our lakes, pastures, woodlands, farms and festivals. Her recipes for Scandinavian, German, American Indian, Mexican and Hmong dishes are traditional and innovative — from lefse to duck carnitas tacos, Vietnamese pho, Thai caramel popcorn and oatmeal stout latte. Marrone’s writing is witty, informative and practical. She’s a trusty guide through our diverse, vibrant state.

“Tasting Minnesota: Favorite Recipes From the Land of 10,000 Lakes,” by Betsy Nelson (Farcountry Press, 158 pages, $29.95).

“The process of writing this book has been much like hanging out in the kitchen with friends,” Nelson writes in her charming introduction. “Unexpected flavor combinations, hilarious commentary and personal stories from the contributing chef … the search for new places as well as the hidden gems.” Sharing her own memories, stories and those from among the state’s most interesting restaurants, chefs and cookbook authors, Nelson’s recipes and photographer Tom Thulen’s photos reflect the elegant and accessible aesthetic that defines today’s “new North.” The recipes are as beguiling as they are sensible and delicious — Curried Fish Cakes with Cucumber Salad; Grilled Corn and Potato Chowder; Surly Bender Braised Short Ribs. Read this and cook.

“The Vanilla Bean Baking Book: Recipes for Irresistible Everyday Favorites and Reinvented Classics,” by Sarah Kieffer (Avery, 336 pages, $27).

Winner of Saveur’s Best Baking and Desserts Blog Award in 2014, Kieffer (a native of Winona, Minn.) is a brilliant baker and voracious reader who sparks her postings with quotes from Jane Austen and her kids and tidbits from her life. Her book is sumptuous, yet homey, with detailed and thorough recipes and clear, inviting process photos. Kieffer engages and instructs with warmth and precision. I want to bake everything in these pages — the gloriously sticky caramel rolls, pear apple hard cider pie and the grown-up amaretto tartlets. Just by opening the covers and warming the oven, I step into a sweeter, gentler world.

Becca’s Butternut Bisque

Serves 18 to 24 shot glasses or small cups.

Note: This is a colorful respite in the cold winter months, with velvety texture and balanced flavors. From “Chowgirls Killer Party Food: Righteous Bites & Cocktails for Every Season,” by Heidi Andermack and Amy Lynn Brown.

• 2 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cubed

• 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 5 tbsp. unsalted butter

• 2 1/2 c. chopped yellow onions

• 4 garlic cloves, minced

• 1/2 c. white wine 

• 2 tbsp. champagne vinegar

• 4 c. vegetable broth

• 1 to 3 tbsp. kosher salt, to taste

• 3/4 c. heavy cream

• 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar

• Salt taste

• 3 tbsp. salted butter

• 3 tbsp. pistachios, chopped, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, drizzle the squash pieces with olive oil and toss to coat.

Spread the squash pieces in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheet and roast, turning once, for 1 hour or until the pieces are softened and browned at the edges.

Meanwhile, in a medium stock pot set over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and sauté on low heat for 10 minutes, until they have sweated down and moisture has evaporated from the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high, stir the onions frequently and scrape up the caramelization from the bottom of the pan.

Once the onions are medium brown, add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Increase the heat to high and deglaze the pan with white wine and champagne vinegar. Continue to cool for about 5 minutes to reduce the liquid.

After the wine and vinegar have almost completely evaporated from the pan, add the roasted squash, broth, salt and cream. Cook on medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the squash starts to break down. Transfer the soup to a blender, and blend high until the soup appears creamy and smooth. (Be careful when blending hot liquids!) Press the soup through a strainer. Add the sherry vinegar and salt to taste.

In a small saucepan set on medium heat, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the solids start to brown. Keep warm.

Pour the soup into shot glasses. Top each with ½ teaspoon browned butter and ¼ teaspoon pistachios.

Nutrition information per each of 24 servings:

Calories 90 Fat 7 g Sodium 420 mg Saturated fat 4 g

Carbohydrates 6 g Total sugars 2 g

Protein 1 g Cholesterol 20 mg Dietary fiber 1 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 1 ½ fat. 

Roasted Smashed Red River Potatoes With Sage and Bacon

Serves 3 to 4.

Note: These crispy potatoes, boldly flavored with bacon and fresh sage, are prepared in the oven rather than on the stovetop. They’re easy and delicious. From “Dishing Up Minnesota: 150 Recipes From the Land of 10,000 Lakes,” by Teresa Marrone.

• 1 1/2 to 2 lb. small red potatoes, 1 1/2 to 2 in. across

• Coarse kosher salt

• 2 1/2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more as needed

• 12 fresh sage leaves, cut in half crosswise

• 3 thick-cut bacon strips, cut into 1-in. lengths

• Freshly ground black pepper


Place the potatoes in a large pot and add cold water to cover; season generously with salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are just tender when poked with a paring knife, 14 to 17 minutes. Drain and let cool for about 10 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, position an oven rack at the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Pour the oil onto a heavyweight rimmed baking sheet, distributing evenly with a pastry brush; add additional oil if needed to provide a thick coating of oil. Lay the sage leaf halves singly on the sheet, and cover each with a piece of bacon; place any remaining bacon pieces on the baking sheet, keeping some space between them.

Place a potato on a work surface and press with a potato masher to flatten the potato to about a ¾-inch thickness; the potato should break apart into large pieces.

Transfer the potato pieces to the baking sheet, breaking them apart as necessary so no piece is larger than about 1-inch. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, spreading them evenly on the baking sheet. Drizzle a little oil over the potatoes, sprinkle lightly with the pepper and salt to taste.

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven. Turn the potatoes, together with the bacon and sage, with a spatula. Return to the oven and bake until the potatoes are golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes longer.

Nutrition information per each of 4 servings:

Calories 230 Fat 11 g Sodium 520 mg Saturated fat 2 g

Carbohydrates 30 g Total sugars 2 g

Protein 5 g Cholesterol 5 mg Dietary fiber 4 g

Exchanges per serving: 2 starch, 2 fat.

Salmon and Cheddar Quiche

Serves 6 to 8.

Note: This recipe from the Amboy Cottage Cafe in Amboy, Minn., is as good warm as it is at room temperature, which makes it perfect for holiday brunch. From “Tasting Minnesota: Favorite Recipes From the Land of 10,000 Lakes,” by Betsy Nelson.

• 1 (10-in.) pie crust, unbaked

• 4 eggs

• 2 c. sour cream

• 1/2 c. finely chopped onion

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh or dried dill

• 1 1/2 c. Cheddar cheese, divided

• 1 lb. baked or smoked sockeye salmon, deboned, skinned and flaked

• 1 lemon, cut into wedges


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with the pie crust and crimp the edges as desired.

In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs and sour cream. Stir in the onion, salt, dill and 1 1/4 cup cheese. Fold in the salmon and then place the mixture into the pie crust. Sprinkle with the reserved ¼ cup cheese. Bake until set, 45 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Nutrition information per each of 8 servings:

Calories 440 Fat 31 g Sodium 660 mg Saturated fat 15 g

Carbohydrates 17 g Total sugars 3 g

Protein 24 g Cholesterol 170 mg Dietary fiber 1 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 3 medium-fat protein, 3 fat.

Lemon Bread

Makes 1 loaf (12 slices).

Note: “I find this lemon bread to be my own little morning miracle,” writes Sarah Kieffer in “The Vanilla Bean Baking Book.” Garnished with thin slices of lemon baked right into the top, this sunny loaf makes a wonderful gift, afternoon snack or morning toast.

• 1 3/4 c. flour

• 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

• 1/4 tsp. baking soda

• 3/4 tsp. salt

• 1/4 c. lemon juice

• 1/2 c. sour cream

• 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

• 1 1/4 c. sugar 

• 2 tbsp. grated lemon zest

• 2 eggs, room temperature

• 2 tbsp. canola oil

• 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 3 thin lemon slices

Lemon Glaze:

• 1/4 c. sugar

• 1/4 c. lemon juice

• Pinch salt


Adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 4- by 8-inch loaf pan and line with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup lemon juice and sour cream.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium until smooth. Add 1 1/4 cup sugar and lemon zest, and beat on medium until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well on medium after each addition and scraping down the sides as needed. Add the oil and vanilla, and mix on low until combined.

Add half the flour mixture and mix on low until almost combined. Add the sour cream mixture and mix on low to incorporate. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low until completely combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set the lemon slices on top of the batter. Bake 45 to 60 minutes, until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. While the bread is cooling in the pan, make the lemon glaze. Remove the loaf from the pan and peel off the paper. Brush the tops and sides of the warm bread with the lemon glaze. Let the bread finish cooling on the wire rack before slicing.

To make the glaze: Combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice and pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Boil gently over medium heat until a light syrup forms and the liquid reduces slightly, 6 to 8 minutes.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 290 Fat 13 g Sodium 265 mg Saturated fat 6 g

Carbohydrates 40 g Total sugars 26 g

Protein 3 g Cholesterol 55 mg Dietary fiber 1 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 1 ½ carb, 1 ½ fat.