A new book offered by Minnesota Farmers Union and Minnesota Cooks celebrates the intersection of delicious home-grown foods with the skills of local culinary talent.
Part farm diary, part cookbook, “The Farmer and the Chef: Farm Fresh Minnesota Recipes and Stories” features more than 90 recipes and 19 farmer stories, accompanied by gorgeous color photography. As both ag journalist and consumer, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the writing, photography and scrumptious dish ideas.
Book chapters are organized by theme — Daybreak, Tractor Meals, Summer Harvest, Lakes, Sunday Picnics, Suppertime, Cozy and Sweets. Each chapter opens with an on-farm story that shares the highs, lows and challenges of the food-producing business. “Daybreak” begins with learning about wheat production on Ben Penner’s farm near St. Peter; “Sunday Picnics” opens with the aftermath of an unforgettable storm that decimated Nick and Joan Olson’s Prairie Drifter Farm near Litchfield; and “Suppertime” shares the legacy of turkey farmers Dale and Fern Peterson near Cannon Falls with the family’s Ferndale Market.
Recipes for each chapter, created by local chefs, feature what that farm and others produce. In “Tractor Meals,” the Heirloom Tomato and Sweet Corn BLT uses fresh produce from the Hmong American Farmers Association. Tucked into “Summer Harvest” is a story about Pastures A Plenty, farmed by the Jim and LeeAnn Van Der Pol family near Kerkoven, followed by a mouth-watering recipe for roasted pork belly served with sweet corn pudding and fresh tomatoes. And in “Sweets,” Minnesota fruits, vegetables and dairy are front and center — strawberries and rhubarb in cobbler, apples in strudel and crisp, blueberries for poundcake, cherries for dessert glaze, butter and eggs in cookies and cakes.
The book was a natural evolution in MFU’s longtime efforts to celebrate local food production. In 2003, then-MFU President Doug Peterson collaborated with hometown celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern to create Minnesota Cooks, MFU’s local foods program that fostered farm-restaurant partnerships. The program started small and eventually expanded to include a daylong Minnesota Cooks event at the state fair, featuring farmers and their foods, and chefs giving cooking demonstrations. Those in attendance are offered free food samples, too. Twin Cities Public Television also went on to create an award-winning farm-restaurant program. Supportive efforts continue today, thanks to the MFU executive committee and a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Minnesota Grown Program.
Kudos to the team who brought the book to life — MFU, along with Claudine Arndt, the late Bruce Miller and photographer Katie Cannon. Arndt is the manager of Minnesota Cooks, and she served as the book’s primary author. Miller, who died in November 2019, was MFU’s gregarious membership outreach and special projects director. Cannon operates her own photography business as well as doing the photography for Minnesota Cooks.
The 296-page book retails for $27.95. Ask for it at your local bookstore or order it at "The Farmer and the Chef: Farm Fresh Minnesota Recipes and Stories".