February 12, 2013 § 26 Comments
aka Fat Tuesday buns, if you don’t know what any of those other things mean.
Yes, it’s Fat Tuesday, and while in some parts of the world this means shiny beads, and raucous parades with floats, and beignets, across Scandinavia, it means buns. I don’t know the history of how this particular regionally specific way of preparing for Lent came to be (I mean seriously, why buns? Why not, I guess.), but since I grew up with it, I’m awfully fond of it.
Basically, I wait for this day all year, just so I can eat these buns.
The best known of the Fat Tuesday buns are the Swedish semlor (the plural of semla). Theirs are sweet cardamom buns filled with almond paste and whipped cream. If you’d like you can drown them in warm milk before serving. Danish and Icelandic Fat Tuesday buns are more like pate a choux, stuffed with whipped cream and jam and topped with chocolate (and here I must also admit that the Icelanders actually eat theirs on the Monday before, which they call bun day. Those Icelanders, always trying to be different…). « Read the rest of this entry »
September 22, 2012 § 16 Comments
I think I have mentioned it before (yup, I have – just checked), but there was a lucky day once when I was home from college on winter break when I got to cook with the Norwegian food writer, cook, and TV personality Andreas Viestad. Ok, it’s not Anthony Bourdain or Jamie Oliver, but for me it was pretty dang close. Even better, actually, being the cooking and writing obsessed Scandophile that I am.
He was giving a book talk and signing at our church, accompanied by a cooking demo. Our family friend and cookbook author Bea Ojakangas recruited my mother and me along with another friend to help with the food preparation.
I’m pretty sure, when it comes down to it, we were asked there more for our Norwegian language skills than our cooking skills, but I wasn’t concerned, I still felt special. From the experience I took away some cooking pointers, a minor crush, and a signed copy of Viestad’s cookbook.
It’s a beautiful book. One I have loved as much for the beautiful landscape pictures that reminded me of all my childhood summers in Norway as for the simple, flavorful recipes. After break, I brought the book back to share with my college housemates as I excitedly told them about getting to cook with the cute Norwegian chef. Soon, everyone in our house – boys and girls alike – referred to Viestad as the “cute Norwegian chef” rather than by name, and a number of recipes from his book had become regulars in the rotation of our household meals (we cooked for each other and ate together 5 nights a week). « Read the rest of this entry »
June 1, 2012 § 17 Comments
If you page through my spiral bound notebook stuffed with recipes, you will almost certainly notice that it is spattered and worn and nearly fallen apart. If your eye is particularly of the sort that seeks out patterns, however, you may also notice that somewhere in the realm of 75 percent of the recipes in it are attached to someone’s name.
Beth’s chicken, Peter’s pancakes, Daim cake from Caroline, Liz’s shirley bars, Judy’s scones, Peach’s cardamom bread. And I’m fairly positive that, all around the world, many cooks have similarly labeled recipes, this one from grandma, that one from an old friend, and this one from that lady who used to live down the street. Remember her? She always made the best…
Even some of my cookbooks by acclaimed chefs contain recipes attributed by name to someone else – Lindsay’s sugar cookies or Rob’s famous coleslaw in Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Sally Schmitt’s cranberry and apple kuchen or Eric’s staff lasagne in the French Laundry.
May 17, 2012 § 26 Comments
Gratulerer med dagen! Happy birthday! To Norway.
Yes, as I’m sure you realized the very moment you woke up today and had your first conscious thought of the morning, it’s Syttende Mai, and it is a day for celebrating! I’m doing a little flag waving and national anthem belting, and I’m sure the bottle of aquavit will come out for a small nip this evening. But, for the second time ever in my life, I’m neither attending nor hosting a party.
(The first time, I was in fifth grade, and I was stuck on a week long camping field trip. We did a lot of outdoor education at my school. And, though it probably would seem to an outside observer that it would be fun to be camping for a week in May, it is, in fact, not at all fun if you are a)missing one of your favorite holidays and b)under an unbelievably aggressive siege by bloodthirsty wood ticks. They were crawling all over our tent. When I got home I picked over 30 off my body. It was nightmarish. It could have been one of the plagues. Goodness knows why I continued to love the out of doors after that.)
Anyway, it feels extremely odd.
The reason I’m not hosting a party this year is several fold. Partly it is because we are in the midst of another round of data collection this week and the timing couldn’t be more difficult for party planning. But, that on its own wouldn’t stop me. It is mostly because I have a slew of visitors coming in a little over a week, and I’ve been putting all my spare time and energy into crafting an epic, but belated, celebration for all of them to attend.
August 24, 2011 § 34 Comments
5 & Spice is two years old (two years young?) today! Admittedly, in the scheme of blogs, that’s not very old yet. But, to be perfectly honest, when I first started writing, I’m pretty sure I expected that by the end of two years, I wouldn’t have anything left to say. Instead, I feel like I keep having more to say, more that I’m excited about, more I want to share with you.
It’s like one of those conversations where, each time it starts trickling off and you think maybe it will end, instead a new and even more exciting topic comes up, and you keep talking, until finally you look up and notice that the sun is rising, you’ve been talking all night, and you can’t think of any other way you would rather have spent your time.
I’m not one of those people lucky enough to have discovered early on that they have a calling (to those of you who do, I am way jealous!), however, having stumbled into this little world of developing, photographing, and writing about recipes (okay, okay, and writing about my random thoughts and stories), it feels suspiciously close to one. It’s more of a persistent beckoning, perhaps, than a “haloo-there” call.
December 31, 2010 § 48 Comments
I’m finding it remarkably difficult to write this post. It’s always hard for me when I really, really care about something. You see, lefse for me, and many of my friends, is not just lefse. It’s so much more. But, maybe for the sake of those of you who haven’t had it – or haven’t even heard of it – I’ll start with what it is.
Homemade lefse (particularly when fresh) is hands-down one of the best foods on the face of this earth. Truffles, caviar, foi gras, lobster, you’ve got nothin’ on lefse. It is an inordinately traditional Norwegian potato flatbread. Simple. Soft and supple, a bit like a tortilla, but almost lacy thin and seductively buttery. Hot off the griddle, they are absolutely unbelievable. Our favorite – and the most traditional – ways of serving lefse are either wrapped around a hot dog and ketchup (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! You’ll never look back.) or spread with butter and cinnamon-sugar (brown sugar is equally tempting and adds a lovely caramel accent). Really you could use them to wrap up just about anything, including, it turns out, the phenomenal combo of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. They are so good, I can’t even begin to wax adequately eloquent about them. I would have to be a bard of potatoes.
December 13, 2010 § 22 Comments
If you are thoroughly swamped and trying to make your way through 5.42 quadrillion deadlines before you take a winter holiday, say ‘aye.’ Yeah, that’s what I thought. Me too. I have skads and skads of work, and find myself needing to take little breaks to doodle pictures of chickens and meditating monkeys in order to let my brain turn over and rev up again (this is actually fairly standard practice among a subset of the population who, um, finds drawing chickens and monkeys cathartic). But, now it’s time to take another little respite. Come with me if you would, on a little walk down memory lane…
This memory has to do with food, of course. One of the very, very best foods of my childhood, pannekaker. Norwegian pancakes are thin, almost crepe like (but more delicious 🙂 ), and like crepes you can put nearly anything you’d like in them. In Norway they are a dinner food, and while I’m sure my brothers and I would have been quite happy to have them every single night, the time we most dependably ate them was on a very specific special occasion. When my parents would go out in the summer to visit with friends (and, let me tell you, in Norway a visit with friends can turn into a fest that lasts until 4am!) my uncle would come to watch us and cook us dinner. He would make us eggy, tender, buttery pannekaker, that we would smear generously with fresh blueberry or raspberry jam. We accompanied the pancakes with tomato noodle soup that came out of a packet (Scandinavians have the dubious distinction of packing an extremely odd and wide ranging assortment of foods in a packet, from cabbage, to rose hip soup, to mashed kohlrabi, to sour cream porridge. It sets you up really well if you want to go on a camping trip though!) The pancake tomato soup combination was an odd one – at least we didn’t actually mix the two together – but we adored it. It was, after all, undeniably delicious. « Read the rest of this entry »
July 31, 2010 § 10 Comments
We’ve just gotten back from Norway, and already I miss it. Our visit went far too fast. The sunlight hours stretch past 11pm at this time of the year, and we made use of all of them, filling them with family and friends, swimming, hiking, fishing, berry picking, determined tanning, and all my favorite treats and snacks. Admittedly, the weather wasn’t perfect (the front page news story every day concerned itself with whether we could expect sun for the weekend and where to go to find the best weather). And there was an invasion of burning jellyfishes that turned ocean bathing into an extreme adventure sport. But, still, it was perfect. If it weren’t so hard to find iced coffee there (people tend to drink their coffee hot and black, even when hanging out on the beach), I think my campaign to convince Joel we should move to Norway would already be successfully completed. As it is, it might take one more visit 🙂 .
I have all sorts of plans to show you the wonderful landscape around our cabin, the abundance of food you can forage and eat in the summer, and some of the wonderfully goofy Norwegian people. But, being who I am, I mostly forgot to take pictures, and I have to wait for my dad to send them to me. So, instead I’ll start with this lovely cinnamon snack cake that my aunt made for everyone.
May 26, 2010 § 9 Comments
When I was just a wee thing, I had a wonderful children’s cookbook (British, I think) with life size color photographs of the recipes – each ingredient as well as the final product. I would spend private afternoons carefully paging through this book, gazing intently at the cheese sandwiches with faces made of peppers and olives, the scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, the fish stew. But, I would linger the longest on the cake recipe, a simple yellow sponge cake, decorated with icing and candies in the photograph. This cake was special. We almost never had dessert in my family growing up, unless it was a birthday or Christmas. But, once a year when the little rhubarb plant nestled along the corner of the garden shed was ready, my mother would give the go ahead, and we would cut down a few stalks and bake them into this yellow cake. It felt like Heaven, this dessert we got to make for no special occasion in particular, except that the rhubarb was ready and I had a cake recipe.
We’re in Minnesota again, at my parents house, for one of approximately 436trillion weddings that are happening this summer. I went out to the garden yesterday morning to check…the rhubarb was ready. I wanted to bake a cake. I’ve moved slightly beyond my “Child’s First Cookbook” days, I’m slightly sorry to say, but I still wanted to keep it simple, to let the rhubarb shine through in a delicate moist cake. Then again, I’ve also been becoming progressively more obsessed with brown butter (yes, I know that was totally two years ago, but better late than never, and it still tastes amazing, rich and nutty, even when it’s not one of Food & Wine’s foods of the year), and I had an inkling that browning the butter in the cake to give it a soft caramel undertone would buoy the tartness of the rhubarb to new heights.