Local author Beth Dooley’s latest cookbook, The Perennial Kitchen: Simple Recipes for a Healthy Future (University of Minnesota Press, 2021), is a celebration of all things local and sustainable: from food grown by local farmers and ranchers to your home garden. The book focuses on how to use these ingredients to create healthy and delicious meals, and why these ingredients nurture the planet as well as our bodies.
The recipes feature sustainably grown grains, from barley and cornmeal to the University of Minnesota-developed intermediate wheatgrass Kernza, a perennial grain that requires much lower amounts of fertilizer than traditional grains. Dooley also emphasizes other perennial foods, such as perennial herbs; berries and tree fruits; northern-hardy nuts, such as hazelnuts and chestnuts; as well as traditionally harvested foods, such as wild rice. Grass-fed and pasture-raised beef, lamb, pork and chicken taste better and have benefits for the land on which they were raised.
“Cooking,” Dooley says in the introduction, “is an act of of showing up in the world, of caring for ourselves and for others.”
Recipes and More
Once the book’s foundation has been set, Dooley describes how to fit out a pantry with sustainably sourced ingredients, such as grains, a mosaic of local beans, oils, sweeteners, seeds, nuts and flours. (A resource section lists sources for some ingredients.)
The recipes are well organized and you’ll find nuggets of interesting and helpful information within them. For example, how long do you have to cook stock? Dooley explains that beef or lamb stock can cook for hours; chicken stock needs no more than 75 minutes; and vegetable stock is ready in 45 minutes.
Many of the recipes are new takes on heirloom dishes. Dooley’s recipe for Ginger-Rye Hermits reminded me of the hermit cookies my grandmother used to make. Her Bison Pot Roast would be delicious for Sunday dinner with the family. Her Many Bean and Tomato Salad would enhance any late-summer picnic as well as the three-bean salad we all know and love. Wild Rice Hotdish is dressed up with dried cranberries and smoked turkey.
This is not a garden book, but Dooley’s recipes for homegrown vegetables are enticing for anyone growing their own food. I marked the page with Ginger-Maple Squash Soup garnished with chopped hazelnuts and apples for fall. And, her Root Vegetable Hummus would be perfect for a summer party. Perennial vegetables, such as aspargus and rhubarb, get special attention in The Perennial Kitchen. She has an assortment of pesto recipes, using asparagus, garlicscapes and watercress. Other recipes are for quick-growing root crops, such as radishes and beets.
Whether you are a foodie looking for new recipes to try or someone committed to nature, the environment and good food, The Perennial Kitchen has a lot to offer.