Reflecting on a Milestone

Nordic in the Northwest Oregonian ArticleWow. I’d like to thank you all for your encouragement and celebration when I announced that my Nordic food article was featured as the centerpiece food story last week in The Oregonian. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many likes on the Facebook page! You are the best. I still get excited every time I walk by the various copies of the newspaper at my home, and I’d to try to explain this story’s significance to me.

As a lifetime writer who studied journalism in college and has made a career out of telling stories through the written word, getting published in The Oregonian marks a significant point in my writing life. With a reputation as one of the biggest and best newspapers in the Pacific Northwest, the Pulitzer Prize-winning paper has fostered and trained many excellent journalists; its former managing editor in his book “A Writer’s Coach” called it a “writer’s newspaper, a place where words matter.”

Daytona with Oregonian Article

Six years ago this summer I traveled down to Portland, Oregon, for a writers’ conference organized by The Oregonian and the Poynter Institute. Being surrounded by all of that integrity, creativity, and passion stirred something in me, and that weekend I decided, without a doubt, to leave broadcast news and pursue a job in print.

Even in 2007 that was a daring decision; as I took a communications and marketing job while doing freelance writing on the side, I watched as print editions of newspapers and magazines continued to decline.

As my family and I drove north from Portland last Tuesday after picking up a few copies of my article in that day’s paper, we passed the conference site and it occurred to me how momentous the article was. Six years after that influential experience I was back in Portland holding a copy of that respected paper–a “writer’s newspaper”–with my own article in it. Even though my stories about food have been published nationally, a byline in The Oregonian–especially on the topic of Nordic food, my specialty–is perhaps the one I’m most proud of.

Thanks again for all of your enthusiasm. Even without knowing the full significance of this article for me, you’ve written kind words, shared the article with your friends, and celebrated with me. I’ll say it again: You are the best.

“Nordic in the Northwest”: My Article and Recipes in The Oregonian

Daytona with Oregonian Article

So, here it is: the article I have been longing to tell you about! Published yesterday as the centerpiece food piece in The Oregonian (with a front-page teaser!), “Nordic in the Northwest” examines the similarities between the way of eating in the Nordic countries and the Pacific Northwest, especially each region’s emphasis on local, seasonal foods.

I started working on this piece earlier in the summer, interviewing experts on Nordic cuisine, researching immigration to the Pacific Northwest from Scandinavia, and developing five original recipes. If that weren’t exciting enough, I got to do all the photography, with three images used in the package.

I designed the recipes to work together as an entire late-summer menu, though you can certainly pick and choose which ones to make. They honor traditional Scandinavian cooking while reflecting modern influences. With salmon, blueberries, and an assortment of produce figuring heavily in the menu, the recipes also emphasize eating local and seasonal as much as possible and in such a way that is relevant in the Pacific Northwest and the Nordic countries this time of year.

I’ve included some outtakes from the photo shoot here in this post. Please do feel free to pin them on Pinterest–in fact, I’d be honored if you did!

Grilled Salmon with Lemon Horseradish Cream

Seasonal Greens Salad with Cucumber

Rye Berry Salad with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

Blueberry Fruit Soup

Nordic Blueberry Tart with Rye

Rye and Blueberry Tart with Berries

June 25, 3:45 p.m. - The velvety smell of melted butter mingling with oozing blueberries permeates my kitchen right now as a rye and berry tart bakes. The aroma lures me from the sofa where I am opening a new book I am eager to read. I set the book down and walk over to the oven, opening the door and beholding what I see inside. The crust, made from organic all-purpose flour mixed with dark rye flour, has turned a golden brown. The sour cream-based filling has puffed up, transforming from a thin coating at the bottom of the shell into a plump, luscious filling that cradles the glistening purple berries. In just a few minutes, the tart will be ready to remove from the oven. I will set it down on a wire rack and wait, resisting the urge to slide a knife through the hot filling and take a bite while it is still warm. Such is the discipline of a baker. The pastry still warm from the oven is one of the greatest temptations. Waiting must sometimes be accompanied by diversions. So I will return to the sofa, pick up my book, and begin to read.

Blueberries

Rye and Blueberry Tart

Nordic Blueberry Tart with Rye
This attractive and delicious tart, adapted (barely) from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook, features a crust made from a combination of all-purpose flour and dark rye flour. The proportions mentioned below come from the original recipe and produce results that are sure to please. Since I enjoy the taste of rye, I’ll try increasing the amount of rye flour next time and might even try substituting the all-purpose flour with some other types.

For the crust:

6 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark rye flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling:

2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
10 ounces blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 10-inch fluted tart pan with removable base. Prepare the crust by beating butter and sugar until well mixed, then gradually beating in the egg. Add the flours and baking powder and mix to create a dough. Press the dough into the tart pan, evenly covering the bottom and sides.

Make the filling by mixing together the sour cream, heavy cream, egg, sugar, and almond extract, then pour into the crust. Evenly distribute the blueberries over the filling and bake until the filling has set and the crust is golden, about 25 minutes.

Serves 6-8.

Blueberries

Tart Dough Ingredients

Pouring Filling into Shell

Filling Tart with Blueberries

Rye and Blueberry Tart

Tart with Berries

Cucumber Salad for Your Scandinavian Midsummer Menu

Sliced CucumbersIn the beginning of my career as a journalist, I was paying my dues as a television news writer working in the middle of the night to prepare the morning newscast. Back then I would pull into the parking lot at the TV station located across the street from Seattle’s Lake Union and walk the two dozen feet from my car to the main entrance, swipe my badge at the door, wave hello to the graveyard security guard and settle in at my desk in the empty newsroom, the florescent lights mocking my tired eyes and the police and fire scanners blaring at the assignment desk and reminding me of the inability to fall asleep at my desk even if I tried.

Sliced Cucumbers

Back in those days, there was little time for a social life. I’d leave the newsroom around 9:30 or 10 in the morning, after most people have gone to work. I’d crawl into bed below windows covered with towels to block out the midday sun, and I’d sleep until that sun had gone to bed and it was time for me to repeat the process.

Cucumber and Dill Salad

I kept at it month after month, year after year. Six years ago, however, I made a change. No longer committed to a career in TV news, I found myself inspired to make a switch. I left a writers’ conference in Portland, Oregon, that June inspired to steer my skills toward print journalism. I gave it some time before making the move, and then later in the summer I gave my notice.

I spent the rest of the summer adjusting to a normal life, getting used to sleeping in the same bed as my husband for more than two times a week and getting used to sleeping–get this!–at night. I spent those August and September days sleeping late, talking walks to process things, and taking steps toward finding another job. If I picture that time in a snapshot, I think of my old neighborhood street illuminated by the gentle, warming rays of the sun. The sun! That bright object I had spent so many years covering up!

Sweet-and-Sour Cucumber Salad

I wonder if my experience reflects what Scandinavians feel this time of year when the sun stays out most of the day in contrast to the winter when it barely makes an appearance. Traveling to Bergen in the summer in 2008, I got my first taste of the Nordic summer sun. Going back to the hotel, closing the blinds, and going to sleep while the sun had not yet set wasn’t easy.

My family will be marking the summer solstice and Midsummer with a Scandinavian-inspired picnic this year. Simply prepared with salmon, pickled herring, a selection of Scandinavian cheeses, crispbread, dilled potatoes, and cucumber salad, all the components are chilling in the fridge right now, waiting to be enjoyed.

As I was preparing the menu, a cucumber salad was a necessity, but I found two that caught my eye. One, with cucumbers sliced thinly, was more of a quick pickle while the the other retained the watery crunch of the cucumbers but dressed them with dill. Both recipes are adapted from The Scandinavian Kitchen by Camilla Plum. Though the ingredients are similar, the results are quite different. Try one or both–or improvise and take cues from the second recipe and add dill to the first. In any case, these salads are distinctly Nordic, and they’ll add a fresh flavor to your Scandinavian Midsummer menu.

Sweet-and-Sour Cucumber Salad

Sweet-and-Sour Cucumber Salad

1 large (15.5 ounce) cucumber
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup cider vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Thinly slice the cucumber with a mandoline and place it in a heat-proof bowl. Bring water, vinegar, and seasonings to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring frequently. Pour over the sliced cucumbers and stir to coat. Cool, stirring occasionally. Serve right away or store in the refrigerator.

Serves 4-6.

Cucumber Salad with Dill

1 large (12.5 ounce) cucumber
1 small bunch of dill, stems and leaves, chopped finely (about 1 generous tablespoon)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Peel the cucumber and cut it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Cut it into 1/4-inch slices at a slat. Stir remaining ingredients together in a medium bowl. Toss the cucumbers with the dressing and marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving.

Serves 2-4.

Nordic Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam

Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam with Bread

Mornings are slow, quiet times in our house most days. I sip my coffee in slow minuscule amounts at first, drinking a little more quickly as it cools. Still, I rarely find myself finishing an entire cup before it’s gone tepid and I must either reheat it in the microwave (which never yields satisfying results), drink it quickly so I can refill my mug with hot coffee from the machine (an approach requires mentally turning off my tastebuds for a moment), or simply drain out the cool remnants and start fresh (which is my preferred, yet slightly wasteful, method).

For most of my adult life I’ve treated breakfast as optional, but coffee has always been a necessity: something warm and bitter to savor as I ease into the day. Until I became a parent, brunch was reserved for a rare weekend, making it somewhat of a special occasion. These days, though, with a child, breakfast is a daily event, whether I take part in it or not. So with that in mind, I’m trying to find new ways to elevate the meal into something enjoyable and delicious, something that feels almost a little decadent while remaining nutritious and balanced. One way is by spreading a hearty slice of toasted organic whole-grain or rye bread with a special preserve or jam, perhaps one brought back from a trip or something homemade.

Rhubarb, Strawberries, and Vanilla

Rhubarb, Strawberries, and Vanilla in Pan

With my seasonal fascination with rhubarb, I got to work one recent day, chopping the stalks into pieces an inch or so long, then placing them in a saucepan with some strawberries, sugar, and a whole vanilla bean. The recipe–adapted from The Nordic Diet–was about as easy as could be, requiring only a little bit of patience as I stirred the fruit over medium heat. The fruit quickly began to release its juices, helping to dissolve the sugar. As it cooked, the fruit filled my kitchen with a warm, strawberry-rhubarb scent, as though I were baking a pie.

The fruit broke down as it cooked, and in 15 minutes or so I had a luscious, warm sauce that was equally appropriate to treat as a jam for toast or a compote to spoon over rich, creamy, plain yogurt.

I’ll keep sharing more of my breakfast treats here in the future. In the meantime, what do you enjoy eating as you start the day?

Rhubarb, Strawberries, and Sugar

Rhubarb and Strawberry with Bread for Breakfast

Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam
Adapted just barely from The Nordic Diet by Trina Hahnemann, this recipe is good just the way it is. However, next time I will use only an inch-long piece of vanilla bean, splitting it open before adding it to the fruit. The original recipe calls for an entire bean, left whole, which lends just the slightest hint of flavor to the jam and seems extravant for such a precious ingredient.

11 ounces rhubarb, cut into inch-long pieces
2 cups strawberries, halved or quartered
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup raw organic sugar

Place rhubarb, strawberries, and vanilla bean in a 3 quart saucepan and toss with the sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently as you bring the fruit to a boil. The fruit will release its juices as it cooks, so you shouldn’t have any problems with it drying out; however, Hahnemann says adding a little water would be fine if that should happen. Boil for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, then cool. Store in the fridge.

Yields about 1.5 to 2 cups.

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