Ultimate Eats: Savoring food as culture

Food is an easy, on-target introduction to a location’s cultural roots, and a new book latches onto must-try dishes when traveling the world.

“Ultimate Eats: The World’s Top 500 Food Experiences … Ranked” (Lonely Planet Food, $30) explains pintxos in San Sebastian (Basque-style tapas in Spain) to stinky tofu in Taipei (follow your nose at night markets). Less obscure is advice to eat sushi in Tokyo, cannoli in Sicily, bratwurst in Germany, borscht in Russia.

It’s a fascinating book for anybody who pays attention to food and wants to eat like the locals. North America is not ignored, tamales in Mexico to maple syrup in Canada.

Maine lobster rolls, Texas beef brisket and more make the cut too, but nothing specifically from Wisconsin (although we’d certainly have worthy contenders for apple pie, the all-day breakfast diner, the hot fudge sundae and the plate lunch – all a part of this culinary lineup).

The book is one part gastronomical guide and one part springboard for dishing about what’s missing. Cranberries are a close-to-home example of the latter.

Almost two-thirds of the nation’s cranberries come from Wisconsin, and this year’s supply far exceeds demand. An estimated 25 percent of the harvest will be discarded, used as field fertilizer and animal feed.

Such a shame. The berry is more than just a pretty garnish for Thanksgiving dinner. See how it shows up in all courses at wiscran.org.

Lois Trongard of Pewaukee was the winner of this year’s Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association recipe contest. The contest theme was cranberry quick bread.

Cranberry Almond Quick Bread

(Makes 1 loaf)

1 ½ cups frozen cranberries

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 to 1 ½ teaspoons almond extract

2/3 cup chopped almonds (toasted, if you’d like)

¼ cup white baking pieces

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 tablespoon French vanilla liquid coffee creamer

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rinse cranberries in cold water; drain. Grease bottom and ½ inch up the sides of 9x5x3 loaf pan. Line bottom of pan with waxed paper; grease. Set aside.

In large bowl, combined flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In medium bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and almond extract. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in cranberries and chopped almonds. Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly.

Bake 1 hour, 15 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

Before serving, microwave white baking pieces at 50 percent power (medium) for 1 ½ to 2 minutes, until melted and smooth, stirring once or twice. Stir in powdered sugar and coffee creamer. If too thick, stir in additional creamer, 1 teaspoon at a time.

Unwrap bread and drizzle with the white chocolate glaze. If desired, sprinkle with additional toasted almonds.

Warrens Cranberry Festival used to organize a recipe contest every year, and this entree from David Harper of Richland Center won first place in 2011.

Cranberry Meatloaf with Cranberry Glaze

(Six servings)

1 ¾ cups dried cranberries, divided

1 ½ cups ketchup, divided

1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed   

¼ cup cider vinegar

1 medium onion, diced   

2 small carrots, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced  

1 ½ pounds ground beef

½ pound fresh seasoned ground pork 

½ pound fresh ground pork

2 large eggs 

¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 

2 slices white bread, cut into ¼ inch cubes

1 ½ teaspoons salt                              

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 

For the glaze: Finely chop ¾ cup dried cranberries. Combine chopped cranberries, 1 cup ketchup, 1/3 cup brown sugar and cider vinegar in a small saucepan and warm on the stove. Do not boil. Once glaze is warm, turn off the stove and let the pan sit on a warm burner until later use.

For the meatloaf: Place one oven rack in the second position from the top and the other rack in the second slot from the bottom. Preheat broiler to high. Layer aluminum foil to cover the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch pan. Spray with cooking spray. 

In a microwave safe bowl, combine the diced onion and diced carrots. Cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Add the garlic. Continue cooking on high for 30 seconds. Set aside to cool. 

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, seasoned pork, fresh pork, eggs, ½ cup ketchup, ¼ cup brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, cubed bread, salt, pepper, 1 cup dried cranberries and the carrot-onion-garlic mixture. Mix until well combined. 

Place the meat mixture into the prepared pan and shape into a large loaf. The loaf should measure about 4 inches high,10 inches long and 6 inches wide. 

Place on the upper rack of the oven and broil for 4 minutes. Brush the top and sides of the loaf with a coat of glaze. Broil for 3 minutes. Brush with a slightly thicker second coat of glaze and broil for 2 minutes longer. 

Move the pan of meatloaf to the bottom rack and adjust oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake about 50-55 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees. 

Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest about 10 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from the pan. Brush meatloaf with a light coat of glaze. Serve with remaining glaze as an accompaniment.   

Here’s one way to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers. This 1999 recipe from Linda Klann, West Allis, is in the 2001 book, “Wisconsin State Fair: 150 Award Winning Recipes” (Cookbook Publishers Inc.).

Cranberry Sweet Potato Muffins

(Makes 1 dozen)

1 ½ cups flour

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 egg

½ cup milk

½ cup cold mashed sweet potatoes

¼ cup melted margarine

1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

Cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In small bowl, mix egg, milk, sweet potatoes and butter. Stir into dry ingredients just to moisten. Stir in cranberries. Filled greased muffin cups one-half full. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake 18 to 22 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove to wire rack.

The harvest has ended for Wisconsin’s ruby-red berries, but still peacefully scenic during any season is the 50-mile Wisconsin Cranberry Highway. Follow county roads and highways 54, 173 and 13 through Wood, Juneau and Monroe counties, roughly Wisconsin Rapids to Warrens, Pittsville to Nekoosa. visitwisrapids.com/cranberry-highway

A prime stop along the self-guided route is Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center, in a revamped cranberry warehouse in Warrens and open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Learn the history, heritage and production methods for the crop. Shop for products that contain cranberries; that includes berry-spiked ice cream. www.discovercranberries.com

What other close-to-home products or dishes would be good additions to “Ultimate Eats” by Lonely Planet? Make an argument for your recommendation and send it to me by Dec. 1 for a chance to receive a copy of this colorful hardcover book.