tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Category: Salads

Latvia, The land of flowers

by tableofcolors

It has been some time since my last In My Kitchen post. Some months actually. This time I will tell you a bit about one adventure this past summer and the inspiration it gave me once I made it home. Our garden has been producing nicely and so the Carrot Top Pesto potato salad below is made with mostly fresh produce from our own little patch. A few things I had to buy, the potatoes and beans. The end result was delicious. Currently Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings currently hosts IMK. Thanks for hosting! Check out her blog for links to kitchens around the world.

The past year has had so many ups and downs, many opportunities to learn. Definitely a year full of life. And one of my largest dreams is to travel and to try experience what others experience in their homelands. We were on a budget, so our trip could not be too long or too far away. Latvia was the perfect option. My husband had been at an international seminar and some fellow participants from Latvia told him the places that we should visit. We took the ferry over the Baltic Sea into Tallinn. Estonia has many lovely places to offer but this time our goal was see Latvia. We left Friday evening with another couple, one of our best friends. Most of the summer we had spent with our families and so a little adults-only get-away felt wonderful. My words lack to describe the sense of freedom we had for a few days. No baby schedules to follow, and no one asking are-we-there-yet in the back seat. I do love my kids, mind you. But I realized once again how funny my husband was. We DO have a sense of humor afterall! Often in the everyday scramble, life is carried out and finding the moments to stop takes a bit of effort.

Turaidas pils

 

I know that as a tourist, only the tip of the iceberg is often uncovered. But there are many ways to travel, and perhaps we had a chance to uncover some of the true Latvian spirit, as we drove through the countryside and visited places that the locals visit as well. It truly was the Land of flowers. It seems as if every yard was shown so much love. Even the tall, concrete apartment buildings driving into Riga, from the era of Stalin had flowers generously decorating many of the balconies. Every once in a while, along the roadside there would be a table with flowers for sale. And they were always arranged so nice. If we didn’t have such a long way to go home, I would have brought home a large bouquet. Someday it would be nice to linger a bit longer and maybe get into a conversation with a local. There independence is still quite fresh and the political scientist in me would like to find out how life has changed in the past thirty years. Did they care for their gardens with the same intensity during the era of the Iron Curtain. Was that the thing they held onto and showed their national pride even if their independence was taken away, similar to how the as the Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians held onto their tradition of singing and formed the Singing Revolution with the remarkable Baltic Way human chain a peaceful political demonstration that involved about 2 million people that stood hand in hand spanning 675.5 km. (419.7 miles) all the way from the Old town of Tallinn to Riga and then on to Vilnius, singing songs spontaneously.

Riga

 

The countryside was full of gently rolling hills, more so than Estonia. And the season was farther along than in Finland as the grain had taken on a golden hue. In the middle of the fields a few large oaks had been left standing, majestic and strong. As we drove amongst the fields we would occasionally spot a few roe deer. Latvia has wild boars, but those we did not spot them in the wild. But we did spot several pairs of glowing eyes in the dark as we drove back to our hotel after dinner.

Since we were just the four of us, we were able to make random stops. We didn’t make it to the famous beaches, Jurmala or Liepaja, this time but next time they will be places to go to. We did stop by some smaller beaches and even if there was a strong wind, there was still a bit of summer in the air. Next time we will have to play in the waves.

Our intention was to spend our second night in Kuldiga which is a small medieval city in the western part of Latvia. It has the River Venta  running right through the town, which actually is Europe’s broadest waterfall although it is not very high. But we had accidently reserved rooms at the quaint little bed and breakfast, Kursu Krogs which was about 50 km from Kuldiga. It turned out to be the best mistake ever. It was such a lovely place with the most attentive service.

Kursu Krogs, a lovely B&B with friendly service. It used to be part of the old postal route.

 

We decided to drive to Kuldiga for the evening. We found the loveliest restaurant there, Bangert’s. The food was delicious and service was perfect. It seemed like we met so many friendly people in Latvia. The thing I really like about Bangert’s was they had many locally sourced options.

 

The story goes that Captain Bangert brought the house from Paris as a wedding present for his fiancée. The building standing there today is the replica of the original. It sits among large trees, next to a parkway and overlooks the River Venta.

 

Today I will share a recipe for a potato salad that has just the right amount of tartness to it and uses plenty of in-season produce. This dish is perfect to share at a party or get together. And because my garden is full of fresh carrots and I’m in love with the tart pesto the carrot greens make, the potatoes themselves are dressed with Carrot top pesto. The recipe can be found here.

Carrot Top Pesto potato salad

 

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

1 kg/ 2 lbs waxy potatoes, cooked and cooled
Carrot top pesto (recipe in the previous post and can be found here.)
A mix of fresh lettuce and kale
A generous bunch of string beans
3 large kale leaves, stem removed and roughly chopped
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt
chili flakes
black pepper

Boil the potatoes until tender but be careful to not overcook. Pour the water out of the pot and place the lid back on. Allow to cool for a few hours at room temperature. Make the Carrot Top Pesto (recipe here) and set aside until potatoes are cool. If the potatoes used are new potatoes, leave the skins on and cut into quarters or sixths depending on the size desired. Gently fold the carrot top pesto with the potatoes and set aside to marinate in the refrigerator.

Before serving. Spread the cleaned string beans or haricot vert onto a parchment lined oven sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle sea salt and black pepper. Bake at 160 C/ 320 F until they have a few brown spots and are nicely sizzling. (about 12-15 minutes). On another parchment lined baking sheet place the roughly chopped kale that has the stem removed. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and a few chili flakes. After the string beans are done bake the kale chips at 150 C/ 300 F for about 15-20 minutes or until they are dried but not too dark in color.

To serve the salad. Finely chop the remaining kale and mix in with the roughly chopped lettuce mix. Place the greens on a large platter. Next remove the potatoes from the refrigerator and layer them on top of the greens. Next place the roasted green beans on top of the potatoes and right before serving garnish with the kale chips.

blogging reality

As I was making the salad in the kitchen, our Hugo had parked his cars right in the midst of my photoshoot. First I started to move them, but then I thought to leave them. It is real life afterall.

The story of Latvia continues in the next post. I have posted pictures and moments from our trip on Instagram, feel free to check it out.

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

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Sand sculptures and picnic lunches

by tableofcolors

School was about to begin and we decided with another Mom friend of mine to take the kids on one last outing before they would need to go to school. Just about an hour away is Lappeenranta, which is right next to the Russian border and is has been built on the shores of the great lake area, the Saimaa. Every year the city opens a park full of sand sculptures. This year the theme was heroes. There were all sorts of heroes featured, superheroes from the comic books, athletes and everyday heroes such as doctors. Since the beginning of the summer had been so rainy, some of the sculptures had suffered a bit and were being fixed up.

lappenranta hiekkalinna

It was not long after we arrived and it was almost noon, so we decided to give the kids a little snack of watermelon, as we would have our picnic lunch later in the afternoon. My four year old was sitting on the bench eating her watermelon when a reporter for the local YLE (Finnish national public radio) radio station stopped by and asked if she interview one of the children. Bella just happened to be right there.

Have you been here before? “Yes, many times.”

Did you think the sculptures are better this year than before? “Yes, much better.”

Which is your favorite sculpture? “That castle over there” (It was the only sculpture that we had had a chance to look at since we had just arrived.)

What is your favorite thing to do here? “Eating” (munching on her watermelon, all through the interview)

I do have to mention, that she had never been to Lappeenranta before nor had we ever visited the sand sculptures before. She just conveniently came up with answers to the questions. After the interview, we had to let the reporter in on this little detail. I’m not sure I would have handled an interview so smoothly at four years old. At least she did give her correct name and age, when asked! And I forgot to take a photo of the whole deal. I was concentrating so hard on listening to her answers that I completely forgot even if I was holding my camera the entire time.

lappeenranta sand sculpturesrakuuna dragonlappenranta finland sand sculptures

It was quite late into the afternoon before we left the sand sculptures and went to find a greener park with shade for our picnic. We found a park that had a pavilion that the kids enjoyed creating their own performances and large trees that brought us a bit of shade after being in the sun all afternoon.

IMG_1745
roasted vegetable salad

I had made a salad bar style salad, with a basic salad base and then different options all in their own containers. This was the most convenient since we had different age eaters and sometimes the little ones haven’t really learned to eat nuts or if there is someone with a dietary restriction everyone is able to build a salad to their taste.

Roasted Vegetable salad

Roasted vegetables

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into sticks
1 generous handful of string beans, washed
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Prepapre the vegetables. Peel and cut the sweet potato into sticks. Wash the string beens and cut the tips off. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until tender and the vegetables have gained a bit of color at 180 C/ 350 F. Allow to cool and then place into a separate container.

Salad
Mixed greens (Romano, kale, curly endive lettuce, spinach…)
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Grapes, sliced in half
Cucumber, cubed
A few sliced strawberries (I happened to find a few last strawberries in my patch)
light vinaigrette dressing (lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, handful of parsely, or other gardern herbs, finely chopped)

Toss the salad and place into a larger container.

In separate containers pack with: roasted and shelled peanuts, cashews, dried cranberries, cheese cubed, pumpkin seeds, or anything else that takes your fancy.

picnic lunch

Lappenranta picnic

fixing the sand sculptures

Searching for the mythical characters of Kalevala

by tableofcolors

I’ve come to realize how much our history and maybe more specifically language has an impact on whole nations of people and the way we think. As a kid, I often heard it said that language defines a culture. I really did not understand the concept at the time. It was not until later that I realized that each language has their own words and phrases that often are difficult to translate because the feeling or experience is unique to that specific environment and surrounding. These expressions hold nuances that tell about the culture and mindset of the people and sometimes even explain the way people act. The Kalevala, which is the Finnish national epic poem, has had a significant part in the development of the Finnish language and identity and has been studied by scholars since Elias Lönnrot. Lönnrot was a physician, botanist and linguist. In the late 1820s and 1830s he made numerous field trips to collect the songs of the Kalevala and oral history that had been handed down from generation to generation but was slowing starting to disappear as Western European culture was making its way into Finland. The youtube link below is a Kalevala song with English subtitles.

The other week, we had a chance with Antti to go hiking in the landscape of the national park, Repovesi. As we walked and climbed the trails covered in small boulders or through the marsh on wooden planks, surrounded by a carpet of the light colored Sphagnum moss that had been used as insulation in houses of yesteryear, I could easily imagine the mythical world of the Kalevala that inhabited this Nordic land.

rahkasammal repovesi

The story begins with the creation of the earth and has characters that go on seemingly impossible expeditions to find a spell in order to acquire a skill such as boatmaking or ironmaking. In addition there are tales of romance, and kidnapping and seduction. In the midst of this all is the magical Sampo, which is like a talisman that brings it’s holder great fortune. As can be imagined it is something that is direly sought after.

boulder

Still today there are aspects of Finnish culture that refer back to the Kalevala. It is very common to meet children with names such as Sampo, Aino or Sampsa or an insurance company named Imarinen, or a jewelry company named Kalevala or an ice cream brand made by Valio called Aino.

forest pondCan’t you just imagine the maiden Aino coming to this forest pond to wash, when all around you is a perfect stillness only interrupted by the chatter of a squirrel and the song of bird?

olhavanvuori2Our destination was Olhava mountain which is very popular with rock climbers. Perhaps it was nostalgic for my husband as he has climbed the wall as an army conscript. I’m not sure I would dare.

At the base of Olhava there is a camp site where someone had forgotten their nearly brand new running shoes in a trendy neon color hanging over a makeshift clothesline. We took out our kuksa, which is a wooden cup made traditionally from the burl of a tree. Perhaps the mythical characters of Kalevala used the kuksa as well. An old tale tells that a kuksa may only be rinsed out in a stream but not washed with soap as you will wash away your luck. While we both had the same tea, my husband’s kuksa has been stained with the many cups of coffee he has had on previous trips and so his drink looked more like coffee than tea.

kuksa collage

making the kuksa, using coffee grounds as a stain

making the kuksa, using coffee grounds as a stain

We had simple fare along, sausages to roast over the fire, a few apples and rye bread with some butter and cheese.

repovesi camp siteI think next time I might pack along a small container of this melon salad that was inspired by my neighbor. I tweeked the original version a bit, but as it is very juicy it does not necessarily need any dressing. I dressed it simply with about a teaspoon or two of grated fresh ginger, a sprinkle of fleur de sel and a little black pepper.

IMG_7517Melon salad with Kale and Ginger

 

1/2 of a small or mini watermelon cut into small cubes
1/2 of a honey dew melon cut into small cubes
1/2 of a sweet onion, finely minced
two handfuls of kale, stems removed and finely chopped
fleur de sel
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger

Mix all of the ingredients together and enjoy. This salad stores quite well for a couple of days and is wonderful with grilled meat.

repovesi landscape

lichen2

reference source: wikipedia

 

There are bees in my kitchen

by tableofcolors

It is a clear sign of August when the bees take over. In July, they leave us alone and mind their own business but it seems as if they know the calendar. As soon as the August arrives they come in if the patio door is left open and I end up chasing after them with my vacuum cleaner. It is the most efficient way to dispose of them. When I went to go pick a few sprigs of mint for the photos this morning, the mint flowers were covered with bees. They had decided that the mint belonged to them and so I, ever so cautiously waited for a bit of a flower to free up and slipped in my scissors to claim a sprig. The other day I made a mint pesto for a potato salad inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi. He uses mint often and I find his cooking to be quite ingenius. So I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try a new flavor combination. It really worked out quite nicely and the mix of mint and peppermint from my patio planting boxes brought the perfect amount of freshness. I actually got enough of the mint pesto to freeze some of it in a penguin shaped ice cube tray for later use.

 

mint pesto CollageI just recently had a birthday and the potatoes were from my neighbor next door from their own potato patch. Another friend had brought over some the fresh produce from their garden as a gift. In my kitchen is trayful of fresh, organic treats waiting to be used. Both gifts were perfect for a foodie like me.

fresh produceMy next day after my birthday turned out to be quite exciting in more ways than one. It had been quite windy all morning and afternoon and the weather forecast was promising thunderstorms. We had been planning a kayak and canoe excursion with some friends. My husband who had made all of the arrangements decided that we are not going to give up and cancel. Afterall, it was my birthday present. Sometimes the thunderstorms pass over and may be quite local. And sometimes the weather forecast may be inaccurate. We loaded up in our van to pick up the trailer with the kayaks.

kayaking and the storm CollageAs we arrived to the rental place, the wind picked up and the storm arrived. A tree right behind the trailer came down and it rained so hard it felt like we were in a car wash. Finland usually does not have very strong storms. This storm was quite strong. I really wasn’t sure what we should do. We had all hire babysitters and made arrangements. My husband was still going kayaking. We waited out the storm and headed to the river a few kilometers aways. Good thing for axes and saws. We had to clear the road. Along the way we saw trampoline that had flown across a field and was bent in an arch. My neighbors trampoline was scooted across the yard and taken a gooseberry bush with it. All over there were trees knocked over and back home the electricity was out. After the storm passed, everything seems calm. And so we went kayaking and the weather was perfect.

kayaking CollageAround the same time I visited the Saturday morning outdoor flea market and found a lady that was selling vintage clothes and accessories. Everything was so well taken care of, clean and pressed. Then she told me that in the local old paper factory area called Taideruukki, is a cluster of creative businesses. Some of them sell local crafts and jewelry, vintage clothes and things, a photography studio and even a little coffee shop. What a find! And to think that I had not realized that it was in operation while it was nearly under my nose. I had to go visit to see for myself. I took with me our Isabella and her friend.

ruukinportti collageFrom there I found a creamer made by Opa. I used it to hold the mint pesto for my potato salad. The reason I was so pleased with my find was that it held a bit more than just 1.5 deciliters. Traditional Finnish coffee cups are very small but we tend to use larger mugs and so a larger creamer had been on the list for a couple of years.

mint pesto potato salad2Fresh potato salad with Mint Pesto
1 kg/2.2 lbs new potatoes, cooked until just tender and then cooled
600 g/21 oz oven roasted or grilled chicken cut into cubes
1 red onion
three handfuls of fresh peas
a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach
a small bunch of fresh chives and parsley

Mint poppy seed pesto
a large handful of fresh mint leaves, stems removed
(I used a mix of mint and peppermint)
generous dl/ 3/4 c olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp sunflower
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c poppy seeds
salt
black pepper

Boil the thoroughly scrubbed potatoes until just tender and allow to cool. Prepare the pesto by placing all the ingredients in a blender or in a tall cup and mix with an immersion wand. Set aside.
Cut the cooled potatoes and chicken into bite size pieces. Chop the onion into thin rings. Finely chop the herbs. Roughly chop the spinach and toss in with the potatoes, chicken, herbs and onions. Dress with the mint pesto and garnish with the fresh peas. Fresh the left over pesto in an ice cube tray for later use.

mint pesto potato saladThis post is a part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series for August. On the side bar of her blog is a list of kitchens from around the world.

Corktown

by tableofcolors

Perhaps if my life had taken different turns, I might have become an urbanist. I definitely could imagine it, as I’ve spent my childhood in a city and have always loved the atmosphere of a large city. Everything does not need to be too polished as often the oldest of structures has a story to tell and it can be seen on their door frames and floor boards. Even the wall might be rough to the touch with many layers of wallpaper and paint as remodelers of various levels of skill have attempted to make a space their home. And there is something fascinating about the people in cities. Everyone with their own stories to tell just as the buildings do, all living in a relatively small area of land close together sharing life yet living individually. One thing that I noticed in Detroit was the urban gardens. It is an idea that actually originated in Detroit and has been brought to other cities around the globe.
corktown
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying life in the middle of the fields where the wild spring and summer flowers bloom in an unorganized pattern each spring and summer, as a part of me has really come to enjoy the life in the countryside. But, I think I could really get used to stopping at Astro with its menu of interesting salads and sandwiches and coffee that has acquired a true art form.

astro coffee collage

Salad: quinoa, fennel, radicchio, chickpea, mint and almonds. Heavenly.

astro coffee

One day we ventured on foot for about six or seven hours. We explored Corktown as well as the downtown area. According to Wikipedia, the name Corktown is the oldest historic neighborhood in Detroit and the name evolved when Irish immigrants moved into the area. Most of them were from County Cork and thus the neighborhood was called Corktown. Right at the gateway of Corktown, coming from the downtown area is the Detroit Institue of Bagels. It was started by Ben who was baking bagels from home and needed a larger space for the business. My sister Kaija, has her own architectural design studio called Laavu and the Bagel Shop is one of the significant projects she has been involved in. What I really liked was that whenever possible old things had been salvaged from the buildings and put into new use. The lights hanging above the bagel mural had a previous life in a different building and have now found a new home here. I could imagine that if I lived in the neighborhood with my kids we might ocassionally stop in for bagels when a quick lunch is needed.

detroit institute of bagesbagel shop collagebagel muralvisiting the DIBThe little pocket park outside with the stools is for days when the sun is shining. The magnolia was not in bloom yet as the winter had been cold and spring had arrived a little late but I can imagine  what it would be like to sit in the park on one of the Beech seats.

pocketpark

After a day of walking and a ride on the monorail, Kaija made a salad that was similar in style to some of the things in Astro. And now I think I will be on the lookout for French lentils. They are the ones that keep their shape after being cooked, although you do need to be careful to not overcook. Most lentils that can be easily found here are better in soups and stews as they fall apart after being cooked. If I can’t find them from Säästä & Punnitse, I might just have to ask them to order some for me.

french lentil saladKaija’s Lentil salad

4.7 dl/2 cups French lentils
1 l/4 cups water
sea salt
1 small red onion, finely chopped
70 g/2.5 oz capers, finely chopped
4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
large handfuls of fresh herbs roughly chopped, for example curly parsley
other options: cilantro, rosemary, dill (whatever is in season)
100 g/3.5 oz dates, roughly chopped

Dressing
1/2 c white vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp. sea salt
2-4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground corriander seed
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp black pepper

Served with arugula.

Cook the French lentils in lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer in a covered pot for about 12-15 minutes or until soft, but do not over cook. Rinse and set aside to cool. Finely chop red onion(add more onion depending on mood or taste), celery,capers, herbs and dates. Toss in a large mixing bowl. Add lentils when cooled.

Prepare dressing. Mix vinegar, olive oil, and seasoning according to taste. Kaija loves the combination of cumin and lentil, so she often adds more cumin and doubles the amount of crushed red pepper. It gives the salad a wonderful dimension.

This salad can be served with greens. Kaija prefers peppery arugula, but is could be served with sea salt massaged kale as well.
To use leftovers, mix about 2 cups of lentil salad with an egg and fry into small “pancakes”. Serve with roughly chopped tomatoes. Delicious.

herbs and grainsdining room

And so, even though the last post had many pictures of abandoned homes and buildings, so many more are occupied and full of innovation.

Detroit Series: A Bankrupt City

Finding Funnel Chanterelles from bear forest

by tableofcolors

I have always been a city girl in my heart. It was not until I was an adult that I was introduced to a real forest, a place far from civilization, not just the little patch of woods in a parkway just down the road. For one year during the early years of our marriage we actually lived in the middle of this wilderness due to my husband’s work. To tell you the truth, I was a bit terrified of going on walks since I knew that bears inhabitated these woods. The town school was just two kilometers from where we lived at the time. I often would walk and pass the school with our oldest daughter who sat in the stroller still at that time. So small was she then. Feels like it was yesterday.

I had heard a story that once when the teacher was letting the kids out for recess, she all of a sudden told everyone to stay inside. There was a mama bear and her two cubs walking across the yard. I believed the story since not too far away, about halfway between our little home and the school, a bear had crossed the road leaving it’s large paw prints in the sand. We happened to drive by shortly after it happened and chatted with a few people that had seen it. But I had decided that I was not to be imprisoned in the apartment, and so nearly each day we would take our walks and I would keep my fingers crossed and occasionally cough to try keep the bears at bay.

In these same woods, we have sometimes gone exploring for mushrooms. Usually it is my husband who goes as he knows all of the good places but sometimes when I have the chance I go along. The funnel chanterelle (Craterellus tubaeformis) come up after the chanterelle mushroom season and sometimes they may be a bit hidden, but if you find one you will most likely find a whole patch to fill up your basket.

funnel chanterelle

This dish is really so simple but the flavors are fantastic. Our mushroom season is over now but when we still had fresh ones, we dried a part of them and some of them we fried with a bit of butter and then packed using the vacuum packer. They make a wonderful sauce. The savoy cabbage is quick roasted, rounding out the flavor and making a warm salad of sorts as a side.

Funnel chanterelle sauce with leeks

funnel chanterelles
1/2 of a leek, finely sliced
a knob of butter (30 g/10.5 oz)
2 dl/1 c cream
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c milk
or alternatively you may use half and half
rosemary
thyme
black pepper
salt

On a large frying pan, cook the mushrooms, leek and herbs with the butter until the water has evaporated so that it snaps and crackles just a bit. Pour on the cream and milk and allow to gently bubble for a few minutes. Serve over boiled potatoes and roasted Savoy cabbage.

mushroom sauce

Roasted Savoy Cabbage Salad

Savoy cabbage cut into wedges
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt
black pepper

Place the wedges of Savoy cabbage on a lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 175C/350 for about ten minutes.

savoy cabbage

Purple

by tableofcolors

As the season turns from one of brights yellows, reds and oranges the colors fade towards shades of grays, browns, and purples. Even my yellow mums turned purple as the cold nights arrived. The autumn here was a beautiful one, with quite little rain making for vibrant colors. Sometimes the fall rains arrive very early and it seems like the dark season before the arrival of snow is a long time and even a bit dreary. When the rains arrive early even the trees seem to match the mood and turn into earthy brownish tones. In some ways the darkness can be a relief. No need to be effiecient for sixteen hours a day since even the finger prints on the glass seem to hide. Just let the darkness envelope the house and light the candles and lanterns outside.
purple chrysanthemums
But this fall we have been lucky with an abundance of sunny days. It is not until just recently that the rains have arrived and it won’t be long until the first real snow fall. The photo below is of the field behind our house full of the purplish red clover. This was taken in October, but since then the field is still green but the flowers have become dots of brown and black.
red clovers
Even my favorite local coffee shop, Kahvila Ilo, has a fall-inspired salad on their menu. Marinated beetroot salad with fresh wild mushrooms from the forest.
2013-09-27 15.30.30
The red beets and the roasted carrots that I had made earlier were a source of inspiration and so for dinner one night we had my take on the traditional Lindströminpihvi, which is basically a ground beef patty that has grated beetroot in it giving it a purplish hue. There are a couple of different stories of the origin of the patty but in both versions it comes from Sweden.
lindströmin pihvi

My version of the Lindström patty

1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 red beet, finely grated
400 g/14 oz ground beef
1 egg
salt
pepper
1 dl/ 1/2 c bread crumbs ( I used fine rye crumbs that are available here but regular work just as well)
1/2 dl/ 1/2 c Greek yoghurt

Combine all of the above ingredients and form into small patties. Evenly space the patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 200 C/390 F.

Beetroot chips

Slice beetroots very finely and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with honey and olive oil and sprinkle with fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 200 C/390 F. Our family went through two pans. The bag of beetroot that I had bought at the grocery happened to have very small beetroot. Usually they are larger in size. Serve the Lindström patties with the roasted beetroot and goat cheese.
2013-09-24 14.59.07

A celebration at home

by tableofcolors

This past Sunday we had the baptism for our little Hugo. We have always held our baptisms at home and it is a fairly small, intimate affair with family members and close friends. I really enjoy organizing the celebration for the small baby, even though the baby has not an inkling of the color coordinated napkins, ribbons or macarons. Really those things are not the essence of the celebration but just something that I enjoy and find pleasing to the eye.
Hugo4
We had balmy weather, perfect for being outside and running barefoot on the lawn. Although I appreciate all seasons, my favorite season is summer. I love the warm days, the spring greens of early summer and the deeper greens of late summer. I chose green ribbons for our summer baby’s baptismal gown. The previous weekend I went to the local flea market on Saturday morning with a couple of our girls and the baby. I felt like I had found a treasure when I found some glass bottles for only an euro. Right away I could envision the flowers that they might hold and perhaps sometimes later, juice and a straw.
flowers outside
EllenkakkujaOrganizing the baptism involves the whole family. Everyone helps in their own way depending on their age and capabilities. Some helped with the baking, others helped pick the sprigs of blueberry and tall grasses and everyone helped clean and organize the house.

baking
Sugar cookies

We had a mix of sugar cut-outs and traditional gingerbread cookies that were in a variety of shapes and decorated using dark and white chocolate and nonpareils. The gingerbread recipe can be found here.The recipe below is one I have received from my sister a few years ago that I have altered a bit.

6 dl/2 and 1/2 c flour
1.8 dl/ 3/4 c almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
115 g/1/2 c butter
2.4 dl/1 c sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract
1.2 dl/ 1/2 c sour cream (I have also used greek yoghurt)

Beat the softened, room temperature butter with the sugar until fluffy and light in color. If using a stand mixer use the paddle attachment. Add the eggs in one at a time and beat at high speed until they incorporated into the cookie dough. Next add in the sour cream and almond or vanilla extract. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and fold into the dough. Allow the dough to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Roll the dough on a floured surface and use cookie cutters to make desired shapes. Bake at 175 C/350 F for a few minutes so that they have just a little color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Easily the day slips by and it is nice to have a few savory items on the menu. One of them is this Broccoli salad. It has become one of my new favorite salads. The recipe to the salad I found from the great REMcooks blog.

broccoli salad I tried it out and it tasted absolutely fantastic and all of my taste testers agreed with me. Not to mention that it fit the color scheme as well, a definite bonus! Other than two tiny alterations to the original recipe, I followed the recipe quite closely. I used dried cranberries instead of dried cherries just because they were not readily available here and I did not blanch the broccoli as the original recipe suggested. Either way it works fine.

3 crowns fresh broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (about 1 to 1-1/2 lb)
1.2 dl/1/2 cup red onion, small dice
1.2 dl/1/2 cup celery, small dice
0.8 dl/1/3 cup raisins
0.8 dl/1/3 cup dried cherries (or dried cranberries)
2.4 dl/1 cup almond slivers, toasted
0.8 dl/1/3 cup mayonnaise
1.6 dl/2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp wildflower honey
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
170 g/6 oz chorizo, cut into small pieces
1 tsp salt

Chop up the broccoli, red onion and celery and mixed them together. You may toast your almonds on the pan quickly before frying the chorizo or in the oven. Next I fried the chorizo and tossed them in with the broccoli. Then combine the remaining ingredients: raisin, cherries (cranberries), mayonnaise, Greek yoghurt, honey, balsamic vinegar and salt. Pour over the salad and mix until combined.

roses

In my next post I will share a few more recipes from the baptism menu.

Menu

Broccoli Salad
Garden Fresh Salad with Feta
Oven-toasted baguette slices with a rosmary honey-butter

Sugar cut-out cookies
Gingerbread cookies
Kiwi white chocolate cake
Macarons with a ganache and pistachio filling
Turtle brownies
Princess torte

Strawberry season

by tableofcolors

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The strawberry season came quickly upon on, almost too quickly! They are predicting a short and sweet season with an abundance of berries ripening in a very short time span. In some ways this is fortunate for us since they dropped the price per kilo making self-picked a very economical option this year! My husband and the kids headed to the strawberry farm and came back with 22 kg/48.5 lbs. of fresh strawberries. We have been eating strawberries at nearly every meal these past couple of days.
strawberries

shot of strawberry
One morning we had these little shots of strawberry smoothies for breakfast. The small size is perfect for the small folk. Click HERE for the recipe.

Most of the strawberries we froze, and as we made an inventory of the freezer we noticed that we still have an abundance of blueberries from last year as well as some home-pressed apple juice. The apple juice works wonderful with homemade hamburgers and salad for a Fourth-of-July dinner. It won’t be long before the new berries and apples are ripe. It is time to start truly emptying the freezer!
hamburgers

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Chop up vegetables of your choice. I used paprika, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and garlic. I marinated them in a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, black pepper, sea salt and fresh tarragon from the garden. Grill or sautè in a pan for a few minutes and serve over a fresh bed of mixed lettuce. Summer is all about easy foods using fresh ingredients. This salad is quick, easy and versatile. Just use the ingredients and herbs you happen to have on hand!
burgers
lettuce 2
For all of those that celebrate the American Independence Day, Happy Fourth of July!

Summer Picnics

by tableofcolors

Sometimes summer makes you wait in Finland, and it feels like it doesn’t really arrive until July. But this year summer arrived at the end of May. We have been enjoying our time at the beach just down the road. One important part of making a trek to the beach is the “picnic”. It is not always fancy depending on our schedule but having a little snack or lunch after the swim is key. Today we didn’t happen to have a snack along, only juice and there was a few protests to be heard!
picnic

This peppered smoked Mackerel salad with new potatoes works great at a picnic. If eating at home, I have used freshly smoked fish but when picnicing I have used the canned version and added it on the salad just before serving. It’s filling enough after a long day in the sun but not so heavy to weigh you down.

peppered mackeral salad

Peppered Mackerel Salad

1 kg/2.2 lbs new potatos cooked, cooled and peeled
1 small spring cabbage or kale, chopped
3-4 generous handfuls of chopped lettuce of your choice (Lollo Rossa, arugula etc)
1 can of kidney beans, rinsed
1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed
About 15 pickle slices cut into small pieces
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4 filets of smoked and peppered Mackerel

The salad can be assembled either in individual serving containers or in a bowl. Toss the variety of lettuce, cabbage/kale and place as the bottom layer. Next mix the beans and use it as the second layer. Third place the finely chopped pickles and red onion on top of the beans. Cut the potatoes into fourths or sixths depending on their size and place on the onion mixture. Last add the Mackerel and garnish with a few spears of steamed and seasoned asparagus spears. Drizzle on the dressing and enjoy!

Vinaigrette dressing
1 dl/0.4 c olive oil
1/2 dl/0.2 c balsamic vinegar
one handful of fresh dill finely chopped
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp sugar
fine seasalt to taste

soda
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