December in Scandinavia

You may wonder, why Scandinavia? Of all the wonderful cuisines of the world, this region of Northern Europe doesn’t exactly start my mouth watering. But partly, that’s because I haven’t really been exposed to the cuisine of Scandinavia – do you remember the last time you ate at an Icelandic or Norwegian restaurant?

I scheduled Scandinavia in December for a couple of reasons;

1) my co-worker is Swedish and she said I should
2) there is a Scandinavian Christmas Festival of food, music and crafts this Saturday in Raleigh
3) it’s winter, so I wanted to pick a cuisine that uses mainly winter vegetables
4) there are a lot of good baking recipes for the holiday month

Scandinavia consists of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. I figured I’d tackle them all at once since they share many similarities in cooking. Plus, that way I should be able to find lots of dishes that I can try out without having to resort to fermented fish or lutefisk….

Anyway, I’m just starting to delve into the cookbooks to see what I can find. There are TONS of good baking recipes, and about half of them involve almonds or almond paste. So that’ll be good for the various potlucks I have this holiday season. Other dishes include meatballs, fish, flavorings like caraway, saffron, and dill, rye bread, and vegetables like cabbage, rutabaga, beets, potatoes, leeks, etc. For my first meal, I made a delicious and simple Danish barley and vegetable soup.  It sounds a little boring, but the flavors meld nicely, especially with the addition of the sour cream which I hadn’t done before with a barley soup.

Barley Soup
6 Tbsp pearl barley
3 c. beef broth
3 c. water
2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1/4 c. celery, diced
1/2 c. mushrooms, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 c. light sour cream

Simmer the barley in 2 c. broth and 1 c. water, covered, for about 1 hour.  Meanwhile, chop the vegetables. Saute the onion, carrots and celery in 2 Tbsp. melted butter over medium heat.  Then add the remaining liquid and the mushrooms and boil until vegetables are tender.  Combine the cooked barley and liquid to the vegetables and mix well.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and at the very end, add the sour cream.  Serve hot, and it reheats well too.

Adapted from: Wonderful, Wonderful Danish Cooking, by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen

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