Tag Archive | swedish cuisine

Elemental Cooking

Swedish Cabin

Our Swedish travels took us very far north, into Sammi land, to visit with Jogge and Nina at their summer cabin. The small town of Overkalix is not far from the Arctic Circle, a land of cold rivers fed by snowmelt from the mountains, many lakes, and forest. Nina and Jogge’s cabin is reached by ferryboat, and then a 10-minute boat ride to a small landing beach. The lake was once a river flowing through the forest…tannin-dark and ringed with marshland. This part of Sweden is home to moose and reindeer, salmon swimming from the sea upriver, moss and lichen-covered rocks, and many trees twisted from winter wind and ice. The landscape is elemental and spare, and filled with deep silence.

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Jogge warned us, “It is very rustic…no electricity, no running water, no road…” But we are prepared. We lived this way for six years in the Boomer Bill cabin. Cooking here is like the landscape– elemental and spare. There is a direct connection with earth, fire, and water.

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We caught small fish from the lake. Jogge salted them and put them in the cold storage pit under the house until we were ready to cook them over an open fire. We scraped the blackened skin off and pulled the sweet white fish off the bones on to thin toasted flatbread. That’s it. What more do you need?

Cooking with Fire

Freshly caught lake fish and an open fire are not always at hand. Later on our trip, Beth and Annalie showed us how to make delicious roasted fish in the oven or over hot coals in an outdoor grill. Place a thick fillet of mild white fish (Beth used cod) in the center of a large rhubarb leaf. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover with thin rhubarb stalks. Wrap the leaf snugly around the fish and tie it to make a package. Roast the fish in the oven at 375 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on thickness), or on a grate or metal pan over indirect heat in a covered charcoal grill. I used the same method for whole trout at home. The rhubarb leaf is not edible, but it imparts an earthy, lemony flavor to the fish. The roasted rhubarb stalks are superb.

Whole Trout stuffed with Herbs

Whole Trout

When frost comes, foil takes the place of rhubarb leaves, and lemon stands in for the rhubarb stalks. Herbs enhance the delicate flavor of trout, and the results are aromatic and juicy. Our end-of-season trout are quite large and perfect for baking. If you are using smaller trout, make a separate package for each one.

Ingredients: whole, cleaned trout(s), extra virgin olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper, 2 lemons, thinly sliced garlic cloves, sprigs of fresh rosemary, parsley, mint, fennel, and/or thyme, dry white wine, and aluminum foil

Place the trout on a square of aluminum foil that is large enough to fold and seal into a package. Rub the inside and outside of the fish with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with lemon juice inside and out. Place the garlic slices and herb sprigs into the cavity of the trout. Close the trout and place thin slices of lemon on top. Drizzle 1 or 2 Tbs white wine over the fish and fold the foil closed so that no liquid can escape. Place the foil wrapped fish on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F. for about 10 minutes per inch of thickness of fish. A large trout takes about 20 minutes; the flesh should be just opaque. Transfer the fish and all the juices to a platter.

This is especially good served with crusty bread for dipping and a bright green herb pesto: Finely chop a handful Italian flat-leaf parsley, a few fresh mint leaves, a little fresh thyme, and 2 garlic cloves. Add a big pinch sea salt and 4 Tbs toasted walnuts or pine nuts. Continue by hand or with a mortar and pestle to make a rough paste. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and add extra virgin olive oil to the desired consistency.

Trout with Bread

Another night at Overkalix we had a feast of reindeer meat and vegetables seasoned with wood smoke from the fire. Our appetizer was baby chanterelles sautéed in butter on toast.

Mushrooms with Bread

Jogge’s Reindeer Stroganoff

Ingredients: 1 lb. reindeer or venison tenderloin, 1 onion. 2 garlic cloves, 5 or 6 crushed juniper berries, 1 or 2 minced fresh hot chiles, 8 oz. sliced fresh button mushrooms, 1 cup thick Turkish or Greek yogurt

Cut the meat into very thin slices and season it with salt and black pepper. Warm 2 Tbs olive oil in a large skillet with 1 finely chopped onion. Sauté the onion over medium high heat until softened, 5 or 6 minutes. Add the finely chopped garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add the meat, chile, and juniper berries. Sauté 2 or 3 minutes. Transfer to a warm plate. Add 1 1/2 Tbs oil to the hot pan and sauté the mushrooms 5 or 6 minutes. Add the meat back into the skillet and toss with the mushrooms. Reduce the heat, add the yogurt, and stir until warm through. Serve

I made a version of this meal with tenderloin of “wild” goat (an escapee that lived in the forest for four months) and fresh shitake mushrooms. I followed Jogge’s method, briefly searing the thinly sliced meat with onion, chile, juniper berries, and garlic. I sautéed the sliced mushrooms separately, tossed the two together, and we ate it wrapped in fresh tortillas…with yogurt sauce and salsa.

Beth and Annalie’s Yogurt Sauce

Stir together 1 cup thick Greek-style, Bulgarian, or Russian whole milk yogurt with 1/2 tsp freshly toasted and ground cumin seed, 2 tsp minced garlic, a pinch of salt, and 4 Tbs chopped fresh herbs (mint, parsley, cilantro, lemon balm, chives…).

Beth and Annalie’s Garden Dinner

Beth and Annalie live and garden in Dalarna, Sweden–a picturesque region of small farms and iron-oxide-red barns and houses tucked into the hills along narrow, winding roads. They live in an old farmhouse; the barn is now their woodworking shop. Their yard is the old barnyard–a small plot of land so densely planted I almost got lost wandering the paths between garden spaces, admiring the garden gates and compost pile.

Willow Compost Bin

Dalarna is in central north Sweden–a challenging place to garden–so Beth and Annalie planted a living fence of willow to shield their vegetable garden space from the wind and create a warmer microclimate. Theirs is a free-spirited, rambling garden…pathways lace through raised beds of rich, dark earth, and plants jumble together–cilantro in the asparagus, borage in the kale, and calendula and poppies everywhere. There are beds of thriving potatoes, wildly happy garlic, and a forest of the biggest strawberry plants I have ever seen. It is a permaculture garden of flowers, herbs, vegetables, berries, and fruit trees finding a home together. The surrounding forests and meadows are a mushroom hunters’ heaven.

Swedish Garden

There is amazing diversity here–hazelnuts, apples, pears, cherries, gooseberries, raspberries…all loaded with fruit. An herb garden spills over with giant angelica, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, mint, dill, and lemon balm. Everywhere you look there are plants bursting into the long days of Swedish summer. This has been an especially cool and wet spring and summer in Sweden, so the garden is full of cool-season crops: parsnips, carrots, peas, fava beans, kale, collards, cabbage, turnips, celery, lettuce, bunching onions, a very tasty pigweed, and arugula. A tiny glass house provides a warm environment for Beth’s hot peppers, a few tomatoes, and basil; window-frame tents create shelter for squash and cucumber. Out of this bounty Beth and Annalie cook wonderful garden meals.

Strawberries

Potato Salad with Green Sauce

Potato and Olive Salad

Beth used freshly dug small new potatoes for her salad. Any smooth-skinned new potatoes or fingerlings–red, white, or yellow–will work.

The Potatoes: Chop 1 1/2 lbs. potatoes into roughly 3/4-inch cubes. Cook them in a vegetable steamer until they are tender and easily pierced with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes. Put them in a bowl with 4 finely chopped shallots or green onions, season with kosher or sea salt, and toss with 3 Tbs sherry or cider vinegar.

Ch0p 2 tsp fresh thyme, 2 tsp fresh oregano, 4 Tbs parsley, 4 Tbs cilantro, 1 cup arugula, and 1 cup pigweed (substitute endive, radicchio, or escarole). Mix the herbs into the potatoes. Add a small handful pitted green olives.

Make a paste with 1 minced garlic clove and a pinch of coarse salt. Whisk together with 1 tsp whole grain mustard, 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, and 5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil. Toss the dressing with the potatoes. Serve with Green Sauce.

The Green Sauce: Steam 4 cups chopped mixed greens (spinach, chard, kale, collards, borage) until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess liquid. Put the cooked greens in a blender with 1 tsp fresh thyme, 1 tsp fresh oregano, 2 Tbs parsley, 2 Tbs cilantro, 1/4 tsp red chile flakes (or 1 small minced hot chile), 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 2 large garlic cloves. Puree smooth. Mix the puree with 1 cup thick whole milk Russian or Greek yogurt. Add salt to taste.

Green Dip

I was irresistibly drawn to the robust, whirling garlic scapes in Beth and Annalie’s garden. They had never tried garlic scape pesto, so I harvested a bunch to make some. The scapes are chopped into 1-inch pieces (to make about 2 cups) and blanched in salted boiling water 1 minute. Scoop them out and put in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, and 2 or 3 Tbs toasted nuts (we had peanuts). Puree to make a smooth sauce. Add 1 or 2 Tbs of the blanching water to make the pesto thinner.

Garlic Scapes

Wild Forest Mushroom Soup

Beth took us to her secret mushroom spot in a boggy birch forest. There was deep moss underfoot and the smell of  rain-soaked leaves and fallen logs. We looked for patches of small chanterelles–like golden nuggets hidden in the forest floor. We found just enough for a taste, so Beth made her mushroom soup mostly with dried chanterelles, full of wild and woodsy flavor. Other varieties of wild or “cultivated wild” mushrooms–shitake, oyster, morels, cremini, or porcini can be used for the soup, with different and delicious results. You can also use a combination of dried and fresh, or cultivated and wild mushrooms.

The stock: Beth made her soup with a combination of the mushroom soaking liquid and vegetable bouillon. Other options include homemade or good quality canned mushroom, vegetable, chicken, or meat stock.

Make your own Stock:

*Wild Mushroom Soup Stock: Start with 1 oz (3/4 to 1 cup) dried mushrooms and/or mushroom stems (porcini, shitake, any flavorful mushroom…) Wash the mushrooms well to get rid of grit. Put the washed mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups hot water. Weight them with a small plate and let sit 20 to 30 minutes, until soft. Strain, reserving the liquid. Squeeze out excess liquid and chop into small pieces. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter or cloth.

Warm 2 Tbs olive oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 large chopped onion, 2 diced carrots, 2 thinly sliced celery stalks, 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves, and 2 bay leaves. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 to 8 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Add 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 4 or 5 Tbs roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, the soaked mushrooms, their strained soaking liquid, and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour. Strain the stock through a sieve. Store in the refrigerator up to 5 days or freezer up to 6 months if not used right away.

*Basic Vegetable Stock: Warm 4 Tbs olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups chopped onion, 1 cup chopped leeks (including green part), 1 1/2 cups chopped carrots, 3/4 cup chopped celery with leaves, and 4 lightly smashed garlic cloves. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly browned. Note: An alternative method is to toss all the vegetables with the oil, spread them out on a roasting pan, and roast them in a 400-degree F. oven until browned, about 40 minutes. Either way, you want the vegetables to be lightly caramelized before adding the liquid. Add 2 bay leaves, 3 or 4 branches flat leaf parsley, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, and 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns to the vegetables in the pot. Add 8 cups water; bring to a boil, and simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hours. Strain the stock and store in the refrigerator up to 5 days or freezer up to 6 months if not used right away.

*Easy Chicken Stock: I like to make chicken stock from the bones left over from roasting whole organic chickens stuffed with fresh thyme, lemons, and lots of garlic. I put 2 or 3 chickens’ worth of bones in a slow cooker, cover the bones with water, and let the pot simmer all night. Alternately, roast 3 or 4 pounds organic chicken parts (wings, backs, legs, necks…) in a 400-degree F. oven 45 to 60 minutes until well browned. Scrape the chicken and any pan dripping into a large stock pot or slow cooker, add 1 or 2 coarsely chopped carrots, 1 thickly sliced onion, 2 celery stalks, 4 lightly smashed garlic cloves, and 3 quarts water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer gently, covered, 3 hours to overnight. Strain the stock. Cool and remove the fat. Store the stock in the refrigerator up to 5 days, or in the freezer up to 6 months.

*Beef Bone Broth: Use big meaty bones from grass-fed beef  (our neighbor Rodney gave me some from a bull he butchered). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a roasting pan with the bones, roast them for about 1 hour, until well browned. Pour off the rendered fat, put the bones in a slow-cooker or large stockpot, add water to cover, and simmer 4 to 12 hours. Strain the broth, cool, and remove the fat before using or storing. Store in the refrigerator up to 5 days or in the freezer up to 6 months.

*Quick Stock (Improving Canned Chicken Broth): Sauté or roast coarsely chopped aromatic vegetables in olive oil until lightly browned. For about 6 cups canned broth, use 1 medium onion, 2 carrots, 1 celery stalk with leaves, 2 lightly smashed garlic cloves, 2 branches flat leaf parsley, and 1 bay leaf. Simmer the sautéed vegetables, covered, in the canned chicken broth about 30 minutes. Strain the broth before using or storing.

The Soup: Use about 2 cups dried wild mushrooms (2 oz), a combination of 1/2 oz (about 1/2 to 2/3 cup) dried wild mushrooms and 8 to 12 oz fresh wild or cultivated mushrooms, or 1 to 1 1/4 pounds mixed fresh wild and cultivated mushrooms. Prepare the dried mushrooms as for the mushroom stock. Clean and slice the fresh mushrooms about 1/4-inch thick.

Warm 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Stir in 2 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion (2 medium onions). Reduce the heat and cook the onion slowly until very soft.

While the onions cook, warm 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the fresh mushrooms, tossing to coat with oil. Allow the mushrooms to cook without stirring until they soften, 5 or 6 minutes. Add the chopped rehydrated mushrooms (if using) and continue to cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly browned. You may need to add a little butter or oil if the pan gets too dry. Stir in 2 Tbs thinly sliced garlic, 1/4 tsp red chile flakes, 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, and 4 tsp fresh marjoram leaves. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook 2 minutes.

Stir the sautéed mushrooms into the onions. Add 3 Tbs chopped parsley, 1 Tbs tomato paste, 2 or 3 finely chopped sundried tomatoes, 1/2 cup dry white wine, and any reserved mushroom liquid (or 1 cup stock). Bring the liquid to a boil; simmer briskly until reduced by half, 5 minutes. Add 6 or 7 cups stock of your choice. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer the soup gently 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbs sherry (optional) and 2 or 3 Tbs cream. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in 2 Tbs finely chopped parsley leaves.

Serve with toasted, crusty bread and freshly grated Parmesan or other hard, aged cheese. Beth added blue cheese, which was perfect.

The Bottomless Pot: I made this soup with dried shitake, oyster, and porcini mushrooms and Rodney’s bone broth. The mushrooms looked skimpy, so I added more…probably about 3 cups total, and ended up with a lot of soup. If your soup is really thick, like mine was the second day, it makes great pasta sauce. I also used 1 1/2 cups soup mixed with crushed tomatoes and a little red wine to braise meatballs.  I thinned more of the left over soup with broth and added braised red cabbage to make deeply flavored borscht. Finally, I used the last of it to make a wild rice and chard soup.

Visiting Wille and Gunnel: Swedish Breakfast and the Food of Kindness

Wille and Gunnel live amid fields of summer wildflowers–bluebells, hawkweed, daisies, wild geranium, lupines, surrounded by a dark forest of birch and spruce, which could well be home to trolls. The road to their home winds through former pasture and hay land before ending at their neat compound of red-painted farm buildings on a bluff above the rusty-red River Ore. A steep, forested ravine drops down to the river, and on the other side we can see the farm where Wille grew up working with horses in the fields and forest. Their farmhouse is flanked by a sauna house, bake house (now a guest cabin), and the old barn (now Wille’s woodworking shop). A short walk through the woods leads to the traditional “lust house”, a hidden get-away for long summer days and nights–a small, hexagonal gazebo overlooking the river.

Wille tends a large patch of potatoes, and Gunnel’s garden is laid out in tidy rows of carrots, onions, beets, fennel, lettuce, cabbage, parsnips, chard, radishes, dill, and parsley. Squash, beans and broccoli grow under row covers, and a tiny glass house shelters the tomatoes. It’s been a cold and rainy season, so the garden is late this year, but we get to sample tender young lettuce leaves, sweet crunchy radishes, and sprigs of parsley and dill. A deep, cold pit dug under the kitchen holds the end of last year’s potatoes and carrots; baskets of onions are stored in the shop.

Sitting down to a meal with Wille and Gunnel is more than sharing food. It is sharing tradition and a deep feeling of contentment with what the land provides. The table is set with wooden spoons and bowls shaped by Wille’s hands and laden with dishes prepared with vegetables from the garden, wild berries gathered in the forest, and local farm products. Simple and straightforward, the food is full of the flavor of the Swedish countryside and the kindness and generosity of our hosts. It is the flavor of goodness.

The first morning of our visit we joined Wille and Gunnel for Swedish breakfast– the perfect balance of good eating and good sense. Thin wholegrain  crispbreads, porridge and muesli, and an array of wonderful things to eat with them are the basics. Crispbread (knackebrod, or “cracker bread” because you have to break off a piece from the hard, thin disk of bread) is traditional in the north, where a half-year’s worth of bread was baked in wood-fired ovens and stored hanging from the rafters. These breads are most often made from rye and wheat, but variations made with barley and oat flour are common as well.

Toppings for bread start with butter and continue on to soft and hard cheeses, ham, hard salami, smoked fish, hard-boiled egg, and fish roe. Further adornments include lettuce leaves, fresh herbs, and slices of radish, tomato, and bell pepper. Wille’s special version is a piece of flatbread topped with butter, cheese, lettuce, and raw garlic.

Swedes also have a mind-boggling selection of yogurt products, ranging from stringy “langfil” (a kefir-like cultured milk) to rich, thick Bulgarian and Russian style yogurts. Most of the ones served for breakfast are thin and pourable, all the better to mix with muesli or crushed flatbread. First fill a bowl with yogurt, stir in muesli or broken knackebrod to soften, and add fresh fruit and wild blueberry or lingonberry preserves. This is heaven.

Swedish breakfast is hardy enough to get you through the morning, or at least until “fica“, or mid-morning snack. This is when many Swedes have their second round of strong black coffee. This is also when the good sense is gone and the pastries, cakes, and cookies appear.

Porridge

Wille makes a stick-to-your-ribs porridge of wheat, oats, and potato every morning. The porridge I cook at home is made from steel-cut oats (oat groats cut into small chunks). They cook into a chewy, creamy porridge with fuller flavor than rolled oats.

The process is simple: For 4 servings, mix 1 cup steel-cut oats with 4 1/2 cups water and a 1/4 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer partially covered for 20 to 25 minutes. Add a few tablespoons to 1/2 cup more water if you like a thinner porridge. Soaking the oats in the cooking water overnight will reduce the cooking time by about 1/3.

Muesli

Sweden is full of small grain crops–rye, oats, wheat, barley, and spelt–of exceptional quality and flavor. These grains make great bread, as well as delicious muesli, a breakfast cereal made from a mixture of flaked grains, seeds, nuts, and sometimes dried fruit. Unlike granola, muesli is not toasted; the ingredients are mixed together and left raw (rolled or flaked grains are steamed before they are flattened, so are semi-cooked). Stir muesli into yogurt or other cultured milk and leave to soften a few minutes before eating. Add fresh fruit or preserves as desired.

My favorite muesli is made with 4 cups mixed grain flakes (rye, oats, wheat, and barley), 1 cup oat or wheat bran, 1 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup chopped almonds, and 1/2 cup flaxseed. Sprouted grain flakes are extra good, if you can find them.

Granola

Homemade granola is easy to make and better than anything you can buy. Use your hands or a food processor to mix the ingredients for muesli with 2 Tbs nut or other flavorful oil and 2 Tbs honey or maple syrup thinned with 1 or 2 Tbs hot water. Spread the mixture on a baking pan and toast in the oven at 200 degrees F until lightly browned and crunchy, about 1 hour. Add dried fruit after the granola is finished baking.

Vary the recipe to suit yourself: Increase the percentage of rolled oats or add puffed grains to the mix for a lighter granola. Add quinoa or amaranth flakes for more protein. Substitute walnuts, cashews, or pecans for the almonds. Use fruit juice concentrate or orange marmalade for the sweetening. Add a tsp vanilla or almond extract.

Knackebrod

I fell in love with all the wonderful Swedish crispbreads, which come in endless varieties. I followed this recipe from a Swedish sourdough cookbook.

First, make a rye starter: If you already have a sourdough starter, you can convert it to rye by feeding it with rye flour for a day. Otherwise, mix together 1 cup lukewarm water, 1/2 tsp dry yeast, and 1 1/2 cups rye flour. Stir in a circular motion about 100 times. Cover, and let the starter ferment at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours, until very active and bubbly.

Day one: Make the dough by mixing together 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs rye starter with 3/4 cup room temperature water, 1 Tbs honey, 1 1/4 cup unbleached bread flour, and 1 1/2 cups rye flour. Knead a few minutes, dusting with additional bread flour as needed, and shape the dough into a ball. Cover and allow the dough to rest 15 to 20 minutes. Add 2 1/2 tsp salt and knead to combine. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with a plastic bag. Refrigerate 24 hours.

Day two: Take the dough out of the refrigerator and warm to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil, or line with parchment paper, 4 large baking sheets. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and let rest 4 to 5 minutes on a floured surface.

Roll each ball into an oval or circle. You can roll the dough about 1/4-inch thick for a chewy bread, or 1/16-inch thick for a crisp, cracker-like bread. I rolled mine out to fit the 14-inch iron griddles that I use to bake pizza. My dough worked easily, but if the dough is sticky, add flour as necessary. Sprinkle the top with seeds (sesame, sunflower, flax…) if you like, and roll them into the surface. Place the flatbreads onto the baking sheets, cover with a damp towel, and let rise 20 to 30 minutes. Prick the surface of the breads with a fork every 1 to 2 inches.

Bake thin breads 5 to 6 minutes; allow thicker breads 10 to 15 minutes. I preheated my iron griddles and baked the breads on them. If you have a baking stone, use it. If not, any baking sheet will work fine. These flatbreads are delicious fresh from the oven, cut into wedges, and slathered with sweet butter.

Blueberry Scones

Scones are a treat for breakfast or fica. Tiny wild blueberries make them extra special. When I make scones, I try to channel our intern Haley Fox, who taught me the importance of speed and a light touch in mixing the dough. She could breeze into the kitchen, whip up a batch of scones in less than 5 minutes, and leave behind a swirl of flour and good smells from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In as large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour or cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp lemon or orange zest, and 1/8 tsp salt. Stir to blend well. Cut 6 Tbs cold butter into small pieces and use your fingers, two knives, or a food processor to mix them quickly and evenly into the flour to make a coarse meal. Gently mix in the blueberries.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 large egg, 2 Tbs fresh lemon or orange juice, and 3/4- cup yogurt or buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the liquid mixture into the well, and briefly mix the two together with your hands or a large spatula or spoon until just combined. Form a ball and turn it out onto a floured surface. Press the ball into a flat circle about 1 1/4-inch thick. Cut the circle of dough into 8 to 12 wedges and transfer the wedges to a baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between pieces. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Scones are best eaten immediately!

Cooking in the Land of the Midnight Sun: Nina’s Welcome Dinner

Sweden

We arrived in Sweden shortly after Midsummer’s Eve, when all of Sweden celebrates the long hours of daylight. Actually, they seem to celebrate all summer long, and why not? We were welcomed to Nina and Jogge’s lovingly restored home on an old farmstead in the north of Sweden at the endless end of a perfect sunny day. Nina’s welcome dinner was a pure Swedish Summer meal and a celebration of local and seasonal food, served out-of-doors in the bright sunlight of early evening. The table was an array of colors: a big fat pink salmon, golden yellow new potatoes, deep red beets, a green salad of young lettuce… and fresh strawberries and ice cream for dessert, followed by strong black coffee.

Nina and Louise

Nina’s menu reflected the best offerings of the early summer farmers’ markets in Sweden. The first of the local harvest is so fresh it glows. When I recreated her meal back in North Carolina, I went to the garden and dug “yellow finn” fingerling potatoes and pulled a bunch of young beets. I didn’t have a big fat salmon, so I baked a big fat trout that Drew caught in the pond.

Swedish Flowers

 Salmon Roasted with Blue Cheese 

Nina prepared a whole boned salmon fillet, 2 to 3 pounds. She made cuts through the flesh down to the skin every two inches or so and filled the cuts with blue cheese (she said it was “green cheese”–a local specialty). She roasted this beautiful fish in a hot oven, along with the potatoes and beets.

Oven roasting method: Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a small saucepan, melt 4 Tbs butter. Add 4 Tbs olive oil, 1/3 cup white wine or dry sherry and 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice. Warm gently. Pour 1/2 the mixture into a shallow baking dish just large enough to hold the salmon. Lay the salmon in skin side down and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour the remaining butter-lemon mixture over the top. Sprinkle with 3 or 4 tsp finely chopped fresh tarragon, parsley, fennel fronds, or thyme. Cover the pan with foil and roast 10 to 12 minutes. Check the thickest part of the fish for doneness–it should be slightly translucent in the middle. If it needs more cooking, remove the foil and return the pan to the oven for a few more minutes. Transfer the salmon to a platter and spoon the pan juices over the top. Or, as Nina did, mix the juices with crème fraiche to make a sauce.

Grilled or Sear-Roasted Salmon Fillets 

When you don’t have a whole fish or side of salmon, these are simple, quick, and delicious ways to cook fillets or steaks:

Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill. Choose center cut salmon steaks or thick fillets with skin on. Rub the fillets with olive oil and season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill the salmon directly over medium-high heat, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes per side, until just cooked through.

To sear-roast, heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil is shimmering hot, place the salmon fillets in the pan skin side up. Sear for 2 minutes, without moving. When the fillets are nicely browned, flip them over and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast until barely cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes.

Lovely Toppings for Salmon

CornGrilled Corn Salsa-Salad: You will need 2 or 3 ears of unhusked sweet corn, 1 medium red onion cut into 1/3-inch slices, and 1 large red bell pepper.  Rub the onion slices with olive oil and grill the corn and onions over medium heat until beginning to brown, 6 to 10 minutes. Grill the pepper until charred all over, 10 to 12 minutes. Cover the pepper with a cloth while it cools to make it easier to peel. While the vegetables cool, make a dressing: mash 1 garlic clove with 1/4 tsp salt to make a paste, add 1 Tbs fresh lime juice, 1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar, 1 minced jalapeno or serrano chile, and 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil. Cut the corn from the cob and chop the onion.  Peel, seed, and chop the pepper. Put the vegetables in a bowl and add 1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano and 4 Tbs chopped cilantro or parsley. Toss with the dressing; add salt and pepper to taste.

Fresh Plum or Peach Salsa: In a bowl, toss 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion and 4 finely chopped tomatillos with 2 Tbs fresh lime juice and 1/2 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt. Let sit 30 minutes. Add about 2 cups diced firm plums or peaches, 1 or 2 finely chopped jalapeno or other hot chile, and 1 Tbs each chopped basil, mint, and cilantro. Toss and add more lime juice if needed.

Red Pepper Relish: Heat 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil in a skillet with 2/3 cup finely chopped sweet or red onion and 1 cup finely diced sweet red pepper. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and sauté 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in 2 tsp minced garlic and a pinch (or more) red chile flakes.  Add 1 tsp red wine vinegar and 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar; cook another minute. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/2 tsp freshly toasted and crushed cumin seed.

Fennel Salsa: Remove the tough outer leaves from one small fennel bulb; quarter and slice the bulb 1/4-inch thick to make about 1 1/2 cups. Sauté the fennel in 1 1/2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil until tender-crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and combine with 1/2 cup diced celery and 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion. Toss with 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice, 1/4 tsp crushed fennel seed, 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme, 1/4 tsp red chile flakes, and 1/2 cup finely chopped fennel greens. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Roasted New Potatoes 

Fingerling Potatoes

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Wash and dry 2 pounds smooth-skinned yellow potatoes (German Butterball, Yellow Finn, Russian Banana, Yukon Gold…) Use whole small potatoes or cut larger potatoes in halves or quarters. Toss with 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil to coat well. Place on a large roasting pan and sprinkle with 1/2 to 1 tsp coarse sea or kosher salt. Roast the potatoes about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender inside and golden-crispy outside.

Roasted Beets

Beets will take almost the same cooking time as the potatoes in a 425 degree F oven. Wash, trim and peel 1 pound beets (about 6 to 8 medium beets). Cut them into 1-inch wedges and toss with 2 to 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil. Arrange in a single layer in a baking dish and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt. Roast the beets 15 minutes, flip over, and continue roasting until tender, another 20 minutes. Nina put rounds of goat cheese in with her beets to get toasted and soft during the last minutes of roasting.

I like to combine roasted beets with thinly sliced red onion, quartered cherry tomatoes, and chopped fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, chives…) and toss with a with a balsamic-citrus dressing: Whisk together 4 Tbs fresh orange juice, 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp fresh lemon juice or wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 Tbs walnut oil. Drizzle over the roasted beets and top with toasted walnuts.