Pepper crusted salmon cakes with horseradish sauce

February 7, 2013 § 18 Comments

pepper salmon cakes finished

Even when you’re a northerner through and through, and you cherish each of the four seasons, there are times when winter starts to wear on you.  Just a little bit.

There are times, when it’s been a while since the snow cover has been refreshed and a while since the temperature has been above single digits, and it starts to feel drab and dreary and repetitive.  It loses its luster the way snowbanks do as they get trampled over and sprayed with dirt.

salmon poaching dish

But then, in the midst of all that, you may have a morning where you wake up to hear the cheery whistle of a songbird, “twee-ooo,” letting you know that it may get up into the teens today, and suddenly the world feels a little more alive.  Then, the clouds may roll in and blanket everything with 4 or 5 inches of fresh powdery snow, and the world feels a little more clean.  And hopefully, on such a day, you’ll decide not to go cross-country skiing on the groomed trails, even though you have a 50 km race you were supposed to be busting your butt training for, and instead go tromping in the woods, playing tag with the dog, searching for animal tracks, and making snow angels, and then you’ll remember why winter is gorgeous and magical.

Even the most wonderful things need paying attention to, or you’ll forget how very wonderful they are. « Read the rest of this entry »


The Feast

August 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

Hello dears!  We rolled into Minnesota last night around midnight after approximately 5 bazillion hours of traveling.  But we’re here!  It’s amazing!  Now we have a lot of unloading to do.  Uffdah.

But, I had to stop in here quick to share a little bit more excitement.  Perhaps you remember the Feast of Nationalistic Proportions I hosted back at the very beginning of summer.  Perhaps you don’t.  Either way, I am thrilled to say that all this week, a series of articles I wrote about it are being featured over on Food52, one article each day. The brilliant folks at Food52, among their many fun and creative ideas, have been hosting a series called Big Feast.  And, my feast is this month’s feast (eee!  I’m so excited!!).  So, you should definitely go check them out to read all about the planning, cooking, and hosting process of the party.

The first article (from Monday) is: The Big Idea

The second (from yesterday) is: Creating a menu of Nationalistic Proportions

There will be another one going up today, and then another on Thursday, and then Friday.  (Yes, that is what one each day means.  You probably did not need me to explain that.  Forgive me, I’m addled from riding in a moving truck.).  So, go read, make, create, enjoy!

Update:  Oh look, here’s the third one!  Learning to love foraging.

A feast of nationalistic proportions

June 5, 2012 § 57 Comments

I held my belated Norwegian Independence Day party almost a week and a half ago now, and I have to admit, I’ve yet to come down off of the high that that was.  It was so much fun!  And so totally epic.  I finally have my thoughts halfway in order and my photos fully in order, so I can show you a little bit of what we did!

The meal was 17 courses.  Yup.  Seriously.  17.  17 plated courses at that.  Back in February I got it into my head that this year for Syttende Mai, I wanted to try to explore some elements of the fundamentals of Nordic cuisine and how traditional cuisines evolve by creating a meal in which I would attempt to fuse the traditional Norwegian foods we eat on the 17th of May with the style and principles of the food at Noma.  You know, that little ole’ Danish restaurant that has revolutionized cuisine, particularly Nordic cuisine, and is merely one of the best, most famous restaurants in the world right now.

A totally reasonable project for me to work on in my spare time, right?  Ok, not at all really.  But, boy was it a kick!

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Jorrun’s rhubarb torte

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.

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Baked rice pudding with rhubarb sauce

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.

I like to amuse my guests in style.  Particularly in heavily embroidered woolen style. « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted salmon with gravlax-style marinade

March 28, 2012 § 12 Comments

I am a coveter of ideas.  I’m not proud of this.  It may, in fact, be a death knell of sorts for creativity – how can you be original when you’re wishing you had someone else’s idea?  But it’s awfully hard not to covet it when someone has a really great idea.

It mostly happens when it feels like an idea I potentially could have had.  I hear it, and the idea just. makes. sense.  And my instant reaction is, “maaaaaan (in a kind of nasal, whiney internal voice), why didn’t I think of that?”

Or perhaps even more covetable is a realization of an idea that I actually have had, but mine simply hadn’t had enough time to gestate.  A little premie of an idea still in need of some incubation  and maybe a little knit cap.  It’s inspiring to see someone else’s version of the same idea, well nourished and fully fleshed out into practice.  Inspiring, and a wee bit annoying.

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Norwegian pancakes (pannekaker)

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 »

A simple Scandinavian strawberry tart

July 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

I wish I did a better job with the 4th of July.  I don’t get nearly so excited for it as I do for Syttende Mai.  And I have yet to coerce my friends into parading around the neighborhood with me to celebrate America’s independence.  I think maybe it’s because I don’t get excited about fireworks or watermelon.  When I say this people look at me like I’ve told them I don’t like puppies or those huge-eyed insanely adorable little bushbabies.  It’s not that big of a deal people.  And, I maintain fireworks aren’t that exciting.  Well, except for this one summer in Norway when I was around 10…My uncle decided we should celebrate the 4th of July American-style with a bunch of fireworks that he had purchased (I think illegally).  Most of them were your standard sort of small fireworks that spray small cascades of sparkling red, green, and yellow and then fizzle.  But somehow he had found one that stood out with its intimidating heft.  It was called “the bomb.”  It had four large components, connected to one another, each containing explosives that the description claimed would shoot hundreds of feet up in the air and burst into fiery blossoms.

We propped it up, precariously, in front of our cabin using some small rocks.  My uncle lit the fuse and we all stood back.  The first pod shot up and burst with all the splendor of a professional firework (at least to a ten year old’s eyes).  However, its force knocked the rest of the packaging free of the supportive rocks.  It toppled and, bang, bang, bang!  The next three explosives rocketed into bushes in our yard and the neighbors.  It had been a dry summer, and WOOSH, the bushes instantly went up in flames.  We started yelling and scrambling to find buckets.  We hollered to our neighbors who came running out and threw their hands up in the air, seeing their bushes ablaze.  We half expected the voice of God to start ordering us around through the dancing flames in the bushes.  But, finding this didn’t happen, we began a bucket brigade from the shower to douse our bushes while the neighbors cranked up their hose and snuffed theirs.  All in all we made quick work of the fires, but the level of excitement and clamor far exceeded that of a standard holiday – even Christmas!  To children who had never been to a theme park besides Legoland it was like a thrill ride, or a scene from a movie come to life!

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Asparagus with lemon and mustard

June 8, 2010 § 3 Comments

I just love the misty purple and green of asparagus stalks.  It makes me think of the colors of a high school sports team, or maybe some atrocious yet gorgeous wall paper by a trendy design company.

Some things in life are meant to be ephemeral.  They only work because they don’t last. Like a streak of lightning snaking through a stormy sky, or the rose and coral glow of a sunrise, or your relationship with your middle school boyfriend…ahem.  I, quite romantically, have been used to thinking about spring in this way as well.  But, I’m reconsidering.  Actually, I’d like to submit an official request for a change of opinion.  Spring!  Come back!!  Just a few more weeks!  Please!

The balmy days, and profusion of lilacs have evaporated like a morning fog and given way to sweltering, thick, lazy heat.  Summer came early this year – and I’m considering moving back to the artic circle.  (I’m a terribly obnoxious whiner when it comes to heat and mugginess, I hope you can forgive me.  Also, I can’t complain too much, given that today happens to be spectacularly lovely, but it won’t last.)

With the sudden onset of summer weather has come a rapid transition in the growing season, and spring vegetables have phased themselves out, practically before we even had a chance to greet them.  Goodbye to the ramps, and the rhubarb, and the favas, and the fiddleheads, and the asparagus. « Read the rest of this entry »

Lemon cream roasted salmon

May 12, 2010 § 3 Comments

Whenever it’s an election season and I’m rabidly following debates and interviews and throwing things at my television or radio when I get annoyed with someone (it’s a good thing for the sake of my blood pressure that it doesn’t happen multiple times a year!) I find myself getting so sick of the phrase “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” that I could just, I don’t know, throw another sock at the radio, I guess.  Talk about a phrase that gets overused by politicians.  So, imagine my feelings when I found myself describing my cooking and reflecting that while I love excellent food, I don’t want to “let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  Ooops.

The thing is, when it comes down to it, it’s often true.  If we set our expectations too high in the beginning, we wind up giving up before we’ve even started.  I used to think of myself as a perfectionist, but that is total bull, actually.  I like to dabble and keep it simple, rather than perfect.   So, quite good is good enough on most occasions.  Especially when it comes to cooking (and correcting typos, hehe), and I think that’s a good thing. Sure, I’ll never be a chef; I can just be a little too lazy to cook in ways that involve many intricate steps or any techniques much more challenging than chopping and whisking.  But, at least I do it.  I get home cooked meals on the table.  And they’re good.  Sometimes really, really good.

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