Magic Mustard Sauce

mustard sauce I stand entirely corrected when it comes to Scandinavian cuisine – I have gone from a total “hater” to someone who LOVES the cuisine.  I am always looking for excuses to visit Pläj, one of the best Scandinavian restaurants in San Francisco.  I have also (somewhat) successfully converted some my foodie Asian friends who were convinced, like I was, that the cuisine is bland and horrible, by taking them the restaurant.  Yes, we suffered from a superiority complex and we were missing out because of it.  I suspect eating IKEA’s meatballs had something to do with perpetuating our biases.  Real Swedish meatballs are amazing and a dish that you cannot stop eating. Yes, compared to the food I cook, Scandinavian food is simple.  But it isn’t without immense flavor.  Scandinavian cooking and ingredients are truly unique and the cuisine is deeply influenced by what nature has “forced” upon the people of the region.  Long, dark winters along the Arctic Circle have greatly influenced the cuisine of Scandinavia from Viking times to the current renaissance of “New Nordic” cuisine. Foraging in bountiful times, preserving food for survival during icy winters, a deep connection to the landscape and environment, and a celebration of design, all give an insight into the culture, history and cuisine of the region.  And suddenly, all food Scandinavian is receiving it’s rightly deserved global acclaim.  Meanwhile, I am obsessed with “The Scandinavian Kitchen” cookbook by Camilla Plum and working my way through it.  Perhaps a vacation to a Scandinavian country is next. 🙂 The mustard sauce below is a bit of a revelation.  We taught the recipe at a recent cooking class for high-schoolers. I brought the leftovers home and refused to share them with anyone.  It’s a great sauce to have lying around in the refrigerator as it revives even the most boring of dinners. Continue reading

Swedish Crackers: Linnéa Thomsen’s Knäckebröd

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By now you know I am obsessed with the book “Edible Selby“, a super stylish, globe-hopping, sketchbook tour of some of the world’s tastiest eateries. I’ve been staring especially longingly at the feature on Linnéa Thomsen and her gorgeous bakery nestled in the equally gorgeous Stockholm Park, Rosendals Trädgård. Everytime I see those photos, I want to jump right into the pages and grab a cardamon bun and a hunk of one of her wood-fired breads. Heaven! But until my family makes it to Sweden, we can at least make these lovely crackers. They’re super light and crisp and perfect with any sort of cheese, jam or cracker topping you can think of…. or do as the Scandinavians do and have yours with a bit of good butter. Continue reading

A Scandinavian Roast Beef Sandwich (Nordic House, Berkeley)

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I had read that there was a place in Berkeley for Scandinavian food and gifts and so finally this summer, I dragged the kids and grandma to Nordic House on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley. My mom is part Norwegian, so that was one of the reasons I was curious to check it out, but also I think Simran and I have both become a bit enamored with Nordic food since dipping our big toes into the cuisine over the last year. It’s kind of funny to think that things like creamy potatoes with dill, smoked salmon, little open faced sandwiches (Danish smørrebrød), crackers (knäckebröd) could seem so exotic compared to Thai curries and Indian biriyanis, but in our case they do. It’s much easier around here to find Shanghai dumplings, South Indian dosas and Salvadoran papusas than an authentic Scandinavian smorgasbord and when cooking at home we both tend to gravitate towards our comfort foods (Southeast Asian for Simran, Mediterranean for me).

Nordic house was a really fun find and it is totally worth checking out next time you find yourself in Berkeley. They have gorgeous, brightly colored table linens; a great selection of children’s books; Christmas decorations and lots of fun little gifts. I’ll be making a return trip to stock up on supplies for a holiday glögg (mulled wine) party. And as far as the food goes (always my favorite part) there was a lot to tempt a curious eater: jams, licorice, cookies, knäckebröd of all types, pickles, mustards, lefse (thin Norwegian potato pancakes), herring, sausages, cheeses….. And they have a small deli in the back which serves up a pretty epic roast beef sandwich. We of course grabbed one to take along to our excursion to Tilden Park and I had to use all my will power to resist sneaking a big bite in the car. My experience of this sandwich was in line with my other brushes with Scandinavian cuisine — familiar but with an interesting twist, in this case a hefty layer of thinly sliced roast beef on a good roll, but trading the standard lettuce, pickles and tomatoes for pickled cucumbers, dill havarti and crispy onions. This is a really great sandwich worth making a detour for, but if driving to Berkeley is not in the cards for you this might be one you could try duplicating at home. I know we will.

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Eating one of Nordic House’s sandwiches might make you want to do this!