Recipes from Brenda Langton’s Book, The Spoonriver Cookbook

Brenda Langton Spoonriver Cookbook
Photo by Mette Nielsen

“I adore Brenda Langton for her commitment, her principled unwavering vision, her social agenda, and most of all her scrumptious food.” — Andrew Zimmern

“Langton embraces the way real people live, eat, and cook. Though it is called The Spoonriver Cookbook, it’s really an ode to the bounty of our local food scene.” — Mpls.St. Paul Magazine

For nearly 40 years, Brenda Langton has been one of the most recognizable guiding lights of Twin Cities organic dining. The Spoonriver Cookbook serves as a tribute to her acclaimed Spoonriver Restaurant and the Mill City Farmers Market and presents the vision and philosophy of the remarkable chef behind Spoonriver’s delicious creations. Below are three recipes from The Spoonriver Cookbook:

Melon Mint Soup (page 27)

Photo by Mette Nielsen


There is nothing like the taste sensation of a really good cantaloupe or honeydew. When melon is at its peak, everyone at the market is searching for the perfect melon. As we all know, it’s a real bummer to come home with a bland one. Choose a melon that has an aroma and is slightly soft at the bottom. This soup blends that wonderful melon flavor with a hint of mint, a great combination. This is a good first course for a summer brunch. // Serves 4 to 6

1 large (about 3 pounds) cantaloupe
½ cup apple juice
1½ tablespoons lime juice
1½ tablespoons chopped fresh mint
½ cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon honey, if needed
Pinch of salt


Cut the melon into chunks, reserving the juices. Put the melon and its juice in a blender along with the apple juice and lime juice, and blend until smooth. Add the mint for just a few seconds at the end. Pour the soup into a bowl and whisk in the yogurt. Taste the soup and correct the seasonings. You may want to add more mint or perhaps a little honey.

Soba Noodles with Vegetables (page 137)

Spoonriver Cookbook Soba Noodles
Photo by Mette Nielsen

Soba noodles are a traditional Japanese buckwheat noodle. They have an earthy flavor and a soft texture and are high in protein. We like soba noodles that are 60 percent buckwheat and 40 percent wheat. Toasted sesame oil and a high-quality soy sauce are essential for finishing this dish. // Serves 4

1 (8.8-ounce) package soba noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 pound firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 to 2 carrots, sliced
1 cup cauliflower florets or chopped cabbage
1 to 2 cups broccoli florets (or another green vegetable)
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1½ tablespoons maple syrup or mirin (optional, but delicious)
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Toasted sesame seed oil


Soba noodles cook quickly, so make sure to prepare all the vegetables before you start cooking. If you start cooking the noodles and the vegetables at the same time, they will be ready to serve at the same time.

Cook the noodles in boiling water as directed on package.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or wok over high heat. Add the onion, tofu, and 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce and cook, covered, for 2 minutes.

Stir in the carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, ginger, maple syrup, and red pepper flakes (if using), and about ¾ cup water. Continue cooking, covered, for about 5 minutes or just until the vegetables are done but not soft. You want the broccoli to be bright green and firm. Do not overcook.

Add the last tablespoon of soy sauce to the pan or at the table.

Serve the vegetables and tofu over the soba noodles and drizzle with toasted sesame oil.

Almond Cake with Whipped Cream and Berries (page 221)

Spoonriver Cookbook Almond Cake
Photo by Mette Nielsen

This is a very delicious and versatile cake. We serve it layered with a variety of different fillings: berries and whipped cream, raspberry preserves, chocolate ganache, or orange marmalade lightened with whipped cream, to name just a few. This cake is also a delightful base for strawberry shortcake. // Serves 10 to 12

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated, plus 1 additional egg white
½ cup plain yogurt
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups ground almonds
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans or one 9 x 13-inch pan.

Cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat until creamy. Add the egg yolks, yogurt, and almond extract. Beat until well blended.

Whisk together the flour, ground almonds, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.

Whip the egg whites until they are stiff. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes. The cake is done when a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cakes made in a single large pan will take longer to bake. If you are making a layer cake, cool the cake in the pans for about 10 minutes; then invert and remove the pans. Cool the cake completely before frosting it.

For more information on The Spoonriver Cookbook and for a list of Brenda’s upcoming events around the Twin Cities, click here.