But before today's book, what a great shout-out Salon gave to local indie bookseller Uncle Hugo's!
Since it's Friday, it's logical to look at food-related books.
The Heavy Table's James Norton is the editor and co-author of Minnesota Lunch: From Pasties to Banh Mi. This is a wonderful collection of essays with recipes, documenting the wide-ranging lunch offerings--specifically, sandwiches--around the state, with historical and ethnic context provided. The lunch sandwich is one of those under-appreciated meals; it so often seems to be the "slap it together with whatever's available", when it can be something far more spectacular. The strength of this book in particular is its attention to variety: Minnesota isn't just about fried walleye sandwiches (not that there's anything wrong with that, no, nothing at all wrong with a properly done fried walleye sandwich!) and State Fair turkey sandwiches; we're also home to increasingly authentic and delicious Mexican tortas, Vietnamese banh mis, and sambusas, all of which are covered here. In particular, I was delighted to see a shout-out to Turtle River Pasties, which is very close to my childhood home of Tenstrike (and I have some of those very pasties in my freezer right now, much to my joy), and in the chapter on Mexican tortas, a lovely sidebar on Don Pancho's Bakery in District Del Sol. It's fortunate for my waistline that I live pretty far away from Don Pancho's, otherwise I know I'd be there several times a week, seeking out those killer guava-cheese turnovers.
Minnesota Lunch is about the food, and where to find it, and why you most definitely should not turn up your nose at small-town eateries and church suppers--you never know what delight you might find in the humblest setting. Kudos to Norton and team for exposing Minnesota lunches for what they really are: diverse and delicious. (Scroll down for a recipe from the book.)
Chicken and Egg by Janice Cole. This is a delightful combination of memoir and recipe book. Cole had long toyed with the idea of raising chickens in her backyard, but it wasn't until a layoff from her food stylist/editor job occurred that she began pursuing the idea more seriously. After taking a chicken class and carefully ordering supplies, she sets out on her urban farming adventure. The book is then divided into seasonal sections while Cole learns the hard way about actually raising chickens (yes, chickens can be burned by heat lamps), all the while exploring the myriad ways one can cook chicken and eggs (but note: she only eats the eggs of her chickens, not the chickens themselves--she considers them pets). The fact is, eggs and chicken are among the most versatile foods out there, so it's not surprising that Cole includes 125 recipes. An enjoyable read, and bonus! Lots more ideas for eggs and chicken.
Manny's Special Torta
Reprinted from Minnesota Lunch with permission from the publisher
More of a Tutorial Than a Recipe
Although he welcomed us, camera and all, into his kitchen, Manuel Gonzalez would not divulge the exact recipes—especially the chi¬potle mayonnaise and a piquant spice blend—that make his tortas stand out in a city where all sorts of restaurants, from Asian fusion to mainstream American diner, are starting to spin out versions of the sandwich. He instead provided us with a kind of primer, a loosely de¬fined step-by-step guide to compil¬ing the sandwich, which the begin¬ner will likely find edifying and the aficionado, we hope, a great place to start. To it, we have added our own mayo recipe and some likely local spice blend candidates.
1 telera or bolillo roll Butter, melted
3 slices steak or beef tenderloin Spice blend (tips follow)
Chopped onion, tomato, carrot, and mushroom
San Marcos pickled jalapeños
2 slices ham
2–3 slices Swiss cheese
¼ avocado, peeled and mashed
Chipotle mayonnaise (recipe follows)
1. Halve the roll and apply butter to the inside of one half and a layer of refried beans to the other. Place both sides face down on pan or griddle.
2. Grill steak slices, adding a sprinkling of spice blend. Add olive oil to pan and grill chopped vegetables and pickled jalapeños. Add spice blend, chopping it in with the side of spatula. Next, grill ham and organize it in a sandwich shape. Stack steak and grilled vegetables on top of ham. Add Swiss cheese: “Mexico City is very cosmopolitan, so we use French bread and Swiss cheese!”
3. By now, the buttered and bean-smeared sides of the bread should be crispy. Spread avocado on the butter side, then place meat and veggie pile on top. Spread a dollop of mayonnaise across the top of the meat. Place the bean side on top and close up your sandwich. Slice and eat!
2 San Marcos chipotle chilies en adobo
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
½ cup mayonnaise, preferably with a little lemon
Place ingredients (chilies through mayonnaise) in bowl of food processor or blender and blend until completely combined and smooth. Taste and adjust mayonnaise and chilies: remember, it’s going to be buried in all that meat and cheese!
For the spice blend, we had great luck with the following combinations from Penzeys Spices:
Northwoods Fire: Heat and smoke balanced with a nice herby mixture of garlic, thyme, and rosemary.
Spicy 4/S Seasoned Salt: A peppery kick—no smoke, but the added benefit of salt.
Hot Chili: The most straightforward, this one offers a lot of depth and flavor—with fewer herbs, it gets all its complexity from the chilies.