We all know the regional cuisines of northern Italy, the south of France, and Southeast Asia. But Cody, Nebraska? Omaha? Sioux Falls, South Dakota? Solon, Iowa?
People who pay attention to these things have taken notice. There’s a fresh wind sweeping the prairie, and you can catch the breeze in Summer Miller’s book, “New Prairie Kitchen: Stories and Seasonal Recipes from Chefs, Farmers, and Artisans of the Great Plains.”
There’s an innate grace to Midwestern life. A deeply-bred respect for the rhythms of life are the underpinnings of a seasonal kitchen. An understanding of quality at its very root assures a sense of place. And the pull of tradition keeps local crops and produce, game and artisan food products on the menu, even as national and international trends influence their preparation.
The farmers, chefs and artisan food producers Miller introduces in New Prairie Kitchen – some of whom readers have met on her blog, Scalded Milk – find resonance in their Midwestern lifestyle. It’s their place. And that abiding satisfaction shows in everything they grow, make, bake and cook.
Milton Creamery – you’ve probably heard of their “Prairie Breeze” cheddar – exists because Rufus Musser’s wife thought it would be cool to have dairy cows. George Johnson was making pretty good wine over in Cody, Nebraska, until he realized he could make really great vinegar. Larry Cleverley kicked over the traces in New York to come home and found Cleverley Farm. The chefs show up in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. The seasons drive new, sophisticated menus, and the people eat it up.
It’s a style and a table all it’s own – and New Prairie Kitchen tells the tale. You can’t call it “flyover country” anymore.
It’s tough to pick a recipe to share from New Prairie Kitchen – the Ricotta Gnocchi with Heirloom Tomato Marmalade? The Sweet Corn Custard with Ground Cherries? The Braised Rabbit with Cipollini Onions and Creamy White Polenta? In the end, the Black Walnut and Clove Muffins from Maggie’s Vegetarian Café in Lincoln, Nebraska, make the case – simple, handsome, and perfect.
BLACK WALNUT AND CLOVE MUFFINS
Reprinted with permission from New Prairie Kitchen by Summer Miller, Agate Surrey, 2015
- 1-3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour or hard white-wheat flour
- 2-teaspoons baking powder
- ½-teaspoon sea salt
- ½-teaspoon ground cloves
- 1-cup black walnuts, chopped, divided (Hammons black walnuts are widely available throughout the United States in 3/4-cup packages.)
- ¾-cup granulated sugar
- ¾-cup whole milk
- 1/3-cup sunflower oil
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1-teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cloves together into a large bowl. Stir in ¾ cup of the walnuts. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, milk, oil, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not overmix, or your muffins will turn into hockey pucks.
- Line a muffin pan with paper muffin cups. Add a scant ½-cup of the batter into each paper cup. Garnish each muffin with the remaining walnuts.
- Bake for 23 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the muffin. Serve while still warm.