Simple pleasures

Tag: pesto

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.


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.


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.


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!



Carbo Load

by tableofcolors

When I was in high school the cross country running team would always have a Carbo Load before a competition. It was a good reason to get together to eat carbohydrates, bond and relax together. It was a time when carbs were in and fat was out.

Since then carbohydrates have gone out and fats, or more specifically oils have come back into style. Carbohydrates or the consumption of too many of them have been labeled as the culprit in Western society for many diseases including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Fortunately the issue is not this simple. Carbohydrates are not all created equal. There are the simple ones or sugars that can be found in sodas, juices, refined grains, fruits, honey, chocolate and yes, in dessert. The chemical structure of simple carbohydrates has one or two sugars linked to each other making them very easy to digest. After digesting simple carbs our blood sugar peaks quickly. Complex carbohydrates have three or more sugars linked in a chain and they contain more minerals, vitamins and fibers. Our bodies take a longer time digesting them, meaning that our blood sugar does not rise as quickly and remains more level over a longer period of time.

Complex carbs are definitely on my must-eat list. Even if fruits and berries have simple carbs they are also on that list. In addition to the simple sugars they also contain dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. Many berries are considered a super food. Dessert is also on my must-eat list. Eating is not only about nourishment it is also about our emotional and social well-being. Having a cup of coffee and a piece of cake with a friend can really save the day sometimes. I think the key to it all is moderation.

Pesto Pasta
A great source of complex carbohydrates and vitamins.
The fresh herbs are minced so small that even our pickiest eater eats it with relish!

While preparing the pesto, cook 350 g or 12 oz or whole grain pasta so that it is al dente.


2 large handfuls of fresh basil
a few sprigs of parsley
a clove of garlic
3/4 dl/1/3 c olive oil
1/4 dl/2 tablespoons lemon juice
20 g/1/2 dl/ 0.7 oz grated parmesan cheese
20 g/1/4 dl/0.7 oz sesame seeds ( may use pine nuts or sunflower seeds)
salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender or use a wand mixer. Blend until fairly smooth.

Stir the pesto into the freshly cooked pasta, garnish with a few leaves of basil and a drizzle of olive oil and serve.