Book Review: The New Midwestern Table

Park Rapids resident Amy Thielen’s book isn’t about gardening, but it’s a volume Midwestern gardeners will want to have close at hand as they preserve and eat up the abundant produce of late summer and early fall.

Hot off press higher res The New Midwestern Table (Clarkson Potter, 2013) is filled with ideas and recipes gardeners would love. Feeling hot from a day in the garden? How about a Muskmelon-Ginger Cooler? If you are overrun with corn, try the Corn Soup with Maple-Lacquered Bacon, or if you just can’t make another batch of pickles, use up those cucumbers with her Iced Cucumber Soup with Grilled Honey Eggplant. Campfire Baked Beets, Scalloped Corn, Tomato Carpaccio with Horseradish Ice—are you feeling hungry yet?

It’s very hard to get through a chapter of this book without setting it on the counter and digging in the fridge (or the garden) for ingredients. Thielen’s writing is that evocative, and even better, the recipes taste as good as she makes them sound. When I made her Rhubarb-Lime Icebox Pie for a birthday party, it was declared “the best pie ever.” Her Fire-and-Iceberg Salad is a spicy, creamy take on the lettuce-and-red-dressing salad many Minnesotans ate as children. Despite their familiarity, many of Thielen’s recipes are elegant variations on great dishes.

Thielen grew up in northern Minnesota, but spent several years working in New York City restaurants before moving back home with her husband and son. She writes about Midwestern cooking, including such Minnesota food icons as Booya, Lefse and Fried Smelt, with affection. She’s also host of the Food Network show, Heartland Table.

This book would make a great gift for young cooks, gardeners who like to cook and anyone who enjoys hearty Midwestern fare.

—Mary Lahr Schier