Saturday, April 10, 2010

"These Are My New Favorite Meatballs"

Hillary was my helper today for Scandinavian Saturday supper. We were off to the grocery store in the morning because we knew we'd be busy mid-afternoon with Suzanna and Abigail's music festival (I'll write more on that tomorrow); and we got right to work as soon as we returned from the festival. Hillary was an excellent assistant today--she often gets distracted by her sisters and disappears for spans of time to join them in their playing, but not today! Here's what she and I served:

Wanna know what everything is? Read on!

ristet pumpernikkel ["toasted pumpernickel bread"]

We found this loaf amongst the specialty breads in one supermarket. The dark bread seemed very Northern European, and it's coated with seeds and salt and garlic, making it deliciously savory. We toasted and buttered each slice before serving.

bakt fennikel og karve-bakt pastinakk ("baked fennel and cumin-baked parsnip")

These recipes came from Andreas Viestad. We don't usually see fennel in the produce section of the local grocery stores, but today we found one--count them: one!--fennel bulb, so we snatched it up. When I sliced into it, it released the clean, sharp aroma of anise; and even the baked version was a bit like eating layers of black-licorice-flavored onion. We drizzled the fennel slices with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice and sprinkled them with salt before baking.

We buy parsnips pretty regularly (although the woman working the check-out lane in the grocery store had to ask me what they were before she could ring them up) (and she asked me what the fennel bulb was, too), but we've never had them prepared like this: drizzled in olive oil and fresh lemon juice, like the fennel, but also sprinkled with cumin before baking. While they were in the oven, Hillary noted that they smelled like "Mexican beans" (refried beans), but Viestad writes that "cumin and its cousin, caraway, have been common in Scandinavia since the 13th century." Well, there ya go.

We were nearly done with the meal before I remembered that Hillary and I had made a sauce that was supposed to be served on the parsnips . . . but that we had put in the fridge and then forgotten. I remembered it in time for us to try a dab of it on the last morsels of parsnip. It was made of olive oil and chopped parsley and garlic, and the raw garlic made it very pungent. Tasty, yes, but a little bit went a long way. The cumin and lemon juice themselves provided great flavor for the parsnips.

köttbullar ("Swedish meatballs")

One of my Beatrice Ojakangas cookbooks has this Swedish meatball recipe that was a hit with the entire family, causing Susan to proclaim them as her "new favorite meatballs" (yes, as Midwesterners and Lutherans, we have tried many a meatball recipe over the years). Hillary and I soaked whole-wheat bread in cream and then added sautéed scallions, ground beef, ground pork, an egg, fresh parsley (which Hillary took quite some time to mince, demonstrating her fastidiousness while using a knife), salt, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg.

We beat it in a mixer until it was fluffy, and then we formed the meatballs and fried them in butter until browned. We removed the meatballs to drain on paper toweling and used flour to make a roux with the drippings in the frying pan. We whisked in beef broth until we had a thick sauce, which we seasoned with ground pepper and seasoned salt. We put the meatballs in the gravy and allowed them to simmer until fully cooked. They truly were delish: light and fluffy in texture, savory with the mix of spices, each morsel perfect when dipped in the salty sauce. We're looking forward to having leftovers for tomorrow's dinner!

rømmegrøt ("sour cream porridge")

A few weeks ago, while shopping in Bismarck, Hillary and I found a packaged mix (made in Norway) to make rømmegrøt, a dessert that I remember fondly from the Norsk Høstfest ("Norwegian harvest festival") held annually in Minot, ND; from Red River Valley friends who served it at each child's high school graduation reception; and from Norwegian camp last summer. I do NOT remember it fondly from when I tried to make it from scratch one year ago. The packaged mix made tonight's version much, much better than my homemade effort.

We opened the package and added the powder to cold water, whisked in sour cream, brought it to a boil, and then simmered it for seven minutes while Hillary stirred continuously. It thickened nicely, and she dished up the creamy pudding into everybody's dishes. Everyone was in charge of adding her/his own sugar and cinnamon at the table. The joy of rømmegrøt is not in its flavor because, without the cinnamon and sugar, it is like vanilla pudding without the bold flavor of vanilla--which is to say: completely flavorless. But it's warm and creamy and tastes just fine with the sugar and cinnamon added. It's a comfort food more than a gourmet dessert choice.


  1. The meatballs were just as good the 2nd day -- delicious meal!!!

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  3. Those meatballs were tasty, were they not?