Saturday, April 17, 2010

Surprises for Our Tongues

Last year Suzanna spent a half-day at Nurse Camp, an event put on by faculty and students from the university's Department of Nursing to promote medical careers for area school children. She had a great time and was interested in participating again today. Her friend Sheena spent the night with us last night and then went to Nurse Camp with Suzanna and Abigail (it's open to kids in grades five and six) today. They enjoyed themselves and now have surgical garb of their own to wear at home when playing dress-up!

Once home this afternoon, Suzanna served as my helper for preparing Scandinavian Saturday supper. I chose the menu and even did the grocery shopping without Suzanna because she was preoccupied with her overnight guest and with Nurse Camp, but she approved of my choices. In fact, the entire family did. It was a meal of surprising elements for our tongues--but surprising in a good way.

kveite i urter med rosmarin-sitron smør ["herbed halibut with rosemary-lemon butter"]

The featured item was halibut. We rubbed the fillets with salt and pressed garlic. We chopped up fresh rosemary, thyme, tarragon, and bay leaves and coated both sides of each fillet with the herbs. Then we covered the fish and let it refrigerate for a few hours. Closer to suppertime, we poured wine over the herbed halibut, covered the pan with foil, and popped the fish into the oven to bake (well, to steam). We made a sauce for the fish by simmering more fresh herbs in butter before adding the pan juices, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. We brushed most of the herbs from the fillets, strained all the herbs from the sauce, and let each person pour his/her own sauce at the table.

The fish was absolutely delicious. The surprise for our tongues was how richly flavored the fish was from the combination of fresh herbs and wine . . . as well as how firm and "meaty" the fish was, like salmon or even a chicken breast.

grønne bønner og erter med neper og mango ["green beans and peas with turnip and mango"]

The turnip was supposed to be celeriac, which isn't available in local grocery stores. Several online sources recommended substituting turnip and celery seed for the celeriac, which is what we did. We cooked the beans and peas separately and then tossed them with the raw turnip ("cut into matchstick-sized pieces") and celery seed in a dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, and sugar. Just before serving, we topped it with chopped mango.

Yep, you've probably already guessed it: the surprise for our tongues was the mango . . . a tropical fruit in a hot vegetable dish . . . and a Norwegian dish, at that! I was thinking that the raw, crunchy turnip with the cooked, soft vegetables would be enough of a surprise for the tongue, but the recipe said that it's a common combination in Norwegian cooking. The mango is the most surprising element, but, although a modern addition to the dish, it's not so surprising to Norwegians; it reflects the influence of Norway's largest non-European minority: immigrants from Pakistan, a country that produces mangoes.

sitron mousse med kandiserte sitron krydder ["lemon mousse with candied lemon zest"]

We had quite the setup for preparing this dessert. In one bowl, we beat sugar with egg yolks until pale and fluffy. In another bowl, we softened unflavored gelatin in water, heated it au bain marie until thoroughly dissolved, added freshly squeezed lemon juice and some lemon zest, stirred the mixture into the beaten yolks, and set that bowl in the refrigerator. In another bowl, we whisked egg whites until they had stiff peaks. In yet another bowl, we whipped some heavy cream until it had soft peaks.

Are you still with me?

By that point, the gelatin/yolk/sugar/lemon mixture had started to set, so we folded in first the egg whites and then the cream. Then we poured the mousse into individual bowls and put them in the fridge to finish setting and to chill for a few hours. Then we added the bulk of the zest from the lemons to a pan with freshly squeezed lemon juice, water, and sugar to boil and then simmer. We spread the candied zest out on wax paper to cool and dry. Then we whipped more cream, this time adding vanilla extract and sugar, to serve as a topping for the mousse.

There were lots of dirty bowls and spatulas and beaters when we were done, but the result was a terrific dessert. The mousse was light and airy, but the surprise on our tongues was the lemon: so distinct and tart when we were expecting subtle and mild to suit the texture of the mousse. The candied zest made for pretty decoration but also added to the lemony goodness. The sweetened whipped cream was a necessary accompaniment to keep our tongues from curling up into the backs of our heads! So, so, so tasty.


  1. It was a very summery-sort of meal. Delicious! I think halibut is my favorite fish.

  2. This all sounds very good. Fish of any kind is fine with me. And the dessert looks so pretty...and your description of the flavors makes my mouth watery!