May
27
2009
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Packing a Pre-Summer Health Punch

lima_beans

My favorite butter beans

I’m not giving you my little secret for getting through that warm weather day foodwise until it really is warm. Here in the Mälar islands it is windy and although we are all trying to wear summer clothes, the odd sweater creeps out even with the best intentions of being summery.

So, even if the early summer weather is playing tricks on us with wind and rain, as it is supposed to do if we are going to have a good harvest, there is some great healthy Nordic-style food to be enjoyed in the spirit of getting fit and energized for the season. If you’ve been out for a long walk in the park in this sort of weather, you’ll be hungry and this is just the dish for you.

If there are three ingredients that I find to be very Nordic, they are root vegetables, oily fish and beans. All three have played a major role in the kitchens of this part of the world and all three are clear winners when it comes to your health. The question is can you combine these successfully to create a meal with fantastic taste and a real health punch.

As I found myself out on my deserted island with just those three ingredients and a hungry husband to feed a few days ago, I came up with the following which is a delightful meal on windy, cool pre-summer days when you are trying to give your body something really good. Years ago, I learned that with food limitation is the mother of invention and you should always remember this when trying to find inspiration in your kitchen. Here is the recipe.

Mashed Root Vegetables with Sardines and Butter Beans
Serves 4

For the mashed root vegetables:
6 medium potatoes
2 large carrots
50 grams butter
1/2 dl milk
A pinch of ground muscat
Salt/Pepper

For the bean topping:
1 large zucchini, julienned
380 g lima or butter beans (cooked)
4 tbsps canola oil or olive oil
1 clove garlic

2 cans sardines (including at least 4 whole sardines)

Peel the potatoes and carrots. Cover with water in a pan and add a pinch of salt. Bring to boil and cook on medium heat until you can easily pierce with a fork. Drain away the water. Mash the vegetables with a fork or potato masher. Add butter, half of the milk and place over low heat, blending together the ingredients. Add the remaining milk, if needed and season with muscat, pepper and salt. Cover and keep warm.

Saute the garlic and zucchini in olive oil for 3-4  minutes on medium heat. The zucchini should not be too soft. Add the cooked beans, saute for a further 2 minutes and season with salt and pepper.

Assemble on individual plates. Spoon a large ball of the mashed root vegetables into the middle of the plate. Spoon the bean and zucchini mixture over and around the mashed vegetables and top with a sardine, preferably broken into two pieces.

Artistic, delicious, full of energy, divine! Remember to check the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook and Paavo’s Bytes for more recipes!

Jan
03
2009
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Light-on-the-Butter Salmon Casserole

Hello Mr. Salmon

Hello Mr. Salmon

Laxpudding or Salmon Casserole is one of those absolute staples of the Swedish kitchen. If you don’t eat it once a week, things aren’t really ‘kosher’.This thinking heralds from a time when salmon was at one point in Swedish history the staple food of the peasantry. The servants ate it on most days.

One of my problems with Laxpudding is that it can become rather buttery and can feel heavy. That adoration of melting butter over everything might also be a little hangover from peasant culture where it was a luxurious food item to be eaten sparingly.

Here is my best shot at Laxpudding, maintaining its traditional ingredients, but lightening it up a bit and keeping an eye on the butter.

Laxpudding or Salmon Casserole

300 g or  11 oz. gravad lax or dill-cured salmon, sliced into strips
1 large white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
10 medium cooked potatoes, thinly sliced
1 dl 1/2 cup chopped dill
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps butter or margarine
2 dl or 3/4 cup light creme fraiche
3.5 dl or 1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
salt and white pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 C or 390 F. Gently saute the onion and zucchini in olive oil for about 2 minutes. Layer the potatoes, zucchini, onion, salmon and dill in a greased casserole dish, starting and finishing with a layer of potato. Blend the creme fraiche with a small quantity of the milk and then gradually add in all of the milk. Add eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend until even and pour over the mixture in the casserole dish. Dot with butter or margarine. Bake for 45 minutes or until fully set. Serve with a green salad.

Just a little added note concerning new books out on Husmanskost (the food of the common man). If you read Swedish, I can very warmly recommend ICA’s new book Hela Sverige’s Husman (ICA AB, 2008) which is packed full of the best recipes for traditional Swedish food that I have tried so far (and that is a lot!). Why? Because it truly gathers together the best recipes of the common people FROM everyday people! If you do not read Swedish stick to our Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook and you’ll find a treasure trove of new and old Nordic cuisine for your good health there!

Oct
03
2008
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Solving the Squash Dilemma

End-of-season vegetables from my garden

End-of-season vegetables from my garden

If there is one thing I can always rely on my kitchen vegetable garden to produce in quantity, it is squash. My children walk into the kitchen holding specimens that could double up as baseball bats.

It’s costs me next to nothing, it grows in large quantities outside my kitchen window, it’s good for your health, so isn’t this an ideal food for this season? We should be head over heals…As soon as my husband sees me chopping the squash for the evening meal, he already starts planning that little pile of squash that is going to be left on the edge of the plate when the meal is done. My son isn’t crazy about the stuff either. Only my daughter and I down it like the true good food soldiers that we are.

In a bid to transform squash, in this case zucchini, into everyone’s favorite food, I set about exploring recipes. I found a seemingly exciting recipe for squash muffins in a recent “gourmet” magazine that unfortunately ended up tasting like sugar cake with green bits in it. I tried all sorts of stir-fry variations but that little heap of uneaten squash kept piling up on the edges of plates and returning from whence it came (the compost).

One evening I lacked lettuce to serve with the meal but there was that trusted zucchini on the counter. I decided to chop it rough and toss it with a few tomatoes in a bowl. How could I spice it up? Here is what I did:

Curried Zucchini Salad

1 medium zucchini chopped into small chunks
2 medium tomatoes chopped into quarters
1 red onion chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1 dl or just under 1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp water

Sauté the onion with curry powder in a little olive oil for 2 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from heat. In a mixing bowl blend with zucchini and tomato. Beat together the remaining ingredients into a dressing. Pour over the zucchini and tomato. Toss and serve on a bed of lettuce or ruccola.

With this recipe there were no zucchini Tower-of-Pisas on the sides of the plates at the end of the meal. Surprise! Surprise! The salad bowl was empty.

Another fantastic squash recipe I cannot but help share with you is for summer squash (yellow or light colored). Even if you are a squash skeptic, this one will warm your heart like a soft, warm blanket.

Summer Squash Soup with Chili

1 large summer squash, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red chili, center removed and finely chopped
4 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps flour
4 dl vegetable or chicken stock
Salt & Pepper to taste
Herb-flavored olive oil

Saute the onion, garlic and chili for 2 minutes without browning. Add the squash and saute for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and sprinkle over the flour. Gradually stir in the stock and return to the heat. Cover and allow to cook on low heat until the squash is softened (about 10 mins). Puree in a food processor. Add further stock if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a swirl of herb-flavored olive oil.

Adding sliced squash to home-made pizza also works well, but we’ll take that another time!

For more great recipes with Nordic inspiration visit The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook.

Written by Julie in: Salad,Soup,Squash,Vegetables,zucchini | Tags: , , , ,

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