Kvæfjordkake: Norway’s National Cake

Kvæfjordkake

If you’ve ever eaten a slice of Kvæfjordkake, you probably know that the cake pretty much speaks for itself. With its layers of buttery cake, delicate meringue, silky vanilla cream, and chopped almonds, it’s rich yet light, each bite almost like a cloud. Commonly known as verdens beste kake, or world’s best cake, it’s been named Norway’s National Cake, and it has a worldwide following along with official ambassadors. I had the opportunity to interview the cake’s U.S. ambassador, Mari-Ann Kind Jackson, recently and am sharing the story in the latest issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. Kvæfjordkake is a popular cake to serve on Syttende Mai–Norwegian Constitution Day–and if you’re looking for something celebratory to serve on May 17, let me point you over to my article, which features the recipe Jackson provided me. Also be sure to sign up for my newsletter for monthly Scandinavian food inspiration!

Kvæfjordkake

Kvæfjordkake

Kvæfjordkake

Click here for the recipe in the Norwegian American Weekly

Biff à la Lindström

Biff Lindström

It occurred to me the other day as I set to work in the kitchen making an early dinner that the days are getting longer. Though afternoon, it was still light enough to snap some photos of the food, with hopes that the biff à la Lindström (piquant little Swedish meat patties) I was making for my family might be as appetizing to you as they were to me.

Some days it feels like we’re trudging on through the grey days and the dampness that forces its way through our clothes and skin down to the bones. While the darkness and the cold are nothing like the polar nights that my friend Dianna who lives in Tromsø has been experiencing, and while I do in fact love the winter and the coziness that it inspires, it can take some effort to break out of the weather-inspired lull and celebrate the season’s merits instead.

I read a recent story about how people in northern Norway cope with the darkness of winter. While sunlight is important for one’s physical and mental health, there are months in which the sun never rises above the horizon there—and yet people thrive. A Stanford University PhD student on a Fulbright scholarship in Tromsø discovered that seasonal depression wasn’t as common as one might expect. She found that people there celebrate the winter. They find ways to enjoy it, such as skiing. They take in the physical beauty around them, and they embrace all those wonderfully cozy elements of winter, such as curling up with a fuzzy blanket and filling the house with the warm glow of candlelight. The takeaway from the story was that shifting the way we think about winter might really help.

I’ve been trying to do that, from leaving a bunch of candles scattered throughout the house after Christmas to frequently baking treats like cardamom boller that fill my home with the warm, cozy aromas of yeast and spice (being a food writer engaged in frequent recipe testing helps with this). Soon enough spring will arrive and we’ll stash away our cold-weather gear until the next winter. We’ll miss the fireplace and the comforting feeling of knits and wool grazing against our necks and skin. It’s going to come soon—sooner perhaps than I would like—as evidenced by the lighter afternoons. Thankfully I have these little meat patties to help remind me to embrace it while it’s here.

Biff Lindström

People in Scandinavia have been enjoying biff à la Lindström for potentially over 150 years, making it a true classic. There are a couple of stories about its origins, one being that Captain Henrik Lindstrom allegedly brought the dish from Russia to Sweden in May 1862 when he introduced it at Hotel Witt in Kalmar. Another story involves Norwegian chef and polar expeditioner Adolf Henrik Lindstrøm, who was involved in three famous Norwegian polar expeditions.

Whoever said that Scandinavian food is bland must not be acquainted with biff à la Lindström. The distinctive flavors are pickled beets and capers, which are bold and present enough to be interesting but without overpowering the overall meal. It’s commonly eaten for lunch; Danish chef Trine Hahnemann, author of The Scandinavian Cookbook, writes that these piquant little meat patties—which are sometimes topped with a fried egg—are also great as a hangover cure.

As with any classic recipe, variations for biff à la Lindström abound. It’s often made with mashed potatoes, though cookbook author Beatrice Ojakangas swaps breadcrumbs for the potatoes in Scandinavian Feasts, and Hahnemann doesn’t use either. Recipes sometimes include a liquid of some kind—heavy cream, or perhaps even the liquid from pickled beets—but this recipe shouldn’t need it. I researched a number of recipes to come to this one, and I trust you’ll be pleased with the results. It’s delicious alongside a simple green salad, or perhaps some new potatoes that have been boiled, smashed, and then roasted with olive oil and salt.

I managed to whip these up for an early dinner yesterday before the sun had even begun to set. The patties came together quickly, a combination of little more than lean ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, capers, and pickled beets, leaving me plenty of afternoon light. We’re still in the heart of winter, but spring will be coming soon. It’s the perfect balance–enough time to savor the season while looking forward to the next one.

Biff Lindström

Biff à la Lindström

1 pound lean ground beef
½ medium onion, finely chopped
¼ cup fine, dry bread crumbs
1 extra-large egg
½ cup chopped pickled beets, plus more for garnish (try mine, if you’d like)
2 Tablespoons capers, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt
a few grinds of freshly-ground black pepper
1-2 Tablespoons butter
Whole grain mustard, for serving (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together beef, onion, and bread crumbs (I used my stand mixer for quick, thorough, yet minimal mixing). Add the egg, picked beets, capers, and Worcestershire, along with salt and pepper, and mix to combine well.

Using your hands, shape the meat into 8 patties, creating a little indentation in the middle of each one with your thumb to help cook them evenly.

In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add the patties, in two batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding, and cook, flipping once, until each side is a rich golden brown and the center is cooked as you’d like.

Garnish with additional pickled beets and a spoonful of mustard on the side for serving, if you’d like. Serve alongside small boiled potatoes and something green—a salad of baby arugula, simply dressed, is nice.

Serves 4.

An Evening with Noma’s René Redzepi

Rain on Tent

Raindrops pattered on the clear canopy above us, illuminated by the street lamps and Christmas light-wrapped trees in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square. The 150 or so of us had braved the cold, wet November evening to dine outdoors with René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Copenhagen’s Noma–the renowned restaurant that has been named the best restaurant in the world three times in recent years. As we cuddled with the wool blankets provided at each seat, the guest of honor exclaimed his sense of surprise and honor: This never would happen in Denmark, he said.

With a multi-course meal by James Beard Award-winning chef Matthew Dillon of Seattle’s Bar Sajor, Sitka & Spruce, and The Corson Building and Noma-alumnus Blaine Wetzel, now chef of Willows Inn on Lummi Island north of Seattle, the event garnered extreme interest. Tickets–sold through Book Larder–were gone in just a few hours.

Redzepi Signing Books

Inside Dillon’s London Plane, just across the square from Bar Sajor, we sipped sparkling rosé while waiting in line to meet Redzepi and have him sign our copies of his just-released book, the three-volume A Work in Progress. We then headed out into the cold to find our seats, tagged by a fruit, vegetable, shell, or plant that had been assigned to us at the beginning of the event. (I’m still trying to figure out the name of my branch of burgundy-colored, woody buds.)

Redzepi Dinner Table Setting

Redzepi Event Dinner Table

Redzepi Dinner Centerpiece

Dinner started with a series of small bites, heavily influenced by the abundant seafood of the Pacific Northwest. Smoked mussels on the half shell and oysters garnished with fermented cabbage were nestled among the mossy centerpieces running along each of the two long tables. Puget Sound silver smelt rested on kelp. Slices of green alder-smoked sockeye as rich as candy were doled out–one per salivating palate. Other starters included smoked yogurt on rye bread with peppers in cider vinegar, pickled quince wrapped in air-cured pork leg, and crispy sunchoke tubers and “trumpets of death” mushrooms.

Redzepi Dinner

Oyster

Salmon

Quince

As we dined and sipped wine pairings provided by Syncline, Redzepi read from his book, which chronicles the Noma experience through a volume consisting of the author’s journal entries, a book of snapshots from the restaurant’s day-to-day operations, and a cookbook full of recipes (some of which he says are actually approachable to home cooks, unlike most of the recipes in his previous book, Noma: Time & Place in Nordic Cuisine).

Redzepi Introduction

Rene Redzepi Speaking

We ate fat slices of Dillon’s fluffy, chewy bread, accompanied by a trio of spreads: duck fat and rosemary, cultured goat butter, and sea urchin. Then up next came the first of three platters of main courses: raw Roosevelt elk with burnt celery root, cabbage baked in hay and horseradish.

The black cod from Neah Bay with salt-roasted pear and walnut oil, garnished with wisps of fresh dill, was one of my highlights of the evening. The freshness of the barely-ripe pears cut through the oiliness of the rich and flavorful black cod, and the walnut oil and dill rounded out the flavors just right. We then moved on to the leg of lamb served with slow-cooked root vegetables, preserved king boletes, and honeycomb.

Black Cod Lamb and Root Vegetables As is often the case with long dinners, dessert might seem optional for a satisfied and exhausted palate, but the little bites of flax seed caramels, buckwheat cookies, petit basque, and candy cap mushroom financiers were just right. Served with warm hazelnut milk and a black walnut liqueur, they warmed us up enough to head out from the cozy tent and into the evening.

Redzepi Event Desserts

As I’ve slowly worked on this post over the course of a couple of weeks, I’ve returned to a bit of the feeling of happiness and warmth of the evening each time I’ve sat down to organize the photos or write. What I haven’t mentioned as of yet is my enthusiasm for Nordic cuisine and how much fun I’ve been having watching from afar what chefs like Redzepi are doing. It’s exciting to see how the foods of both old Scandinavian and New Nordic cuisine are originating from the same traditions, readily-available ingredients, and cultures, making aspects of each similar yet so wildly different from each other. It’s a dream of mine to eat at Noma when I have a chance to travel to Copenhagen some day, but in the meantime it was so special to attend this dinner and meet René Redzepi (that’s me with the chef in the photo below). A big thank you to my husband for treating me to such a wonderful evening for my birthday!

Daytona with Rene Redzepi

A Delicious July

Here in Seattle we’re enjoying a summer that’s just about as beautiful as we could ask for. Bright sunny days, temperatures neither too high nor too low, it’s pretty much the quintessential summer to me. It’s been occurring to me lately, however, that the summer is going by really quickly–too quickly, almost. I began to wonder, have I been enjoying it enough? More picnics! Reading outside with a good book! Trips to the beach! It will be August later this week, so I need to hurry up and schedule in some of those things that I love most about summer. In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the posts from the past month.

Rye and Blueberry Tart with BerriesThis delicious Finnish blueberry and rye tart kicked off the month.

Strawberry Picking DiptychSpeaking of berries, I shared photos from my recent strawberry-picking trip to Biringer Farm about an hour north of Seattle.

Copper Gate NeonReminiscing about an old Seattle Scandinavian hangout that closed its doors this summer, there was this post on the Copper Gate.

Our Amazing Norway Brunost Article with CoverI also shared news of my latest food article in Our Amazing Norway.

Danish Vanilla Cookies on ParchmentA number of you shared ideas and recipes when I wrote about my continued search for an old cookie recipe (thanks to all of you!).

Crispbread with Plums and Blue Cheese

We enjoyed the bounty of summer with a plum, blue cheese, walnut, and crispbread appetizer…

Radishes and Salad…and a Danish blue cheese salad.

blackberry and almond cake

Finally, we talked about gluten-free baking.

In the next few days I’ll be sharing with you a recipe for fyrstekake, one of my all-time favorite Norwegian desserts. This dessert–also known as Prince Cake or Royal Cake–happens to have been one of the first recipes I blogged about back in 2009, but this new recipe is even better! I can’t wait to share it with you.

I hope that you enjoy the summer weather this week, wherever you are. I’ll be back soon with another recipe!

Signature for Blog

Reflecting on June

Dear Friends,

Let me invite you into my kitchen for just a few minutes on this hot summer afternoon. I have just slid a disk of dough into the refrigerator, where it will chill for the next hour or so. And right now I am simply sitting on a bar stool and sipping an ice cold sparkling water spiced with a few dashes of bitters. Time seems almost to be standing still, put on pause by the heatwave happening in the city right now. (I know, it’s relatively cool compared to other parts of the country, but for Seattle it’s hot.)

In my kitchen, the lights are off, the shades are drawn two-thirds of the way, to keep out the heat and prevent creating more. At least until it’s time to bake the tart! It’s quiet in here, except for the swishing of the water scrubbing dirty dishes inside the dishwasher. It’s June 30, and summer seems to finally have arrived here in Seattle–in terms of weather and activities. School and graduation and end-of-the-year parties and homework and tests and papers are all a couple of weeks behind us. Now there’s time to go to the farmers’ market, visit the beach, splash in the pool, go for long walks–whatever we want to do after work and on weekends. After being an MBA wife for three years, it’s taken a while to settle into the new routine, but it’s starting to sink in!

A month ago I sat down to map out some things I wanted to share with you here at Outside Oslo during the month of June. Now looking back at the month, I’m enjoying seeing how several of those posts panned out and how others turned out to be a surprise. With a quiet kitchen and hands freshly washed after massaging butter into flour to make a flaky, buttery crust, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the past month here on the blog.

Rhubarb and Mackerel Collage

We played around with an interesting flavor combination with Norwegian Mackerel with Roasted Rhubarb early in the month.

Scandinavian Almond Cake with Tea

I shared a Scandinavian Almond Cake while thanking you for being such supportive, engaged, and encouraging readers.

Ice Cream Article

I announced my latest article in Pregnancy & Newborn magazine (homemade ice cream, anyone?)…Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam with Bread

…and shared recipes for Nordic Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam

Bløtkake

…and Norwegian Bløtkake.

I reflected on the writing life

…and shared highlights from my interview with celebrity chef Tyler Florence.

Sweet-and-Sour Cucumber Salad

There were two cucumber salads

Midsummer Picnic

…and a Scandinavian-inspired Midsummer picnic enjoyed in the Methow Valley a few hours away from Seattle.

Strawberries in Cream

Finally, we celebrated the regal strawberry with one of the simplest and most delicious preparations.

Thanks again for reading Outside Oslo and for sharing your own experiences and memories of Scandinavian food with me. I always love hearing from you.

Wherever you are, I hope you are staying cool and enjoying the start of summer.

Until next time,

Daytona

The Writing Life

Keyboard

Life is full of filters. We customize an image of ourselves daily that we want to portray to our colleagues, and we share the best of life while ignoring the worst when posting status updates to Facebook or Twitter. Blogging is no different, really, when we have a theme that we try to stick to. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately–that perceived need to stick to the content that is supposedly the reason that people read.

When I started Outside Oslo back in 2009, I thought of it mostly as a personal journal, made public and therefore something that I hoped that people would stumble upon and hopefully want to read. As people began to resonate with the posts and share their own stories about the connection between food, heritage, and family, I began to tighten my focus.

But when reading Ashley’s post today over at Not Without Salt–one in which she described a moment in her day, a quiet, beautiful moment savored amidst the chaos and clutter that comes with being a parent–I began to think about the filters that such a topic places on the writing that I do, and as a result the limited frame of reference that I share.

Life–my life, specifically, for the purpose of this post–is bigger than the meals cooked and the ethnicity of origin. Each day I find myself occupying positions of wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, cousin, niece, aunt, friend, writer, and any other role that comes into play.

There are days when my life as a wife are full of celebration as I watch my husband wrap up the final days of graduate school. There are days when I nurse a sick toddler back to health and kiss his forehead when he falls head-first onto the ground. There are days when I feel I’ll never catch up to the multiplying emails finding a semipermanent home in my inboxes (yes, inboxes). And there are the days when I feel–rightfully so–that there is not enough time to write the queries, articles, and blog posts that I want to write.

I shared a couple of weeks ago the struggle I was having with my writing life, the experience of having so many ideas and projects in the works that I was losing sight of my longterm objectives. From that, I momentarily lost my voice. In the effort to fill so many hats I found myself racing to stay on top of multiple missions at once, and as a result losing sight of where I have been headed all these weeks, months, and years. I am coming out of that, though, I am happy to report. I am confident of that. It’s nothing new for the writer, and nothing new for me. Back when I was a journalism student in college I knew it all too well. It happened again when I worked as a television news writer and producer. No matter what, I just kept writing. The difference between then and now, however, is the outlet that I have here at Outside Oslo. Here, I can simply write. I can process what’s going on in my head using the medium that often trips me up but that I also love so dearly: words. I read a while back that Molly Wizenberg founded Orangette as a way to practice writing and develop her voice. She wanted to be a food writer back then, if I remember the story correctly, and she used the blog as a place to practice, a place to write. 

Too often lately I have been overly concerned with finding the right story to tell here at Outside Oslo, which has made the blog feel on occasion more like one of my assignments than a place that is an extension of my heart. I would like to change that. I would like to share more details of my days, more of the trials and errors I encounter as I seek to grow my skills as a recipe developer and photographer in addition to writer, and ultimately more of who I am as a person and an individual.

Scandinavian food–particularly the cuisine of Norway–is a passion of mine, but as I said, it’s only a slice of life. I’ll be writing about it for months and years into the future, both here and in other platforms. But I hope you’ll keep reading and stay involved and engaged as I expand my focus and share the bigger picture of life here at Outside Oslo. The food will remain “Scandi-centric,” but I would like to open up my life and my heart a little bit more and allow Outside Oslo to be a place where I can feel free to experiment as a writer at times and rest at others. Please continue to follow along and keep sending me comments and emails along the way. I truly love hearing from you. Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

Daytona

Image originally shared at my other blog Nooks & Cranberries

Just a Note to Say Hi

Auckland Skyline

Hello friends. It’s been rather silent here at Outside Oslo in the past few weeks, so I figured it’s time to say hello. I’ve had wonderful adventures since I wrote last, a hint of which you’re seeing in these few photos from a trip I took last week (more details soon). I’ll be back really soon–I promise. In the meantime, I’m dreaming up all sorts of things to share with you in the weeks and months to come.

Waiheke

I hope you’ll take a moment to sign up to receive e-mail notifications of posts (near the top of the right sidebar) and follow Outside Oslo on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

I’ll be back soon!

24 Hours at Lake Chelan

Chelan Vines

Sometimes all one needs in order to be refreshed and reinvigorated is to surround oneself in the beauty of nature for a few hours. That was the experience I had with my friend and writing partner Sarah last weekend. Sent as media to experience Lake Chelan’s Red Wine & Chocolate events, we set out on Saturday morning for a weekend away from the city. Driving across the Cascade mountains, we caught up on each others’ lives and reconnected. We talked about the future, our families, and about the writing life. We dreamed big.

After crossing Snoqualmie and Blewett passes and driving up US-97, we crested the hill leading to Lake Chelan and gasped as we took in the snow-covered landscape. A mere 24 hours or so in such beauty was all it took to rejuvenate our writing lives and send us home with renewed inspiration and creativity.

I’ll get back to the Scandinavian recipes in a day or two. I promise. But in the meantime I wanted to share a taste of my past weekend with you here at Outside Oslo. If you want to hear more about it, you can read my article at The Flying Salmon, my Pacific Northwest travel blog over at Wanderlust & Lipstick.

Lake Chelan

Chelan Landscape

Chelan Vine Collage

Full disclosure: Being sent as press to Lake Chelan because of the travel writing I do elsewhere, my meals and lodging were covered. However, I made no promises regarding coverage, and I’m only sharing my experience with you here at Outside Oslo out of pure desire.

A Delicious October

Pears and TomatoesCan you believe it’s already the end of October? It’s been a delicious month here at Outside Oslo, so I thought I’d take a moment to revisit the recipes I’ve featured here over the past few weeks. Enjoy!

Scandinavian Autumn Fruit SoupScandinavian Autumn Fruit Soup
An original recipe published in Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine

Kladdkaka VerticalKladdkaka (Swedish Gooey Chocolate Cake)

Surkål

Surkål (Norwegian Sauerkraut with Caraway)

Lamb with Anchovy Dill Butter

Pan-grilled Lamb Chops with Anchovy-Dill Butter and Brussels Sprouts

Smorrebrod with Anchovy Dill ButterSmørrebrød with Anchovy-Dill Butter, Green Leaf Lettuce, and a Hard-Boiled Egg

Baked Apples with Vanilla CreamAlmond-filled Baked Apple Halves with Vanilla Cream

Orange-Cardamom CaramelsOrange-Cardamom Caramels
An original recipe published in the Norwegian American Weekly

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Welcome October

Pears and Tomatoes

My kitchen is the stuff of magic right now. Fresh, almost-ripe Bartlett pears mingle with the last-of-the-season tomatoes from my next-door neighbor’s garden. The pears have been simmering into a sauce on the stove, preceded by a spiced Scandinavian autumn fruit soup. A kladdkaka, or Swedish gooey chocolate cake, is piping hot on the cake stand, fresh from the oven.  The warm, fruity chocolate aroma is the kind that warms the heart and could inspire a weary soul.

October is here, and just as the seasons have shifted outside, the focus in my kitchen has changed. The items mentioned above are just a taste of what’s coming at Outside Oslo this week. Check back soon for recipes!

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