Here in the country's heartland, when it comes to local food, we often think of our excellent beef and dairy. But you can also find locally produced versions of Italy's beloved prosciutto and East Africa's staple flatbread, injera.
In researching the region's edible bounty for Minnesota Monthly's Food & Wine issue, Editor-In-Chief Rachel Hutton encountered several such unexpected finds and told MPR News' All Things Considered about them:
Yes, prosciutto is as Italian as the Vespa. But one Midwest seed company executive who spent time in that country seems to have brought home a few of the Italians' secrets. When Herb Eckhouse returned home to Iowa, the hog-producing capitol of the country, he and his wife, Kathy, started producing La Quercia Prosciutto Americano at a facility just outside Des Moines.
That was nearly 10 years ago, and their prosciutto has since earned acclaim from many big-name chefs who say it's the best they've seen outside Italy.
Bel Gioioso Cheese of Green Bay, Wis., recently started making this Italian cheese. Traditionally, burrata is made from fresh mozzarella that's formed into a pouch shape and filled with cream — it's very luscious and rich.
It's also extremely delicate and perishable — it used to be the only way to get it here was to air-freight it from Italy, which some restaurateurs have been known to do.
But Bel Gioioso's domestic burrata is quite good, especially considering you can find it at the local co-op.
This fatty, rich duck liver is something you wouldn't expect to find outside France. But there's a small producer in southern Minnesota, Au Bon Canard, run by a transplanted Frenchman who sells his product at Surdyk's cheese shop and Clancy's butcher shop.
INJERA AND TORTILLAS
Every culture has its flatbread, and in addition to the locally made Countryside lefse favored by the area's Scandinavian forbearers, there are several options from newer immigrant groups, including injera made from Minneapolis' East African Bakery available at Seward Community Co-Op and Minneapolis-made La Perla tortillas, found at several metro-area food retailers.
European luxury, caviar, is something we associate with Russia. But Lake Superior offers herring roe as an alternative to sturgeon. The herring's tiny, briny, bright-orange eggs are much more abundant and much less expensive. It's often available at Coastal Seafoods.