Food for the People You Love

Food for the People You Love

“Fresh Midwest-Modern Recipes From the Heartland”Maren Ellingboe King, Countryman Press $35

I admit to being dubious about Maren Ellingboe King’s recipe for Pumpkin Bread in “Fresh Midwest.” Pumpkin spices can be overwhelming, and I usually take a pass on most of the recipes, a sentiment the author shares.She writes, “ I can’t get behind the pumpkin spice craze that seems to take over come fall…”

And then she makes an exception. “…but a classic pumpkin bread with my morning cappuccino? Yes, please.”

I agree, as long as the pumpkin bread is the one in “Fresh Midwest.” Maybe it’s the half-cup of maple syrup that makes it so moist and flavorful? Or maybe it’s because the mix of spices (cloves, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon) is well-balanced and flavorful? Or maybe it’s the smell that lingered after the bread was baked? Whatever the reason, the pumpkin bread is a winner, and the recipe, itself, is well-written and easy enough for a novice cook.

Much of the book focuses on the culinary traditions of the Scandinavian immigrants who settled in the upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas) in the late 1800s, a group that included King’s family.

She explains, “Many of the recipes in this book are based on archives I inherited from my grandmothers and great-grandmothers… Through the process of making these recipes, I acted as translator into the modern era…Though these recipes don’t use processed ingredients, the dishes retain their nostalgic taste, and are no less simple to prepare.”

The changes are especially evident in the various recipes for “hotdish,” Minnesota’s version of the casserole, which King defines as “a humble, baked, one-pan dinner.” In her updated versions, King swaps a simple, made-from-scratch béchamel for the canned cream of mushroom soup used in the original recipes.

She also uses ingredients native to the Upper Midwest that give the recipes a sense of place. Wild rice, for example, is used in salads, soups and a hotdish made with chicken and butternut squash that I’m planning to make as soon as the weather turns cooler. And then there are the dishes made with Scandinavian specialties like lefse (similar to a soft tortilla or a chapati) and gjetost, a Norwegian brown cheese with “caramelized undertones” (a personal favorite) that give the book a distinct ethnic identity.

But in the end, what really sells the book is the quality of the recipes. They’re appealing; you can envision serving them to friends and family with the expectation that they’ll be eaten and enjoyed. As the author puts it, “This is food that’s meant to be shared with the people you love.”

Pumpkin Bread

1 cup pureed pumpkin2 eggs1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil1/2 cup buttermilk1 cup flour1 cup sugar1/2 cup maple syrup1 teaspoon baking soda3/4 teaspoon kosher salt1/2 teaspoon baking powder1/2 teaspoon cinnamon1/2 teaspoon ground cloves1/2 teaspoon ground ginger


Preheat oven to 325-degrees F. Use butter or baking spray to coat and 8-by-4-inch loaf pan and line with parchment paper so that the parchment hangs over the long sides of the pan.Whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, oil and buttermilk in a large bowl. Add the flour, sugar, maple syrup, baking, soda salt, baking powder, and spices. Whisk until completely combined.Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake until a tester in the middle comes out clean, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, then remove bread from the pan.

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