Saturday, July 31, 2010

And I Did It All by Myself!

This week it was my turn to work alone in the kitchen to prepare our family's Scandinavian Saturday supper.  When planning each week's menu, I don't generally consider the difficulty level of the recipes or the expertise level of the kitchen helper working with me.  Thus, I have sometimes ended up making relatively simple things when it's Susan's turn to help and pretty complicated things when it's Hillary's turn . . . or when it's my turn to cook alone.  I really should think that through better!  This week's menu is a case in point.

I chose some recipes from the "July" section of a cookbook by Trina Hahnemann.  And by "some recipes," I mean "six recipes"!  Thinking that I would tend to some other errands today, I decided to prepare some of the items yesterday . . . and ended up spending much of the afternoon and most of last night in the kitchen baking and cooking and cleaning up!  However, it was nice today to have most of the prep work already done, allowing me to focus on enjoying the meal; and I must say that it was another tasty ethnic dining experience.

rød rips og jordbær smoothies ["red currant and strawberry smoothies"]

Hahnemann indicates that, by July in Scandinavia, red currants are "in season."  Unfortunately, in local grocery store produce aisles, red currants are not "in stock."  Just before serving supper, I made the smoothies by blending together vanilla yogurt, red currant jelly (a sad substitute for the actual fruit, I realize), fresh strawberries, clover honey, fresh blueberries (in place of the banana called for by the recipe; our bananas were pretty brown), and ice cubes.  It was a delicious and refreshing treat--very thick from the yogurt and the bits of fruit and just slightly tart from the red currant.

kylling i lake med timian ["chicken in a thyme brine"]

Yesterday afternoon I made the brine by dissolving sugar and salt in boiling water.  I let the brine cool, added numerous sprigs of fresh thyme, put a whole chicken in a plastic food storage bag, poured in the brine, sealed it, and placed it in a pan in the fridge.  I flipped the chicken occasionally last night and today as it spent 24 hours soaking in the brine.  This afternoon I discarded the brine and roasted the chicken in the oven.  Um, delicious!  Absolutely succulently wonderfully delicious.  I should have taken a photo of the whole chicken just out of the oven with its golden skin and flecks of green from the thyme sprigs and the bubbling juices in the bottom of the pan.  This was an incredibly fantastic way to prepare juicy, tasty chicken.

rødbeter i pepperrot ["beets in horseradish"]

Before we left our friend Monica's home on Thursday (remember?), she shared some potatoes and beets that she had been given by a local gardener who is generous with his produce.  Yesterday I boiled the beets and then let them cool.  Last night I diced them and tossed them in a dressing of olive oil, the juice from a lime, grated horseradish, sugar, salt, and pepper.  It sat in the fridge overnight for the flavors to meld before I served it for supper tonight.  The dressing soaked into the beets so that, by suppertime, there was very little liquid in the bottom of the bowl.  Instead, each beet dice was a little burst of horseradish and lime.  What a flavorful way to prepare beets!  (Hillary, recognizing the horseradish, said, "This tastes like the cocktail sauce for shrimp!")  (And she meant that as a compliment.)

tomat og mynte salat ["tomato/mint salad"]

Last night I seeded and diced a cucumber and cut up some Campari tomatoes, tossing them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and mint leaves (half of them minced, the others left whole).  I placed the salad in the refrigerator overnight so that the mint and seasonings would combine with the oil and the liquids from the vegetables.  With such a simple dressing, this salad's "star" ingredient was the mint, whose flavor came through distinctly.  We were surprised that it didn't taste minty in the way that mint toothpaste or breath mints taste minty.  Instead, the mint tasted somewhat like the smell of freshly cut hay or mown grass on the farm.  Very interesting, actually.  And the juicy tomatoes and cucumbers stood up well to the mint.

lefse [a soft flatbread made from potatoes]

I didn't have to make the lefse (whew!).  We bought this some time ago from the ladies at our church and stored it in our freezer.  I think it is the last of that batch, actually, meaning we are now out of homemade (but not by us) lefse.  This was another expertly made batch of lefse--so moist and soft and delicious with the butter and white sugar rolled up into each piece.  Lefse made well is so heavenly.

Danish: citron kærnemælkskoldskål med citron biscotti ["cold buttermilk/lemon soup with lemon biscotti"; kærnemælkskoldskål literally means "buttermilk cold bowl," a dish about which Hahnemann writes, "This ice-cold soup is a favorite among children and anyone nostalgic for the food of their youth"]

Last night I heated up the kitchen on an already-hot summer night by baking biscotti!  The dessert recipe calls for one to make the biscotti and then crumble it over each bowl of the lemon buttermilk soup just before serving.  I made the biscotti dough from flour, baking powder, sugar, the zest of a lemon, chilled butter, whole milk, and half an egg.  I kneaded it, rolled it out, cut it up, and rolled it into balls, which I placed on three baking sheets and baked at a high temperature for a short time.  Then I cut each slightly baked ball into two and re-baked them at a lower temperature for a longer time.

While the biscotti were in the oven, I made the soup by whisking together vanilla extract, sugar, and egg yolks until the mixture was pale and fluffy.  Then I added the zest of two lemons, the juice of half a lemon, and a lot of buttermilk.  I chilled it overnight.  To serve, I ladled the cold soup into bowls, placed a couple slices of lemon in each bowl, and broke several biscotti over the soup.

After we were a few spoonfuls into the soup, I asked everyone at the table to rate this dessert on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 representing "the best dessert you've ever eaten."  One at a time, the girls gave it scores around 7, reasoning that they could think of a couple desserts they liked better.  Susan said, "No offense, but I'm thinking maybe a 4."  I said, "And I give it a 3."  Then Suzanna said, "Well, I didn't know how low we could go"; it seems she, too--and her sisters--agreed with Mommy and Daddy's scores.

It wasn't an awful dessert, but it certainly didn't knock our socks off.  I mean, really: we were essentially drinking buttermilk with lemon juice in it and pretending it was a dessert.  Um, no.  The biscotti were fine with a slight sweetness and lemon flavor that made us think that, rather than crumbling them over bowls of buttermilk, we should crumble them in the bottom of a pie pan and pour a lemon custard over them for a much better dessert idea.

Oh, well, you win some, and you lose some.  And overall, this meal was a definite win.

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