11 February 2012

Weekend Cooking: Heartland: The Cookbook by Judith Fertig

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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!

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)
Here are just a few of the many recipes I've marked to try:
  • 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)
The cookbook includes recipes for soups and stews, salads, grilled vegetables, game, breads, cheese souffles, and wild-rice pilafs. Truly you'll find plenty of flavors to pick from.

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

Makes 12
  • 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
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

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.)
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781449400576
Source: review (see review policy)
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


caite 2/11/12, 7:16 AM  

did someone say bacon? and cheese? Oh my...

and I must say that Ohio Lemon Tart sounds delicious. Darn, I even have a bunch of lemons on the counter!

Kaye 2/11/12, 7:34 AM  

That cookbook sounds amazing. I like it when the recipe includes storage or freezing tips. I'd like to see that Ohio Lemon Tart recipe too. Lemons are a fave around our house.

Uniflame 2/11/12, 7:42 AM  

I viewed this book through NetGalley last year. But while I love the atmosphere of the book, it was not really for me. The portions in the book were huge, I mean 8-12 servings were the standard. So it is not really a book for a family of two ;)

Lisa 2/11/12, 7:43 AM  

I agree with Kaye - this cookbook sounds like a must-have! I grew up on a farm in Ohio and every day in the summer started with working in the garden with my mom (and tending animals). There are so many aspects of this book that grab my attention. Thanks for introducing me to it! It's going on my wishlist!

jama 2/11/12, 7:48 AM  

Well, you've certainly got my mouth watering. This book sounds like a rich resource to return to again and again. Thanks for posting the sample recipe, and thanks for hosting Weekend Cooking every week!

Beth F 2/11/12, 7:56 AM  

@Uniflame: Some of the main dishes do serve a lot, but that way you can put portions in the freezer for another day. Some recipes (especially the meat ones) are meant to produce leftovers so they can be used in other dishes.

But I agree that the potato salad recipe would have to be cut in half for home use. On the other hand a recipe that serves 12 would be perfect for a holiday cookout.

bermudaonion 2/11/12, 8:47 AM  

Oh man, those scones sound to die for! I've never spent much time in the midwest, even though my mother grew up there. I'll have to check this cookbook out.

Amanda 2/11/12, 8:51 AM  

I grew up in the south, in big cities, but fell in love with the midwest the first time I went there in 1999. We moved there in late 2000 and lived there until late 2005, and every day that we're away, I miss it. It's the only place where i loved living in a small town area. I loved the cheese stores and fresh dairy and all the available produce. Interestingly, though, I'm far more of a fan of Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine than anything in the Midwestern variety...

theveryhungrybookworm 2/11/12, 9:16 AM  

Wow, this cookbook is now on my wishlist! That recipe sounds to die for mmmmmm

Heather @girlichef.com 2/11/12, 9:38 AM  

Oh, I LOVE this book! I've made quite a few things from it. Being a Midwestern girl myself, I find it wonderful. It's a great coffee table book as well as a cookbook!

JoAnn 2/11/12, 9:53 AM  

I need to take a look at this cookbook - it sounds amazing! My mouth is watering just reading the recipe.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 2/11/12, 10:09 AM  

Those scones sound amazing, although I laugh at the thought of having enough left to freeze!

and the grilled pear salad ... what a great flavor combination.

Jennie 2/11/12, 10:12 AM  

This cookbook sounds great!

Beth Hoffman 2/11/12, 10:41 AM  

You've totally sold me on this book! Guaranteed this is going on my shopping list.

Grilled Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Honey! I am sooooo dying to make that recipe. I think it might be our signature salad at Happydale!

Margot 2/11/12, 11:04 AM  

This was one of my Top Ten books of 2011. It is fun to read and fun to use their creative recipes. I haven't tried the scones yet, but now I have to. I thought the photos, especially the landscapes, were so beautiful. Great book to look at.

(Diane) bookchickdi 2/11/12, 11:23 AM  

Oh, wow, I love the cover of this cookbook! The Bacon Cheddar & Scallion Scones and Grilled Pear with Blue Cheese & Honey Salad Sound have me salivating. I will be looking for this one.

Zibilee 2/11/12, 11:40 AM  

Oh, I would love to make my own butter, and I also love the idea that you can cook once, but yield many meals out of that. I am not sure if that would work in my house though, as I have a growing boy who eats like there is no tomorrow! Though I always cook enough for 6 or 8, there is rarely anything leftover, and there are only 4 of us! I love the sound of this book though, and think it would be a welcome addition to my collection. Thanks for the very enticing review!

Nan 2/11/12, 12:15 PM  

It so pleases me to learn that alternative farming/cooking are happening in the midwest.
As a vegetarian, I've often found that cookbooks which include meat and fish offer more recipes I want to try than the strictly vegetarian ones.
Sorry I've been so long away from this wonderful weekend enterprise. I just haven't been at the computer that much on Saturdays or Sundays to even read everyone's posts. And I just haven't been cooking/baking that much this winter so far. Don't ask me why. :<)

Linda 2/11/12, 12:30 PM  

Sounds like a good cookbook. I'd like to check it out.

Shelley Munro 2/11/12, 12:52 PM  

Regional books like this are fascinating to me. We don't have regions in NZ. We're too small!

Esme 2/11/12, 12:54 PM  

I thought that this was quite the fun book.

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook 2/11/12, 1:14 PM  

Sounds like a great book! I made chili this week, your scones would have been a welcome addition, they sound delicious!

Joy Weese Moll 2/11/12, 3:16 PM  

I have Heartland checked out of the library right now -- I'm going to move it to the top of the stack!

Peggy@Peggy Ann's Post 2/11/12, 4:23 PM  

Sounds like a great cookbook! Will have to try to find it.

Andi 2/12/12, 8:41 AM  

This is my kind of cookbook. Excellent!

Karen White 2/12/12, 12:12 PM  

This seems like it would make a wonderful present. So many tempting recipes...thanks for sharing them!

Caitlin Martin 2/12/12, 12:14 PM  

Oh, I love these kind of scones. My Mom used to make them sometimes - after all, scones are a biscuit, anything you can do to a biscuit you can do to a scone.

Heather R 2/12/12, 2:35 PM  

Sounds like I might have to check out this book and the scones are going on my list to make!

Peaceful Reader 2/12/12, 3:09 PM  

A savory scone? Sounds delicious!
This book looks like it it worth looking at-I love the quotes, commentary and photos. I'll have to pin it to my wish list.

Daryl Edelstein 2/13/12, 11:03 AM  

weekend recappage .. lunch w/friends!

nomadreader 2/13/12, 5:27 PM  

I never knew you grew up in the Midwest! This cookbook looks fabulous. I'm Midwestern, but my husband is a northeasterner. We love to remember the first meal I cooked for him, which naturally featured gooey, cheesy potatoes, and he said, "I never knew potatoes could taste this good." I still amaze him with my potato dish concoctions, but now that he lives in the Midwest too, he realizes that trait is not unique to me;-). I'm going to have to track down this one!

Julie P. 2/13/12, 7:29 PM  

The cover reminds me of my grandparents' farm.

wyomingstorygirl 2/14/12, 11:36 PM  

This week everyone is in the spirit of cooking! It may never get through the wonderful links I've seen this week. Make sure to make Sugar Cookies to eat while reading!

Kris Meyer 2/17/12, 2:04 PM  

This sounds like a wonderful cookbook, I'm off to see if my library has it.

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