by Kelly Allard

Photography by Mary Jones-Snell

Summertime  in  Minnesota  is  a  lot  like  the fireworks  on  the  4th  of  July. Dazzling  and resplendent,  but  fleeting.  Soon,  we'll  be gazing  up  hoping  for  just one  more  brilliant flash  of  that  flawless  weather  before  we start  heading  back towards  winter.  So  every spring  when  the  snow  melts  and  the  water starts  to flow,  the  lakes  and  rivers  become our  playground;  the  outdoors  become  our kitchens  and  dining  rooms.  Minnesotans know  that  we  live  in  one  of  the  most sublimely  beautiful  places  in  the  world  and home  to  some  of  the  best homegrown  food anywhere.

It's  no  surprise  that  Minnesotan  foods  are  so  near  and  dear  to  us. We  all know  how hard  it  can  be  to  thrive  in  the  north,  with the  brutal  winters  that can  drag  on  well  into  the  year  (Helloooo,  2018!).  The  magic  begins  in  the spring  with  the  advent  of morels  and  ramps,  into  the  hot  days  of  summer that  bring  us  those  brilliantly  ruby  red  stalks  of  rhubarb,  an  overabundance of  zucchini,  and  strawberry  bushes  bearing  impossibly  juicy  little  gems. Minnesota  farmers  markets,  roadside  stands,  and  gardens are  soon  brimming with  fruits,  vegetables,  and  specialties  by  local  farmers  and  makers,  just ready to  be  tossed  onto  the  grill or  into  a  salad.We're  so  fortunate  to  live  in  a place  with  such  an  abundance.  I  would  like  to  share  a  few  of  my  favorite recipes  with  you.  I especially  love  these  two  recipes  because  they're  a  great way  to  make  the  most  of  our  Minnesotan  summer  bounty,  grown  in your  own backyard! 

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RHUBARB IN RED WINE

For me, cooking with rhubarb always feels nostalgic and the taste never fails to remind me of summer.  I like to put this on the top of a light summery tart, but it's also divine on vanilla ice cream, yogurt, or pancakes! It's easy to prepare and is a definite crowd pleaser. You can also freeze it for later.

4 cups     rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces

1½ cups   red wine

½ cup      sugar or maple syrup

1 cup      other summer fruits like cherries, raspberries, blueberries, etc. (optional)

-             Cinnamon stick

-             Pinch of salt


DIRECTIONS

Place all ingredients into a saucepan and bring to easy simmer over medium-low heat. Cook about 15 minutes, until the rhubarb is very soft but still somewhat holding its shape and the liquid has reduced. Let cool and pick out the cinnamon stick. Add a bit more sugar if you have a sweet tooth. If you don't have wine, try apple juice or hibiscus tea!  Any extra liquid can be used as an unexpected way to dress a salad or try it in a cocktail.


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BEET CARPACCIO

Carpaccio is traditionally made with paper-thin slices of raw beef, but this recipe uses beets instead. I make this salad a lot in the summer. Not only is it gorgeous, it's very healthy!

3             beets (red or gold), cooked and peeled

4 cups     Salad greens

1 oz.       Parmesan or goat cheese

1 tbsp.    Pepitas

-             Vinaigrette dressing

DIRECTIONS

To prepare, thinly slice the beets with a knife or mandoline and place the slices slightly overlapping on a plate. Pile the greens in the center of the plate, atop the beets. Sprinkle with the cheese and pepitas (I also like to add chia seeds for texture!).  Drizzle with the dressing (or some rhubarb poaching liquid), and prepare to dazzle your friends and family with a very impressive looking dish!