tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Category: Savory treats

Cabana de Empanadas

by tableofcolors

These past few months have been busy. And there is exciting news to be told regarding many different areas of life. I have been working hard with a couple of colleagues to open a new coffee shop concept right in the heart of Helsinki. Cabana de Empanadas will bring a ray of sunshine and color into the Nordic. Our empanadas include classics as well as flavors inspired by nature that surrounds us in the Nordic. But that is really is the essence of an empanada. It is a little handpie that has traveled across the globe beginning in the Arab region and Persia. Then they were called Sanbusak. With time they made their way to the Iberian Peninsula, Galicia and Portugal. From there they traveled with the Conquistadores to South America. With each stop, new flavors were introduced. And now as they make their way into the Nordic, we are leaving our handprint on the recipes as well.

jauheliha chorizo ja vesimeloni feta salaatti mintulla 2

Argentina Classic empanada and a watermelon feta salad

kirsikka ja dulce de leche 2

Cherry sage and Dulce de Leche Empanadas

And as often happens with new ventures, schedules are sometimes a bit delayed for various reasons. But sometimes it pays to wait.

cabana opening in april

 

lautaset

cabana de empandas interior design ester visua

Interior design by Elisa Ahonen from  Ester Visual

Big changes in life tend to happen in clusters, and often it is not because it has been planned this way. But rather it is a conglomeration of events, all stringed together.

9 monthsAnyday now little one, as it’s past due. “Sometimes you have to wait a long time for something good to happen, the longer the wait the better the benefit. ” -Unknown

Easter mummus FinlandHope your Easter time was spent with your close ones! This is all that is left of our snow fort, the sun has been shining in full force and the roads are just about thawed. Spring is on its way!

Follow the story of Cabana de Empanadas as it unfolds on Instagram and Facebookwww.cabanaempanada.com

cabana de empanadas logo

Elma’s travels

by tableofcolors

Last weekend we escaped for 24 hours. I have come to think that they are almost one of the best kinds of retreats. Certainly it does not offer the opportunity to travel somewhere far, but I have realized that often we don’t really explore all of the neat places that are close to home, not to mention that traveling close to home is often quite budget-friendly and usually organizing a babysitter is a fairly easy task. We drove a little over an hour East to Imatra which is almost right at the border between Finland and Russia. It was a place that Elma* had visited during her travels to Finland as well. She had come with great expectations, as there is a the State Hotel in Imatra that has been built in 1903 to represent a jugend-style castle. There had been two previous wooden hotels in the same location looking over the waterfalls and rapids but both had burned. It was a location favored by the Russian aristocracy and it can be called the oldest tourist attraction of Finland as even Russian Empress Catherine the Great visited in 1772. And so Elma had significant expectations. state hotel imatra salonIn her writings she describes the carvings of the animals that she thought were rather funny and the art that could be found in all of the rooms. She felt that she saw more art in one stay than in a normal year unless one visited art galleries. She described that the interior was rather simple with the crowning element in each room being a round green enamel wood-burning fireplace. The simplicity left room for the artwork, which in her opinion were not always of the highest quality, but were an improvement over the “The Lone wolf” print that could be found in nearly every waiting and sitting room in the USA (1930s) at that time.

state hotel imatraRight below the hotel is a small canyon that used to be full of rushing water. Today it is void of water except on certain days when they run water for show. I guess she had heard of it called the Niagara of Finland and wrote that they had heard too much and had imagined it to much wider and larger. But the nature in the area and in all of Finland found a place in her heart. She said that just five minutes outside of Niagara the spell is broken, but in Finland the enchantment continues all around.

imatra“In Imatra, the forest, roads and villages all give of themselves to afford an befitting view. Indeed, when traveling in any direction in Finland the enchantment does not break. In between there is changes (in landscape) but this natural picture has no gaps and it flows like a poem. The plentifulness of wood and the force of the water are ideal for the factory. Practicality and beauty are combined. The company’s railroad goes through picturesque forest and the factory looks like a large vacation home situated right above the river. The workmens’ wives use a shared laundry room, which they are able to use on certain appointed days along with the laundry machines and wringer. And while children play the talkative tongues of the mothers’ make this difficult work day a day of joy.”

saimaa fallsThe Imatra Falls enjoyed their peak in tourism during the late 1800s and early 1900s. St. Petersburg was only about 40 kilometers away and during that time Finland was an autonomous part of Russia meaning that travel across the border was simple and wealthy Russians came to Finland as it was so much closer than central Europe. But as often happens with the advance of technology and industry, a dam was built in 1929 which dried up the falls except for on certain days.

These two links show the Imatra falls in the old days. The one above is a slide show of old postcards that showcase the landscape of the rushing falls. The link below is series of old photos of people posing at the falls. Perhaps this is the scene that met Elma when she arrived in Imatra.

We didn’t stay at the old State Hotel, rather we stayed at the Holiday Club Saimaa which is about 16 kilometers outside of Imatra. The scenery is beautiful there and we enjoyed a walk along the shores of the Saimaa, Finland’s largest lake and Europe’s fourth largest lake.

saimaaJust a few weeks back the landscape was quite brown, but with all of the rain, there are buds and sometimes even small leaves on trees. The green is the fresh spring green, that comes and goes just as quick before the deeper greens of summer. Even the hotel restaurant, Le Biff had light greens on it’s menu as it had a separate asparagus menu which I tried.

asparagus tart starter le biff

Asparagus tart and small salad with pesto dressing

As a suprise, all diners that evening received little cups of fresh asparagus and pea soup before their starter. The flavor was fresh and peppery and so I decided to give it a try at home this week.

asparagus and pea soup

Fresh aspargus and pea soup

600 g/21 oz fresh or frozen peas (I used frozen)
One bunch of asparagus, trimmed and washed
enough water to just cover the vegetables (or half and half water/vegetable stock)
juice of one lemon
handful of parsley, chopped
salt
black pepper

Wash and trim the asparagus. I always use a vegetable peeler and peel the woody parts away on the stalk. Chop into bite size pieces and place into a medium size pot. Add the peas and cover with water. Alternatively you may use half water and half vegetable stock. Place on heat and allow to simmer until the asparagus is tender. Add lemon juice, salt and black pepper and a handful of chopped fresh parsley.

Using an immersion wand, mix until fairly smooth. I left a bit of texture. Serve as a starter or as a lunch with fresh crusty bread and garnish with black pepper.

fresh asparagus and pea soupquality time

*Elma is my Great-great Aunt and a colorful persona who lived in the Finnish quarter of Minneapolis and visited Finland in the 1930s.

Previous posts about Elma: Some Mean Coffee, Easter Mummus, a Bobcat and our very own Wild Thing, Following Elma’s footsteps, Keepsakes in my Kitchen, Elma, In my Kitchen in the Bleak mid-winter, Memories of times passed

historical resource: Historical pages of the city of Imatra

May

by tableofcolors

My bucket list of places to see in Stockholm seemed to just grow after visiting there. Three days was clearly enough to whet the appetite. We did have the opportunity visit some restaurants and the old market hall or Saluhall in Östermalm and Rosendals Trädgård, a beautiful garden center with a lovely café and bakery. The bakery has a wood burning oven with which they bake their breads. I could see the smoke rising from the chimney into the blue sky. The bread was perfect. Perfectly moist and chewy on the inside and a crusty crust that crunches a bit when you bite into it. Rosendals, meaning the Rose Valley, has a long history of gardeners going back to the later 1700s. It is located on the island of Djurgården which is situated behind Skansen, a historical outdoor museum and zoo. While we did not have time to visit Skansen, it is a place I will be taking my girls. But I do think they would have liked Rosendals as well, and am very grateful to the lovely Mizz Marzipan for all of her suggestions.rosendals collage

Rosendals has a lovely café and everything they serve is organic. During the growing season they try to serve as much of their own produce as possible.

 

rosendals stockholm collagerosendals  organic roastbeefFor lunch they had three different lunch time options in addition to the sandwiches and sweets on display on a large table. We had their roast beef that was nestled on top of a roasted endive half and a spring onion that still had its roots intact. The roots were actually quite delicious as they had become almost crisp from the grilling. Lunch starts at 11.30 and we arrived a bit before. As soon as lunch service started, the parking lot off to side began filling up and the line became long. It clearly was a popular place to come enjoy the beautiful spring day.

specerietOne evening we had dinner at a restaurant called Speceriet which is located in the Östermalm area of Stockholm. Instead of having separate tables, there were three community tables. Our timing was perfect. Just a bit after we were seated the place began filling up. As they do not take reservations, it all depends on your luck and timing. I think that it is a place that would be easy to come to by yourself or with your friends and family. We had goat kid that rested on a bed of roasted beetroot and goat cheese.

goat kid speceriet stockholmAlso situated in Östermalm is the old Market Hall or Saluhall. We found it slightly by accident as we were wandering about and ended up visiting it twice. Once we had lunch there, and my lunch plate of pickled herring reminded me of our family’s summer go-to fast-food when we are in rush.

old saluhall stockholmplate of pickled herringEvery summer when we have been spending the day outside and there is not the desire to linger in the kitchen longer than necessary, we boil up a batch of new potatoes and open a jar of pickled herring and make a quick salad. I think it could be the perfect lunch for May Day as well since the sun is shining today. This time around I sautéed a bit of asparagus in coconut oil. It turned out delicious and a bit crispy.

sautéing asparagus in coconut oilmay day food

Yesterday I had a meeting in Helsinki and afterwards there was the opportunity to walk around the city and observe the city as it had donned their caps for Vappu or May Day. It is traditional for people to wear their white gradution cap. Some of them are already old and yellow but perhaps even more prized than the clean white ones, as it was not as common for everyone to have graduated from lukio or the Finnish high school back in the 1920s, 30s, or 40s.

helsinki may day vappuhelsinki cityscapeBack at home the kids were just as excited if not more so with their contagious energy.

clown

vappu ballons mayday at homeHappy May Day to all of you my dear readers!

Torpatoffeln shoes made in Sweden

Torpatoffeln shoes made in Sweden

I almost forgot, Lisa! Here is a snapshot of the shoes I bought in Sweden that I promised to post…they are comfortable to wear and I do gain a few inches of height. 🙂

Being thirteen

by tableofcolors

Finland is full of Christmas parties or as they call them, pikkujoulu. Our children love organizing a pikkujoulu and last night we had a houseful of thirteen year-olds. Watching your own children grow up often brings me back to when I was the same age. There is something a bit beautiful and at the same time a bit awkward about being thirteen. They are trying so hard to be grown-up and at the same time they aren’t quite there yet. Privilege and responsibility go hand in hand and it is a steep learning curve for the parents to find the fine balance between the two. I notice that it is easy to expect responsibility and at the same time I need to learn to let go and give the opportunity for a little freedom. They don’t learn without practice. How were your teenage years? I remember that the spoken opinions and just as importantly the non-verbal opinions made by my friends were very important. I was very much a goody-goody-two-shoes, which I am sure, annoyed some, and in general wanted to please everyone and never wanted anyone mad at me. While I still am that way deep down, I would like to believe that I have learned that not everyone can be pleased and unfortunately you can’t be everyones’ best friend.

pikkujoulu collage

recipe for the date cake treats can be found here

I remember going to the mall with my friends when we were about twelve or thirteen. It was right before Easter. We spent a good amount of time discussing if we were too old to take our picture with the Easter Bunny. Someone might think that we actually still believed in the Easter Bunny and…Gasp! That would have been disastrous! In the end we decided that we could take our photo with the Bunny and I have a copy of it in my album as a keepsake. So glad we dared!

The evening was fun and even our little ones joined the games. At first our Erik was complaining why the whole house was full of girls and no boys but he was satisfied after he was able to have first dibs at the table. Later when they played a game where one had to keep a straight face, he told me “Easy, I can do it no problem” and so I told him to go join. He is used to girls and so he had no qualms joining in and pretty soon everyone else was laughing but him. I had a hard time keeping a straight face as well.

pizzas in a tin collage

These pizzas-in-a-tin work great with the younger crowd but you could serve them just as well to youthful adults. I thought they were pretty good if I may say so myself and at the party they disappeared quickly. The dough is soft due to the mashed potato flakes.

 

Pizza-in-a-tin (makes about 35)

Crust
6 dl/2.5 c warm water
1 block of fresh yeast (50 g) or one sachet of dry yeast
2 dl/just under 1 c potato flakes
generous 1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 dl/ 1/2 c rye flour
about 9 dl/3.8 dl flour
2 tbsp olive oil

Sauce
500 g/17.5 oz pasta sauce (homemade or if you’re in a pinch ready made from the store)
500 g/17.5 oz crushed tomatoes
1 package (170 g/6 oz) bacon
1 onion, finely chopped
pepper, salt, oregano, basil

Grated cheese (I used a mix of mozzarella and emmental)

pizza in a muffin tin

Pour the warm water into a large bowl and add the yeast and brown sugar to it. Allow it activate for a few minutes. I usually use frozen fresh yeast and I just put the frozen block into the warm water and wait for it to thaw out (about 5 minutes). I use the dough hook with my kitchen aid but you could knead the dough by hand just as easily. Next add the salt, potato flakes, rye flour and half of the flour. Knead the dough for a few minutes. Add more flour and continue kneading. I never add all of the flour at once. If the flour is drier it will absorb more liquid than if it contains more moisture. The dough will be slightly sticky but still workable. As the dough is forming elasticity add in the oil. As I was in a pinch for time I did not allow it to rise, rather I rolled it out immediately and cut circles out with a cutter. I let them rise once in the tin.

I made the sauce while the kitchen aid kneaded my dough, but if you may let the dough to rise while making your sauce. Fry the bacon and chopped onion on medium heat until cooked but not crisp. Add the sauce, crushed tomatoes and seasoning. Allow to simmer on low so that some of the liquid has evaporated and it has slightly condensed. Remove from heat.

Spray muffin tins (I had three on hand) with non-stick spray and place the circle of dough on the bottom. Next spoon one tablespoon of sauce in each muffin tin and a sprinkle of grated cheese. Bake at 175 C/350 F for about 8-10 minutes or so that the bottom of the mini pizza has slight color.

Enjoy warm!

blue moment

blue moment–sininen hetki

 

All my little pumpkins

by tableofcolors

holiday 1

I had been waiting for the right opportunity. And it just so happened that all of the pieces fell into place the other weekend. The light was right, it was not raining, the kids were all home and not at school since it was Saturday and as an extra added bonus there was a little frost that made the tips of hay in the field look like they had been sprinkled with powdered sugar. We were about to take our Christmas card photos. I had been discussing it with the kids for a few days and our Erik definitely wanted us to try redo the idea from our 2010 card below. He was just a little squirt back then and stole the show.

christmas2010I agreed that we could give the idea another try. The way I usually photograph kids is to try get them into their most natural environment. In other words I encourage them to act like kids. I think it brings out the best expressions and their personal nature. As you can imagine it took quite a few shots to get the perfect one.

holiday 5holiday 6As we were getting ready, some were quicker than others as is usually the case and kept asking if they could go outside yet. I was trying to slow them down, knowing that since the temperature was just a bit below freezing, they would be inside complaining about the cold before the slower ones even made it outside. Finally, we were all ready. Which one do you like?

pumpkin puréeMeanwhile in my kitchen I have been experimenting with pumpkins and squash. The thing is that in Finland you cannot really find proper canned pumpkin purée and the stuff I have found is the already spiced variety. Nearly every trip to the States I have taken a can or two back with me. This last time my suitcase was so heavy that I had to do a quick re-pack at the airport counter. I could just blame it on the baby and all of the things he needs, but the truth is that I have not mastered the skill of light packing. I always feel that I should take all those necessary things with me just in case, not to mention the eight pairs of shoes that I had with. That number did not include the baby’s shoes. Almost every autumn I have tried making pumpkin purée and I think I finally learned the trick. My problem in the past has been that it is quite watery and when added to recipes the result is quite bland. The secret is to allow the oven roasted pumpkin to drain for an hour after it has been puréed.

Pumpkin purée

1 pumpkin, cut into half and seeds removed
a large oven pan with sides
water

Line the large pan with parchment paper. This will make for easy clean-up. Cut the pumpkin into half and remove the seeds. I like to use a melon scoop as it is sharp enough to cut the strands surrounding the seeds. Pour about a 1.5 cm or half and inch of water into the pan and place the pumpkin halves cut side down into the pan. Bake at 160 C/320 F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the pumpkin feels tender when poked with a knife.

Allow to cool and remove the skin. It should come off very easily. Cut the pumpkin into large chunks and purée with an immersion blender. Place into a sieve over a bowl and allow to drain for at least an hour. Your may gently press down once or twice with a spoon to help release excess water.

spaghetti squash collageThis past week I found a spaghetti squash at our local supermarket. It was a rare find indeed in this part of the world and since there were only two left on the shelf I thought that I must purchase it now, for it might be soon gone. Soon after Halloween, there were no pumpkins to be found at the grocery. Pumpkin just isn’t a thing here. I read a few blogs and then tried my own experimentation. I followed the same steps as with pumpkin purée above.

Spaghetti squash gets it’s name from the strands the flesh forms after it is baked. I used a fork to pull it out of the skin. It would work great with a sauce or sautéed with some garlic and butter. If I was to do this again I would not bake it as long, rather allowing to be al dente as it continues to cook when sautéed and mine turned almost to a mush at that point.

Spaghetti squash with garlic and kale

 

1 spaghetti squash, cut into half and seeds removed
water
knob of butter
handful of kale, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
salt
black pepper
blue cheese, crumbled

Line a baking pan with sides with parchment paper and pour about 1.5 cm/ 1/2 inch of water. Place the squash halves so that they are facing cut side down. Bake at 160 C/320 F for about 40-45 minutes or so that it feels tender but not too soft. I baked my for an hour and it was too long.

Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool. Turn the squash over and using a fork remove the inside of the squash and set aside. Mince three cloves of garlic and heat a generous knob of butter on a frying pan. Add the garlic and squash and sautée for a bit. Add the chopped kale and parsely. Last add in a sprinkle of blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Check for flavor.

sautéed spaghetti squashholiday 10

A treasure hunt in the forest

by tableofcolors

Today is the perfect type of day to write a blog. In my room that has the computer, the blinds have been pulled up completely letting in the soft light of late October. Today is a rainy, windy and gray day and although I prefer to spend some time outside everyday, it is not especially enticing today. The leaves have now fallen and so the splashes of color that decorated the horizon is now a mere memory. It has been a little while since I wrote my blog last. The children had their fall break and all of the days were full of activity as we visited their grandparent’s a couple of hours away and had company visit us at the end of the week. And during that time our little one, almost not a baby anymore (although I still consider him one), learned to give little kisses.

little loveThe other week our family went on a mushroom picking trip with another family that we have been close friends with for years. The weather was quite warm and the kids thought it was almost like a treasure hunt. We only had a few hours and after scavenging one area of the forest, our Erik asked why were were quitting so early. Once you find one yellowfoot or funnel chanterelle, usually there is a cluster of them and the picking is quick if the spot is good.

picking yellowfootsuppilovahvero yellowfoot collageWe came home with about ten liters. Yesterday I read in the newspaper that even after our cold spell last week with freezing temperatures, the experts are saying that yellowfoot could still be picked since the warm and wet weather returned. So we will have to see if we make it into the woods once again before the snow falls.

I think the best way to store the mushrooms is by sautéeing them for a bit in a little butter and then vacuum packing them for the freezer. Most of the mushrooms we ate fresh and made a sauce for our Sunday dinner but some I saved for mushroom tarts this past weekend. This would be the perfect holiday fare and could be made with other mushrooms as well.

mushroom tart suppilovahvero piirakkaMushroom tart with leek  suppilovahvero piirakka
makes one large tart about 25 cm/ 9 inches or two smaller tarts

one portion of pie crust (recipe by Weiland and Tierney)

3 dl/1 and 1/3 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
115 g/4 oz unsalted cold butter cut into cubes
1 and 1/2 tbsp cold lemon juice
2-3 tbsp ice cold water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture is crumbly. I like to use my kitchenaid for this with the paddle attachment. Add the cold lemon juice and water and work the dough until it forms a ball. Allow to rest in the refrigerator while preparing the filling. This pie crust freezes very well and can be prepared well in advance.

Filling

230 g/8 oz sauteed mushrooms
1/4 of a leek, finely chopped
240 g/8.5 oz sour cream
2 eggs
65 g/2.3 oz sharp cheese of your choice, grated (I used a mature Präst cheese)
salt
black pepper
oregano
marjoram

Sauté the cleaned and roughly chopped mushrooms and leeks until the liquid begins to evaporate. Add salt, pepper, oregano and marjoram and check for flavor. Remove from the heat. In another bowl, whisk together the sour cream, eggs, Präst cheese, salt and black pepper. Set aside for a few minutes.

Roll out the pie crust and place into the tart pan or pans. Prick the bottom with a fork. Add the mushrooms and leeks to the sour cream mixture and stir until combined. Pour into the tart pan and bake in the oven at 175 C/350 F for about 15 minutes if making two smaller tarts and 20-25 minutes for a larger tart. Allow to cool a bit before serving with a salad.

two little onesThe little one has a mind of his own. He has been taking steps for almost two months now when we encourage him, sometimes even twenty at a time, but he has not still decided that he is ready to walk. He thinks walking on his knees is the way to go.

girls picking musrhooms

Blini in the sunset

by tableofcolors

A couple of weeks ago my husband made his annual hunting trip to the Swedish Lapland. This time it was only three gentlemen and three dogs as the rest had conflicting schedules. In the north where they were, the foliage on the ground was starting to turn colors while the trees were quite green. I have been impressed as they do real cooking everyday. They usually make one crockpot meal and on other days they might make premium burgers that would make a fast food burger pale in comparison or roast chicken. Yes, the meals tend to be quite masculine in that they have plenty of meat but on the other hand they are trekking in the forest of the nordic fell all day and eat their main meal after they return to the cabin. The time that the ladies came along two years ago, we were served plenty of greens. So I suppose their meals are quite well balanced. That time as well, they took care of the meal planning and cooking. It was a true vacation.tunturin syksy Since I began blogging a little over two years ago, this has become a family project. So my husband took these photos of northern Sweden for me to share. Back at home we had an abundance of apples received from friends and coworkers. Our three little apple trees were just planted this summer and fall and so it will be some time before they grow to become good climbing trees full of fruit. Some of the apples were pressed for fresh apple cider and some apple sauce was made in the crockpot and a couple of apple crisps were made as well. Did you notice the apple that jumped out of the basket and rolled across the patio? This time I happened to be at the right place at the right time and snap the shot as well. It doesn’t always quite work out that way.

jumping applesWhile the men were gone we enjoyed a meal of what I thought was Blini but was actually Oladji, as one dear reader pointed out in the comments. Blini are the thin and crêpe-like and Oladji are thick and hearty. Mine were the thick and hearty version and served with savory fillings might be just the perfect meal after a hunting or fishing trip. I used only buckwheat which makes them completely gluten-free but if preferred you may subsitute some of the buckwheat flour with regular wheat flour. The dough is thick and includes yeast and must be made into a large bowl as it will rise and be full of air bubbles.

blini doughThe reason why I thought these would be a perfect part of their menu repertoire is that the dough can be mixed in the early morning and then placed into the fridge for the day to rise. Then when they make their way back to the cabin in the evening, only a hot griddle is needed with some butter and a savory topping that can be easily mixed by the others while one fries.

bliniIn Russia, these round blini symbolize the sun and are quite rich. Traditionally they are served before Lent with melted butter, sour cream, caviar, jam and really, the list could go on. I served my blini with shrimp and a dollop of sour cream that had a bit of red onion and dill in it. You could use your imagination and serve your blini with what suits your fancy.

 

Blini or more correctly Oladji    gluten-free (makes about 15)

recipe from Viljatuote buckwheat package

3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c Greek or Turkish yoghurt
15 g/ 1/2 oz yeast (I used fresh yeast)
2 dl/ just under 1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp sugar
1 dl/ just under 1/2 c hot milk
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted butter
1 yolk
1 egg white

Warm the yoghurt until it is luke warm. Stir in the yeast until it is dissolved and then add the buckwheat flour and sugar. Allow the dough to rise for a couple of hours at room temperature or for longer in the refrigerator. Before frying the pancakes add the hot milk, salt, melted butter, egg yolk. Whip the egg white until fluffy and fold into the batter. Fry the blini in a knob of butter at low temperature in a frying pan or a blini pan. Serve hot with a topping of your choice.

Topping

2 dl/1 c sour cream
juice from a half of a lemon
1 small red onion, finely chopped
small handful of dill, finely chopped
salt
black pepper

Shrimp

Mix all of the ingredients except for the shrimp. Spoon a large spoonful of sour cream topping on the blini and serve with shrimp.

sunset in swedennordic fellswedish lapland landscape

Glistening Crystals

by tableofcolors

We don’t have snow here in southern Finland yet but the weather has turned and since the ground was still quite wet after our misty season of gray days and rains, the crisp freezing temperatures changed the landscape. Everything acquired a coating of crystals that glisten and dance in the sunlight. The night had been a colder one with clear skies and when I was driving home last night I could see the stars in the night sky. And when morning greeted us with sunshine it could be called an energizing experience. What was somewhat of a dull, brown and gray landscape just two days ago turned into winter wonderland without the snow. Even the kids got up eagerly this morning even though it was still almost as dark as the night and Erik asked me, “How deep is it outside?” thinking the frost was snow.

ice crystals
The snow is yet to come but now the puddles have a covering of ice that crackle and crunch when walking on them. I still like to walk over the frozen puddles and they remind me of grade school days and walking to the bus stop in the early morning. There was something so satisfying about those frozen puddles and the noise they made.
2013-11-26 13.18.42-2
Something else that I remember doing as a kid was poring over ads that came with the Sunday paper. I remember seeing ads for fondue sets and there was something so intriguing about fondue. Maybe it was because I loved cheese and especially melted and stringy cheese. A couple of years ago we received from my sister and her husband a little fondue set for Christmas and it has been great. I can get my kids to eat just about anything if they are allowed to used the fondue spears and dip it in a cheese sauce. I often will make a herb and onion encrusted focaccia and nobody complains about the “green stuff”. If you happen to have any picky eaters at your house, a fondue set might do the trick.

Fondue just seemed like the perfect thing to have on a day that is crisp and cold. We did get our share of fresh air and exercise as we brought our four-year old to his day circle. He went on his bike and I walked and ran along side him with the double jogger and the two little ones inside. All of the cold, crisp air whets the appetite.
fondue2
This time I made mini garlic focaccia with a whole grain bread flour that has a mixture of cracked wheat, wheat flour and rye flour. You could make your own mix of flours or buy different kind of whole grain mix available at your local store. We cut the rolls into cubes making them easy to dip.

Whole grain garlic focaccia

5 dl/little over 2 cups of warm water
1 block (50 g) of fresh yeast or 1 sachet of dry yeast (almost 4 tsps)
1 heaping tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp sea salt
10-11 dl/4 and 1/2 c whole grain flour mix
1/4 dl/1/8 c olive oil

On top:
about 6 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil
black pepper
sea salt flakes

Place the water, yeast, salt and sugar into a bowl or stand mixer. Mix until combined and add half of the flour. Knead until combined and continue adding flour. Knead well. This dough can be a little sticky. Add the oil last and allow to rise until double in size. To save with the clean up, I do not pour the dough on the table, rather I did the whole process in the bowl. After the dough has risen, punch is down and take small handful and place them evenly spaced onto a lined baking sheet.
2013-11-25 15.49.39-2
Make an indentation with two fingers on each roll and place a half teaspoon of minced garlic in each indentation. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper and sea salt flakes. Allow to rise and then bake in the oven for about 12 minutes at 225 C/430 F or until golden brown.
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garlic focaccia

Cheese fondue

50 g/1.8 oz butter
3 heaping tbsp flour
5 dl/generous 2 cups milk
100 g/ 3.5 oz shredded cheese (I use a mix of a strong cheese (ie. gruyére) and a milder cheese (ie. Oltermanni, Havarti or Muenster)
salt
black pepper
dash of white pepper
1-2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

melted butter with flour
Melt the butter with the flour in a sauce pan and allow it to bubble for a minute. Do not let it brown. Whisk in the milk and cook until it has become thick. Add the salt, pepper and white pepper to it. Take of the heat and add the grated cheese to it and mix. Add the balsamic vinegar and heat if needed. Serve with chunks of garlic focaccia.

fondue

Midsummer and Crepes

by tableofcolors

During midsummer it seems as if our internal clock goes into a summer mode. Usually the kids are in bed at 8.30 pm and the wake up is at 7 am during the school year. But once school is out it takes about three days to go into summer schedule where bedtime is closer to 10 pm and wake-up around 9 am for the kids. During midsummers bedtime tends to go even a bit later. Mom, however prefers an earlier bedtime for the kids and after the weekend we try to aim for the 10 pm bedtime.  It is so easy to lose track of time when the day is so long and light. This midsummers we were at home enjoying our new little Hugo, who has been a super baby. We made crêpes on a couple of occasions, as they seem to go hand-in-hand with summer, spending time together and have won the “kid’s choice” award in our house. Making crêpes is somewhat of a whole family affair. In Finnish crêpes are called lettu, lätty or räiskäle, depending on the region or the dialect.

Our little fisherman had gone fishing with Dad one evening. He was quite proud coming home with two rainbow trout.
fishing
We had oven-baked fish one evening and for the next evening we made savory nettle crêpes and rainbow trout filling with the leftover fish. Smoked Salmon could be easily substituted in and would also make a wonderful filling.
lohi crepe

Rainbow Trout filled savory Crêpes

Crêpes

1.5 l/6.3 c milk
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 dl/ 1/2 c wheat bran
2.4 dl/1 c dried nettle
11.8 dl/5 c flour
4 eggs
1/2 dl/1/4 c oil

Mix the ingredients and whisk until smooth. Fry on medium hot griddle with a little oil. This is a fairly large batter so you may prefer to halve it to better fit your needs. Serve warm with the Rainbow Trout filling.

Rainbow Trout filling

160 g/5.6 oz Rainbow Trout or Salmon
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
200g/7 oz sour cream
handful of fresh dill, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
black pepper
salt
little mustard according to taste

A couple of evening after having our Rainbow Trout-filled crêpes, I was trying to think of a evening snack/supper after a long day of being outdoors and swimming. Since my husband had just gotten our summer kitchen fixed up we decided to give it a try and so Crêpes or lettuja won the popular vote. This time we made the sweeter version.

letun paisto

Sweet Crêpes

1.5 l/6.3 c milk
1 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
2 tsp salt
1 dl/ 1/2 c wheat bran
11.8 dl/5 c flour
4 eggs
1/2 dl/1/4 c oil

Combine ingredients and whisk until smooth. Fry on a medium-hot griddle until golden brown. Serve warm. Feel free to halve the recipe if making for a smaller crowd. Serve with a topping of your choice, berries, whipped cream, jams or preserves, ice cream or a simple sprinkle of sugar.

lettu

The Season of Celebrations

by tableofcolors

As the season of celebrations approaches I thought I would share a very traditional Finnish savory dish that has been done in a very non-Finnish way.
The sandwich cake or voileipäkakku is served at many graduation and confirmation parties as well as at baptisms. I was able to make one for a friend this past weekend and I thought to give it an untraditional twist in flavor.

The sandwich cake is basically a loaf of good quality bread sliced lengthwise. Each layer is filled with a filling, often alternating between two different fillings. The most common sandwich cakes have either a meat filling or a fish filling. The recipe below uses meat as one ingredient. The frosting is often a cream cheese or mayonnaise. My recipe uses a combination of marscapone and cream cheese. I find that cream cheese has a fairly strong flavor and the marscapone brings a nice soft flavor and texture.

filling2

Sandwich cake with asparagus

Start by slicing the bread lenghtwise and cutting off both the top and bottom crusts. For this cake I actually used two loaves of bread side by side so that it made a bigger cake. Make sure to cut away the crusts since that will insure ease when cutting and serving the cake.

Next make the fillings. Feel free to use your imagination. I veered away from the traditional fillings and made a pesto for one layer and used a good quality hummus to flavor the second filling.

Pesto filling:
2 handfuls of fresh basil (about 40 grams)
1 clove of garlic
0.6 dl/ 1/4 c pine nuts
50 g parmesean cheese
black pepper
little dash of sea salt
0.6 dl/ 1/4 c olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
Place in the blender and pulse until fairly smooth.
Mix the pesto with 100g /3.5 oz of cream cheese and 125 g/4.4 oz marscapone cheese. When combined at 100 g /3.5 oz of finely chopped good quality deli ham.

Beef and hummus filling:
20 g/ 0.7 oz chopped fresh parsley
A few sprigs of chives, chopped finely
100 g/3.5 oz deli cut peppered beef finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper finely chopped
3 generous tablespoons of hummus
200 g /7 oz cream cheese
125 g/4.4 oz marscapone cheese
sea salt
black pepper

Before spreading the filling on each layer pour milk in a glass and spoon it on the bread to soften it up a bit. The amount of milk needed depends on the bread. If the bread if very soft less milk will be needed and for a more courser grain bread a little more milk is necessary.

After the sandwich cake has been filled, cut off the crusts and cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight.

voileipäkakku

“Frosting”
250 g/8.8 oz marscapone cheese
300g /10.6 oz cream cheese
handful of parsley, chopped finely
2 tbsp of finely chopped fresh chives
sea salt
black pepper
dash of freshly ground chili flakes
Mix until smooth and spread evenly over the sandwich cake.

asparagus

Since asparagus is in season and it is a nice looking vegetable I thought to try for a springy “asparagus forest” look. I cut away the tough ends and peeled away the tougher skin along the bottom half of the stem before steaming them lightly in the microwave. After steaming them, drizzle olive oil and lightly season them with salt and pepper. Allow to cool a bit before placing them on the cake. The top is garnished with prosciutto ham tied with a sprig of fresh chives. The decorating part is fun since there are really no rules to follow, just be creative!

voileipäkakku2