Labor Day Cocktail: Aquavit Bloody Mary

Aquavit Bloody MaryWith Labor Day around the corner, I’m busy preparing the house and planning the food for a barbecue with friends. Since it’s a Monday that my husband doesn’t work, I think I’ll make another batch of these Aquavit Bloody Mary’s to serve him while he tends the grill before company arrives.

We whipped up the first batch a couple of weeks ago. Inspired by a recipe in Pure Vegan, it hit the spot as we relaxed on the patio with my brother-in-law on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Enjoy the long weekend!

Aquavit Bloody Mary

16 oz tomato juice
6 oz aquavit (I used aquavit from Seattle-based Sound Spirits)
2.5 oz fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (see Pure Vegan for a recipe for a vegan alternative)
1 teaspoon plus 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 heaping teaspoon freshly peeled and grated horseradish
Freshly ground black pepper
3 celery stalks
3 lemon wedges
3 cocktail onions
3 martini olives

Mix together tomato juice, aquavit, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, horseradish, and pepper in a pitcher. Fill three tall glasses partially with ice and add mix. Garnish with celery stalks and with lemon wedges, onions, and olives threaded on toothpicks.

Serves 3.

Sardines with rosé and other summer treats

Food lovers apparently unite on one thing: Summer foods are among the best of them all. Take Molly of Orangette, for example. She’s put together a summer list, as have some of her friends. And so have I.

Inspired by the bright, briny flavor of the anchovies I enjoyed with a glass of sparkling wine at Ocho in Ballard on a sunny day a few months ago, I started my list then and there. Salty, oily fish with crisp, light rosé has been one of my favorite summertime combinations since a sommelier at Cremant, a former restaurant in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood, convinced us that we had to experience the magic of pairing their sardine salad with a glass of rosé. Now I’m obsessed.

Summer took its time coming to Seattle this year, only really showing up the week after the 4th of July. It came with a bang, I might add, with temperatures we’re not used to and weren’t equipped for (most Seattle homes don’t have air conditioning–we usually don’t need it).

When summer did arrive, out came the sardines, rosé, and grill. Maybe it’s because I’m Norwegian, but when it comes to fish, the oilier and richer, the better. Sardines, pickled herring, mackerel, I love them all. If you’ve never had fresh sardines and you’re scrunching up your nose right now, keep in mind that these are nothing like the canned variety. These metallic-skinned little fish get a good soak in kosher salt and lemon to draw out some of the oil, then are rinsed and seasoned with more salt before going on the grill. When they’re done, you carefully scrape off the skin and gently lift out the spine, hoping to take with it as many of the little bones as possible. The delicate yet richly flavored meat goes perfectly with a crisp rosé to offset the oil.

My goal is to enjoy sardines and/or mackerel with rosé as many times as possible this summer. Also on the summer food and drink list:

  • Zucchini blossom and anchovy pizza
  • Lillet Blanc on the rocks with a lemon twist
  • Tomato slices sprinkled with salt
  • Gin and tonics on the front porch
  • Barbecued ribs with cole slaw and rosé
  • Frites and homemade mayonnaise with Champagne
  • Steamed mussels with crusty bread and a simple green salad
  • Salade Niçoise
  • A platter of cantaloupe, figs, and prosciutto with a baguette and rosé
  • A picnic with pâté de campagne, cornichons, mustard, cheese, fruits, and a baguette

What’s on your summer list?

Norwegians and mojitos in Key West

I’ll be honest, there’s virtually nothing Norwegian–or even Scandinavian, for that matter–about this post (other than the fact that I’m writing it). But, you see, I just got back from Key West with my husband and my parents, so can you blame me? Other than this delicious Norwegian smoked salmon we found at Grand Cafe on Duval Street, Key West is about as far away as you can get from Scandinavian.

Rather, the setting called for Caribbean- or Cuban-style preparations of the local grouper and hogfish, surf and turf made with Florida lobster, rum-based drinks (no aquavit in sight), and an abundance of conch fritters.

I’ll regain my focus soon, well, as soon as I can get my suitcase unpacked. But in the meantime, enjoy a refreshing mojito (recipe follows) and take a look at the beauty of this place, the southernmost part of the continental United States.

Okay, now back to that mojito I mentioned. There are few mojitos in this world worth drinking. I mean it. Most are watered down with too much club soda and quickly-melting ice. Others are just too syrupy sweet.

A few years ago my husband set out to find the perfect mojito recipe. After multiple efforts, and thanks to some very patient friends (who, I must add, managed to keep their heads on straight despite the tastings), he found it. It’s really quite simple, but it requires fresh, quality ingredients and precision. Without those two things, don’t even bother.

Mojito fit for a Norwegian in Key West
My husband was generous enough to share his secrets to making the perfect mojito. So here you have it, THE mojito, from my husband and adapted from Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide to Great American Writers.

10-12 mint leaves
2 ounces light rum
1 ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice
3/4-1 ounce simple syrup, to taste, depending on the tartness of the limes*
Club soda
Lime slice, for garnish
Mint sprig, for garnish

Muddle mint leaves in an old-fashioned glass. Add lime juice, simple syrup, and rum. Fill glass with crushed ice. Top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with lime slice, mint sprig, and a small straw for stirring.

Serves 1.

*We make our simple syrup with a one-to-one ratio of sugar to water; some people do two-to-one, but trust me, you don’t need it any sweeter.

Chili and tequila–just as good as lutefisk and aquavit

I have–gasp!–more types of tequila in my house at the moment than aquavit. What kind of Norwegian am I? To be honest, I can’t take credit for all of it. I had some dear friends and family over for chili and margaritas last weekend, and I had to be prepared, right? Plus they were very generous. (And not to mention the co-worker who brought my favorite kind of tequila back from Mexico for me.) But seriously, ten bottles?!?

Tequila has a reputation for bring out the party animal in people (kind of like aquavit), but that’s unfortunate; when one tastes some of the finer ones and savors it sip by sip, tequila can truly be a treat (much like aquavit).

It’s always a risk to try out a new recipe on company, but thankfully it all worked out. I’m happy to say I’ve found my new go-to chili recipe, plus a delicious cornbread to go with it. The next time you’re planning to host a crowd, make this chili and cornbread, plan a salad or two, and you’ll be set.

Chili for a crowd
I adapted this from the prime rib chili in Tyler Florence’s Dinner at My Place. While I’m sure the prime rib would make this recipe even more delicious (if possible), regular stew meat worked great.

9 pounds beef, cubed
Kosher salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
6 onions, diced
10 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
9 canned chipotle peppers in adobo
3 jalapeños, seeded and chopped, plus more for garnish
Homemade chili powder (recipe follows)
6 tablespoons tomato paste
3 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
3 tablespoons grated unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup masa harina
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Season beef with salt and pepper, then brown in a large pot with olive oil, working in batches. Add onion, garlic, chipotle peppers, jalapeños, chili powder, tomato paste, and cans of tomatoes (with the liquid), and mix, crushing the tomatoes with a spoon. Add chocolate. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the meat, add some water to cover it. Simmer uncovered for about two hours, then stir in the masa harina and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and chopped jalapeños.

Homemade chili powder

3 ounces dried ancho chiles
6 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons sweet paprika (I used Hungarian paprika since that’s what was available)
3 tablespoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons kosher salt

Remove seeds and stems from chiles and tear them into pieces. Toast them with the coriander seeds over low heat, shaking or stirring, then process them into a powder in a blender. Add next seven ingredients and process, then stir in salt.

Chili serves about two dozen people.

Jalapeño cheddar cornbread
Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home. The original recipe calls for mixing in two cups of the cheddar then using the rest on top along with extra scallions, but I mixed it all in.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (I used medium grind)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups milk
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 pound unsalted butter, plus more to grease pan
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons jalapeños, seeded and minced

Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. Put first five ingredients in a large bowl. Combine next three ingredients in another bowl, and add to dry ingredients, stirring just until most lumps are gone. Stir in cheddar and jalapeños and let sit for about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour batter into pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Serves about 12-18, depending on how big you cut the pieces.


Syttende Mai is just a few weeks away. If you’re in the Ballard area of Seattle, there will be no avoiding the barrage of Norwegians pouring into the streets for the big parade, “one of the largest ethnic parades in the United States,” according to parade committee. Being of Norwegian descent, the Syttende Mai–or Norwegian Constitution Day–parade was one of the first and most frequent cultural experiences of my youth. Grandma and Grandpa D., who moved here from Norway in the 1950s, always liked to go, and my family would take me, as a very, very little girl, dressed in a children’s bunad.

One of my most distinct memories from the parade is drinking a Solo–a Norwegian orange soda–and eating a pølse wrapped in lefse. What a treat! Sure, it may appear to translate to the American equivalent of a hot dog and any brand of orange soda, but it’s truly special.

Sadly to say I’m not able to attend this year’s parade, but if you’re in the Seattle area, check it out!

Variations on a theme

I still remember the first time I heard about the Corpse Reviver #2. It was November 2008, and my husband and I were enjoying a weekend in Walla Walla with some friends. After leaving Seattle on Saturday morning and spending the afternoon wine tasting, we finished the day with an incredible dinner at Whitehouse-Crawford.

I won’t bore you with the delectable details of our meal, but I will tell you about the intriguing item I didn’t order, but made notes on for later: the Corpse Reviver #2. An ingredient list of gin, Lillet, pastis, lemon juice, and Cointreau, it sounded delicious, but not exactly what I needed after an afternoon of visiting wineries and an evening of fine dining.

I later found out that the Corpse Reviver #2 wasn’t just a specialty cocktail with a crazy name, but it’s an old-school drink that goes way back. Anyway, it’s since become a favorite among my family, and has received a variation on occasion, such as a splash of champagne (don’t tell that cocktail purists about that).

I still don’t know what happened to the Corpse Reviver #1, but I’m taking the #1, #2, etc. approach to naming this lovely set of aquavit cocktails concocted by my husband. The base of them is essentially the same, but it’s amazing how a couple of changes–such as adding bitters or changing the garnish–can significantly alter the taste.

Oh, by the way, if you’re wondering what happened to Aquavit Cocktail #1, you’ll find that recipe here.

Aquavit Cocktail #2
A couple notes about the ingredients in both of these recipes. Choose an aquavit with a nice caraway flavor. I like Linie, from Norway. For the pastis, I prefer Ricard, but you could also use Pernod.

1/4 oz. pastis
1/4 oz. simple syrup
2 oz. aquavit
lemon peel, for garnish

Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until ice cold. Strain unto chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of lemon peel.

Aquavit Cocktail #3
1/4 oz. pastis
1 sugar cube or 1/4 oz. simple syrup
2-3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters (available at specialty-food stores or online)
2 oz. aquavit
lime twist

Shake according to the recipe above. Garnish with a lime twist.

Norwegian holiday fare: Trondheim Soup and The Bishop

I’m so excited to try the recipes that Jenn of The Leftover Queen is sharing in today’s guest post. The Leftover Queen is all about eating well and frugally, and is packed with recipes and her experiences with food. Jenn lived in Norway for a while, and shares some traditional holiday fare here. Thanks, Jenn!

Over 10 years ago, I spent a year living in Norway in between high school and college as part of AFS (American Field Service). It was certainly a life-changing experience in many ways and a time I remember as one of my most fond adventures. Norway is still a part of me, and it is a place that is and always will be very near and dear to my heart. It was my first time away from home, in a brand new culture where I didn’t speak the language. I came home from that experience having learned a new language and culture, as well as so much about myself and the world.

I still have many friends to this day that I met when I lived in Norway, and I also enjoy learning more about Norwegian and Scandinavian cuisines. For me, keeping in touch with old friends, and cooking Norwegian food, is a way for me to keep a piece of my life in Norway always with me. For some reason, during the winter holidays, that urge to bring a little Norwegian flair to my cooking, trying new recipes, and re-creating recipes of foods that I enjoyed when I lived there becomes very strong.

Here are a few other posts that I have done over the years that focus on my love of Norwegian and Scandinavian cuisine:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Christmas Rømmegrøt
Winter Solstice Gløgg
Norwegian Farmers Market Finds

This year, I wanted to make some new things. I have made gløgg (a spiced wine with almonds and raisins) and rommegrøt (sour cream porridge) at winter holiday time every year since I have returned from Norway. In Norway there are often gløgg parties where people get together with their friends and family before Christmas, and it is served with either rommegrøt or a rice porridge called risgrøt. I loved rommegrøt when I lived in Norway; it is rich, flavorful, stick-to-your-bones kind of food. Perfect for cold weather! It is also a tradition in Norway for children to put out a bowl of porridge for the Nisser–the elves! Although these elves have nothing to do with Santa, they are associated with and originate from Norwegian farm life. These are the elves that look after the farm animals–and in return for their protection, they want their Christmas porridge on Christmas Eve!

For me, the holidays always mean porridge and spiced wine!

Gløgg is wassil; wassil is a broad term used for any wine or ale that is sweetened with sugar and spices, and served during the winter holidays. It is one of the oldest Christmas traditions there is.

This year, I decided to branch out a bit in my yearly spiced wine and porridge menu and check out a few different Norwegian recipes. For the spiced wine, I decided to try “bisp,” or in English, “bishop,” which is red wine flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, and peppercorns, swirled with aquavit (a Norwegian potato-based liquor, flavored with caraway ) and named after the red color of the bishop’s cloak.



3 cups filtered water
1 vanilla bean
2 cinnamon sticks
12 whole black peppercorns
2/3 cups sugar
1 bottle (3 cups) red wine
3 ½ TBS aquavit


Bring water, vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and sugar to a boil. Simmer over low heat for about 1- 1 ½ hours. Strain and reserve liquid. Add the red wine and aquavit to the sugar syrup. Serve in heat proof glasses. Bisp can be made also using berry wines – like cherry or blueberry. This drink can be made non-alcoholic using black currant or blueberry juices. Ingredients can easily be doubled for a larger batch!

I also decided to make Trondheim soup, which is named after the city in Norway that I lived in, the old Viking capital, which is over 1,010 years old. It is a sweet rice soup, not really considered a porridge, but along the same lines, flavored with cinnamon and raisins, and it is considered a dessert, unlike grøt.

Trondheim Soup


1 ¼ liters of water
¼ cup rice
1/3 cup raisins
1 cinnamon stick
1 TBS flour
1 cup whipping cream
4 TBS sugar
salt to taste


Combine water, rice raisins and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Simmer until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk cream and flour together and then add to the pot. Bring mixture to a boil, and simmer for 1-2 minutes until thickened. Stir in sugar and salt to taste. Serves 6.

I love introducing people to these Norwegian holiday traditions! Especially when the recipes are so easy and so delicious. So go ahead and during this season of celebrations, try having your own gløgg party where you can experience the flavors and customs of Norway! God Jul og Godt Nytt År!

Photos by Jenn of The Leftover Queen.

A little clumsy sometimes

We all do stupid things every once in a while, don’t we? Please tell me you do. It’ll help me feel better about myself.

While my husband was making an aquavit cocktail one recent evening, I went to our bar to get a martini glass. (Can you sense yet where this is going?) I grabbed the stem of the glass I thought was on the end. Without looking, I started to slide it out of the rack. Of course I had an inkling that I might have picked the wrong one. Of course I kept sliding it. Sure enough, suddenly there was a crashing sound, and a martini glass shattered into pieces on the hardwood floor. Aquavit Cocktail

This is that cocktail. And this is the glass I grabbed, the one that survived. Please accept my apologies for the poor lighting. And the less-than-full cocktail. I don’t know how food (and drink) photographers do it; after a while of trying to get a great shot, I gave up and decided to just enjoy the beverage.

The cocktail, by the way, is a creation of my husband, though I take the credit (or the blame) for the name. Aquavit is a Scandinavian spirit with many varieties, many involving caraway. Its crisp and fresh taste, with a touch of herbs, can make a good digestif, and, as you’ll see here, adds a fun flavor to cocktails.

Arctic Sunshine
The flavor of aquavit varies greatly, and different ones will change the character of the cocktail. For this recipe, choose an aquavit with a distinct, yet well-balanced, caraway flavor.

1 1/2 oz. aquavit
1 oz. gin
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 dash orange bitters

Fill metal shaker with ice and add all ingredients. Shake until ice cold, then strain into a chilled cocktail class.

Serves 1

Another way of enjoying sun-ripened fruit in the fall and winter

I’ve been hearing a lot about canning lately. I’ve never done it, and, honestly, it seems a bit daunting to me. Those bacteria to worry about, the process, etc. But this summer, I did preserve some fruit–the flavor, at least–in alcohol. That counts, doesn’t it?

DSCN1500There’s nothing like freshly-picked, sun-ripened raspberries. As a child, after I had picked raspberries at Grandma H.’s, I would get a bowl of raspberries sprinkled with sugar and doused in milk. What a delightful treat for a child! My other grandma used to give my family lots of her homemade raspberry jam. She grew raspberries, gooseberries and tomatoes in her backyard. Apparently both grandmas were on to fresh, local produce way before I was even aware of the concept!

The week after Grandma D. passed away in July, I found myself trying to soak up as much as I could of Scandinavian life and culture. I visited a Scandinavian food and gift store, the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, tried to find a Norwegian perfume I knew about, etc.  Scandinavian cookbooks, in particular, caught my eye, and I bought Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit.  That same month I picked raspberries from my garden and turned them into berry aquavit, the recipe for which I had seen in Samuelsson’s book.

If you haven’t taken a look at Aquavit before, please do. It’s a beautiful, hardcover cookbook with nearly 300 pages of recipes, beautiful photographs, and more. I still have yet to try most of the recipes, but someone I know says the Swedish meatballs and garlic mashed potatoes are wonderful. She also ate at Aquavit in New York city, and says it’s the best meal she’s ever had. I want to experience a meal there for myself. In the meantime, I have more recipes than I have time to make them. Plus, the aquavit is delicious, and a happy reminder of summer days past.

Too late at night to be thinking–or writing–about coffee

(Yes, it’s after midnight, I should be sleeping, and I’m writing about coffee.)

There’s almost nothing better in the morning than waking up to the smell of freshly-brewed coffee, still too hot to drink, and discovering that it’s been brewed for you by a husband who’s standing at the side of the bed, waking you up with a mug of the fortifying tonic.

These days, a freshly-ground, fair-trade Nicaraguan coffee brewed in a humble coffeemaker or French press hits the spot more than the fancy drinks I used to order regularly: mix-and-match concoctions with any combination of flavorings, extra shots, milk selection, etc. The unassuming black coffee is like a classic, well-tailored suit contrasted with a bold, trendy ensemble that’s sometimes accessorized almost to the point of being gauche.

Before you think I’m being harsh, remember, my coffee tastes didn’t always reflect this sensibility, and I still love a good latte, cappuccino, hot chocolate or chai.

I was still a kid when lattes became cool in Seattle, before people started making jokes about there being a coffeehouse on every corner. But once the drinks caught on, I was one of the shops’ most serious young customers.

One day, it must have been back in elementary school, my friend and I approached the bakery counter at the neighborhood grocery store. Oh, how we thought we were cool, ordering triple or quad lattes—I can’t even remember now which one it was—unaccompanied by an adult. Having already earned the right to call myself a coffee-drinker (a big deal at that young age), we were adventurously moving onto the next symbol of pride: how many shots our coffee cups held. Wisely, the woman behind the counter took one look at us young girls and laid down the law: There was no way she’d be serving us so much caffeine.

Fast-forward to college, I was way beyond getting my coffee at the bakery; rather, I was now getting my pastries at the coffeehouse. I discovered that these places were perfect for studying or writing; I could surround myself with people, but still get to be alone. (The Seattle mystique is often true, sorry to say—Seattlites are often most comfortable cocooned in their invisible-walled shells, where they can watch their surroundings in safety and solitude. If you come to visit our beautiful city, please don’t take it as an offense, but try to see it as a cultural experience.)

After graduating, and finally landing a job in line with my career goals, my coffee habits took on a new dimension: frequent, near-nightly trips to the 24-hour drive-through on the way to work. I had accepted a position working pitiable hours, and while other people were sleeping, I was taking my hot, freshly brewed latte to work. In the alternate reality I seemed to be living by working at night and sleeping during the day, the coffee was like my blankie, serving as a constant, comforting thing as I walked into the artificially lit building at 1 a.m. (One of the few good things that came out of that habit was making friends with one of the baristas, who ended up being a bridesmaid in my wedding.)

Back to the beginning of the story. These days, one of the most pleasant aromas to me comes from a bag of coffee beans, just waiting to be ground and brewed. The fragrance is so full of warmth and comfort that it seems like just the thing to have on a cool, autumn evening, like the ones just around the corner. Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way that I should avoid having caffeine too close to bedtime. (And, I probably shouldn’t be writing about coffee at 12:30 a.m. on a work night.)

However, my experience (at least in my own family) is that Norwegians aren’t afraid to enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the evening. If you enjoy after-dinner coffee, too, I have a treat for you:


This Norwegian almond cake, accented with poached nectarines, would be a perfect pairing with that evening coffee as summer turns into fall. I’ll share a recipe soon. In the future, I plan to explore coffee traditions in Norway. If you have insight or experiences you’d like to share, please let me know.