Norwegian Cheese, Onion, and Mushroom Tart

Norwegian Cheese, Onion, and Mushroom Tart

The doorbell rings a little before 7 p.m. on a Tuesday evening each month. By now I know exactly who it is, which friend is always punctual and comes bearing a couple of bottles of wine with the food she’s brought to share. As we catch up on what’s taken place in each other’s lives over the past month, there’s a knock and then another knock as more friends trickle in, gradually filing my kitchen.

Conversation takes place as easily as wine flows. That is one of the things I love most about this group. A little over a year and a half ago I got a crazy little idea in my head and began to wonder if I might know enough people who would want to join me for a food-based book club. Now, 17 books and “Foodie Lit Book Club” dinners later, there are roughly a dozen members–some I knew previously and some I’ve met because friends have invited their friends. We’re from different walks of life and most of us would never have met had it not been for the common interests of eating and reading about food.

There’s nothing pretentious here, no need to impress. But we eat exceedingly well. We cook from the recipes in the book we’re reading–or bring something inspired by it–and so many times we’re trying something new for the first time. We’ve experimented with pizza toppings, experienced dried dates given a new dimension with olive oil and sea salt, analyzed what made a particular polenta recipe fail, and how to take an already-good shortbread recipe to the next level. We’ve proven that no matter the menu or the skill of the cook, just gathering over a meal is a sure way to connect on a meaningful level and nurture relationships.

Norwegian Cheese, Onion, and Mushroom Tart

I served this particular recipe, a Norwegian cheese and onion pie, at a recent book club. It had nothing to do with the book we were reading–The Language of Baklava–unless you consider that author Diana Abu-Jaber’s family immigrant story has parallels with my own family’s transition to a new country. But I was working on adapting a recipe from the Scandinavian cookbook Kitchen of Light for my own preferences and decided to test it out on these friends.

Made with cheese such as Norwegian Jarlsberg, plenty of thick red onion slices, and my addition of sliced mushrooms, it’s a substantial appetizer that would pair well with a glass of chilled white wine on a hot day, the condensation forming on the outside of the glass in the summer heat. Jarlsberg tastes great with the onion, but in a pinch, sharp white cheddar works too. Viestad also says Gouda, Parmesan, or Gruyere are options.

Norwegian Cheese, Onion, and Mushroom Tart
Adapted from the Onion Pie with Jarlsberg and Thyme from Kitchen of Light by Andreas Viestad

3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 red onions, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
Freshly-ground black pepper
2 whole cloves
Leaves from 2-3 sprigs fresh oregano, divided
8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted if frozen
2 cups shredded cheese such as Jarlsberg, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and lower the heat to medium-low. Sprinkle garlic, bay leaf, a few grinds of pepper, cloves, and leaves from 1 sprig of oregano over the pan. Cook 10 minutes, then carefully flip the onion slices, taking care to leave them intact. Cook another 10 minutes, until they’re softened but before they turn brown.

Meanwhile, melt remaining tablespoon of butter in a skillet and saute the mushrooms over medium to medium-high heat until they’re cooked through but still have a toothsome bite, 4-5 minutes. (You can do this in a separate pan while the onions cook, or you can do what I do and reduce the amount of cleanup by using the same pan when the onions are done–just give it a quick wipe beforehand.)

The recipe can be made in advance until this point; just refrigerate the onions and mushrooms until shortly before you’re ready to assemble the tart, giving them a little time to come up to room temperature.

Roll out puff pastry into a 10×16-inch rectangle onto floured parchment paper. Trim away any rough edges. Transfer the parchment and pastry onto a baking sheet and prick the pastry all over with a fork, avoiding an inch-wide border. Bake for about 12 minutes, until it turns golden.

Sprinkle pastry with 1 cup shredded cheese, leaving a 1-inch border, then layer on the onion slices followed by the mushrooms. Scatter remaining cheese over the top and bake until the cheese is melted and glistening, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining oregano leaves and serve.

Serves 6.

Norwegian Rhubarb Cake (Rabarbrakake)

Norwegian Rhubarb Cake

Amidst almond-scented cakes and recipes featuring plenty of dill, I’ve occasionally veered from the topic of Scandinavian food to talk about writing. As a journalist and creative writer, it’s long been a big part of my life. Lately, with a dear relative suffering from a series of strokes in February, it has become a way for me to cope as well.

The past month or so has been challenging in ways I am still working through. I process best sometimes through the written word, and so I have spent some of my writing sessions trying to wipe away the heartache with pen to paper or keystroke by keystroke. As a personal form of writing, it hasn’t been right to share here, and with the weight of my loved one’s illness shadowing me on many days, I’ve struggled to write much about food on the blog. But oh how I have longed to!

Week by week, as she has shown continued signs of improvement, the melancholy has lifted little by little. And along with that, the Seattle weather–which recently gave us the rainiest March on record–has been offering white cottony clouds strewn in patches against an otherwise clear, vivid blue sky. Spring has brought with it the cottony explosions of cherry blossoms, steady gaze of daffodils, and now Japanese maples unfurling a little bit each day. There is rhubarb waiting to be stewed into compotes and fruit soups, cocktails and pie. And there is Norwegian rhubarb cake.

Norwegian Rhubarb Cake

I’m often struck by the simplicity of Norwegian recipes. Looking at a short list of ingredients–often mostly some variation of butter, sugar, milk, flour, and eggs–I’m tempted to dress it up a bit, adding a little bit of spice here, some flavoring or other adornment there. Usually when I resist, it’s a good thing; the term elegant simplicity has come to mind again and again when I’ve speared a fork into a slice of Norwegian dessert and brought a bite to my mouth, letting the richness and wholeness of the finished product linger for a moment as I reflect on how it’s just right. That’s the case with this rhubarb cake, which is little more than a moist butter cake studded with slices of fresh rhubarb that almost melts into the batter as it bakes. In its simplicity, it is perfect.

I hope to be back to writing about food here at Outside Oslo more frequently in the near future. There are all sorts of Scandinavian recipes I’d love to share, especially leading up to Syttende Mai. In the meantime, please do keep in touch–I love getting notes and comments from you, and you can also connect on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. And now, I hope you’ll enjoy a slice of rabarbrakake!

Norwegian Rhubarb Cake

Norwegian Rhubarb Cake (Rabarbrakake)
Adapted from Norwegian National Recipes. Also featured on the blog last year.

1/4 cup butter (I used unsalted)
1/3 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 large stalk rhubarb
Powdered sugar (optional)
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in milk and set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a nine-inch springform pan.

Beat eggs and sugar on high for a minute or two–let them get light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour in the milk and butter. Mix in the flour and baking powder until just incorporated, then pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading the top into an even layer with a spatula.

Trim the rhubarb and cut into quarter-inch slices on the diagonal. Scatter slices evenly over the top of the cake. Bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool on a rack in the pan for about five minutes, then remove from pan and continue cooling on a rack.

Dust top of cake with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream if desired.

Cake will keep a day or two if covered, but is best on the first or second day.

Makes one 9-inch cake.

Norwegian Rhubarb Cake

Mor Monsen Kake – A Classic Norwegian Cake for Christmastime

Mor Monsen Cake

I’ve sat down twice to write this post—actually, I’ve sat down to write it more times than I can count, but twice I’ve drafted something and decided to start over. I’m in a dry spot creatively and I’ve struggled to find the right words to communicate the things I’d like to tell you. I’ve been sitting on this post for far too long, though—and the cake you’re looking like is already long gone—so it’s about time I stop worrying about telling the perfect story and just touch base here on the blog, even if just for a moment.

The cake I’m sharing with you today is called Mor Monsen Kake, or Mother Monsen’s Cake. It’s a classic Norwegian cake flavored richly with lemon zest and garnished with almonds, currants or raisons, and pearl sugar. Have you ever tasted it? It’s been a beloved cake since the 19th century since a Norwegian author wrote what is believed by some to be the first Norwegian cookbook. Hanna Winsnes, in her 1845 book, Lærebog i de forskjellige Grene af Huusholdningen (which Norwegian-born Sunny over at Arctic Grub loosely translates to A manual On The Different Household Chores), included a recipe for this cake, attributing it to Mor Monsen. That woman’s legacy lives on to this day in this popular cake, though we don’t know much else about her.

Mor Monsen Cake

I’m intrigued by the history of recipes—how they originated, what inspired them, who developed them. The mystery surrounding Mor Monsen is part of what draws me to this cake. Was she a friend of the author’s, or perhaps a relative? Did she attend the author’s church (Hanna was the wife of a priest)? What other recipes did she develop that may have been lost (or attributed elsewhere)? We’ll probably never know the answers, but I love that we have her name and that her recipe has stood the test of time: Her cake is still popular in Norway today.

I also wonder about the inclusion of lemon. Citrus is not native to Norway, so it must have been an expensive ingredient for housewives in the 19th century. Perhaps this is why Mor Monsen Kake is enjoyed during holidays such as Christmas, times in which families would work extra hard to provide a special, warm environment for their loved ones.

With the all the questions I have about this cake, I do know one thing: You should make it part of your Scandinavian Christmas this year. The simplest cake batter, all it takes is creaming butter and sugar together and adding the lemon zest and other requite cake ingredients, then pouring it all into a pan. Sprinkle with almonds, currants or raisins, and pearl sugar, then bake. When it’s cooled, cut it into its distinctive diamond-shaped pieces, and you’ll have a cake that’s simple yet elegant, already cut into serving pieces making it great for transport, and that keeps well. I’ve heard that you can even freeze it—though you may not need to.

While we’re on the subject of Scandinavian Christmas, I have a number of recipes lined up for you this season, so I hope you’ll subscribe to the blog and follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. You can also access some of my past Scandinavian Christmas posts here. And now for the cake…

Mor Monsen Cake

Mor Monsen Kake (Norwegian Mother Monsen Cake)
Adapted from Authentic Norwegian Cooking by Astrid Karlsen Scott

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (salted) butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 eggs
Grated zest of one lemon (use an organic one if possible, or scrub thoroughly)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cups slivered almonds
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
3 tablespoons pearl sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9- by 13-inch pan with parchment paper and grease it.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, blending thoroughly into the batter before adding the next. Mix in lemon zest. In a small bowl, combine flour and baking powder, then tip into the batter and stir just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, scraping all the last bits from the bowl, then smooth it into an even layer with a spatula. Sprinkle the almonds, currants, and pearl sugar evenly over the top and press the garnishes gently into the top of the batter. You want to do this ever so slightly–Scott says to do this so the garnishes stick to the cake once baked.

Bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool on a rack until cool enough to handle, then remove the cake from the pan and let finish cooling (Scott suggests doing this by inverting the pan with a baking sheet). When cool, cut the cake into the signature diamond shapes, or into parallelograms if preferred.

Back to School, Scandinavian Style, with Skoleboller

SkolebollerI don’t know about you, but September always brings about happy memories of shopping for school supplies and fall clothes as a child. I used to love this time of year with all the anticipation surrounding the start of a new school year. New classroom, new teacher, new subjects–everything new.

Now that I’m a mother, I’m beginning to think about some ways to infuse back-to-school season with some of the same excitement that I always looked forward to when I was a student. I started to think recently about skoleboller, or school buns, which have long been a favorite treat among school kids in Norway, and I think baking these will become a tradition in my home. Skoleboller, also known as skolebrød, begin with a cardamom-scented yeast dough baked with a dollop of vanilla cream. They are then glazed and topped with a dusting of coconut. How much better can you get, right?

I’m working on perfecting my recipe, but Sunny over at Arctic Grub and Siri from The Translated Baker both have recipes that look pretty good to me. So let me send you off into the weekend by encouraging you to check out their recipes. Peruse their blogs while you’re at it; you may just find some additional Scandinavian recipes to try!

And come back next week for another Norwegian recipe–I can’t wait to get back in the kitchen and bake something for you.

Skoleboller

Fyrstekake, an All-Time Favorite Norwegian Dessert

Fyrstekake Slice on Plate with Crumbs

I have the feeling that when I look back at this summer in the coming years, this time will be defined by food and family. Between cooking for the family, developing recipes for an article I can’t wait to tell you about, and testing recipes for a gifted cook who recently landed her first cookbook deal, I’ve been spending a lot of time walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store and whipping up drinks, dinners, and desserts in my kitchen. Never mind that the weather in Seattle has been full of sun, sun, sun!

Even though I have to be disciplined and make myself get outside and enjoy the sun at times, this has been a special summer, and one that confirms my belief that food is one of the most effective ways to bring people together.

In celebration of those special times we spend in the kitchen with those we love, connecting over a shared task and sitting down later to enjoy it together, I would like to share a recipe for fyrstekake, a classic Norwegian tart flavored richly with almond. Growing up eating it with my mom frequently, it remains one of my favorite Scandinavian desserts to this day.

Fyrstekake and Coffee

Fyrstekake Slice Horizontal

Fyrstekake is also known as Royal Cake or Prince’s Cake. Though it calls for only a handful of ingredients, the results are decadent and somewhat regal in their simplicity. As a classic dessert, it makes sense that many variations exist. Some are spiced with cardamom and other flavors, and some let the almond shine. This particular recipe resembles the one I grew up eating, and I love the soft, almost-toothsome texture of the filling with the crisp cookie-like crust.

Enjoy!

Signature for Blog

Fystekake and Coffee Spread

Norwegian Fyrstekake
Adapted from Norwegian Cakes and Cookies by Sverre Sætre, this recipe gets its rich flavor mostly from the ground almonds, but also from the slightest touch of almond extract that I added. If you enjoy marzipan candy, you’ll love this dessert.

For the crust:

2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
14 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 egg

For the filling:

1 3/4 cups slivered almonds
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
1/4 cup whipping cream

For topping:

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water

To make the crust, combine flour, powdered sugar, and butter in a food processor until crumbly (alternately, cut ingredients together by hand). Add the egg and continue to process until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and cover it well, and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Grease an eight- or nine-inch tart pan with removable base. Roll out the dough on a lightly-floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Place in the tart pan and work it in evenly in the crease and up the sides. Put the crust–and the remaining dough–back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven to 335 degrees.

Whirl the almonds in the food processor until fine, then add the sugar and pulse some more until combined. Melt the butter in a small bowl and pour it into the almond and sugar, along with the egg yolk, egg, and whipping cream. Process to blend, and then pour the filling into the prepared crust.

Remove the remaining dough from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly-floured surface. Working quickly so that it doesn’t warm up too much and become difficult to work with, cut the dough into thin strips and arrange in a lattice or crisscross pattern on the top of the filling.

Mix the remaining egg yolk with a tablespoon of water and brush this over the top of the cake.

Bake approximately 40 minutes, depending on the size of your pan, until golden. Cool, then remove tart from pan.

Serves 8-12.

Fyrstekake and Slice

 

Celebrating with Norwegian Bløtkake

Bløtkake

When I was growing up, my birthdays always involved a special meal (or two or three, to be honest–I love birthdays) and the cake of my choice. There were the assorted decorated cakes–Barbie one year, a pink frosted sheet cake with an illustrated orange cat another year. But most often I remember marzipan cakes. A simple white cake layered with cream and raspberry or apricot jam, it was draped with a thin layer of rich marzipan which was then decorated with frosting flowers. As a little Norwegian-American girl with a taste for almond, the marzipan was invariably my favorite part of the cake and the reason I enjoyed this variety over and over again.

I made a similar cake this week for a celebration with friends. Bløtkake, which roughly translates to soft or wet cake, is typically served at all sorts of celebrations in Norway, from birthdays and weddings to Syttende Mai. Consisting of sponge cake, rich vanilla-scented custard, strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream, bløtkake is surprisingly light and airy given how decadent it sounds.

Strawberries in Sink

Though bløtkake is served at celebrations year-round and can feature various types of fruit, strawberries are commonly used, making summer a perfect time to showcase this cake here on Outside Oslo. Berries are one of the hallmarks of Nordic cuisine, and in the summer, sun-ripened strawberries are enjoyed in abundance. If you’re going to make this cake any other time of the year, chef Andreas Viestad, in his book Kitchen of Light, advises using a combination of fresh or frozen berries and canned fruit.

Bløtkake Step One

Bløtkake Step Two

Bløtkake Step Three

Bløtkake Step Four

Bløtkake can be made in stages in the days leading up to an event, making it manageable and easy. Prepare the sponge cake a day or two in advance, then layer the cream and berries the morning of the event or the night before (Astrid Karlsen Scott, author of Authentic Norwegian Cooking, says all the cream cakes reach their peak if prepared up to 24 hours in advance). Shortly before serving, whip the cream and spread it over the cake.

Baking the cake for a group of people largely unfamiliar with Scandinavian cuisine, I had the privilege of sharing a little taste of my heritage with my friends. Someone surprised me by commenting on how it tasted like a wedding cake. For as unassuming and simple as a lot of Scandinavian food is, I’m continually amazed by how this type of simplicity results in something both special and elegant.

Bløtkake

Norwegian Bløtkake
Adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

For the cake:

6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling:

3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberry jam, warmed and strained
1/2 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, plus more for garnish

For the topping:

1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Up to a couple of days in advance, prepare the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch round springform cake pans. Beat egg whites until fluffy, then gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat until stiff and with the consistency of meringue. Beat egg yolks in one separate bowl, and stir flour and baking powder together in a separate. Fold the egg yolks and the flour into the egg whites. Pour the batter into the two pans, then bake until the centers spring back when you touch them with a finger, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans.

For the filling, cook egg yolks, butter, cornstarch, half-and-half, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the custard thickens. Allow to cool, covered, and then stir in the vanilla extract.

When ready to assemble the cake, slice each cake in half horizontally. Place one layer on a serving plate and spread half of the custard over the top. Place another layer of cake over the custard, and top with the strawberry jam. Cover this layer entirely with the sliced strawberries. Place another layer of cake over the strawberries, spread the remaining custard over it, then top with the final layer of cake.

At this point, you can refrigerate the cake until ready to serve. To finish the cake, whip the cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla extract until stiff, then spread over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with additional strawberries and serve.

Serves 16.

Composed Salad of Smoked Salmon, Cucumber, Mâche, Egg, and Asparagus

Composed Salad with Smoked Salmon

I think it’s part of the collective food-lovers’ experience to crave salads as soon as spring rolls around. In contrast to the hearty dishes that have dominated our kitchens for months, salads seem to represent the fresh air, lightened moods, and sense of new beginnings that come with spring. So it seems appropriate, then, that my latest article for the Norwegian American Weekly features an original recipe for Composed Salad of Smoked Salmon, Cucumber, Mâche, Egg, and Asparagus.

This salad makes me think of a Norwegian variation on the salade Niçoise, which I love so much. Just as with that French favorite, this salad is fresh and light yet contains enough protein to make it a meal. Just butter a slice of bread and pour a sparkling beverage, and you’ll be set. Or, better, yet, pack it up and make it part of a Syttende Mai picnic if you live in a city that has a parade. Click here for the recipe, and enjoy!

Composed Salad with Smoked Salmon and Cucumber

Banana Sandwich, or Banansmørbrød

Banana Sandwich

Breakfast is all about getting back to the basics in our home. A little protein, some whole grains, a milk-based product, and fresh fruit–that’s about all it takes on the average weekday (special recipes are reserved for the slower-paced weekend mornings). It’s something I do almost instinctively, without much analysis, having enough nutrition knowledge to operate as if by rote. Reading Luisa Weiss’ post at The Wednesday Chef the other day about cooking for her son, Hugo, however, has me thinking a little more about this oh-so-important meal and wondering how I might be able to spice it up.

Bananas for Sandwich

Coincidentally, a recipe for a banana sandwich caught my eye while I was looking through a Norwegian cookbook last week. A slice of toast has long been a favorite snack for me, so I decided to give it a try, swapping out the butter for peanut butter to add some protein. The result? Nutritious, with just enough chocolate and powdered sugar dusted on top to make it feel like a treat. I’ll be filing this one away under quick breakfast ideas.

What do you eat to start the day?

Banana Sandwich, Banansmorbrod

Banana Sandwich (Banansmørbrød)
Inspired by Authentic Norwegian Cooking (Ekte Norsk Mat) by Astrid Karlsen Scott

1 slice of hearty bread
Spoonful of creamy peanut butter
1/2 banana, sliced crosswise into nine rounds
1 square of dark chocolate, finely grated
Confectioners sugar, for dusting

Toast the bread, and then while it’s still warm, spread a spoonful of peanut butter over it, smearing it all the way to the edges. Arrange banana slices over the top, then sprinkle on grated chocolate and powdered sugar. Serve immediately while still warm.

Serves 1.

In the Norwegian American Weekly: Golden Beet, Geitost, and Watercress Salad

Goat Cheese, Beet, and Watercress Salad

It’s a wonder to me that North America hasn’t caught on yet to the wonders of Scandinavian cuisine. With smoked or cured salmons, caramel-like brown cheese, sweet-tart lingonberry preserves, and bountiful berries and fresh herbs, the foods of the Nordic countries are just as enticing as those of the Mediterranean, Asia, and other beloved cuisines of the world. As the writer of a Scandinavian food blog, I take it upon myself regularly to highlight what I love about these foods–sometimes in traditional preparations and othertimes in unconventional ones. My latest article in the Norwegian American Weekly features my original recipe for Golden Beet and Geitost Stacks (stay tuned for the link to the recipe if you don’t get the hard copy). This beautiful salad pairs the creamy sweet flavor of Norwegian geitost with the delicate earthy taste of golden beets. These stacks–to be served one per person–are set atop a bed of peppery watercress dressed in walnut oil and white balsamic vinegar, a simple dressing that complements the the flavors perfectly. I hope you enjoy this salad as much as I do!

Update: The story and recipe are now available online. Check them out!

Beets and Watercress

Goat Cheese and Beet Salad

 

 

In Praise of the Pantry: A Goat Cheese Platter to the Rescue

Crispbread with Goat Cheese and Mushrooms

Tiny feet stomp down the hallway like a herd of buffalo, and internally, subconsciously, instinctively, I know what the sock-padded reverberation represents and exactly which part of the house it is coming from. Most importantly, I know that the steady sound of a toddler’s feet–intentionally using the floor as an instrument like a tap dancer–means everything is alright.

It is in the moments of silence, in contrast, when the mother wonders what is going on and abandons the pot of soup bubbling on the stove or the dishes still soapy in the sink, prepared to engage in some sort of intervention or diversion.

Such is my life as a mother who renews her enthusiasm day after day to also carve out time for her creative pursuits. The quiet, leisurely cooking that could happen during naptime often gives way for writing, and a simple beet salad takes several hours to prepare, from start to finish, with all the activity present at any one moment.

Pickled Asparagus

Mushrooms and Goat Cheese Collage

It is on the multi-tasking days, when I cook while my son plays, when I most need to simplify my cooking and trust what I’ve learned throughout all my years in the kitchen. And considering naptime makes grocery shopping and cooking on the same day difficult, having a well-stocked pantry and fridge is a good thing.

Those pantry items–high-quality canned salmon, pasta, crispbread and other crackers, canned beans, pickled vegetables, and more garlic and onions than I know what to do with–mean that a quick meal or snack is always possible, if I can drum up the creativity with which to envision it.

Goat Cheese Platter

The recipe I’m sharing with you today–Norwegian Goat Cheese with Mushrooms, Pickled Asparagus, and Crispbread–represents the possibilities that come from having good food on hand at all times, whether they’re pantry staples or refrigerated items with a long shelf life. In fact, I had everything on hand for this recipe before going to the store the other day, except for the mushrooms.

I’ve been trying to learn more about Norwegian cheeses, and I had a container of Snøfrisk in the refrigerator waiting to be enjoyed. What would go well with any type of spreadable goat cheese with a soft flavor and creamy consistency? Sautéed mushrooms with a little bit of garlic and thyme seemed like a natural pairing. And what about that jar of gourmet pickled asparagus spears in the fridge? As I suspected, that was just what the other ingredients needed to round everything out. Served on crispbread–another pantry staple–with a cold beer, this was just the thing to have waiting on the counter for an after-work, pre-dinner snack.

Goat Cheese with Asparagus and MushroomsGoat Cheese with Mushrooms, Pickled Asparagus, and Crispbread
An Outside Oslo original

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
Leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
Salt
1 (4 1/2 ounce) container spreadable goat cheese, preferably Norwegian
Pickled asparagus, for serving
Crispbread, for serving

Heat olive oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add garlic and saute over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and continue to saute, stirring frequently, until tender and almost done. Add thyme and continue to saute until mushrooms are done. Season with salt to taste and transfer to a small serving bowl.

Arrange mushrooms, goat cheese, pickled asparagus, and crispbread on a platter and serve.

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