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 »
January 10, 2012 § 26 Comments
I am always on the lookout for things to do with ground beef. I’ve expounded before on how much we love our meat farm share, how cool farmer Kim is, how wonderful it is to know where your meat comes from. Because, seriously, it really is. And overall, I don’t mind not being able to choose specific cuts of meat, for we generally receive a remarkable variety. We do wind up with a lot of ground beef, though. Not as much as my parents, who buy a substantial portion of a cow every year, but a lot nonetheless.
So, we have a regular rotation of spaghetti bolognese, chili, beef tacos, and back to spaghetti, like a song on repeat. At least it’s a pretty good song (I used to dread spaghetti when I was little because I felt like we had it so often. Now I understand why, and I welcome it almost weekly as a satisfying respite from thinking about the age old question of what’s for dinner).
Then there’s the occasional meatball or hamburger thrown in, depending on the season. Meatloaf has shown up a couple of times too. I welcome it in and try to give it something like a homemade apple barbecue sauce to make it feel at home. It makes awfully good leftover sandwiches, however awkward I feel about meat in a loaf form.
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 17, 2009 § 1 Comment
Mmmm, cabbage. The food of my people. For centuries Norway was a poor country, perched up at the top of the globe – the last stop before the North Pole. If it hadn’t been for cabbage, cod, and rutabagas, (and various uplifting drinks, I’ll admit) Norwegians would never have survived their long, dark winters. (Then they discovered oil in the North Sea, which allowed them to become obnoxiously wealthy…but still loveable, I like to think). Norwegians still eat a lot of cabbage now. I know I, for one, have an affinity for cabbage set deep in my heart. And, in Norway you can actually buy pre-cooked and spiced red or green cabbage in little plastic pouches that you heat and eat. Talk about a culturally specific convenience food!
I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to cabbage, too. You can do a lot of different things with cabbage, and I like most of them (except boiled. Just say “no!” to boiling vegetables, especially cabbage!): coleslaw, sweet and sour, stir-fried, kimchee, sauerkraut, braised…This is great because it’s one of the cheapest veggies you can get throughout the winter, and it stores for a really long time in the refrigerator. Though I love cabbage, I have a sneaky suspicion that there are many people out there who, shall we say, do not harbor quite such fond feelings toward the vegetable. I know that if you really, truly, absolutely detest cabbage, I’m not going to be able to convince you otherwise. But, I would like to think that a lot of the distrust toward cabbage out there is either due to not really giving it a try, or to suboptimal preparation. I mean, otherwise how could you not want to eat a vegetable that looks kind of like a crazy green or purple brain when you cut it in half! I used to do food programs with children, one of which consisted of preparing and sampling cabbage. I would coax the kids to taste it, usually by acting like a total wacko and making up weird names for it like “purple power plant” and “fried green brain.” And, to the shock and amazement of the parents, every child who actually tried the cabbage liked it. I like to flatter (translation: delude) myself that I’ve really enriched some people’s lives as a result. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 21, 2009 § 3 Comments
You’d think at this point in my life, having gone through a number of years, I’d be used to the way the seasons change. But somehow it surprises and delights me every year to see the leaves change and watch the first snow fall. I’m also shocked every single autumn by how short the days suddenly become. It gets dark so early now! Holy-moly! Nowadays, even though it’s easy to buy any food you want at any time of the year, I think it’s important and pleasurable to mark the shift in the seasons by changing cooking styles and ingredients. As the nights get darker and colder, I feel like it becomes imperative to make heartier, creamier dishes (I justify this (as if it needs justification) because I still bike commute everywhere in the cold and sleet!), which you don’t really feel like eating on warm summer evenings. In chatting about the quintessentially fall foods we eat on Thanksgiving, a friend told me that his mother had recently started making a gratin of mixed sweet and regular potatoes that was amazing. Now, I don’t think I’m going to add this to my Thanksgiving meal this year because I’m just too fond of having my sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes separately. But, I thought, it sounded too good not to try at least something of the sort for a regular supper.
I had never actually made a gratin before. But, having eaten them, I felt I had a pretty good guess as to what the necessary components are. That being: vegetables, a white sauce, and cheese. And given how the dish turned out, I’m inclined to believe that my guess was correct. Anyone who thinks it requires anything more is making it more complicated than necessary (sure this may take it to the next level, but I was quite happy with the level I achieved). So, the key to making a gratin is knowing how to make a white sauce. Once you can do that you can au gratin-ate just about anything you please (as long as you also know how to grate cheese, which doesn’t usually take any advanced training, unless you want to be able to grate without scraping your knuckles, which I think might be virtually impossible). « Read the rest of this entry »
October 29, 2009 § 4 Comments
I have the good luck of being one of the 3 or so people in the world who does not like French fries (though the time I had them smothered in a gorgonzola mayonnaise was a whole different story of unabashed gooey-greasy deliciousness). A bizarre recessive genetic quirk perhaps. A couple of years ago, though, I was serendipitously introduced to a fry of a different color that totally revolutionized my world. That day I was playing in an ultimate Frisbee game, but during a critical moment I was on the sideline, cheering for my teammates and yelling out perceptive bits of advice about what they should be doing instead of what they were doing. Suddenly I heard a ruckus behind me, and before I could turn to see what was happening BLAM! a guy playing in a game on the field next to ours dove directly into the back of my head. I was on the ground instantly. When the fireworks and darkness cleared away from my eyes, I popped back up onto my feet to show everyone that I was okay…whereupon I toppled over again.
I had a concussion. But after a bit I started to feel better, even to the extent that I still joined everyone for dinner at the pub next to the fields where we had been playing. While at dinner, suddenly a plate of sweet potato fries materialized in front of me. The guy who had knocked me over had them sent over to apologize for the head trauma and minor memory loss he had caused (I don’t think they were important memories anyway). I had never had, or even heard of, sweet potato fries before, but the moment I took one bite I was a convert. I have been unable to resist them ever since. « Read the rest of this entry »