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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: rye

For the past two weeks I have seen more articles on how to prepare corned beef and cabbage than I could ever want to see. Well it is a tradition. Don’t worry I am not going to tell you how to cook corned beef, no – I am going to skip right to dessert. How about making some Shamrock cookies? Don’t forget to have some tasty rye bread on hand for leftover corned beef sandwiches. I have a great recipe for you.

Sugar Cookie Dough

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for rolling out the cookie dough
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 inch shamrock cookie cutter
Glaze for the cookies, recipe below

Directions

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until smooth.

Add the egg and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated (the dough will be stiff).

Shape into a disk and refrigerate, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Heat the oven to 350° F.

Divide the chilled dough into four pieces. Work with one piece of dough at a time and keep the rest covered in the plastic wrap.

On a floured surface, roll out one piece of dough to a ¼ inch thick. Using a 4 inch shamrock cookie cutter, cut out the shapes and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets.

Roll up the scrapes and place in the plastic wrap.

Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough and re-rolling the scraps until all the dough is used.

Bake until just beginning to brown, about 12 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets on the oven racks after 6 minutes.

Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan.

I usually just slide the parchment paper with the cookies on it onto the kitchen counter and let them cool.

When thoroughly cool, frost the cookies.

Glaze

I use the corn syrup in this recipe, so that  the glaze will set and not stay sticky.

Ingredients

1 cup powdered/confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1-2 tablespoons water
6 drops green food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and 1 tablespoon water.

Stir in the food coloring a few drops at a time until you reach the color desired. Add additional water, if you want the glaze a little thinner.

Yield: 1/2 cup of glaze.

Homemade Sourdough Sandwich Rye Bread

Makes 1 large, 2-pound loaf

Ingredients

1 cup sourdough starter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 3/4 cups rye flour
1/4 cup potato flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons regular salt
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in the large bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment until the dough comes together in a ball around the paddle.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough until smooth, soft and somewhat sticky. Remove the dough from the bowl and grease the bowl with oil.

Return the dough to the bowl and cover the bowl. Let it rise until puffy, 60 to 90 minutes.

Lightly grease a large bread pan (or other 2-pound capacity loaf pan). A 10″ x 5″ loaf pan; or a long covered baker or 13″ pain de mie pan, without the covers, all work well here.

Gently deflate the dough and shape it into a log the length of your chosen pan. Place it in the prepared pan, and let the dough rise until it’s just about doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes.

The dough should crown about 1/2″ over the top of the pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 40 to 45 minutes, loosely cover with aluminum foil after about 20 minutes to prevent it from getting too dark.

The bread should be golden brown when finished, and its internal temperature should register at least 200°F on a digital instant-read thermometer.

Remove the bread from the oven, turn it out of the pan, and allow it to cool completely before slicing.

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For me, store-bought sandwich bread lacks good flavor and texture and usually contains way too many preservatives. The recipes in this post are easy to make and will reward you with great tasting bread for sandwiches and toast. Most ingredients are easy to find, however the ingredients for the rye bread include rye and pumpernickel flour. If you cannot find pumpernickel flour, use all rye flour in the recipe. I also use a flavoring made by the King Arthur flour company called deli rye flavor. If you do not have access to this ingredient, just substitute dried onion.

To always have fresh bread available, I slice each loaf in 1/2 inch slices and place them in a freezer ziplock bag. Bread slices can be removed, a slice at a time, and they defrost within a half hour. This is so handy.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup sourdough starter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain bread improver or vital wheat gluten
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, mixing until a shaggy dough forms.

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Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes. (this step helps the gluten develop.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough until fairly smooth and slightly sticky.

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Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise until almost doubled, about 90 minutes.

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Gently fold the dough over a few times on a lightly floured work surface.

Shape it into an 8″ log, and place it in a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

Cover the loaf and let it rise until it’s crowned 1″ over the rim of the pan, about 60 to 90 minutes.

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Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and a digital thermometer inserted into the center registers 205°F to 210°F.

Remove the bread from the oven, let it sit in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool.

Seeded Rye Sandwich Bread

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Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1/4 cup pumpernickel flour
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 2 teaspoons Deli Rye Flavor or dried onion
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, mixing until a shaggy dough forms.

Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes. (this step helps the gluten develop.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough until fairly smooth and slightly sticky.

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Place the dough in a large, lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise till doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

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Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and shape it into an oval.

Place the dough in a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, tent it with lightly greased plastic wrap and set it aside until doubled in bulk and risen 1 inch over the lip of the pan, about 1 hour.

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Bake the bread in a preheated 375°F oven for 35 minutes, or until it’s golden brown and tests done (the interior of the loaf will read 190°F on an instant-read thermometer).

Remove the bread from the oven, remove it from the pan, and cool completely on a rack.
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The comforting and inviting smell of home-baked bread should be reason enough to try baking at home. Home-baked bread also offers more nutrients than commercially manufactured breads and, of course, there are no preservatives in this bread. Although baking bread takes some time, the taste and nutritional benefits of baking your own bread makes the effort worthwhile.

No-Knead Sourdough Rye

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I came up with this recipe for rye bread based on the process for no-knead breads developed by Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery. Plus I often think about how I can use my sourdough starter that I always have available in my refrigerator. So I combined the two and the results were a delicious rye bread that goes really well with soup or a salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rye flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant rise yeast
  • 1  teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey

Directions

You will need a Dutch Oven or a Cloche Baker (round or long) for this recipe.

cloche baker

Mix the flours, salt, yeast and caraway in a large bowl. Combine the honey, starter and water in a measuring cup and, gradually, add the liquids until the dough comes together into a wet dough.

You may need a little more water, 2-3 tablespoons more, if the dough seems dry. The dough should be fairly moist.

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Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature for 12-18 hours.

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Flour a work surface and gently turn the dough out.  Fold the edges in and pinch them to form a ball.

Let the dough rise on a well floured towel or parchment lined bowl.  

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I like to line a round bread basket with parchment paper, cut to fit the basket, because the bread does not flatten out too much, as no-knead doughs can sometimes do.

After 1-2 hours, the dough should have fully risen.

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During the last 45 minutes of the second rise, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the cloche baker or dutch Oven on a low rack.

After 45 minutes, remove the baker from the oven and turn the oven down to 450 degrees F. Use well insulted pot holders, as the baker will be very hot.

Using the parchment as a sling, gently lower the dough with the parchment  into the preheated baker.

Be careful to not touch the baker as it is very hot! Slash the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.

Place the lid on the baker and put the baker into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on.

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After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes, until the bread is deep brown in color and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers about 205°F.

To keep the crust crackly, turn the oven off, crack the door open, and let the bread cool inside the oven for 30 minutes.

Sourdough English Muffins

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There are many recipes for English Muffins but this one is a favorite in my family. It is easy to make and tastes great for breakfast, especially with homemade jam. I like making my own English Muffins because they have a fresh, clean taste, that store-bought muffins do not seem to have. Adding a little whole wheat flour gives the muffins some added nutrition. You do need to buy English Muffin rings to make this recipe, but the process I use won’t make a mess from cooking the muffins on the stovetop.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dry milk powder
  • 1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
  • 3 tablespoons soft butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) potato flour (not starch)
  • 2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup sourdough starter, set out on the kitchen counter, covered, overnight
  • Semolina flour or cornmeal

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients except the semolina in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Mix and then beat at high speed using the flat beater paddle for 5 minutes.

The dough will be soft, sticky and glossy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover it, and allow the dough to rise for about 90-120 minutes, until doubled in bulk.

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Grease the rings with cooking spray.

Place 16 rings on two parchment covered sheet pans and sprinkle a little semolina or cornmeal in each muffin ring,  

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Fill each ring almost to the top. I used a small muffin scoop to make it easier. Pat the dough a little to get it to the sides of the rings.

Place a sheet of parchment paper that has been coated with cooking spray on top of the rings and lay another sheet pan on top. This step helps the muffins retain their shape. Let rise 30 minutes.  

Remove the top pan and parchment and sprinkle the tops of the risen muffins with semolina. Replace the parchment paper, sprayed side down, and the baking sheets.

Forgive the view but my pans are very old and have seen a lot of baking.

Forgive the view but my pans are very old and have seen a lot of baking.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Bake the muffins (with the baking sheet on top) for 10 minutes. Flip the pans over and rotate the pans on the oven racks. Bake 5 minutes more.

Remove the top pan and parchment, and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the muffins are a light golden brown and the interior of one registers about 200°F on a digital thermometer.

Remove the muffins from the oven. Remove the muffin rings (they will slide right off) and transfer the muffins to a rack to cool.


chicken Tight on time? No problem. Try one of these simple yet delicious chicken recipes for dinner tonight. People love chicken for its taste, healthfulness and low-fat content, as well as how easy it is to cook with. Chicken is one of the fastest cooking meats but it’s easy to overcook chicken breasts. These recipes for quick chicken use lots of different vegetables, herbs and spices to make delicious. Once you’ve mastered a recipe, try changing it! Add different ingredients and seasonings.

Spices work well when blended together into a rub for chicken. Spices like cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander seed and black pepper make a good blend for a Spanish or Mexican dish. Indian spices include saffron, sesame, turmeric and ground ginger while many Eastern European dishes flavor chicken with spices like paprika, cinnamon, allspice and mace. Use salt sparingly for more healthful eating and rely on true spices for the majority of your flavoring.

Savory herbs such as rosemary, basil, thyme, tarragon and sage go well with chicken. Use one flavor, such as rosemary for a singular accent or create a blend, adding in lighter herbs like chives or parsley for balance. Don’t try to blend two very strong flavors, like rosemary and sage or the palate will be confused. Other good herbs for chicken include lemon balm, fennel, mint, marjoram, coriander and garlic. An alternative to applying these herbs directly to the chicken is to toss a few fresh sprigs into the frying or roasting pan and cooking them alongside the chicken to capture the strong aromas in the meat.

Basic directions for quick grilled and seasoned chicken breasts:

Rub equal amounts of Seasoning Mixture under the skin of each bone-in breast. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken on grill over medium heat and cook about 25 minutes or until juices run clear when the thickest part of the breast is pierced with a tip of a knife, turning over once.

  • Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Seasoning: In small bowl, mix 2 minced sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil and 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped.
  • Garlic-Herb Seasoning: In small bowl, mix 2 garlic cloves,minced, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel.
  • Sage-Butter Seasoning: In small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon softened margarine or butter and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves.

 

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Chicken Caprese Style

4 servings Ingredients

  • 3 large ripe plum tomatoes (about 3/4 pound), cored, seeds squeezed out, and diced
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs or refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1-1/2 pounds total)

Directions

In a medium-size bowl, mix tomatoes, mozzarella, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and chopped basil for the Caprese salad. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve. Place flour on a large plate. Lightly beat eggs in a shallow bowl. Spread the bread crumbs on another plate.

Dip chicken first in the flour, then in the egg and finally into the bread crumbs, pressing to adhere. Sprinkle both sides with the remaining salt and pepper. Place on a large plate.

Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add chicken and cook about 5 minutes per side or until internal temperature reads 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Turn a few times, if necessary, to avoid burning.

To serve, spoon an equal amount of Caprese salad over each piece of chicken. Garnish with additional basil and serve with sautéed greens and garlic bread, if desired. chicken2

Chicken and Polenta

Ingredients

  • Half of a 6 1/2 ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes with Italian herbs
  • 4 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 to 1-1/4 pounds)
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup assorted olives, drained
  • ½ cup dry white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 small bay leaves 
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drain sun-dried tomatoes, reserving the oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the reserved oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken in hot oil 3 minutes on each side or until browned; remove skillet from the heat. Add tomatoes, olives, wine and bay leaves.

Transfer skillet to the oven. Bake, uncovered, 10 to 15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into chicken.

Meanwhile, for polenta, in a large saucepan bring the 3 cups water to boiling. In a medium bowl combine polenta, the 1 cup cold water and the 1 teaspoon salt; gradually stir into the boiling water. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; stir occasionally. Remove chicken from the oven; discard bay leaves. Serve chicken with polenta and olives. chicken3

Braised Balsamic Chicken

This dish is good served over your favorite quick cooking rice and green beans make a nice side dish.

Servings: 6 Ingredients

  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 teaspoon garlic 
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions

Season both sides of chicken breasts with garlic salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook seasoned chicken breasts until chicken is browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan to a plate and set aside.

Add remaining oil, onion, mushrooms and brown sugar to the skillet; cook and stir until onion is browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Stir well and return chicken to the pan.

Simmer until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear, about 15 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). chicken4

Pesto Chicken Packets

4 servings Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 plum tomatoes, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • 2 cups sugar snap peas or asparagus
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise

Directions

Heat an outdoor grill. Cut four 18 x 12 inch pieces of heavy-duty foil. Place a chicken breast half on each piece of foil. Divide tomatoes and sugar snap peas over chicken.

In small bowl, combine pesto with mayonnaise. Divide this mixture over the chicken on each piece of foil. Fold foil over chicken and seal edges, using a double fold method.

Cover and grill packets 6″ from medium coals or on a moderate gas grill for 25-30 minutes or until chicken registers 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer.

You can also bake the packets in a preheated 450 degrees F oven for 23-30 minutes or until done. chicken5

Grilled Chicken Kabobs Over Greek Salad

Just add some warm pita bread. Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 12-inch metal skewers
  • Greek Salad, recipe below

Directions

Mix chicken, 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, mint, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Let marinate 30 minutes.

Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons oil and lemon juice in small bowl to blend. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Pull off large mint leaves from stems.

Alternate chicken, onion, and mint leaves on skewers; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until chicken is just cooked through, turning and basting occasionally with oil-lemon mixture, about 9 minutes. Serve over Greek Salad.

Greek Salad

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound tomatoes, seeded, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups diced seeded peeled cucumber (from about 1 large)
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper (from about 1 large)
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, halved
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 ounces)

Directions

Mix the first 9 ingredients in a medium bowl to blend. Gently mix in cheese. Season with salt and pepper.


SPONSORED POST: NORTH Food Festival.

Lake-Finland

Finland – Lakes and Islands  (Finland picture book/saimaa)

My Experiences With Finland’s New Nordic Cuisine:

When I was selected to contribute to the NORTH Festival Food Blogger Outreach campaign by writing about Finland’s cuisine, I asked myself – what do I know about Finland and what would I want to write about? Well, my knowledge about this beautiful Nordic country was superficial, I quickly realized. I knew, right away, though, that I would write about Finland’s food culture, since my point of view in my blog writing centers on understanding the culture and history behind a food group or recipe. I like to tell stories. It can be a story about the origin of a food or the culture of the people who eat this food or about the traditions surrounding a particular meal. So, the story for this post is what I learned about Finland’s Nordic cuisine and how to tranfer what I learned to my kitchen.

Wintertime in Finland  http://www.flickr.com/photos/visitfinland/

Wintertime in Finland (Flickr photo/visitfinland)

As I began my research, I realized that weather and geography have had a major impact on the Finnish cuisine. Finland is known as the “land of a thousand lakes”, so fish and seafood are an important part of their cuisine. The climate includes a short summer with long days and hot temperatures and a long winter where frost penetrates deep into the ground. Only the hardiest of plants and wild animals survive these conditions, so planning dinner is based on what is available at a particular time of the year.

Cloudberries

Cloudberries

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Nordic Countries

Warm weather foods generally include wild berries, mushrooms, fresh vegetables, game and fish, while winter foods are generally hearty whole grain porridges, potatoes, carrots, swede (also known as a turnip or in America as a rutabaga) and meat casseroles or stews. 

Cheese is usually made in the summer, when the production of milk is plentiful. Also popular at this time of year is a dessert called Juhannusjuusto, which is cooked cheese curds that are served cold and sprinkled with sugar.

In the past, very few spices, other than salt, were utilized and fresh herbs, like dill, were limited to the summer months. Fish and meat, including reindeer, are often cooked on an outdoor grill. Several ways of preparing fish are used, including frying, boiling, drying, salting, fermenting and smoking. Salmon is very popular and is usually served smoked or raw with lemon juice.  It is common to smoke fish for use during the colder months. 

Crayfish

Crayfish

Another popular seafood in Finland, much to my surprise, is crayfish, better known where I live, not far from New Orleans, as crawfish. The highlight of the summer for many Finns is the opening of the crayfish season in late July. Many head to the restaurants for traditional crayfish parties, where they get together to enjoy this treat and toast each other with Aquavit (a liquor made from potato or grain mash, fermented traditionally with caraway seeds and herbs). In keeping with the New Nordic Cuisine initiative, it is becoming popular to use crayfish as an ingredient when creating other entrees. This new focus can be seen in many restaurants, especially in Helsinki, where crayfish is on the menu, but not in its traditional form. 

aquavit

So how did this New Nordic Cuisine initiative come about? Close to ten years ago, a group of Nordic chefs rededicated themselves to cooking with local, seasonal ingredients. These forward thinking chefs felt that their cuisine should explore the region’s overlooked local products and utilize healthier methods of cooking. This movement has become a widespread maifesto, not just for restaurants, but for home cooks, also.

To understand what this new approach to cooking looked like, I watched a few videos of some of Finland’s well known chefs demonstrating their application of the New Nordic cuisine. For example, Chef Petteri Luoto prepared a Roasted Salmon entree topped with a shrimp sauce for a presentation at the Kennedy Center in February. All the ingredients he used were fresh and readily available, such as salmon, shrimp, dill, lemon and honey mustard and prepared with healthy cooking techniques. You can see the demonstration by clicking on this site: 

http://www.kennedy-center.org/explorer/artists/?entity_id=87986&source_type=B).

Pike with Fennel

Pike with Fennel

On his blog, Sasu Laukkonen owner-chef of Chef & Sommelier Restaurant in Helsinki, writes about Finland’s culinary focus, “It made us think about our own backyards.” Laukkonen collects locally grown berries for dessert. He prepares bisque with locally caught crayfish and tops it with local apples. He roasts lamb from the Baltic Sea’s Aland Islands. He uses nontraditional ingredients, such as pike with fennel, beef tartare with parmesan mayonnaise and organic celeriac with hazelnuts and pistachios. “Ten years ago we wouldn’t have dreamt of serving Finnish lamb,” says Laukkonen. “Now that is all we serve, as well as locally grown organic fruits and vegetables. We have started to believe in our own produce.”

As part of developing this post, the NORTH Festival campaign sent me reading material and photos about Finland and two Finnish products: Ruis bread (rye) and Spelt Laku (spelt licorice). The food items were sent so that I could sample these products, write about them and possibly develop a recipe. I immediately thought sandwich, when I saw the bread. I had read that voileipä (sandwiches) are popular in Finland. Usually, a simple preparation with butter, lettuce, smoked salmon, crab or crayfish and served open-faced on hearty rye bread.

The licorice was a surprise. If I were to develop a recipe using these ingredients, how would licorice fit? 

Finnish Rye Bread and Spelt Licorice

Finnish Rye Bread and Spelt Licorice

Finnish Ruis bread is hand made from 100% whole grain and spelt licorice does not cause sugar-like effects in the body.

A look inside the packages.

Now my expertise is in Italian cooking, but I wanted to create a recipe for this post that demonstrated the flavors of Finland for my readers. At first, I wasn’t sure how I could incorporate the licorice, short of just eating it and describing the taste. However, drawing on my knowledge of Italian seasoning, I recalled that anise is an often used spice in Italian cooking. So, why not use the spelt licorice as a flavoring ingredient in the recipe I was going to create.

I decided on using  the following ingredients:

  • Organic pork tenderloin: pork is a popular meat choice in Finland and readily available in the U.S.
  • Reduced fat sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard: ingredients often found in Finnish cuisine
  • Butterkäse, a smooth, semi-soft, lower fat cheese (in place of butter)
  • Cucumbers and red onions
  • Ruis rye bread

The healthy cooking techniques I used:

  • Spice rub for the pork
  • Pickling 
  • Oven roasting

The recipe that follows demonstrates the concept behind the New Nordic Cuisine initiative and one that can easily be made by a home cook.

Finnish Open-Faced Sandwich

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 organic pork tenderloin (about 1 lb) trimmed of fat
  • 1/2 of a cucumber, sliced thin
  • 1/4 of a red onion, sliced very thin
  • 8 thin slices Butterkäse cheese
  • 1/2 of a Ruis round rye bread, sliced horizontally (4 slices)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Pickling Marinade:

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

Spice Rub:

  • 2 tablespoons grated spelt licorice (about 4 pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Sour Cream Sauce:

  • 1/2 tablespoon reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey mustard
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

To pickle the cucumbers and onions:

Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar. Add the thinly sliced cucumbers and onions. Mix well. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or even overnight.

Pickle thinly sliced cucumbers and red onions.

Pickle thinly sliced cucumbers and red onions.

To make the sour cream sauce:

Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, dill and salt in a small dish. Chill in the refrigerator while you cook the pork.

To make the spice rub and pork:

Grated spelt licorice

Grated spelt licorice

Spice rub for the pork.

Spice rub for the pork.

Grate the licorice over a piece of waxed paper and add the remaining spice ingredients. Mix well.

Place the trimmed pork on top of the spice mixture and rub it all over the surface of the pork.

Press rub on pork tenderloin

Press rub on pork tenderloin

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In an ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the pork on all sides.

Brown pork on all sides in an ovenproof skillet.

Brown pork on all sides in an ovenproof skillet.

Place the skillet in the oven and roast the pork for about 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 145 degrees F.

Transfer skillet to the oven.

Transfer skillet to the oven.

Remove the pork to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Then, slice thinly.

Assemble the ingredients for the sandwich and layer them in the following order:

Sandwich ingredinets: pork, cheese, cucumbers/onions, sour cream sauce and rye bread

Sandwich ingredients: cheese, pork, sour cream sauce and cucumbers/onions on rye bread

Place 2 slices of the cheese on top of the bread.

Place 3-4 pork slices on top of the cheese; then 1/4 of the sour cream sauce on top of the pork slices and spread evenly.

Distribute 1/4 of the pickled cucumbers and onions on top of the sauce. Repeat with remaining bread and sandwich ingredients. Serve this sandwich with your favorite fruit.

Finnish style open-faced sandwich

Finnish style open-faced sandwich

My adventure into Finnish Nordic Cuisine was ………delicious! My husband agreed.

Learn more about Nordic cuisine at the NORTH Festival 2013 in New York City. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and NORTH Festival 2013.

NORTH Festival



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