Simple, Good and Tasty Book Club Tonight: Talking & Cooking "The Minnesota Table"

Full market basket, check. Overflowing CSA share, check. Hideously prolific garden, CHECK WITH THE ZUCCHINI ALREADY! Yes, this time of year is chock-full of local goodness. So much so, at times, that you might just move from happily local-foods-rich to utterly overwhelmed. Fear not, The Minnesota Table: Recipes for Savoring Local Food Throughout the Year is here to help. Author Shelley N.C. Holl  and chef/recipe creator B.J. Carpenter have culled out some of the most delicious tips, tricks, stories and concoctions imaginable.

Continuing our book club fun, we'll be taking some time to simply celebrate the bounty. And to whet your whistle, here are a couple of timely recipes directly from The Minnesota Table to enjoy. 

As usual, we will gather tonight (always the last Thursday of the month) at Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op’s Selby location from 7 to 9:00 p.m. and at the Harmony Co-op in Bemidji from 6 to 8:00 p.m. We look forward to seeing you there! 

Featured in "The Minnesota Table"  

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

By August, you may be up to your eyeballs in zucchini, green beans, and tomatoes and about ready to give something up; but come midwinter, you'll thank yourself for saving your tomatoes from the compost pile. Oven-roasted tomatoes are the perfect solution.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Select tomatoes that are ripe but still firm; Italian plum tomatoes are generally best.

Cut off the stems and bottom ends of the tomatoes, cute in half lengthwise. Lay the tomatoes on a cookie sheet, cut side up, without crowding. Place in the preheated oven to dry; this should take 4 hours or longer. If your oven has a convection mode, use it to shorten the drying time; this will also result in more uniformly dried fruit. The tomatoes are dry when they are flexible and leathery without pockets of moisture. Place them inside a tightly sealed glass container, then store in a cool, dark spot; they will last up to 6 months, or even a year.

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Pears Poached in Isis Wine with Raspberry Coulis

Poached pears are, in two words, elegant and easy. Made a day ahead in warm weather, this refreshing, calorie-friendly August after-course is equally good in the cold weather months served warm with a glass of brandy or cognac. Just make sure to freeze some raspberries in season for a cold-weather coulis.

  • 6 firm pears (Asian, Bartlett, Anjou); peeled with stem still on
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 c Alexis Bailly Isis Wine (click for info and recipes)
  • 1 two-inch strip of lemon zest
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 one-inch slice of ginger root; peeled and split in half
  • 1 pint fresh, ripe raspberries
  • Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Slice a bit off the bottom of each pear so it will stand on its own. Use the tip of the vegetable peeler or paring knife to remove a one-inch piece of the core from the bottom. Submerge pears in a cold water bath with the lemon juice to keep from browning.

In a separate pan or the microwave, warm the wine until it begins to simmer.

Lift pears out of the lemon-water and place in a saucepan that is just big enough to hold them tightly, stems up, and deep enough to keep them submerged; the pears shouldn't float or they will poach unevenly. The pan should have a tight-fitting lid.

Pour the heated wine over the pears, adding water to cover if needed. Add lemon zest, peppercorns, and ginger root, cover, and place over low heat to simmer until tender. The amount of time needed depends on the size of the pears. A thin skewer or toothpick should easily pierce the fruit at the thickest part. Remove from heat, cover, and chill in poaching liquid. Chill the serving dishes at this time as well.

To make the coulis, remove the chilled pears from the poaching liquid to a cooling rack placed over a sided sheet pan to drain. Place the saucepan over high heat, and reduce the poaching liquid by half. Remove to a separate bowl and chill until ready to use.

Puree raspberries in a food processor or food mill, and remove the seeds by pressing the mixture through a sieve. Add enough reduced wine to the puree to make a sauce that will cling to the fruit without separating.

To serve: place pears upright in chilled shallow bowls or plates; ladle a small amount of the raspberry coulis over the top of each pear; there should be enough so it pools around the bottom of the fruit. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint; pass the remaining coulis in a sauce boat.


Tracy Morgan is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. She also runs Segnavia Creative, a business development and marketing firm, and serves on the board of directors for the Mississippi Market Natural Food Co-op in St. Paul.