On Wed., Sept. 27, the Farm Market Cafe, located in Onamia, drew a large crowd for what was billed as a healthy eating Ojibwe dinner.

The meals were produced almost exclusively of locally grown foods. The contemporary dishes drew on many traditional Ojibwe ingredients such as wild rice, rabbit, highbush cranberry, hazelnuts, maple syrup and squash.

Just in time for fall, the dinner had a warmth and savory feel that drew upon many late-season harvests.

Playing on the rich, complex flavor of grass-fed beef, the main meat dish was manoomin burger, a meatball made with wild rice, maple syrup and other seasonings.

Adding a fresh twist to the meal was a spinach and dandelion salad, tossed with arugula, apple, highbush cranberries and a maple vinaigrette dressing.

Among the participants in the event were state representative Sondra Erickson, R-MN. “I loved everything,” Erickson said. “I was amazed at how excellent the rabbit soup was.” Not being at the top of most American’s list of favorites, the rabbit soup, with a mushroom base, was a testament to the culinary skills of head chef, Pat Root, who crafted the menu.

As part of the health and nutrition aspect of the event, Kam Schroeder, University of Minnesota extension SNAP-Ed educator was in attendance.

“Wild rice has 30 times more antioxidants than plain white rice,” Schroeder told participants. “And rabbit is an excellent source of lean protein.” Schroeder added the menu was an excellent representation of using whole, healthy ingredients in cooking. The desserts were crafted using as many whole ingredients as possible, including blueberries and maple.

Barb Eller, co-owner of the Farm Market Cafe, said they viewed the event as quite successful, having drawn about 35 participants from the local area. “Evaluations completed as part of the free food tasting were overwhelmingly positive,” Eller said. “This project furthered our integration of Ojibwe and other Native American recipes in to our local farm fresh menu.”

The cafe hopes to turn some of the more popular dishes from the event in to regular menu items. Additionally, they hope to host a spring free food tasting in early 2018.

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