Heartland: The Cookbook by Judith Fertig

Heartland: The Cookbook
Judith Fertig
Andrews McMeel Publishing (2011)
ISBN 9781449400576
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (3/11)

There is nothing like a home-cooked meal with fresh ingredients that come directly from the farms. With the vast farmlands and long summer days, the Midwest certainly can boast in providing the best produce, grains and meats possible for consumers.  Judith Fertig has provided some of the most popular recipes from the region in “Heartland: The Cookbook” along with historical facts, humorous stories, and anecdotes.  As well, the colored photographs are beautiful.  It’s easy to get enveloped by all the contents and get mesmerized while forgetting that hungry mouths are waiting for dinner.

For the purpose of the review we are asked to test three recipes.  The first one I tested was “Savory Wild Mushroom Strudel.”  The recipe was simple to make using pre-made filo sheets and the combination of wild mushrooms purchased at a local grocery store.  The end result was very rich because of the 2-1/4 sticks of butter and 8-ounces of cream cheese. I really liked the flavor of the thyme – it goes very well with mushrooms.  I will make this recipe again.

The second recipe I tested was “Caramelized Cabbage Rolls.” This dish is unlike any I’ve made or tested so I was eager to try it out.  The filling of Arborio rice, ground beef and pork, egg, milk and onion were the normal ingredients of a stuffing.  However what was different was drizzling the rolls with melted butter and a tart fruit syrup and baking for 20 minutes.  After the 20-minute baking, I added beef broth and kept basting every five minutes for the next 15 minutes. The rolls were caramelized when finished baking in a very hot oven.  This ended up being a “busy” dish because of the basting; however, the result was worth it.  The caramelization had a strong taste but was pleasant when toned down with a side dish of mashed potatoes.

The third recipe tested was “Ohio Lemon Tart.”  I’ve been craving for a lemon pie and this was a good opportunity to satisfy my palate.  The crumb crust gave choices of what to use: sugar cookies, gingersnaps, or butter cookies (recipe included).  I chose gingersnaps because I’ve never used a gingersnap crust for a lemon pie.  The filling contained paper-thin slices of the lemon which, to me, was very different. The end result was very rich and tasty, and I loved the gingersnap crust and the chewiness of pieces of lemon.  The meringue fell short and I wasn’t impressed at all.  It was too sweet (1-1/2 cups sugar!) and was thin and gooey.  I will be making this recipe again but will substitute my own recipe for meringue.

There are so many more recipes I will be making.  I love the home-cooked feel to the recipes and the book in itself is a pleasure to have.  It’s certainly one that will sit out on the island and be browsed through periodically – it has the look and feel of a coffee-table book with extras.  “Heartland: The Cookbook” would also make a wonderful gift to anyone that is visiting the Midwest and wants to take home a little of its culture. This one is a keeper.

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