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Wild Rice Dried Cranberry Salad showcases local ingredients

Wild Rice Dried Cranberry Salad is nutritious, travels well and holds safely without refrigeration at moderate temperatures, making it ideal for potluck dinners. Photo by Sue Doeden

At first glance of the cover of "The Minnesota Table: Recipes for Savoring Local Food Throughout the Year," one might think it's a book that would appeal to only those who live in Minnesota.

But as the old adage goes, you can't judge a book by its cover.

A quick peek inside of the book, just long enough to read a few paragraphs here and there, peruse one of the seasonal recipes and stop briefly at the beautiful illustrations, filled me with feelings of comfort, just like a cozy meal with family on a chilly autumn evening.

Essays about the food adventures experienced as the two Twin Cities authors, Shelley Holl and B.J. Carpenter, traveled around Minnesota are written by author Holl. Her beautiful jewel-colored illustrations are some of the eye treats in the book. Down-to-earth recipes developed by Carpenter, a professionally trained chef, tempt the palate.

As I made my first quick trip through the book, I was whisked back to my grandparents' Indiana farm where I spent many summer days as a child. Suddenly, I remembered the young calf my grandpa told me I could give a name to because it was my cow, the geese chasing me and my grandma as we made our way to the chicken coop to gather eggs, the sweet, red strawberry juice dripping from my chin after picking the ripe fruit right from the garden. I was eating local and seasonal way before it was the trend.

Authors Carpenter and Holl have created a book that is much more than a collection of recipes. It is a celebration, essay-style, of Minnesotans who have raised or produced food with their own hands in a loving and caring way. B.J. Carpenter's recipes make good use of those ingredients.

The book is divided by the 12 months of the year, beginning with April, that time in the Midwest when new life is just beginning to sprout from the earth. And it ends with March, when we are still eating preserved foods from the last harvest and vegetables that have wintered through. Each month has its own menu, with recipes included. Sidebars hold food tips that relate to the recipes.

The recipes are written in a straightforward style, with detailed instructions. When my Simple, Good and Tasty Book Club hosted an open house for Holl and Carpenter, members prepared recipes from "The Minnesota Table" for guests to sample. The fact that all of the food, from Edamame Dip with fresh vegetables to Minnesota Meatloaf Balls to Caramel-Apple Cheesecake and Cream Cheese Shortcakes with fresh berries and everything in-between, was beautiful and delicious, is testimony that the clear, concise style of the recipes really works.

Wild Rice Dried Cranberry Salad, a recipe on the September menu in "The Minnesota Table," was a favorite dish that was sampled at our open house. The beauty of this salad is that it can be prepared in stages. Starting a day ahead, the rice can be cooked and stored in the refrigerator, the nuts can be toasted and the Clementine Vinaigrette can be mixed and chilled.

The authors write that the salad is nutritious, travels well and holds safely without refrigeration at moderate temperatures, making it ideal for camping and picnics. I'd add those same characteristics make the salad perfect for fall potluck dinners.

"The Minnesota Table," will inspire its readers to search for the best and freshest seasonal ingredients available from local farms, markets and grocery stores to put on their own table, no matter what state they live in.

As for me, I'm ready to make the entire September menu. And, I can't wait for November, when the menu includes Roasted Pumpkin Pie with Sour Cream and Brown Sugar.

Who wouldn't love that?

Wild Rice Dried Cranberry Salad

3 to 4 cups cooked wild rice, chilled

2 cups cooked long-grain white or brown rice, chilled

3/4 cup unsalted toasted, hulled hazelnuts, pecans or hickory nuts

3 to 4 Clementines, peeled, sectioned and seeded (tangerines or navel oranges can be substituted)

1 cup dried cranberries

2 bunches small scallions, cleaned and thinly sliced at an angle

Coarse salt, to taste

Pinch of dried red pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper

Place prepared Clementines in large mixing bowl. Add dried cranberries, green onions and chilled, cooked rice. Dress with Clementine Vinaigrette and toss several times to mix well. Serves 4 as an entrée salad, or 6 to 8 as a side dish.

Clementine Vinaigrette

Fine grated zest of 1 Clementine

1/2 cup freshly squeezed Clementine juice

2 to 3 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar

Coarse salt, to taste

Pinch of dried red pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper

1 scant cup canola oil plus 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil if available

Combine zest, juice, vinegar, salt and pepper flakes or pepper in a blender, a metal bowl with whisk, or a glass jar that has a tight-fitting lid. Blend (or whisk or shake) until well mixed. Add oils in a steady stream. Blend or whisk again until thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. If it is too vinegary, add cold water to cut the acidity. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before dressing the salad. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

From "The Minnesota Table: Recipes for Savoring Local Food Throughout the Year," by Shelley N.C. Holl with recipes by B.J. Carpenter. Voyageur Press. 2010.

Tips from the cook

--In "The Minnesota Table," authors Carpenter and Holl, explain that 1 cup raw wild rice will yield 3 to 4 cups of cooked rice and 1 cup of uncooked long-grain rice will yield about 2 cups cooked.

--I used juicy and sweet organic navel oranges for the salad and vinaigrette with delicious results.