Heartland: Farm-Forward Dishes from the Great Midwest

Lenny Russo. Burgess Lee, $35 (256p) ISBN 978-1-941868-05-8
Having had enough of his native Florida, chef and James Beard Award–nominee Russo relocated to Minneapolis in the mid-1980s to pursue his dream of operating his own restaurant, one that would be focused on highlighting local purveyors. It took some time, but he and his wife opened the titular Heartland in 2002. In this collection of over 100 recipes from the restaurant, Russo shares his from-scratch approach with varying degrees of success. There’s a struggle between the wildly imaginative and painfully specific (wild boar and tart cherry sausage; Iowa snapping turtle pot-au-feu) and the bland (tomato soup; grilled peaches), and it takes some fortitude to soldier on. Luckily, Russo gathers steam as the book progresses: stewed chicken with cider cream sauce and root vegetables is an inventive and approachable dish that won’t require hours of sourcing. The book’s later entries for desserts, such as raspberry pecan Linzer torte and honey cheese gâteaux with red currant coulis, are outstanding concepts that don’t require a culinary degree. The book’s final chapter, Larder and Basics, also has a number of hits, such as a fiendishly simple black pepper dressing and a pumpkin seed parsley pistou. It should be noted that there’s an assumed level of competence on the part of the reader. Russo offers no tips on breaking down those snapping turtles, assuming the reader is able to locate some, and few substitutions are offered for key ingredients. Confident and experienced home cooks, as well as visitors to Russo’s restaurant in search of a souvenir, will likely get the most out of the book. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/21/2015
Release date: 03/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
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