Norwegian Bacalao Stew

Norwegian Bacalao Stew

The end of June, beginning of July. The calendar marks the month but also the moment. It was just about this time, when one month rolled into the next, when I stepped foot in Norway for the first time.

“We’ll go to Norway together some day,” my grandfather said when I was growing up. It was an ideal, a good intention and a comforting one I think, to look ahead to some time in the future when he would return to his homeland decades after leaving–he along with my grandma, my parents, and me. But he never did go back.

I grew up steeped in the traditions of my Norwegian heritage but it would be years before I would visit Norway. When I finally did, exploring the city where my father was born and passing by his hometown on the train on the way from the airport into the city, I felt at home, right where I wanted to be.

The country calls to me. It might sound strange, but there’s a part of my heart that’s there. I see photos of the fjords and the craggy green hills, the weathered red barns and slowly-setting summer sun and I yearn to go back. I know the country, but at the same time I don’t. I know its essence even though I’d need a map to navigate its streets.

Norwegian Bacalao Stew

During that visit in the summer of 2008, I met my husband’s Norwegian relatives. A couple of them had flown to Seattle for our wedding a few years before, but I still had yet to meet the others. After eating meals and drinking aquavit with them in their part of the world, I had the chance to return the hospitality for one of the cousins last week. As far as dinners go, these were pretty spontaneous and we served what we had, echoes of the Scandinavian-inspired Midsummer dinner just days before. So as we sat around my kitchen table that first night, eating grilled steak accompanied by dill-speckled potatoes and sliced cucumbers bathed in a creamy dressing–and we happened to have a bar of Scandinavian chocolate in its distinct yellow wrapping on the counter–my husband noted how we were unintentionally giving this Norwegian cousin a little taste of home, far away from home.

Norwegian Bacalao StewBut back to Norway, Bergen to be specific. It was uncharacteristically hot those days we were there. Temperatures in the 80s, 90s perhaps. It being the peak of summer, the sun hovered above the horizon well into the night, casting a golden glow on the multicolored Hanseatic wharf and illuminating the waters spilling in from the North Sea.

On one of those days we ate bacalao stew, the salt cod bathed in rich tomato broth and nestled amongst the broken tomatoes and chunks of potatoes. Food often serves as a link to memories, so when I recreated that stew recently I thought back on those sun-drenched days, remembering the afternoons spent exploring Bergen. I loved that city, loved walking along the cobbled ground and peering down windy narrow streets. There I savored eating a traditional, rustic dish of red deer in a tiny restaurant, washing it down with bracing dill aquavit as clear as the purest water in the fjords. I got to know another cousin a little as we shared beers and tapas, and I sampled smoked whale from the outdoor fish market at his suggestion.

During those days, my husband and I walked and ate, talked and visited. It felt relaxed but it was brief; in an instant it was time to return home and let the memories settle deep into my heart.

Norwegian Bacalao Stew

Norwegian Bacalao Stew
Andreas Viestad says his recipe from Kitchen of Light–which I’ve adapted here–is the classic Western Norwegian interpretation of bacalao. Aside from a little advance planning to soak the salt cod, this recipe comes together easily enough to make on a weeknight. Be sure to have plenty of crusty bread on hand for sopping up the flavorful juices. It’s even better the next day.

1-1 1/2 pounds salt cod
2 medium russet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 large yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes, with juices
1 pound roasted red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch slices
4-6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 dried hot red chiles, chopped and seeded
10 black peppercorns
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Thoroughly rinse the salt cod and place in a large container of water to soak for 24 to 36 hours, changing the water at least twice. Drain and cut the fish into 2-inch pieces and set aside.

Place a large pot on the stove and arrange the potatoes on the bottom, followed by the onions and then the cod. Next scatter the tomatoes on top, followed by the roasted peppers. Add the garlic, bay leaves, two thirds of the parsley, chiles, and peppercorns, gently working these down into the other ingredients by about an inch, taking care not to disrupt the layering. Pour the olive oil all over the top and turn on the heat.

Simmer gently for 30 minutes, shaking the pot every once in a while. Adjust the heat down if necessary and continue to cook for another 45 minutes, still shaking it every once in a while (avoid stirring the stew at any point).

Divide the stew between six bowls, arranging each of the ingredients in every bowl. Garnish with the remaining parsley. Serve with a bowl of sea salt on the side so everyone can adjust the seasoning to their tastes.

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.

Creamy Cucumber Salad with Yogurt and Spice

Creamy Cucumber Salad with Yogurt and Spice

There is a rolling continuum of the ingredients I cook with throughout the year, mounds of rhubarb in late spring toppling into the berries of summer, mingling on occasion in recipes like Nordic rhubarb and strawberry jam. In this way, fruits and vegetables help mark the changing seasons, ushering one gracefully into the next. Around this time each summer, when the midday sun begins to compete with the moist marine air around Seattle and the leaves begin their gradual display of changing colors, I feel compelled to embrace tomatoes, still vibrant and full of flavor, as often as I can and buy corn to grill for an outdoor meal, even if we must pull a sweater up over our shoulders while we dine.

This time of year, we do a lot of grilling. My husband prepares good quality meat or fish, seasoning it simply with olive oil and sea salt and maybe a little pepper and puts it on the grill while I make the side dishes and set the table. On Friday evening we needed little more than lamb chops and a couple of simple salads to make a meal.

Creamy Cucumber Salad with Yogurt and Spice and Tomato Salad

Cucumber salads have figured prominently in my home in recent months, with the sweet-and-sour cucumber salad and cucumber salad with dill that I made for June’s Midsummer picnic and a creamy salad of cucumber and radish. There are any number of varieties in Scandinavian cuisine, and even with similar ingredient lists they can taste much different, depending on technique, the palate and taste preferences of the cook, and the seasonings. I veered away from the traditional Nordic varieties this past weekend, taking cues from David Tanis’ Heart of the Artichoke instead. Peeling the cucumber and slicing it into half moons, I dressed it with yogurt seasoned with garlic, fresh dill and mint, and drizzled olive oil and sprinkled red pepper flakes over the top. Adding a simple salad of heirloom tomatoes, we were set.

Heirloom Tomatoes on Board

Soon enough the tomatoes will make way for the foods of autumn. Apples are already making their way into my baking, and soon artichokes and Brussels sprouts will take up significant parts of our meals. And don’t forget the squash and root vegetables that conjure up all the cozy nostalgia of autumns past. One season is beginning its gradual roll into the next, but I’ll hold onto every last bit of summer as long as I can.

Tomatoes and Summer Dinner

Creamy Cucumber Salad with Yogurt and Spice
Inspired by the Cucumbers and Yogurt in Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis

1 large cucumber
Salt and pepper
1 cup whole milk yogurt
1 garlic clove, pressed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped dill
Red pepper flakes

Peel the cucumber. Cut it in half lengthwise, then slice into half moons about 1/3-inch thick. Place in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add yogurt, garlic, olive oil, mint, and dill, and stir. Refrigerate while you’re preparing the rest of your meal–try to give it at least a half an hour. Check the seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with red pepper flakes and drizzle olive oil over the top.

Serves 4.

Kräftskiva, Swedish Crayfish Party

Swedish Crayfish Party with Dill

It’s been a quiet week here in my little corner of the world, and to my dismay a quiet one on the blog as well. I have spent the entire week sick, and while it hasn’t kept me from working toward essential deadlines, I’ve had to take it easy and also decline invitations for some quintessentially summer events in Seattle (boating? On a sunny summer evening? I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to miss that).

As August nears a close and I reflect back on the summer, however, I have to say that it’s been a good one. My husband’s MBA graduation, a Midsummer picnic out of town, picking berries and freezing them for special treats as the weather cools down, the majority of dinners eaten outside on the patio, and plenty of writing, recipe development, and recipe testing to keep me inspired–I can’t complain. To top it off, last Friday I hosted a kräftskiva-inspired crayfish dinner for the family, complete with the requisite aquavit and Scandinavian beer.

While my own roots are entirely Norwegian, there are some Swedish connections on my husband’s side, so I enjoyed researching the traditional Swedish crayfish party and holding one of my own.

Swedish Crayfish Party Sides

Lemon and Crayfish

Kräftskiva–as the parties are called–typically take place in August as a throwback to the times when crayfish were limited to this time of year. Sweden used to be the world’s biggest crayfish exporter, I read in Scandinavian Classics by Niklas Ekstedt, but now–nearly a century after the crayfish plague there–the country is now the world’s biggest importer. An interesting turn of events, to be sure. Much of the crayfish now comes from China, but that doesn’t stop people in Sweden from going all out and enjoying a Scandinavian feast as festive and abundant as any other.

The menu typically features crayfish cooked in a brine flavored with crown dill, served with a variety of cheeses, bread, flatbread, pickled herring, potatoes, beer, and schnapps (aquavit). We took some liberties with the traditional menu, extending the country of origin for some of our items to neighboring Norway and Denmark (even in Seattle, a distinctly Scandinavian city, we do have limitations in what’s readily available). We also served the crayfish alongside Alaskan salmon, freshly caught by my father-in-law who had just returned from vacation (it’s hard to make a meal out of crayfish alone, after all). I should add that if you don’t know where to find fresh crayfish, I found mine frozen at Ikea last week.

Before August comes to a close, I thought I’d take a moment to share with you my menu from last week, along with links to the recipes that I used. Next year I’ll do it up a little more, adding the crayfish streamers lanterns, and other trappings that traditionally accompany these events. But I have to say, the menu was a success, and people were talking about the event for days.

Outside Oslo’s 2013 Kräftskiva Menu
Crayfish with Lemony Mayonnaise and Lemon Wedges
Fresh Alaskan King Salmon
Green Bean Salad with Lemon-Dijon Dressing
Assortment of Scandinavian Cheese
Various crispbread and bread
Pickled Herring
Linie Aquavit
Karlsson’s Gold Vodka
Carlsberg

Swedish Crayfish Party Feast with Salmon

Danish Blue Cheese Salad

Danish Blue Cheese Salad Vertical

To paint with light–that is what photographers do.

That idea, a way to reshape the way I look at the world, is the one nugget that’s stayed with me all these years since I was first studying photography.

Fast forward from the late 1990s to the present, I’ve been switching from film to digital this year as I relearn the art of SLR photography. Although technology has evolved, film has become a niche, and time has clouded much of what I learned back then, one thing is still the same: the science of light and the way it wraps around an object, enveloping it with its invisible yet transformative qualities.

Radishes and Salad

Armed with a new DSLR camera and taking workshops here and there, my eyes are being reopened to the beauty of the world around me–in particular, the beauty of food.

Just take a look at a bunch of radishes, their magenta skin glowing and contrasting with the green leaves. Exact opposites on the color wheel. Nature. Art.

Radishes on Plate Vertical

When food is this pretty in its raw, whole form, it deserves to retain its dignity when integrated into a dish.

That’s one of the things I love about this Danish blue cheese salad. Isn’t it pretty? On a bed of curly lettuce, thinly-sliced cucumbers and radishes nestle together with sliced cherry tomatoes, a trace of shaved onion, fresh dill, and crumbled blue cheese. It’s so simple there’s almost nothing to it. The dressing–oil and vinegar accented with a little mustard, salt, and sugar–highlights the salad’s flavors without drawing attention to itself.

Crisp, fresh, summery. No one ingredient dominant, except perhaps the blue cheese with its pungent pop of flavor. Just right.

Of course, presentation is important–ingredients this beautiful want to be dressed up, allowed to shine.

Danish Blue Cheese Salad Horizontal

In some regards, photography has been reminding me about how lucky we are to have access to so much good food. Quality, whole ingredients–radishes, tomatoes, artichokes, you name it–possess a special beauty that their canned and frozen counterparts lack. As I’ve been studying photography and applying what I’m learning to my own work, I’ve been reflecting on the luxury that living in Seattle provides; as I mentioned the other day, the city has a multitude of farmers markets, some of which operate year-round, and it’s no problem to find grocery stores stocking quality, whole, organic items. Eating well is easy.

Circling back to the idea of painting with light, consider that the next time you sit down to eat something fresh. Look at the reflections and shadows, the range of colors and textures, and how they all work together to create something beautiful. See if taking the visual nature of food into account doesn’t somehow elevate its taste. It sure does for me.

Lettuce and Salad Closeup

Danish Blue Cheese Salad
Adapting a recipe from Scandinavian Feasts by Beatrice Ojakangas, I added dill and tomatoes, giving it an extra special summery touch. I resisted the urge to swap the canola oil and white wine vinegar with more special versions; I’m glad I did, as the resulting salad is just right. 

1 head curly green lettuce
1 small bunch radishes
1 2-inch length of cucumber
1/2 sweet onion
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
1 small bunch fresh dill
1/4 cup crumbled Danish blue cheese (or other blue cheese of your choice; I used Stilton)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
Freshly-ground black pepper (optional)

Prepare the salad ingredients and place them in individual prep bowls: Wash and dry the lettuce then tear roughly into pieces; thinly slice radishes, cucumbers, and onion with a mandoline; cut tomatoes in half; and roughly chop dill.

To make the dressing, combine vinegar, mustard, salt, and sugar in a small bowl. Slowly pour the oil into the vinegar while whisking, allowing the ingredients to combine.

Assemble the salads by dividing the lettuce between six plates and topping with radish and cucumber slices. Place a little sliced onion on the top of each salad, then arrange tomato halves around. Scatter blue cheese and dill over each salad. Just before serving, spoon the dressing over each salad. Top with a little freshly-ground black pepper if desired.

Serves 6.

Plums with Blue Cheese, Walnuts, and Crispbread

Plums with Blue Cheese and Dill

Circles of rye crisp roughly broken, sweet-tart plums and pluots oozing pink juices, creamy blue cheese releasing its pungent aroma from where it sits on a platter–these are the makings of a summer appetizer that came together the other day in preparation for a family dinner.

Crispbread and Plums

Red Stone Fruit

We strive to eat with the seasons in my home–berries and corn in the summer, apples and squash in the fall. I’ve been noticing lately that with its emphasis on seasonal and local foods, Seattle’s approach to eating mirrors the Nordic culinary philosophy. Farmers markets pop up all over the city, some running year-round. Many people plant edible gardens. Foraging for berries and mushrooms is a favorite pastime.

Today’s recipe, while hardly traditional, reflects that seasonal sensibility and makes use of some favorite Scandinavian ingredients. I’ll be honest, I manage to get to the farmers market less frequently than I would like. But even though the grocery stores around here stock virtually all types of produce all year long, I take care to shop wisely and focus on what’s fresh and at the peak of deliciousness. In this case, plums and pluots.

Cheese with Nuts and Plums

Four Plums

Plums with Blue Cheese

They’re pretty, aren’t they? After attending a food styling and photography workshop with Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille this past weekend, I couldn’t wait to apply what I had learned in the dishes that I would create at home. These deep purple black plums and speckled orange pluots caught my eye and as I gathered a few to put in my cart, an appetizer began to take shape in my mind. Creamy blue cheese to offset the tart sweetness of the fruit, walnuts to give crunch, bright green dill for color, a drizzle of honey, and some crispbbread–that’s all it would take.

Simplicity in the kitchen has been a hard thing for me to learn, but time and time again I see proof that when you start with good ingredients, you don’t need to do much to make them shine. This particular recipe requires no cooking, only requiring that you start with the best ingredients you can find and that you slow down and enjoy the process of preparing the ingredients and lovingly arranging them on a platter. Once it’s ready, bring it out to your guests, open up some ice-cold refreshing beers, and sit down and enjoy the summer sun.

Plums and Walnuts

Crispbread with Plums and Blue CheesePlums with Blue Cheese, Walnuts, and Crispbread
An Outside Oslo Original

4 plums, or a combination of plums and pluots
6 ounces blue cheese*
3 ounces walnuts
1 small bunch fresh dill
Honey, for drizzling
2 large circles of crispbread, roughly broken into large pieces

Halve the plums, discard the pits, and cut into thin wedges. Arrange on a platter with the blue cheese and walnuts. Roughly chop the dill and scatter over the fruit. Drizzle honey over the fruit and serve with a bowl of crispbread pieces.

Serves 6.

*I used gorgonzola for this recipe. If you enjoy the strong flavor of Danish blue cheese, then go ahead and use it for an extra Scandinavian touch; I wanted to create a dish that would please a wide range of palates so I chose something a little lighter.

Plums on Norwegian Tray

Picking Strawberries at Biringer Farm

Strawberry Pickers

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is one of the most pleasant, enjoyable combinations of time and place that I can imagine. Neither chilly nor too hot, the days are typically sunny and just warm enough to allow for flip flops and tank tops, sundresses and shorts. Upon first sight of the summer sun, people flock to the many lakes to sprawl out on the grass, take a stroll, or get out on boats. With my love of food, summer to me means a chance to embrace the bounty of summer produce with its refreshing, sweet vegetables and luscious, jewel-toned fruit.

This past week I had a chance to go berry picking up at Biringer Farm in Arlington, about 50 miles north of Seattle. Catching strawberry season just in time, I joined a number of people who made their way slowly along the rows of bushes, pushing leaves aside with their hands in search for perfectly-ripened berries. Over the course of an hour or so, I relaxed and enjoyed the summer sun as I collected a flat’s worth of berries to take home. They’re in my freezer now, waiting for me to decide what to make. I’m thinking of a strawberry-rhubarb pie, but am also considering distinctly Scandinavian options. If you have any ideas, leave a comment–I’d love to hear from you!

Biringer Farm Entrance

Tractor at Biringer Farm

Strawberries in Field

Strawberry Picking Diptych

Tractor in Strawberry Field

Picking Strawberries

Biringer Farm Equipment

Biringer Farms Strawberry Fields Diptych

Strawberry Flat

All photos are by Daytona Strong; some appeared in a post on her other blog, The Flying Salmon, at Wanderlust & Lipstick.

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

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 Essence of Summer in a Bowl of Strawberries and Cream

Strawberries and Cream

Carrots to kale, asparagus to zucchini, rhubarb to strawberries–such is the progression of produce finding its way to markets throughout the year. At this particular moment, strawberries abound. The crimson berries dotted with tiny ovoid seeds mark the season as well as any calendar could. No wonder Norwegians are excited about their strawberries: These sun-kissed morsels must sparkle brilliantly after the long, dark months of winter.

Plate of Strawberries

When at their peak, strawberries require little adornment to shine. One needs only to bite into the juicy berry to experience this gift of nature at its best. Today I offer you an idea for how to enjoy the regal strawberry in a manner almost as simple and pure as it is when it comes from nature. The taste of strawberries and cream brings me back to my childhood experiences of summer, as I suspect it may for you as well.

Strawberries and Cream

I need to provide you no recipe today, only to encourage you to take a few vivid red berries from your next market trip, slice them roughly, and plop them into the bottom of a white porcelain or ceramic bowl. Scoop a teaspoon into a canister of sugar and shake it over the berries ever so gently, watching the granules begin to dissolve as they come in contact with the berries’ moist surface. With the care of an artist, gently tilt the carton of cream over the bowl and pour the opaque liquid over the berries, forgetting about restraint and calories and fat just this once. Allow the cream to pool around the berries, caressing them with its satin touch. Scoop up one of those sugar-coated creamy berries with that teaspoon, slide it into your mouth, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Strawberries in Cream

 

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