Tag Archives: Denmark

Elderflower Syrup

Hyldeblomst tf

We are spoiled with nature in Northern California, but one thing missing in our garden landscape is elderflowers. Elderberry bushes are prolific in North America and Europe, growing in gardens and the wild. The ripe berries are often used to make wine and marmalade. But, in my opinion, the best part are the flowers which peak in the early summer weeks. The blossoms can be harvested and left to macerate with sugar and lemon for several days to make a syrup which imparts a soft floral and honeyed flavor to drinks and desserts. Dilute a few spoons of the syrup with water for a soft drink, or with champagne or wine for a cordial. The flowers may also be dipped in a light batter and fried, serving as a light dessert.

Hyldeblomst cordial

When we lived in Denmark, elderberry bushes were everywhere. They grew in our garden and along the paths we walked into town. In June, after a welcome warm spell, we picked baskets of elderflowers and made the concentrated syrup that we would enjoy throughout the season. So, naturally, when we return to Denmark on visits, if the timing is right we continue the tradition of making elderflower syrup.


Elderflower Syrup
Makes 2 quarts

40 elderflower sprigs
4 untreated lemons with skin, cut in slices
4 pounds granulated sugar
3 ounces food grade citric acid
2 quarts boiling water

Thoroughly rinse the elderflower sprigs. Place in a large pot with a lid. Add lemon slices. Add sugar and citric acid. Pour water over elderflowers. Stir to ensure the sugar dissolves. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 4-5 days. Strain syrup through a fine meshed sieve or cheese cloth. Pour into sterilized bottles. Refrigerate until use. (Syrup may also be frozen in ice cube trays.)
To serve, mix a small amount of syrup with water, white wine or champagne to taste.

Summer Solstice NOMA-Style: NOMA places first in S.Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants

NOMA Nordic Cuisine

This post is reprinted from the TasteFood archives in honor of NOMA Restaurant, awarded first place in S.Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Last summer we were in Denmark visiting friends and family during the summer solstice.  Miraculously, we managed to get a coveted dinner reservation at the acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant NOMA, and realized that our luck was only due to the general population out partying in traditional solstice style on beaches before bonfires rather than in restaurants.  Seizing our opportunity, we invited our Danish friends and hosts (who were more than happy to abandon tradition for a table at NOMA) to join us.

That evening, we dined on a fabulous prix-fixe menu consisting of 7 courses composed exclusively of ingredients hailing from Nordic countries.  (NOMA is an acronym for Nordisk Mad – or Nordic Food in Danish.)  A visit to this restaurant is highly recommended if you are in Copenhagen, although advance reservations are a must. It is a fantastic collaboration between Danish chefs Claus Meyer and René Redzepi, and played an important role in establishing the New Nordic Cuisine Movement.  All ingredients originate from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.  They run from the familiar to the exotic: eel, musk ox, green strawberries, hare, seaweed, rye bread, black lobster are a few examples (quite out of context.)  You may feast on dishes such as Sautéed Dover Sole with New Danish Potatoes, Green Strawberries and Elderberry Sauce perhaps accompanied by Stirred Mashed Potatoes with Lumpfish Roe and Crispy Chicken Skin, and finish with Caramel Ice Cream with Icelandic Buttermilk, Dried Swedish Berries and Sorrel Crème Anglaise.


NOMA Nordisk Mad Cookbook

I enjoy poring over the NOMA Nordic Cuisine cookbook, which I bought as a memento after our meal. It is an inspirational and unique testament to Nordic terroir, and apropos several interesting blogs that attempt to prepare every single recipe in a particular tome of a cookbook, I would seriously have a go at reproducing NOMA’s – if only I could get my hands on chickweed, seakale and sweet cicely.  For now, I do what I always do and improvise with the seasonal and local products I find in my part of the world.

As we drove home after our long dinner, it was approaching midnight.  To the west the sun had just set, exiting the sky with a swirl of orange and purple flourishes in its haste to rise again. To the east it was doing just that, where the horizon was brightening with soft pink tinges nudging the gray-blue midnight summer sky.  It was truly a magical Danish solstice moment.

Danish Gløgg and Aebleskivers

Glogg and Aebleskivers

It’s the first weekend of advent and I should be in the woods. More precisely, I should be in the woods freezing my toes off, quite possibly in the dark, most likely in the rain. And I’m feeling nostalgic. We lived near Copenhagen for six years before we moved to California.  Each year, on the first advent weekend leading up to Christmas, we traveled to my sister and brother-in-law’s farm in a forest in the middle of Zealand.  We would spend the afternoon outdoors foraging holly, twigs, pinecones and moss to make Christmas decorations. The weather was often cold and wet, and the sun would set between 3 and 4 in the afternoon. After a few hours of walking in the forest with darkness descending, we would return to the house cold and hungry.  Fires would be stoked in the ovens, gløgg would be heated on the stove, and we would claim a space at the long farmhouse kitchen table. Our harvest would be piled in the center, and adults and children would get busy making wreaths, tree ornaments, candle holders and centerpieces. While we did this, we would take turns making batches of æbleskivers, which we dipped in raspberry preserves and powdered sugar and washed down with mugs of steaming gløgg.  It may have been cold and wintry outside, but inside everything was warm and toasty.

Now we live in California, and we continue our family traditions from Europe at Christmastime.  We still make many of our holiday decorations, and, of course, gløgg and æbleskivers.   In fact, I just finished a batch this afternoon, and as we sat in front of the fire with a glass of gløgg it began to rain outside – and we didn’t mind a bit.  It was just like Denmark.

Danish Æbleskivers

Referred to as pancakes, dumplings or even doughnut holes in English, æbleskivers are served as a treat throughout the month of December, almost always with a glass of gløgg.

Makes about 20.

1 1/2 cups (360 ml.) whole milk
.6 ounce fresh yeast (1 cake)
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 vanilla bean
2 eggs, separated
Unsalted butter
Raspberry or strawberry preserves
Confectioners/powder sugar

Heat milk in a small saucepan until lukewarm.  Remove from heat and pour into a medium bowl.  Add yeast and let it dissolve.
Combine flour, sugar, salt and cardamon in a medium bowl.  Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into dry ingredients.  Whisk the egg yolks into the milk.  Add the wet ingredients to the flour.  Mix well.
Beat egg whites in bowl of electric mixer until stiff.  Fold into batter.  Let rest one hour at room temperature.
Melt 1/2 teaspoon butter in each indentation of an aebleskiver pan over medium heat.  Pour batter into each indentation, about 2/3 full.  Cook until golden brown underneath, 3-4 minutes.  Using a knife or skewer, turn aebleskiver over and continue to cook until golden and cooked through, 3-4 minutes.
Remove æbleskivers from pan, and repeat with remaining batter.  Serve æbleskivers with powdered sugar and preserves (and gløgg!)

Note:
An aebleskiver pan is a stovetop pan with 6-8 holes or indentations. While non-stick is available, choose a cast iron pan for best results.

Summer Solstice Danish-Style

Solstice Picnic
Denmark is the land of the (nearly) midnight sun. The sun sets just before 11:00 in the evening, only to begin its ascent again in the wee hours of the morning. In a land where the winters are long and very dark, it is no wonder that celebrations, and even a God or two, have been delegated to give thanks and perhaps curry favor with the fiery powers that be. Summer Solstice, or Sankt Hans Aften (which means the eve of St. John the Baptist Day), is the height of these jubilations, as it celebrates the longest day of the year. Bonfires are lit, and food and drink are plentiful, as the Vikings of yesteryear, and in spirit, party and feast until dawn.

This year we will attempt our own celebration on a nearby beach.  We will light a bonfire and have a picnic dinner as the sun sets.  It is likely that we will forego the authentic tradition of burning an effigy over the fire, as that may not go over too well with the local residents and could quite possibly get us arrested.  (Proper solstice tradition would have a straw witch burned over the fire.  This symbolizes the riddance of problems, worries, and threats from people’s lives.)

Food typically associated with the solstice celebration is simple picnic fare: grilled fish or meat, fresh boiled local crayfish (which can be a party unto itself) and remoulade sauce, potato salad, green salad and a dessert featuring summer strawberries.  All of this would be accompanied, Viking-style, by beer, snaps and wine throughout the evening.

Crayfish

 

Summer Solstice NOMA-Style

NOMA Nordic Cuisine

Last summer we were in Denmark visiting friends and family during the summer solstice.  Miraculously, we managed to get a coveted dinner reservation at the acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant NOMA, and realized that our luck was only due to the general population out partying in traditional solstice-style on beaches before bonfires rather than in restaurants.  Seizing our opportunity, we invited our Danish friends and hosts (who were more than happy to abandon tradition for a table at NOMA) to join us.

That evening, we dined on a fabulous prix-fixe menu consisting of 7 courses composed exclusively of ingredients hailing from Nordic countries.  (NOMA is an acronym for Nordisk Mad – or Nordic Food in Danish.)  A visit to this restaurant is highly recommended if you are in Copenhagen, although advance reservations are a must. It is a fantastic collaboration between Danish chefs Claus Meyer and René Redzepi.  All ingredients originate from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.  They run from the familiar to the exotic: eel, musk ox, green strawberries, hare, seaweed, rye bread, black lobster are a few examples (quite out of context.)  You may feast on dishes such as Sautéed Dover Sole with New Danish Potatoes, Green Strawberries and Elderberry Sauce perhaps accompanied by Stirred Mashed Potatoes with Lumpfish Roe and Crispy Chicken Skin, and finish with Caramel Ice Cream with Icelandic Buttermilk, Dried Swedish Berries and Sorrel Crème Anglaise.

NOMA Nordisk Mad Cookbook

I enjoy poring over the NOMA Nordic Cuisine cookbook, which I bought as a memento after our meal. It is an inspirational and unique testament to Nordic terroir, and apropos several interesting blogs that attempt to prepare every single recipe in a particular tome of a cookbook, I would seriously have a go at reproducing NOMA’s – if only I could get my hands on chickweed, seakale and sweet cicely.  For now, I do what I always do and improvise with the seasonal and local products I find in my part of the world.

As we drove home after our long dinner, it was approaching midnight.  To the west the sun had just set and exited the sky in a swirl of orange and purple flourishes in its haste to rise again. To the east it was doing just that, where the sky was brightening and soft pink tinges nudged the gray-blue midnight summer sky.  It was truly a magical Danish solstice moment.

Red Berry Soup with Cream

100_1693

As if the Danish language was not hard enough to learn.

For us well-intentioned foreigners who have attempted to have a go at the language, there is an inside joke among our Danish counterparts when it comes to testing our purported linguistic skills.  Simply put, it is saying the expression “rød grød med fløde” which means “red berry soup with cream.”  Rest assured, if you wish to humor your Danish friends and family or fill an awkward lull at a Danish party, all you need to do is say this phrase. It never fails, in a Groundhog-Day sort of way. Your hosts will double over in laughter with tears streaming down their cheeks. Conspiratorily winking at each other, they will properly repeat the words to you and coax you to try again, eagerly awaiting the results.  Easily amused is all I have to say.  So, what is it about this phrase that never ceases to delight?  Suffice to say, that if you can even get your mouth around the correct sound for an “Ø”, you will stumble miserably when you try to pronounce the “D”, which when done properly in Danish, actually sounds as though you are saying the letter “D” with a mouth full of, well, red berry soup.
With that said, the upside is that even if the phrase is difficult – if not embarrassing – to pronounce, the dessert itself is sheer delight.  A traditional Scandinavian summer dessert, Red Berry Soup makes use of the region’s prolific berry season: strawberries in the beginning followed by raspberries, black currants, red currants, blackberries and blueberries.  Any combination of the berries are cooked with sugar, then chilled and served with whipped cream or crème fraiche.  Sometimes lemon or vanilla is added, or even chopped almonds for a more toothsome texture.  Every home has its own version.  The result is a fresh, simple and delicious dessert making use of what the Nordic summer season has to offer – as unfailing as the response I get whenever I say rød grød med fløde.

Red Berry Soup with Cream  – Rød Grød med Fløde
Serves 4-6
2 1/2 lbs. mixed summer berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, red and black currants
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Whipped cream or crème fraiche
Mint leaves for garnish
In a heavy medium-sized saucepan combine berries and sugar.  Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves and berries release their juices, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in lemon juice. Cool and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours before serving.  Serve with whipped cream or crème fraiche. Garnish with mint leaves.

Note: Any combination of berries may be used.  Depending on the combination and acidity of the berries, additional sugar may need to be added. Try to include black currants, if you can, as their firm texture and astringency add extra complexity to the sweet soup.

 

Home Grown Food

100_1668

I may be exposing my suburban roots, but it thoroughly impresses me when an entire meal can be harvested from a back yard.  Nowadays, there is plenty of talk of local, sustainable food and happily this concept is growing through, for instance, local farmers’ markets, movements such as Slow Food, and committed practice by chefs and home cooks alike.  I do my best to buy locally grown and raised food, grateful that I live in a part of the country where we have an abundance.  I am mindful of what and how we eat, yet also realize that this is a process to move through in order to change a pattern of living and eating into a new way that feels intuitively correct.

So, you might understand that I could not help but feel like a self-aggrandized neanderthal when I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with my sister and brother-in-law in the Danish countryside last week, where they created “just another dinner” from food harvested from their property.  Here I am in a state of attempted-permanent-mindfulness of eating locally and sustainably, when I walk into their kitchen and find an environment where this is the norm – naturally and reflexively.
100_1644 And what a meal we had.  It began with homemade salumi made of venison and duck hunted from the nearby forest.  As we nibbled on the lean slices of salami, my brother-in-law went outside to harvest some crayfish from the lake. He returned with a bucketful of squirming crustaceans as well as an armful of enormous porcini mushrooms that he just happened to spot growing by a grove of trees on the way to the dock.  In the meantime, after I had rather naively inquired as to whether there was a salad I could help make, my sister-in-law returned from her garden where she went to find some vegetables, profusely apologizing that she did not have any lettuce.  As she heaved a basket on to the table, it brimmed with heirloom tomatoes, chard, new potatoes, red potatoes, yellow carrots, crab apples, garlic, zucchini, crookneck squash, red onions and grapes. She declared that this was just one day’s worth of a harvest, and it all should be eaten, as there would be just as much to harvest tomorrow. So, we got cooking.
The porcinis were cleaned, sliced, dressed with olive oil and salt.  I made a salad of colorful heirloom tomatoes, red onion and chard; potatoes were roasted with olive oil and garlic; apples and carrots were sliced and put in lemon water for the children; we sautéed the zucchini and crookneck squash; the crayfish were boiled and cooled; homemade bread was warmed and sliced; the table was laid while we gamely tried to find room for all the plates and food.  As we tucked in to our meal, my brother-in-law told us to save some space for the pigeon and duck he had braising in the oven that he was eager for us to taste, adding that he had saved the largest porcini mushroom for a cream sauce that would accompany the birds.
This was a delicious, abundant meal created from food hunted or grown near or on the property.  The beauty of it is that there was no need for a written recipe.  Each dish reflected the main ingredient, either cooked or raw, enhanced with salt, pepper, some olive oil, perhaps some vinegar and lemon.

100_1669

However, I cannot resist writing at least one recipe:

Salad of Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes, Red Onion, Chard Leaves and Basil
Serves 4

2 pounds (1 kg.) assorted baby heirloom tomatoes, sliced or halved, depending on size
2 cups mixed red and green chard leaves, stems removed
2 small red onions, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup purple and green basil leaves, stems removed
1/3 cup (80 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Arrange tomatoes in the center of a serving platter, alternating colors.
Arrange chard leaves around the edge of the platter.
Top tomatoes and chard with red onion slices.
Garnish with basil leaves.
Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Summer Solstice NOMA-Style

Last summer we were in Denmark visiting friends and family during the solstice.  Miraculously, we managed to get a coveted dinner reservation at the acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant NOMA, and realized that our luck was only due to the general population out partying in traditional solstice-style on beaches before bonfires rather than in restaurants.  Seizing our opportunity, we invited our Danish friends and hosts (who were more than happy to abandon tradition for a table at NOMA) to join us.

That evening, we dined on a fabulous prix-fixe menu consisting of 7 courses composed exclusively of ingredients hailing from Nordic countries.  (NOMA is an acronym for Nordisk Mad – or Nordic Food in Danish.)  A visit to this restaurant is highly recommended if you are in Copenhagen, although advance reservations are a must. It is a fantastic collaboration between Danish chefs Claus Meyer and René Redzepi.  All ingredients originate from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.  They run from the familiar to the exotic: eel, musk ox, green strawberries, hare, seaweed, rye bread, black lobster are a few examples (quite out of context.)  You may feast on dishes such as Sautéed Dover Sole with New Danish Potatoes, Green Strawberries and Elderberry Sauce perhaps accompanied by Stirred Mashed Potatoes with Lumpfish Roe and Crispy Chicken Skin, and finish with Caramel Ice Cream with Icelandic Buttermilk, Dried Swedish Berries and Sorrel Crème Anglaise.

MPMS Stepping up 08, bday, food 112I enjoy poring over the NOMA Nordic Cuisine cookbook, which I bought as a memento after our meal. It is an inspirational and unique testament to Nordic terroir, and apropos several interesting blogs that attempt to prepare every single recipe in a particular tome of a cookbook, I would seriously have a go at reproducing NOMA’s – if only I could get my hands on chickweed, seakale and sweet cicely.  For now, I do what I always do and improvise with the seasonal and local products I find in my part of the world.

As we drove home after our long dinner, it was approaching midnight.  To the west the sun had just set and exited the sky in a swirl of orange and purple flourishes in its haste to rise again. To the east it was doing just that, where the sky was brightening and soft pink tinges nudged the gray-blue midnight summer sky.  It was truly a magical Danish solstice moment.

Summer Solstice Danish-Style

Denmark is the land of the (nearly) midnight sun. The sun sets just before 11:00 in the evening, only to begin its ascent again in the wee hours of the morning. In a land where the winters are long and very dark, it is no wonder that celebrations, and even a God or two, have been delegated to give thanks and perhaps curry favor with the fiery powers that be. Summer Solstice, or Sankt Hans Aften (which means the eve of St. John the Baptist Day), is the height of these jubilations, as it celebrates the longest day of the year. Bonfires are lit, and food and drink are plentiful, as the Vikings of yesteryear, and in spirit, party and feast until dawn.

This year we will attempt our own celebration on a nearby beach.  We will light a bonfire and have a picnic dinner as the sun sets.  It is likely that we will forego the authentic tradition of burning an effigy over the fire, as that may not go over too well with the local residents and could quite possibly get us arrested.  (Proper solstice tradition would have a straw witch burned over the fire.  This symbolizes the riddance of problems, worries, and threats from people’s lives.)

Food typically associated with the solstice celebration is simple picnic fare: grilled fish or meat, fresh boiled local crayfish (which can be a party unto itself) and remoulade sauce, potato salad, green salad.  All of this would be accompanied, Viking-style, by beer, shnapps and wine throughout the evening.

Krebs

For dessert, something making use of the fleeting yet prolific Danish strawberry season would be appropriate and always welcome.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Serves 8-10

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small cubes

Mix the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon together in a bowl.  Cut in the butter, and work it with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Refrigerate until use.

For the fruit:
4 large or 6 small rhubarb stalks, washed and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and cut in half
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Gently toss rhubarb, strawberries and sugar together in a large bowl.
Arrange evenly in a rectangular baking dish.
Cover the fruit with topping.
Bake in oven until rhubarb is tender and the topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.