Northland native takes “Farm to Fork” a step further, sharing recipes featuring truly wild ingredients

Each day leading up to the April 14 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2012 General Nonfiction Finalist:

Trout Caviar: Recipes from a Northern Forager
Brett Laidlaw
Minnesota Historical Society Press

Category Sponsor: Minnesota AFL-CIO


From flavorful artisanal cheeses, to the year-round plenty of farmers markets, to the first wild ramps of spring, options for eating well in Minnesota and Wisconsin abound. Brett Laidlaw has taken advantage of these local treasures for decades, and in Trout Caviar he shares tips and recipes to help you embrace the gifts our northern climate provides. This book celebrates local, seasonal foods and the people who grow, raise, make, sell, cook and savor them.

An excerpt from Trout Caviar:

I am the product of an idyllic childhood spent among the woods, fields, streams, and ponds of Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Anyone familiar with the southwestern suburbs of Minneapolis – of which Eden Prairie is one – in recent years will likely have to read that sentence over a couple of times in an effort to reconcile “idyllic,” woods,” and “streams” with the sprawl of McMansions and strip malls that is Eden Prairie today. But I was there, I tell you, and it was idyllic.


Watercress Bacon Salad
(serves two)

1 small bunch watercress, leaves and tender stems – about 2 cups washed leaves
1 slice thick-cut bacon in 1/4-inch lardons
Juice of one quarter lemon
1 clove garlic sliced very very thin
Shaved red onion, about 1/4 of a small one
1/4 cup grated aged Wisconsin white cheddar

Gently render the bacon in a small fry pan. When it is lightly browned remove it from the pan and reserve. Squeeze the lemon into the pan drippings, and add a pinch of salt.

Place the cress in a salad bowl and distribute the onion and garlic slices and lardons over the top. Drizzle the drippings-lemon dressing on. Top with shredded cheddar.


Brett Laidlaw writes the blog “Trout Caviar”, broadly defining foraging to include not only collecting mushrooms and wild plants but also making use of local sources for cheese, meat, and vegetables – not to mention gardening and hunting and fishing. He is the author of the novels Blue Bel Air and Three Nights in the Heart of the Earth, and divides his time between St. Paul and a rural Wisconsin cabin.


“On first pass, Minnesota didn’t strike me as a culinary hotspot. Laidlaw made me change that opinion. From grous in a cider cream, to buttermilk and apple gazpacho, and everything in between – this man knows his stuff. I thank him for sharing.”
– Minnesota Book Awards judge

“Trout Caviar artfully blends traditional skills such as foraging, pickling, and smoking with modern tastes and sensibilities. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in hand-crafted food.”
-Teresa Marrone, author of Abundantly Wild: Collecting and Cooking Wild Edibles in the Upper Midwest

“…the most original and beautifully written local cookbook of the year.”
– Rick Nelson, food writer and restaurant critic, Star Tribune


In this interview with Heavy Table, Brett Laidlaw shares tips on how to gather ingredients in the wild and what ‘authentic’ cuisine means to him.

In this two-part February 2012 radio interview with Access Minnesota, Laidlaw discusses the changing face of Minnesota cuisine, and how to forage safely.


Click here to visit Brett Laidlaw’s popular Trout Caviar blog, which inspired the cookbook of the same name.


Award winners will be announced at the 24th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel – Saint Paul Riverfront. The opening reception begins at 7 p.m. followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. New this year: a post-awards “Epilogue Celebration.” Tickets are available online or by calling 651-222-3242. Click here for more information.

Have you read Trout Caviar? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

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