Arab immigrants began coming to the U.S. in sizable numbers during the 1880s. Today, it is estimated that nearly 3.7 million Americans trace their roots to an Arab country. Arab Americans are found in every state, but more than two-thirds of them live in California, Michigan, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York are home to one-third of the population.
Arab Americans are as diverse as their countries of origin, with unique immigration experiences that have shaped their ethnic identity in the U.S. While the majority of Arab Americans are descended from the first wave of Christian Arab immigrants, Arab American Muslims represent the fastest growing segment of the Arab American community.
Contrary to popular assumptions, the majority of Arab Americans are native-born, and nearly 82% of Arabs in the U.S. are citizens. While the community traces its roots to every Arab country, the majority of Arab Americans have ancestral ties to Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq.
Arabic-speaking immigrants arrived in the United States in three major waves. The first wave between the late 1800s and World War I consisted mainly of immigrants from Greater Syria, an Arab province of the Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I. Following the breakup of the Empire, the province was partitioned into the separate political entities of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Transjordan. The vast majority of immigrants in this wave were members of Christian minorities. Although some writers claim that these immigrants left their native countries for religious or political reasons, the evidence suggests that they were drawn to the United States by economic opportunity. Like many economically motivated immigrants during this period, Arabs came to the US with the intention of earning money and returning home to live out the remainder of their lives in relative prosperity. The major exception to this pattern was a small group of Arab writers, poets, and artists who took up residence in major urban centers such as New York and Boston. The most famous of the group was Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), author of The Prophet and numerous other works.
Unlike the earlier influx, the second wave included many more Muslims. It also included refugees who had been displaced by the 1948 Palestine War that culminated in the establishment of Israel. This period also witnessed the arrival of many Arabic-speaking professionals and university students who often chose to remain in the United States after completion of their training. Immigrants of the second wave tended to settle where jobs were available. Those with few skills drifted to the established Arab communities in the industrial towns of the East coast and Midwest, while those with professional skills headed to the suburbs around the major industrial cities or to rural towns.
In the mid-1960s, the third wave of Arab immigration began which continues to the present. More than 75 percent of foreign-born Arab Americans identified in the 1990 census immigrated after 1964, while 44 percent immigrated between 1975 and 1980. This influx resulted in part from the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965 which abolished the quota system and its bias against non-European immigration. The third wave included many professionals, entrepreneurs, and unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. These immigrants often fled political instability and wars engulfing their home countries. They included Lebanese Shiites from southern Lebanon, Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and Iraqis of all political persuasions. But many professionals from these and other countries like Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, and unskilled workers from Yemen also emigrated in search of better economic opportunities. Had conditions been more hospitable in their home countries, it is doubtful that many of these immigrants would have left their native countries.
Arab Americans have a distinctive cuisine centered on lamb, rice, bread, and highly seasoned dishes. The Middle Eastern diet consists of many ingredients not found in the average American kitchen, such as chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, ground sesame seed oil, feta cheese, dates, and figs. Many Arab dishes, like stuffed zucchini or green peppers and stuffed grape or cabbage leaves, are labor-intensive but delicious and healthy.
Arab Americans are probably most known for their restaurants and cuisines found across the country. Many classic dishes coming from the Arab World have become popular dishes for Americans. The dish most famous, of course, is hummus. This simple puree of chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic is served as an appetizer or as a side to grilled meats and vegetables. Sometimes called “street meat” in the U.S., shawarma is another national hit thanks to Arab Americans. Wrapped with garlic and pickles in Arabic bread (pita bread), shawarma has become a great alternative sandwich. Tabbouli, falafel, grape leaves, and kebabs are part of the American cuisine today.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup fresh minced dill
1/4 cup fresh minced mint
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
50 large jarred grape leaves
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Fresh mint leaves, lemon slices, and olives (for garnish)
Place the pine nuts into a skillet and lightly toast them over medium heat until golden brown. Set aside.
Pour ¼ cup of olive oil into a medium pot and heat it. Add the minced onion and sauté until soft. Add the rice to the pot and stir to combine. Sauté for another minute. Pour in ¾ cup of vegetable broth and lower the heat; simmer the rice uncovered for about 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is half cooked. Remove the pot from heat.
Add the minced dill, mint, toasted pine nuts, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to the pot of rice. Stir until all the ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. As the water is heating, trim the grape leaves by cutting the stems off flush with the leaves. Trim any large, hard veins from the leaves. Place the leaves in the boiling water and let them soften for 3-5 minutes until they become pliable. Drain, then cover the leaves with cold water. Drain the leaves again and pat them dry.
Place a grape leaf shiny (smooth) side down, vein (bumpy) side up, on a flat surface like a cutting board. Place 2 tablespoons of rice filling at the base end of the leaf, near where the stem was. Fold the stem end up over the filling. Fold the edges of the leaf inward. Continue rolling the leaf till it forms a neat rolled package. Squeeze the roll gently to seal.
Repeat the process with the remaining leaves until all of the rice filling is used.
Place the stuffed leaves in the bottom of a deep saute pan. Pack the leaves snugly; as this will help keep the leaves intact as they cook. Make a single layer on the bottom of the pan. When the bottom of the pan is full, make a second layer on top.
Pour 1 cup of broth, ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil, and ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice over the stuffed grape leaves. Heat the pan over medium until it begins to simmer (don’t boil, or the leaves will start to fall apart). Cover the pot. Let the grape leaves cook for 30-40 minutes. The leaves are finished cooking when they are fork-tender.
3 cups (200 grams) cooked chickpeas, drained
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
3 to 4 ice cubes
1/3 cup (79 grams) tahini paste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Hot water (if needed)
Extra virgin olive oil
Add chickpeas and minced garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Puree until a smooth. While the processor is running, add the ice cubes, tahini, salt, and lemon juice. Blend for about 4 minutes. Check, and if the consistency is still too thick add a little hot water. Blend until the mixture is a silky smooth consistency. Spread in a serving bowl and add a generous drizzle of olive of and a sprinkling of sumac.
1 pound lean ground lamb or beef
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil, for brushing the grill
Flatbread or pita, for serving
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup grated cucumber squeezed dry
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh mint or dill (or ¼ teaspoon dried)
Pinch of kosher salt
To make the tzatziki sauce, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the kofta: Mix the beef, onion, garlic, parsley, coriander, cumin, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Divide the mixture into 6 roughly even balls. Mold each ball around the pointed end of a skewer, making an oval kebab that comes to a point just covering the tip of the skewer. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 15 minutes before threading them.
Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat or prepare an outdoor grill. Brush the pan or grill grates lightly with olive oil. Grill the kebabs, turning occasionally, until brown all over and cooked through about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with tzatziki sauce and flatbread.
Fattoush is a salad of crisp lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, toasted pita bread, and a sumac dressing. Since I was serving pita with the kofta, I did not include it in my salad.
Serves 4 people
2 large pitas
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
1 clove garlic minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice about 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or more
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 head romaine lettuce torn into bite-size pieces
1-pint cherry tomatoes halved
1 English cucumber halved and thinly sliced
1/2 medium red onion thinly sliced and separated into 1/2 circles
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves torn into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut pitas in half. Separate the top from the bottom and tear into bite-size pieces. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat. Spread on a baking sheet and season with kosher salt. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, tossing once, until crisp and golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a bowl to keep from over browning. Set aside.
To make the dressing. In a small bowl combine the first 6 dressing ingredients (garlic through black pepper); whisk until combined and honey has dissolved. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to combine.
Drizzle dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle pita over the top and serve.
For 2 servings you will need the following:
12 large shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled, deveined, tails removed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup Italian Style Panko Bread Crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Olive oil cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup homemade marinara sauce, warmed
1 cup (4 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a baking dish that fits the portion of shrimp you are making with cooking spray. I like to use individual baking dishes for this recipe.
Place the egg in a shallow bowl and the Panko bread crumbs mixed with the Parmigiano cheese in another.
Wash and dry the shrimp. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Put the shrimp in the bowl with the egg to coat and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Place the breaded shrimp in the baking dish or six in each individual baking dish. Sprinkle any remaining breadcrumbs over the shrimp.
The shrimp can be prepared ahead up to this point. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.
When ready to bake, drizzle the top of the shrimp with the olive oil and bake on the middle oven rack for 10 minutes. Turn shrimp over then cook another 5 minutes. Pour sauce evenly over the shrimp and then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven and heat just until the cheese melts.
Homemade Marinara Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (26-28-ounce) cans Italian chopped tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
3 large basil leaves
In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil, until soft and translucent, on medium to low heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden, careful not to overcook.
Add tomatoes, oregano, and crushed red pepper to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover with a lid. Cook for about 20 minutes on medium heat. Stir in parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix in the fresh basil.
Reserve 1 cup sauce for the shrimp and use the remaining sauce for other uses.
Garlic Roasted Asparagus
Makes 4 servings
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped parsley
1 pound thin asparagus, ends trimmed
Fleur de sel or coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Line a large jelly roll pan with foil. Set aside.
In a small pot, heat the oil, garlic, onion powder, and parsley on medium-low heat. Cook for 3 minutes until the garlic mixture is fragrant but not browned.
Spread the asparagus in a single layer on the prepared pan. Lightly sprinkle with coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle on the garlic-oil mixture.
Roast for 10-15 minutes, until the asparagus are bright green; do not overcook.
Transfer to a platter and serve hot.
Alabama Sweet and Spicy Pork Ribs
2 racks meaty pork ribs
For the barbecue spice rub
2 tablespoons smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar or sugar substitute
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
For the sweet and spicy glaze
1 cup tomato ketchup(regular or no sugar added)
½ cup brown sugar or brown sugar substitute
2 garlic cloves, grated
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon barbecue spice rub (see above)
Mix together the ingredients for the barbecue spice rub, and set 1 teaspoon aside for the glaze.
Pat both sides of the ribs dry with paper towels. Using a sharp knife, remove the thin membrane from the back of each by slicing into it and pulling it off with a paper towel.
Put the ribs in a large baking dish and sprinkle them all over with the spice rub. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
Mix all the ingredients for the glaze together in a mixing bowl and set aside.
If using a charcoal barbecue, light it about 30 minutes before you want to cook. If using a gas barbecue, preheat it 10 minutes beforehand. Rearrange the coals or turn off the middle burner for indirect cooking. Put the ribs on the grill, bone-side down, making sure they are not directly over the heat. Cover with the lid and grill over indirect medium heat for 30 minutes each side, or until the ribs are tender and a deep reddish-brown.
Uncover the ribs and brush generously with the sweet and spicy glaze. Cook for 10 minutes, turn and brush with more glaze. Cook for a final 10 minutes or until caramelized and sticky – brush with the remaining glaze and serve.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake in the preheated oven until the meat begins to pull away from the bones but is not fully tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 450°F. (Do not remove ribs from oven.) Brush both sides of ribs with the glaze. Bake until ribs are very tender and caramelized, 35 to 45 minutes. Brush with the glaze several times during the baking time.
Alabama Hot Slaw
Half of a head of green cabbage (1 lb.)
2 celery ribs
1/2 green bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey or low carb honey substitute
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons mustard
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Finely chop the cabbage, bell pepper, celery, and carrot.
Place the chopped vegetables and onion to a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, add the vinegar, honey, and salt; whisk until clear.
Add in the black pepper, mustard, and Tabasco; stir to mix, then pour on the vegetables.
In a small skillet or in the microwave heat the oil until very hot.
Pour the hot oil over vegetables.
Let sit for 4 minutes.
Toss and let sit at room temperature until serving time.
Round out the meal Alabama style with corn-on-the-cob.
Mexican Americans have lived in the United States for most of the country’s history. Ethnically, Mexican Americans are a diverse population, but the majority are Mestizo, which in colonial times meant to be a person of half European and half Native American ancestry. Nonetheless, the meaning of the word has changed through time and currently refers to the segment of the Mexican population who do not speak indigenous languages.
The United States is home to the second-largest Mexican community in the world, second only to Mexico itself, and comprising more than 24% of the entire Mexican population of the world. Mexican American families of indigenous heritage have been in the country for at least 15,000 years, and Mestizo Mexican American history spans more than 400 years, since the 1598 founding of Spanish New Mexico. Spanish residents of New Spain in the Southwest included New Mexican Hispanos and Pueblo Indians and Genizaros, Tejanos, Californios and Mission Indians. Approximately ten percent of the current Mexican-American population are descended from the early colonial settlers who became U.S. citizens in 1848 following the conditions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican–American War.
Generally, when Americans speak about Mexican food, they are usually referring to Tex-Mex (or Cal-Mex) cooking, an extremely popular cuisine that follows the long border between the United States and Mexico. The food of the southwestern US state of New Mexico and the dishes of many of the Native American peoples of the southwestern US have similar names to many Tex-Mex and some Mexican dishes but they use different flavorings and cooking techniques.
Dishes like chili, fajitas, salsa, tortilla chips, chimichangas, quesadillas, burritos, and nachos are actually homegrown American inventions. Even dishes that exist in Mexico like enchiladas, tacos, and tamales are cooked and served differently in the United States. True Mexican dishes are not as spicy as many US versions. American versions of Mexican entrees add prodigious quantities of cheese, either shredded or melted, to nearly every dish, a practice rare in Mexico. The same heavy hand applies to the American use of sauces of all kinds. North of the border portions are larger, plates are filled so that the food items tend to run one into the other. In Mexico, the soft corn tortilla performs the function that bread on the table performs in the United States; it is a side starch. In the United States, fried tortillas, become an ingredient in nearly every dish.
Like most immigrant groups, Mexican Americans have remained loyal to the food traditions of their homeland. Many shops in small ethnic markets carry Mexican specialty foods. When they cook, they follow recipes handed down to them by their parents and grandparents and their cooking styles have certain things in common. Meat, usually pork or beef, is central to the diet. It is often eaten with salsa on the side. Corn, beans, rice, and root vegetables are also staples, especially sweet potatoes, yams, yucca, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, and taro. Also popular is a pear-shaped squash called chayote. Here are some Mexican American recipes for you to make at home.
Carne asada means grilled beef in Spanish. The best cuts for making carne asada is Arrachera or skirt steak. It’s the taste that comes to mind when you think carne asada.
In Mexico, there are several marinating techniques that vary depending on the region of the country.
In the south and in the Gulf of Mexico area, where bitter oranges are grown, cooks will add some of its juice to the meat they are using to make Carne Asada; in other regions, they will add lime juice, and others will add a splash of beer.
Carne asada is traditionally made using a skirt or flank steak. The two cuts are very similar, but I prefer flank steak. When cutting the cooked meat, be sure to cut against the grain. It is quite easy to see the grain running through the meat in both of these cuts. It looks like long lines. Do not cut parallel to these lines, always cut perpendicular to them.
Adapted from Rick Bayless, Chicago Chef
2 limes juiced
4 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 jalapeno minced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 pounds flank steak
In a gallon size resealable bag, combine the lime juice, crushed garlic, orange juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, olive oil, jalapeno, and vinegar. Squeeze the bag to mix it up.
Put the entire flank steak into the resealable bag. Seal it up tight. Make sure all the meat is exposed to the marinade, squashing the bag around to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight is better.
Heat an outdoor grill or grill pan over high heat.
Remove the flank steak from the marinade, and discard the excess marinade. Cook on the grill for 7 to 10 minutes per side.
Once done, remove from the heat and let rest 10 minutes. Slice against the grain, and serve.
For Carne Asada Tacos
Thinly sliced grilled flank steak
Sliced red onion
Cotija cheese, crumbled
Blood oranges, cut into eighths
Grilled or Roasted Corn On the Cob
4 ears corn
2 tablespoons butter (softened)
Parmesan cheese, grated
Chopped herbs (your choice)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F or use the grill when cooking the meat.
Remove husks and silks from the corn. Place the corn on sheets of foil.
Butter corn and sprinkle with herbs and Parmesan cheese. Enclose the corn in foil and press the edges to seal.
Place wrapped corn on a cookie sheet or on the grill and roast for 25-30 minutes.
Mexican Red Rice
Arroz Rojo Mexicano
Adapted from Rick Bayless, Chicago Chef
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ cups long-grain white rice
1 ¾ cups unsalted chicken broth or water
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 1 to 2 serranos or 1 large jalapeño), stemmed and cut a slit down the side of each one
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch cubes
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
Place the garlic into a blender or food processor, add the canned tomatoes and process to a smooth puree.
In a large saucepan, stir together the oil and rice. When the rice is thoroughly coated, stir in the tomato puree, broth (or water), carrots and 1 teaspoon salt. Nestle in the chiles. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Gently stir the rice, re-cover and let the rice cook about 20 minutes. or until tender Taste a grain of rice: It should be very close to done at the core. If not, sprinkle in a little water, re-cover and cook 5 minutes more.
When the rice is done, uncover it and sprinkle in the peas and the parsley or cilantro. Use a fork to gently fluff the rice, reaching all the way to the edges of the bottom, to release steam and slow the cooking. Re-cover, let stand 5 minutes.
Black Beans with Chiles
1 pound dried black beans
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
2 whole serrano chiles or 1 jalapeño chile
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Rinse beans. Place beans in a large bowl. Cover with water by several inches. Let soak overnight.
Place oil, onion, and carrot in a Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until the onion is tender. Drain beans and add to the Dutch Oven. Add whole chiles, cumin, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 1 hour. Uncover and simmer until beans are very tender, about 15 minutes more.
2 cups almond flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1/2 cup salted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar or granulated low carb sweetener
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup full-fat sour cream
2 ounces regular cream cheese
4 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Generously butter a 9 to 10-inch bundt pan, set aside.
Combine almond flour, coconut flour and baking powder in a large bowl, set aside.
In an electric mixer cream the butter, sweetener, and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and almond extracts and sour cream to the butter mixture. Mix thoroughly.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Add the almond flour mixture a little at a time into the butter/sour cream, beating on low after each addition.
Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan, place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick placed in the cake comes out clean.
A toothpick should come out mostly clean, with just a few crumbs when the cake is done.
For best results, let the cake cool in the pan completely for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar or powdered sugar substitute
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups finely diced peaches fresh or unsweetened jarred peach slices (Dole) drained
Combine the sugar, cream and almond extract in a medium bowl.
Beat the cream on medium speed for about five minutes, until soft peaks form.
Dry the peaches on paper towels to get rid of extra moisture and chop into small pieces.
Fold peaches into the whipped cream. Cover the dish and refrigerate until serving.
2 boneless loin pork chops, about 1 inch thick, all fat removed
2-3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large white mushrooms, quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Noodles, 3-4 oz uncooked
Pat the chops dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
Mix the flour with the Italian seasoning. Coat the pork chops in the flour mixture.
Heat butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops and cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to serving platter and tent with foil.
Add mushrooms and zucchini to the skillet and cook 5 minutes. Add garlic, cream, roasted peppers, and Parmesan cheese and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened about 5 minutes. Add the pork chops back to the skillet and heat.
The majority of Norwegian immigrants lived in the farming communities of the upper Midwest making their homes in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and North and South Dakota. They settled in cities such as Brooklyn, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Seattle.
Once the first Norwegians came to an area, others often followed, particularly after the Homestead Act of 1862 that made Minnesota land available almost free for the asking. Norwegian immigrants developed commercial fishing along the North Shore, worked in the Iron Range mines and offered trades needed in their areas.
Why did Norwegians leave their homeland?
In the 19th century, Norway was a difficult place for the common folk. Its population was increasing and they were squeezed onto the slivers of land that could be cultivated — only 3 percent of the country. Farm mechanization pushed out landless laborers, and a rigid social hierarchy gave them no chance to improve their situation.
So, they left. Starting in the late 1830s, Norwegians came to America.
Those who had a farming background headed to Norwegian settlements in the coulee country of southwest Wisconsin, the bluff country of southeast Minnesota and Iowa and then the fertile Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota. Norwegians who fished headed for the shorelines of Door County and Minnesota’s North Shore. By 1915, Norway had lost 750,000 people to the United States, contributing, after Ireland, the highest percentage of its population to the new country. Norwegians often chose land that reminded them of home.
They also tried to carry on their Norwegian traditions here in America. Each Christmas, Norwegian-Americans headed to the nearest Norsk deli to buy lutefisk that once was a staple for peasants in Norway. They grated potatoes for lefse, a flat peasant bread, and rolled thin butter cookies on krumkake irons for their holiday celebrations. There are more than 4.5 million people of Norwegian ancestry in the United States today. Norwegian Americans actively celebrate and maintain their heritage in many ways. Much of it centers on the Lutheran-Evangelical churches they were born into. Culinary customs, national dress, and Norwegian holidays (Syttende Mai, May 17) are also popular.
Norwegian cuisine in its traditional form was based largely on the natural materials readily available in Norway and by its geography. Norwegian fare had a strong focus on fish and game. A gradual transition to American life weakened immigrant folkways. Some traditions and customs survived and were cultivated, others were reintroduced and given importance as a part of their ethnic heritage. Toward the end of the century, lutefisk became known as a Norwegian American dish. It was served at lodge meetings, festive banquets, and church suppers, most regularly during the Christmas season.
Lutefisk is whitefish — which refers to several species of finned fish such as cod, ling, or burbot — that has been air-dried and may or may not be salted. It is first soaked in cold water for five or six days, with the water changed daily. The saturated fish is again soaked for two days in an unchanged solution of cold water and lye. Lye is a substance obtained by leaching ashes and is also known as sodium hydroxide. After this weeklong process, the fish loses half of its protein and gains a jelly-like consistency. At this point, it needs another four to six days of soaking in cold water, refreshed daily, before it is ready to be cooked. Since the saturated fish is quite delicate, a layer of salt is added about a half-hour before it is cooked. This releases some of the water being held in the fish. It is then placed in a sealed pan and steam cooked on low heat for 20-25 minutes, or wrapped in aluminum foil and baked at 435 degrees F for 40-50 minutes. Since Minnesota has a large population of Norwegian immigrants, lutefisk is quite popular in the Twin Cities and their surrounding areas. It can be served a number of ways, but some of the more common ones are with boiled potatoes, green peas, melted butter, small pieces of bacon, horseradish, or cheese.
Aquavit is Norway’s famous exported liquor made from potatoes. Distillers flavor it with spice bags of caraway seeds or star anise. After the warm alcohol passes through the bags, it is aged in wood barrels. Cold-pressed, clear Aquavit isn’t aged but is served slightly chilled with herring, cold meat, and fatty dishes. Norwegians serve dark Aquavit, that has been aged for several years, after dinner.
Here are some Norwegian American style recipes for you to make at home.
Pan-Fried White Fish
1 lb white fish fillets
1 large egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
6 tablespoons butter
Norwegian Lemon Butter Sauce, recipe below
For the Pan-Fried White Fish
Check to make sure all the fish bones have been removed. Season the fillets with the salt and white pepper.
Lightly whisk the egg in a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl combine the breadcrumbs with ¼ teaspoon salt.
Dip the fillets in the egg and then dredge in the breadcrumbs.
Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the butter. Fry the fillets until they are golden brown.
Place the fillets on a paper towel. Transfer the fish to a serving plate and drizzle with the lemon sauce.
Norwegian Lemon Butter Sauce (Sandefjords Mor)
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Place the lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Add cream; whisk to combine. Continue to cook until the cream reduces and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 or 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
Whisk in a few pieces of cold butter, stirring until the butter melts before adding more. Continue adding the butter a few pieces at a time until all the butter is emulsified into the cream. Add salt, cayenne pepper, and chopped parsley. Whisk until well blended. Keep sauce warm until ready to use.
Sour Cream-Chive Mashed Carrots & Parsnips
Norway has a long history with root vegetables. They are grown in many parts of the country and can generally be easily stored. Norwegians have favorites – like rutabaga, carrots, and potatoes – but more and more, others are being used more frequently in cooking, such as turnips, parsnips, and beets.
8 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
2-3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (2 cups)
1/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
Place carrots and parsnips in a large saucepan. Add water to cover and bring to a boil. Boil until very tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain well and return to the pan.
Use a potato masher or ricer to finely mash the vegetables. Add sour cream, 2 tablespoons chives, milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until heated through. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of chives.
Green Beans with Dill Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 pound green beans
Stir together the vinegar, mustard, and salt in a small bowl until the ingredients are combined and the salt has dissolved. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the oil and continue to whisk until emulsified. Gently stir in chopped dill and set aside.
Steam green beans until tender. Drain. Arrange green beans in a serving dish and season with a little bit of salt. Pour the dill dressing over the green beans. Mix well and leave at room temperature until serving time.
For the bottom layer
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups chopped rhubarb (fresh or frozen and thawed)
For the top layer
1/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream
For the bottom layer
In a large bowl mix the butter into the brown sugar with a pastry blender until crumbly. If using frozen rhubarb, dry on paper towels after draining. Stir the rhubarb into the brown sugar and butter. Divide the mixture evenly into a well greased 12 cup muffin pan. Do not use muffin papers. Set this aside.
For the top layer
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter and sugar until creamy. Add in the egg and mix until well combined.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
Once blended, add to the creamed butter mixture in small amounts alternating with the cream.
Spoon the batter mixture evenly over the rhubarb layer in the muffin cups.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top of the batter is golden brown.
Remove from the oven, set on a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes.
Place a serving dish on top of the muffin pan and flip the two over so that the bottom of the buns are right-side up.
Serve while still warm.