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I grew up in the American Midwest, otherwise known as the nation's heartland. In the introduction to Judith Fertig's Heartland: The Cookbook, she captures what that means:
Among those fortunate enough to have born and raised in the Midwest . . . the heartland holds us, comforts us, makes us stand up straight. Even if we leave, it still claims a place in our hearts. (p. xi)If your childhood didn't include country fairs, roadside farm stands, and never-ending vistas of corn and wheat fields, you might not understand the charms of the prairie states. You might also be unaware that America's heartland is home to organic farms, artisan bakeries, artisan cheesemakers, hormone-free dairies, microbreweries, and preservers of heritage species.
Heartland: The Cookbook takes you into the fields and barns and kitchens of the American Midwest. Printed on heavy, glossy paper with stunning photos of farms and scenery (by Jonathan Chester) and beautiful and inspiring photos of down-home meals and upscale cheeses and breads (Ben Pieper), the book will capture your imagination and your taste buds.
Before I talk about the recipes, there are few things I'd like to mention. First, I love the foodie literary quotes scattered throughout the text. Some are from well-known authors (Willa Cather) and others are from some of my favorite authors, even if they are less well known (Carrie Young). I also love the sidebars and features that tell the story behind foods used, produced, and grown throughout the Midwest (canola, strudel, and heritage chickens, for example). And finally, I've spent a number of hours exploring many of the websites listed under "Resources" at the back of the cookbook (check out Nueske's for meats or Carpriole for cheese) and have gathered even more recipes and bookmarked places for possible road trip destinations.
Now, of course, I want to talk about the core of the book: the recipes. You will find everything from the fun (making your own butter) to the fancy (roasted lake fish with remoulade). In between are tons of recipes that you'll want to try for both weekdays and weekends and some that will help you stock your freezer and pantry.
Most of the ingredients are readily available or easily substituted, and the directions are straightforward and simple to follow. In addition, Fertig introduces each recipe, giving advice or telling the story behind the dish. Finally, when appropriate, recipe directions include storage, freezing, and/or serving instructions.
Heartland includes a nice bonus for those of us who lead busy lives, like to economize, and/or don't want to fuss:
In this book, leftovers are a good thing. When you purposefully cook for leftovers, you'll have ready-made ingredients for other dishes like Minnesota Wild Rice Soup, Haymaker's Hash, or Hunter's Pie. Cook once, eat several times!Here are just a few of the many recipes I've marked to try:
This book is about ingredient-centered food and is a testament to the fact that if you grow, raise, or buy quality foods, you don't have to do a lot to them to make them taste great. (p. xix)
- Crisp Refrigerator Dill Pickles (ready to eat in just 24 hours; will keep in refrigerator for months)
- Pumpkin Patch Muffins (with yogurt or sour cream and loaded with spices)
- Four Seasons Flatbread (toppings for all year round)
- Grilled Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Honey (late summer on the deck?)
- Badlands Bison Chili (I might have to substitute lamb)
- Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Tarragon Creamed Corn (dinner in under an hour)
- Ohio Lemon Tart (kind of like lemon meringue pie in a cookie crumb crust)
- Garden Gimlet (gin, basil, herb syrup)
Vegetarian/vegan alert: Although many of the recipes include meat, vegetarians should take the time to look through Heartland: The Cookbook. There are plenty of recipes that you would be able to use as is or adapt with no trouble. Vegans will have a bit harder time, because many vegetarian recipes call for dairy products, honey, eggs, or other animal products.
Here is recipe that's easy to make and wonderful to eat. The recipe introduction tells you that the scones will keep in the freezer up to 3 months, so you can stock up on grab-and-go breakfasts. I like to serve these with chili. Note that the recipe suggests mixing in a food processor, but you can mix them by hand instead.
Bacon, Cheddar, and Scallion Scones
- 2 cups cake flour
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, chilled
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
- 1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions
- Half-and-half, for brushing
2. In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter pieces, egg, milk, and sour cream and pulse again until the dough just comes together. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and sprinkle the bacon, 1/2 cup cheese, and scallions on top. Using a dough scraper or a pancake turner, fold the dough over onto the bacon mixture several times. Roll or pat the dough out to a 10-inch circle about 1 inch thick. With a large knife or a pizza wheel, cut the dough into 12 wedges. Carefully transfer each wedge to the prepared baking sheet, placing them 2 inches apart. Brush the tops with half-and-half and sprinkle with more cheese.
3. Bake for 10 to 22 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Serve warm.
Heartland: The Cookbook is available at an Indie, at Powell's, and at Book Depository. (These links lead to affiliate programs.)
Source: review (see review policy)
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