Friday Reads: “New Prairie Kitchen” by Summer Miller. Photographs by Dana Damewood.

It seems like the best cookbooks are the ones that tell a story—in addition to sharing great recipes and scrumptious photos. Recently I’ve been reading the stories, trying the recipes, and gazing at the photos in New Prairie Kitchen by Summer Miller. The author, a young mom and freelance writer from the Omaha area, explored restaurants and farms within a 200-mile radius of Omaha and brings us stories of real people who grow, prepare, and serve real food for their families and friends. The author says that the book “…pays homage to the outstanding and innovative chefs, farmers, and artisans of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. They have shared some of their favorite recipes here, organized by season and focused on regionally sourced meat, poultry, game, and produce. Profiles of these exceptional people are nestled throughout the book.” I love the stories and photos, and I’m loving the food, as well.

After perusing the New Prairie Kitchen recipes, I went to the Farmer’s Market and bought a 4 pound pork shoulder roast from a local producer that was perfect for trying the Spice-Rubbed Slow-Cooker Pork (Kevin Shinn of Bread and Cup in Lincoln, NE). What could be simpler than a spice rub and a slow cooker? I did have to add some liquid to mine since my slow-cooker must be a little on the hot side, but after 6 hours the roast was juicy and fragrant—and I shredded it apart with two forks just like the experts on the cooking channel on TV. I should have made a YouTube video. Next, my backyard bumper crop of heirloom tomatoes inspired me to make Tomato Chutney (Sean Wilson of Proof in Des Moines, IA) and Tomato Marmalade (Clayton Chapman of The Grey Plume in Omaha, NE). Both are delicious on bread and cheese—and as a bonus, I got to use some of the garlic and jalapeño chilies from my garden too. And I’m not done yet. I’ll be making the Black Walnut and Clove Muffins (Maggie Pleskac of Maggie’s Vegetarian Café in Lincoln, NE) for the next Nebraska Library Commission potluck—and more.

The book might also provide a little tourism boost. The food sounds so good, it makes me want to hop in the car and go out in search of the places where other people will make this yummy food for me. Maybe a trip to the Back Alley Bakery in Hastings, NE is in my future?

To find out more about this Nebraska Book Award-winning cookbook and the “foodways” of the Great Plains, see Summer Miller’s blog at http://www.scaldedmilk.com/.

Review by Mary Jo Ryan.

#fridayreads

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