Summer Miller is the author of New Prairie Kitchen, an inspiring feast for the eyes that introduces readers to 25 groundbreaking and exciting chefs, farmers, and producers of artisanal goods from Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. Summer not only shares the personal stories of these talented pioneers, but their delicious recipes and mouth-watering photography by Dana Damewood.
Summer has taken her own personal love and knowledge of good and healthy foods and blended it with her professional background as a journalist. New Prairie Kitchen is Summer's first, widely anticipated book, and she could not be more thrilled about the May 2015 release.
As a freelance writer, Summer wanted to work on a project that meant something to her and after having children that answer came to her; food as fodder. "I used to think of food as only for fun, I didn't take the topic seriously. But then I had the idea to merge food with my professional skill set as I was now taking my family's nutrition very seriously as a mom. It was something that I focused on every day; food was now more than a personal interest."
With gorgeous photography by Dana Damewood, New Prairie Kitchen is organized by season and transports readers to the Heartland where traditional favorites are interwoven with inspiring new flavor combinations and simple techniques. Summer shares with readers the phenomenal talent of chefs who are sourcing traditional staples from local sustainable farms and incorporating them into recipes in new and innovative ways. We are introduced to farmers who are growing produce and working dairies that are producing award winning artisan cheeses. With Summer's gift of storytelling, and Dana's photos, New Prairie Kitchen shows just how inspiring farm-to-table cooking in the Midwest can be.
Summer's objective in writing this book was to honor those who are working tirelessly to produce healthy, tantalizing foods in new and inspired ways. "My hope is that readers will seek out the entrepreneurial talent who are using creativity to invest in their communities. I felt very privileged to meet these individuals and share their amazing stories."
For Summer, her book celebrates this region and the people who are contributing to it through food. "This book will help bring the consumer and the home cook inspiration from people in their own communities, these hidden gems. It is a joyful awakening to realize that we live in the right place; we do not need to live anywhere else to get award winning cheeses, vinegars and beautiful meat and produce. We have so many wonderful things grown, created and raised by our neighbors."
For more information or to pre-order your copy, please visit www.scaldedmilk.com.
Q&A with Summer Miller
Omaha Family: Your parents showed you the joys of gardening. What was a lesson that they taught you about gardening that you hold with you today?
Summer Miller: They taught me so many lessons. They included my siblings and me in the process of gardening and because of that I was exposed to the value of care taking, the flavors of real food, and developed a life-long hobby that I enjoy and have passed along to my own children.
Omaha Family: What was your favorite recipe from New Prairie Kitchen?
Summer Miller: I have so many. I cook from the book weekly, and it depends on my mood and the time I have at my disposal. It was important to me that New Prairie Kitchen had recipes for weeknights and special nights. I also thought a lot about the way I cooked before kids and how I cook now – so the book has great options for the weekly dinner rotation such as Potato Cabbage Tacos with Apple Pico or a Slow Cooker Spice Rubbed Pork Shoulder. It also has menus for a special night or a more advanced cook like Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Marmalade or Lavender Crusted Lamb with Asparagus and Potatoes. I make the Honey Oat Bread recipe is made weekly. I’m a sucker for good bread.
Omaha Family: Why is it important to teach kids about farm-to-table foods?
Summer Miller: I don’t believe it's something you have to teach them, rather I think it's a matter of exposure and letting them discover it for themselves. People, I think, have forgotten authentic flavor. We believe that raspberry flavored is the same as the flavor of a raspberry and these things couldn't be further apart. We have forgotten what real, unadulterated food tastes like. Knowing and being able to identify and appreciate the basic, flavors of real food can lead to better health, cost savings and basic life skills like cooking. If you don’t know the true flavor of food then it's easy to be manipulated into believing you should buy and consume something you shouldn't.
Omaha Family: How difficult is it to get farm-to-table in the city?
Summer Miller: I think it depends on the city, but in many cities, including Omaha, it's actually pretty simple and it's getting better every year. Many area farms offer Community Supported Agriculture programs that deliver directly to your work or they have multiple locations where you drive up, they hand you a box of fresh produce, meats and cheeses and you go on your way. You even pre-pay for the season so you don't even have to worry about finding your purse or unbuckling kids from 5-point car seat harnesses. Some even run through all four seasons.
Omaha Family: What food will you not ever eat?
Summer Miller: I hate shrimp. I try it about once a year thinking my opinion will change, but I can’t deal with the texture.
Omaha Family: What encouragement do you have for the novice chef who wants to try to grow their inner talents?
Summer Miller: For the home cook, trying to feed a family I would just say be patient. Allow yourself the freedom to fail and give yourself permission to learn. Developing a skill takes time; you don't need to put dinner up on Pinterest. You need to eat. That's it. If it's edible you are halfway there. If you learned something during the process, then you are ahead of the game.
Omaha Family: If you were not writing, what would you be doing?
Summer Miller: I would be in the Peace Corp.
Omaha Family: If you could meet one person, living or not, who would that be and why?
Summer Miller: My sister, Emily, passed away almost two years ago. She was handicapped and non-verbal. I would love to have a conversation with her where I truly understood everything she had to say. It would be like meeting her in a new way. I’m not sure if that counts.
Omaha Family: If you could travel to one place on earth where would you go?
Summer Miller: Ireland.
Omaha Family: If you could have one super power what would that be?
Summer Miller: We are more powerful than we think we are. We have the ability to do great things, inspire people, laugh, love, raise children, and nurture our communities with the powers we already have. That's enough for me.