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Read: Food Writing

Locally Sourced: Lone Grazer cheese uses fresh, local milk

Beth Dooley

STAR TRIBUNE

STAR TRIBUNE

A sampling of cheeses from the Lone Grazer.

The Lone Grazer — this cheese stands alone. It’s also delicious in sandwiches, on pizza, tossed with pasta. Made with fresh milk from two small Minnesota dairy farms — Sunrise Meadows in Cokato and Stengaard near Sebeka — Lone Grazer’s cheeses reflect our local terroir, the taste of a particular place.

Lone Grazer’s processing plant is in the Food Building, not far from the Mississippi River, on NE. Marshall Street in Minneapolis. Cheese maker Rueben Nilsson mastered his craft in the cheese caves of Faribault, Minn., before joining Kieran Folliard’s local craft food destination.

“The milk we work with comes from heritage breeds that graze outdoors on prairie grass,” he said. “Its flavors change through the seasons depending on the cows’ diets. The milk is especially rich in butterfat and protein, perfect for cheese making.”

Lone Grazer String Cheese, a fresh-tasting mozzarella, showcases the milk’s pure, sweet flavor. It’s a simple, straightforward cheese, great for snacking or as a pizza topping. Its cheese curds are Cheddary, tangy and slightly salty, designed for snacking and great with a beer.

Grazier’s Edge cheese is washed with 11 Wells Rye Whiskey (from the St. Paul distillery). It has a distinct, sharp edge and a buttery texture. It melts beautifully into pasta and is especially good smeared on slices of dense, chewy rye bread.

Hansom Cab’s elusive smoky flavor comes from a wash of Lapsang Souchong tea and 2 Gingers Irish whiskey. Aged as a small wheel, its texture is dense and meaty. It’s immensely satisfying in grilled cheese, even better alone on a crisp water cracker.

Northeazy, a classic Tomme-style cheese, is a triumph of ultra creaminess with a nutty, mushroom flavor; lovely on a dessert cheese plate with tart jam, nuts and honey.

Thanks to his years in those cheese caves, Nilsson appreciates the importance of the careful practice of ripening cheese that involves the washing, flipping and spritzing that brings a wheel to the apex of delectability. It’s the final care the cheese receives before being released to the hungry public. 

Find Lone Grazer’s cheeses in most grocery stores, cheese shops, gourmet stores, and all of the Twin Cities food co-ops.

Side dishes deliver as accompaniments to Thanksgiving meal or as feasts themselves

Pallas Erdrich

Beyond the turkey, these dishes deliver a delicious meal when paired with each other or served as accompaniments. 

Mette Neilsen

Mette Neilsen

These Thanksgiving sides are feasts themselves.

 

When planning the Thanksgiving menu, I’m not going to mess with our family’s beloved dishes — my mother-in-law’s creamy mashed potatoes, my grandmother’s chestnut stuffing, my mom’s fresh cranberry-orange relish.

But I can’t resist the urge to try a few new side dishes to add color, texture and bold flavors to the table. After 37 years of hosting the feast, I look for fresh and simple, bright, boldly seasoned recipes that emphasize our vegetables’ natural goodness. Their flavors should complement the other foods on the table, and the dishes themselves must hold up after they’re made so that they’re good served warm or at room temperature. I don’t want any last-minute fuss.

Thanksgiving presents two specific challenges for any cook:

1. Getting people to come to the table when they’ve been enjoying chatting and catching up. Who wants to interrupt a great conversation? Some years at my home, dinner has been served an hour or so later than planned.

2. Dealing with dietary preferences. Every year, the menu expands to accommodate suggestions for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free dishes, adding more reason to try something new.

The four recipes we have here meet all those criteria. As side dishes, they’re fine accompaniments to traditional turkey; together they add up to a satisfying meal when served side by side by side by side.

Inspired by the late autumn crops — the last fresh vegetables to come out of our fields — these dishes showcase a bountiful harvest. The recent cold snap has helped to sweeten the cold hardy cabbage and Brussels sprouts, sparked the sugars in those sweet potatoes, and cured the squash so that its flesh is just dry enough to roast up especially well.

Dishing up Thanksgiving sides that are deliciously simple makes it easy for cooks to give thanks.

Orii

Originally Published by The Star Tribune

The Good Acre food hub provides marketplace opportunities for farmers

Pallas Erdrich

The Good Acre will help with growth and distribution of local produce. 

RICHARD TSONG-TAATARII, STAR TRIBUNE

RICHARD TSONG-TAATARII, STAR TRIBUNE

A new state-of-the-art food hub opens Friday in Falcon Heights.

The Good Acre will address the two biggest barriers to increasing local food, identified in a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report: meeting food safety requirements at the national and state level, as well as distributing produce to mainstream markets.

“Let’s face it, great farmers are not necessarily great marketers or distributors,” said Rhys Williams, general manager of the Good Acre. He understands what it takes to grow and distribute local organic food because he has worked in every aspect of the food system — as a farmer, wholesale buyer, consultant and advocate. He is thrilled with the facility and its potential impact.

The Good Acre is the brainchild of three women in the Pohlad family — Lindsay, Allie and Sara — who engaged chefs, farmers, producers, university researchers and food system experts.

“It was my interest in food and cooking, Sara’s love for community outreach and Allie’s knowledge of nutrition that inspired the project,” said Lindsay Pohlad. Funded by the Pohlad Family Foundation, the Good Acre’s mission is “to enhance how food is grown and shared in the Twin Cities region, to improve marketplace opportunities for diverse independent farmers and to increase access for all consumers to healthy, locally grown fresh produce.”

Adjacent to the facility is an acre of certified organic University of Minnesota land that will provide growing opportunities for university students, beginning farmers and immigrant growers to plan, plant and harvest diverse crops. At this location, the Good Acre’s hoop houses will be available to extend the farming season.

The Good Acre food hub in Falcon Heights.

The Good Acre food hub in Falcon Heights.

More than 16 farms and farming groups will supply produce for the Good Acres CSA (community-supported agriculture). These farmers include the Hmong American Farmers Association, La Familia Cooperative and Stone’s Throw Urban Farms, which will deliver produce to the Good Acre site, where they can separate, wash, aggregate and pack it for delivery.

“The Good Acre has the capacity to open new markets for all of us,” said Robyn Major of Shared Ground Farmers Cooperative, based in St. Paul.

Pakou Hang, executive director of the Hmong American Farmers Association, expects that the new facility will be a game changer for immigrant farmers. “It will allow them entry to markets by providing access to equipment, coolers and processing stations that are required by certain institutional buyers,” she said. “By themselves, the farmers would not have been able to access this necessary but costly infrastructure. But through the Good Acre, so many things will be possible now.”

Williams anticipates that immigrant elders will share their knowledge with younger farmers who are eager to put classroom studies to work. “Collaborating with the university will be good for the students and good for our growers,” Williams said. “We are all excited about the prospect of working together.”

The space is also intended to be a learning center for the larger community, as well as for university students and staff, with kitchens for cooking classes, demonstrations, lectures and events. It is, in a broad sense, a local food hub.

The Good Acre’s grand opening is from 1 to 6 p.m. Friday at the new facility, 1790 W. Larpenteur Av. in Falcon Heights, with guided tours, cooking demonstrations and family activities. For more information go to the Good Acre’s website: thegoodacre.org.

Originally Published by The Star Tribune

 

New cookbook focuses on versatility and variety of whole grains

Pallas Erdrich

In a new book, Minneapolis author Robin Asbell focuses on the versatility and variety of this healthful addition to mealtime. 

On Saturday mornings as a child, I awoke to the nutty aromas of steel-cut oats and the percolator coffee my dad made. I’d lace the steaming bowl with cream scooped from the top of a glass milk bottle, then load on raisins, brown sugar and crunchy pecans.

Later, when I began cooking for myself, brown rice was the go-to basis for dinners with housemates; it was cheap, filling and hip. Given today’s selections — including quinoa, red and black rice, farro and buckwheat — whole grains have come a long way.

Whole grains are nutritional powerhouses that have sustained other cultures for centuries, no doubt in part because they not only taste good but are easy to work with.

Thanks to “The Whole Grain Promise” (Running Press, 199 pages, $20) by Robin Asbell of Minneapolis, they are all becoming a staple in my kitchen. Asbell offers fresh new ideas for the more familiar brown rice, barley and wheat berries. She also has introduced me to kaniwa, freekeh, millet, amaranth and rye berries. To her credit, she doesn’t dwell on their health benefits, though she does offer plenty of information. Her focus is on versatility and taste.

The chapters are organized by meal category (breakfast, salads, soups, sides, main courses, snacks and desserts) with a separate section on breads and a chart showing best uses and cooking times. As an authority on gluten-free cooking, Asbell provides details for substituting and adapting the dishes to meet dietary needs.

“The Whole Grain Promise,” Asbell’s seventh book, updates and expands on an earlier volume. The recipes are smart, flavor-forward, reliable and simple, with suggestions for making dishes ahead and using up leftovers. The book delivers in numerous satisfying ways — and with more than 100 recipes.

I can imagine my dad’s delight in Asbell’s oatmeal concoction with pomegranate, berries and nuts. The sushi broccoli and brown rice salad is a far cry from my gloppy cheese-laden brown rice days.

Given the book’s light, bright dishes, I’m going with the grain, every day.

Local authors explore gluten-free options for bread

Pallas Erdrich

Local authors behind popular “Bread in Five Minutes a Day” series turn their attention to gluten-free options. 

Authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François. | photo by Sarah Kieffer

Authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François. | photo by Sarah Kieffer

Let’s be honest: Gluten-free flours are not much like wheat. When used alone, they can be gritty, moist, dark, a little sweet. But, in the right combination, they create tasty bread that’s actually pretty simple to make — no proofing, no kneading, no punching.

Thanks to the new book by the innovative local duo Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, I baked flatbread for a gluten-free friend — and no one suspected it was not its floury cousin. “Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”(St. Martin’s Press, 291 pages, $29.99), like its four bestselling wheat predecessors, tells us how to make up a big batch of dough to keep in the refrigerator and use it to make freshly baked baguettes, boules, pizzas, bagels and sweet loaves over the following five to 10 days.

Success didn’t come easily. “This was the hardest challenge of my career,” said François as she sliced into a golden, crusty, dense and toothy boule.

“I almost gave up,” admitted Hertzberg. Getting the blend of flours to interact with yeast the way wheat does was no small feat. It took persistence, imagination, experience and a lot of trial and error.

“For example, we wanted the pizza dough to have enough tensile strength and realized we needed more protein, so we added egg whites to the recipe,” explained François. The research took about five years, and the resulting recipes and techniques are as good as, and in some cases better than, breads made with wheat.

“Every recipe had to pass muster with our family,” Hertzberg said.

Gluten-free Za’atar flatbread from “Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” a book that proved challenging to the authors.

Gluten-free Za’atar flatbread from “Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” a book that proved challenging to the authors.

For François, “My dad thought the gluten-free brioche was the best bread he’s ever had, not knowing that he was eating something made with rice, tapioca, sorghum and other gluten-free flours.”

As soon as “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” hit the bestseller list in 2003, Hertzberg and François, both of Minneapolis, were flooded with requests for gluten-free options. “People said they loved the method, but couldn’t eat wheat, so we set off to develop recipes that fit our fast and easy methods using gluten-free flours,” François said. “We wanted to give these readers more than the short chapters in our other books.”

“It had to be as easy and fast as our recipes with wheat flour,” Hertzberg said. “That’s the promise we make in the title, and that’s what we wanted to be sure to deliver.”

Through their interactive blog (www.BreadIn5.com), the two authors have knit a tight community of readers that makes these books especially relevant and easy to read. No question or comment goes unanswered.

Far more than a collection of recipes, “Gluten-Free Artisan Bread” gives context and guidelines for this genre of baking. It provides a glossary of alternative flours and substitutes for allergens or difficult-to-find ingredients, and it addresses the most frequently asked questions with tips for troubleshooting common problems. Although grocery store shelves now hold several gluten-free flours, the book’s recipes for blending your own are easy and fail-safe.

With more than half a million copies of their books in print, Hertzberg and François continue to work on the blog, have launched a new website (www.GFBreadIn5.com), and are mulling future projects. (A holiday baking book, perhaps?) Now, everyone can live by bread alone (and some pretty good pizza, too).

Originally Published by The Star Tribune