Nordic Bites

From Finnish Jerusalem artichoke soup with marinated tofu to Danish open-face dilled shrimp sandwiches to Swedish cedar-smoked salmon with potato salad, these dishes bring a hearty taste of the North Atlantic to your menu.

by Joanna Pruess

Scandinavian style is synonymous with clean lines, pure colors and simplicity. It can be seen in sparely elegant wooden furniture, silverware and glass, as well as wool rugs created with native materials. The foods of Nordic countries similarly reflect a reliance on native ingredients that are prepared simply.

In Norway and Denmark, open-face sandwiches are a way of life. At home, platters of meat and seafood are served at the table and guests make their own sandwiches. Surrounded by water, Scandinavians enjoy abundant fresh fish, sometimes preserved by salting, curing or smoking over open fires. One well-known preparation is salt- and sugar-cured salmon, or gravlax.

Roots are another important staple in these countries with the harsh northern winters. Rutabagas, parsnips, carrots, onions and Jerusalem artichokes are the foundation for many soups, stews and side dishes. The “secret” to most Nordic dishes is a simplicity that does not mask the inherent flavors of the ingredients.
Finally, if long winters mean abundant ice and snow, warm weather draws these hearty denizens outdoors for celebrations, like the Swedish kräftskiva, or crayfish party, a late-summer tradition. Mounds of freshly caught crustaceans are consumed, often with a salad of new potatoes- freshly dug from the gardenófresh berries and lots of aquavit. Come autumn, when the boats come into harbor, herring becomes the culinary delicacy of choice, followed shortly by game season.

Danish Open-Face Dilled Shrimp Sandwiches (Rejer Smørrebrøt)

Open-face sandwiches, or smørrebrøt, are a way of life in Denmark and throughout Scandinavia. They come in many varieties- including herring, roast beef and pâté are traditionally eaten with a fork and knife. Besides lunch, they make an appealing light supper with a salad or can be served for brunch. The bread is usually spread with a little butter to keep it from getting soggy, and simple but eye-catching garnishes are always included.

Danish Open Faced

Yield: 24 (6-ounce) sandwiches
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Shelf life: Best in 1 day if made (shrimp salad may be refrigerated separately for up to 3 days)

6 pounds peeled rock shrimp, bay shrimp or small salad shrimp
3 ounces lightly salted butter, softened
24 (3 1/2 -inch) square slices Danish thin-cut rye or multigrain bread
24 small leaves butter lettuce
6 ounces gherkins, fairly finely chopped
6 ounces minced shallots
21 ounces mayonnaise
15 ounces crème fraîche or sour cream
1/2 ounce chopped fresh dill, plus 24 tiny sprigs for garnish
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 very thin slices lemon, halved
12 grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
Fresh dill, for garnish

1. Cook, drain and cool the shrimp. Meanwhile, spread a thin layer of butter on the bread. Add a lettuce leaf to each.

2. In a bowl, combine the shrimp, gherkins and shallots. Add the mayonnaise and crème fraîche and toss to blend. Stir in dill, salt and pepper. Mound about 4 ounces of shrimp on each sandwich; add a half-slice of lemon, a split tomato and tiny sprig of dill to each and serve.

NUTRITIONAL DATA (per sandwich): Calories: 360; Cholesterol: 210 mg; Sodium: 1,170 mg; Fat: 23 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g

Swedish Cedar-Smoked Salmon with Spring Potato Salad

Midsummer night is when Scandinavians celebrate the longest day of the year and the sun never really sets. New potatoes are dug up, quickly boiled and tossed with young chives or dill, mayonnaise and crËme fraÓche or buttermilk. Caviar (in the form of lumpfish or other fish roe) is blended into the dressing. What it is not, is fussy. Just clean good food. Wood smoke is very important part of the culture as well.

Swedish Cedar

Yield: 24 portions (6 1/2- to 7-ounce portions salmon and 6 ounces potato salad)
Preparation time: 1 hour plus soaking time for the wood (at least 3 hours or overnight)

Shelf life: 2 to 3 days

This salmon is paired with a simple potato salad that has caviar blended into it.

For the salmon:
4 to 6 (6- x 12-inch) untreated cedar grilling planks, plus 20 untreated cedar shakes, about 3 x 6 inches
4 (3-pound) center-cut salmon fillets, each cut almost all the way through into 6 steaks
4 lemons, thinly sliced, cut in half
60 small sprigs fresh dill
12 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Soak the cedar planks in a large plastic bag filled with water for at least 3 hours or overnight. Cut the salmon crosswise almost through the flesh at 1-inch intervals. Start making the Spring Potato Salad (below).

2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil and put the planks on them. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and lay them on the cedar. Between each slice of salmon, put a smaller cedar piece, 2 halved lemon slices, and 2 dill sprigs; reserve the remaining dill and lemon for garnishes. Brush all over with melted butter.

3. Transfer salmon to the oven and roast until pink, about 20 to 25 minutes; remove from oven, remove the small cedar pieces from between the salmon and lay them on top of the fish. Wrap the foil around the cookie sheets, sealing the fish tightly. Set aside for 15 minutes. For more well-done fish, roast for 5 minutes longer.

4. Remove foil and, when cool enough to slice, cut fillets into individual
portions, and garnish with reserved lemon slices and fresh dill sprigs.

NUTRITIONAL DATA (per portion): Calories: 310; Cholesterol: 70 mg; Sodium: 1,450 mg;
Fat: 19 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g

Spring Potato Salad

This bright potato salad is the perfect partner for the cedar-smoked salmon above. A small jar of red lumpfish caviar costs less than $10 (retail) and adds an authentic and stylish touch. If the potatoes are young with thick skins, it is not necessary to peel them.

Yield: 24 (6-ounce) portions
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Shelf life: up to 4 days

6 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes
3 tablespoons coarse salt
3 cups mayonnaise
1 cup crème fraîche
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 pound frozen petit peas
10 ounces scallions, thinly sliced
8 ounces shallots, finely chopped
4 ounces Swedish red lumpfish roe or other caviar
1 tablespoon salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a large pot, combine potatoes with enough water to cover and 3 tablespoons of coarse salt; cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce the heat and simmer until a knife inserted into a potato shows it is barely tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and place a strainer over the pot, cover with a towel, and steam until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir mayonnaise, crème fraîche and buttermilk together.

3. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel, if desired, and cut into 1/2-inch slices.

4. Stir together the potatoes, peas, scallions, shallots and lumpfish. Season with salt and pepper, mix again, and refrigerate for at least 1 to 2 hours.

NUTRITIONAL DATA (per 6-ounce portion): Calories: 300;† Cholesterol: 20 mg; Sodium: 140 mg; Fat: 22 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g

Finnish Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Marinated Tofu

The inspiration for this delicate, ecru-colored soup comes from the kitchen of Jarmo Vähä-Savo, the executive chef of G.W. Sundmans, an elegant restaurant located in an 18th-century townhouse in Helsinki, Finland. Jerusalem artichokes lend an earthy- albeit subtle- taste to this frothy soup that is smartly set off by tiny cubes of tofu marinated in olive oil and thyme. Serve either hot or at room temperature.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Yield: 24 (1-cup) servings
Preparation time:
20 minutes, plus 45 unattended cooking time
Shelf life
: at least 1 week

4 1/2 pounds Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
11/2 pounds diced peeled baking potatoes
11/2 pounds sliced onions
3 quarts (12 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine or additional stock
12 ounces firm tofu, diced, for garnish
9 ounces extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt
3 cups light cream or soy creamer

1. Combine the Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, onions, stock and wine in a large pot. Cover and gently boil until the vegetables are tender, 40 to 45 minutes.

2. While vegetables cook, blend the tofu, olive oil, thyme and sea salt in a bowl. Set aside to marinate.

3. When the vegetables are tender, transfer them and the liquid to the jar of an electric blender and puree until completely smooth. Return the puree to the pan, stir in cream and season to taste with salt. If you do not have 4 cups of liquid, add additional stock and cook over medium heat until hot.

4. Ladle into heated bowls, add diced tofu in the center of each bowl and serve.

NUTRITIONAL DATA (per serving): Calories: 200; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 350 mg; Fat: 13 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g

This article was featured in the July 2011 issue of Specialty Food Magazine. See other articles in this issue at: July 2011 Specialty Food Magazine.



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