Homemade Halloween Candy: Orange-Cardamom Caramels

Orange-Cardamom Caramels

What are you serving trick-or-treaters who come knocking on your door tomorrow? If you’re feeling a little uninspired by the candy choices at the store, have you thought about making your own homemade Halloween candy? My latest article for the Norwegian American Weekly features a recipe for orange-cardamom caramels, and they’re easy to make! All you need is a good candy thermometer, some time, and patience. If you don’t have any plans tonight, get to work making a batch of these, and let them set overnight. Then simply cut and wrap them tomorrow. Enjoy!

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Scandinavian Light: Almond-Filled Baked Apples with Vanilla Cream

Baked Apples with Vanilla Cream

I’m gearing up for a festive holiday season here at Outside Oslo, and the Christmas baking has already begun! With all the talk we’ll be doing about cakes and tarts, cookies, and candy in the weeks to come, I’m going to take a moment today, before we begin, to share with you an easy and relatively healthy alternative to the rich and decadent foods that the holiday season often brings. The recipe? Almond-filled baked apples with a subtly sweet vanilla cream.

Apples and almonds are two common ingredients in Scandinavian baking, and cookbook author Beatrice Ojakangas has created a simple and rustic recipe that contains so little sugar that I’ve even enjoyed this for breakfast. This isn’t a meet-the-parents sort of dessert, or one that’s meant to impress. Rather, it’s one to enjoy either by yourself or for your family, maybe while reading a book by the fire after dinner, on a weeknight when you’re hoping to treat them to a little something sweet without all the calories and sugar often found in sweets this time of year. True, you could add a little extra sugar and replace the milk with cream. But to me that somehow misses the point. This is weeknight food that highlights the soft, comforting flavors of fall, and is a dessert I’d even feel okay about feeding my little boy.

Baked Apples with Vanilla Cream

Almond-Stuffed Baked Apples with Vanilla Cream
Adapted from Scandinavian Feasts by Beatrice Ojakangas

4 large tart baking apples, such as Granny Smith
1/2 cup blanched almonds, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons potato starch (cornstarch will also work)
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Core and halve the apples lengthwise and arrange them in a shallow baking pan, face up. Combine almonds, 1/4 cup sugar, and water in a small bowl and stir until they reach a paste-like consistency, then fill the apples with the mixture.

Pour the melted butter over the top of the apple halves, then sprinkle with a mixture of bread crumbs and brown sugar.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the apples are tender but still hold their shape. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, make vanilla cream. Combine egg, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, potato start, and milk in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring constantly. Continuing to stir, allow the mixture to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until thickened slightly. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool until ready to serve, then stir in the vanilla extract.

Chill cream until ready to serve. Arrange apples in serving bowls and pour cream over around then apples and over the top.

Serves 4-8, depending on whether you want to serve one or two halves per person.

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Nordic Flavor Inspiration: Anchovy-Dill Butter

Lamb with Anchovy Dill Butter

I can still picture the setting–an outdoor patio on the edge of an irregular shaped cove of eateries. I was studying abroad in a little seaside town in Normandy, and the professor had taken us students to the nearby city of Caen for dinner. Dimly illuminated by little lights all around us, the 14 students and our professor sat looking at the menus. One thing caught the professor’s eye: anchovy pizza. No one would split it with him. Except me.

I remember that evening vividly, despite it being over a decade ago. For some reason the idea of eating anchovies on pizza was exotic to that group of Seattle university students studying political science and French in Normandy. It actually surprises me, looking back at it, that I was the only one to eat it. It was good.

Anchovies are one of those foods, briney and bold, that I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid. Like pickled herring, all sorts of olives, and strong cheeses. My parents would regularly order Greek salads from a neighborhood restaurant, and I would take little nibbles of the anchovies, their tiny pin bones prickling my mouth as the salty flavor burst on my tongue. If I found anchovies intriguing as a kid, why not try them on pizza, right?

Some years later, while on our honeymoon in Italy, my husband and I walked into a tiny sliver of a pizza shop in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori to order lunch. I can’t remember our entire order, but I’ll never forget the special pizza they were doing that day: anchovy and zucchini blossom. Much different from the tomato sauce-based pizza I shared with my politcial sceience professor in Normandy, this pizza was based upon a perfect dough, with little more than olive oil, salt, anchovies, and the delicately fragrant little blossoms scattered on top. For the past several years, it has been a summertime tradition for my husband and I to visit the farmers market weekly to hunt for zucchini blossoms. We visit the same farmers week after week, checking in on the status, and excitedly making a beeline to the blossoms as soon as we spot them. We experiment with different recipes for pizza dough, trying to come up with one that will someday form our signature crust, and we build our pizza and eat it, savoring the explosion of flavor that comes with each bite.

Knowing my history with anchovies, you can probably imagine my excitement when I received Scandilicious Baking–Signe Johansen’s new cookbook–in the mail a few weeks ago and found a recipe for anchovy-dill butter. Johansen instructs readers to combine butter with Swedish Abba anchovies, dill, and a little salt until blended, and offers suggestions for how to eat it, such as on fish or potatoes. I decided to try it out, substituting my usual oil-packed anchovies for the Swedish ones and compensating by greatly reducing the quantity of anchovies. Wow, that butter packs a punch. I’m keeping it stored in my freezer right now, and I find myself chipping off a little bit of it to taste every once in a while, like a kid taking a bite of cookie dough while his mom isn’t looking.

Smorrebrod with Anchovy Dill Butter

One of the wonderful things about flavored butters is how they can elevate simple, quality ingredients into something special with absolutely no effort. Having this butter in my freezer has been inspiring me to think creatively about flavors, looking to Scandinavian cuisine, of course, but also to places like Provence, where anchovy is commonly paired with lamb, a surprisingly good flavor combination. Here are some of the creations I’ve enjoyed recently. If you find yourself inspired as well, I’d love to hear your ideas!

Pan-grilled Lamb Chops with Anchovy-Dill Butter and Brussels Sprouts

Rinse and pat dry two bone-in lamb shoulder chops and season both sides with salt. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat for several minutes until hot. Add a little olive oil, and when it begins to shimmer, add the lamb chops. Cook, adjusting the heat between medium and medium-high as necessary, for six minutes, until the lamb has developed a nice brown color. Flip the chops and continue cooking on the other side, adjusting heat as necessary, until the meat reaches a temperature of about 160 degrees for medium. Remove from heat and let rest for a few minutes.

While the lamb is cooking, cut 10 brussels sprouts in half lengthwise, and toss with a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and a teaspoon of kosher salt. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, then add the sprouts, cut side down, cooking them, covered, for five minutes until the flat sides are caramelized. Remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium-high, and cook for several more minutes, stirring frequently, to let the rest of the sprouts start to brown. (This technique is adapted from 101 Cookbooks, and is a surefire way to convert brussels sprouts skeptics into enthusiasts.)

Divide the lamb chops and Brussels sprouts between two plates, and top the lamb with a teaspoon of chilled anchovy butter.* Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill.

Serves two.

Smørrebrød with Anchovy-Dill Butter, Green Leaf Lettuce, and a Hard-Boiled Egg

Toast a slice of bread. While the bread is still hot, smear a little chilled anchovy-dill butter* on top, covering the surface of the bread as the butter melts. Cover with slices of crisp green leaf lettuce, then arrange a sliced hard-boiled egg and a sprig of dill on top.

Serves one, but can be easily multiplied to serve however many you want.

*To make the anchovy butter, whirl butter, anchovies–Abba anchovies or oil-packed–and dill in a food processor until combined, adjusting quantities until you have a flavor profile that suits your tastes. Start light with the anchovies and dill, because their flavors are strong.

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Rainy Night Dinner: Norwegian Sauerkraut (Surkål)


I don’t know whether it’s a sort of crunchy pride not unlike machismo or whether it has something to do with apathy and resignation to the rain, but true Seattleites tend to balk at using umbrellas.

Until a few years ago, the only ones I had were souvenirs from vacations–cheap or touristy emergency purchases to help me stay dry during unexpected rainstorms away from home. After living in Seattle for long enough (my whole life), however, I decided that it was time to break away from the norm and buy an umbrella I would actually use.

I’m proud to say I managed to find a beauty–one that’s chic enough to almost make me hope for rain. Almost. With an oversized canopy and a pretty wooden handle, opening it as I step out into the rain is always a treat.

Rain on LeavesThe rainy season has officially begun here in Seattle. It seemed to start on Friday evening, just as my son and I were walking to the car after a book signing with Aida Mollenkamp at Book Larder in Fremont. It continued today, with a sky so clouded that the view from my bedroom of the hills not too far in the distance was invisible.

We had such a beautiful summer and early fall that I forgot what it feels like to live in a rainy city: persistent raindrops poking me all over as I rush back inside to find my umbrella, soggy cuffs smearing water on the hardwood floors, and cold, damp jeans sticking to my legs.

On the other hand, rainy days are perfect for making cold-weather food, the kind of dishes that make you feel warm and cozy just eating them. I didn’t know when I started cooking a pot of Norwegian sauerkraut on Friday that we were entering a period of rain.

I had been thinking about my late Grandma Agny’s surkål, a Norwegian sauerkraut that my grandmother always made for special dinners, and decided to try my hand at it. The recipe is about as simple as can be, requiring the cook only to shred the cabbage, then simmer the handful of ingredients together in a large pot for about an hour and a half. It’s extremely economical, as well, as cabbage feeds a crowd for only a couple of dollars.

CabbageGrandma published her recipe in an old church cookbook, and the directions are limited to three sentences, 36 words:

Shred cabbage; peel and shred apple(s). Put butter in saucepan; mix all ingredients together in saucepan and cook over low heat until color darkens. Serve in a nice looking dish; garnish with apple wedges and parsley.

I love the way that Grandma kept details to a minimum, except when it came to how to serve the dish. That, to her, was worth a third of the small recipe, which hints back at her career in hospitality. I can picture Grandma’s surkål on the table so many years ago in a gold-rimmed porcelain or china serving dish and garnished with bright green curly-leaf parsley chopped, I imagine, by hand. She would have carefully placed the parsley onto the bland-colored caraway-flecked sauerkraut, taking care to present us with an attractive and appetizing dish.

My husband and I ate a late dinner of surkål and medisterkaker–Norwegian pork meatballs–after the book signing on Friday night, and it was the perfect meal to warm us up on a chilly, damp evening. Now that I’ve become reaquainted with these two welcoming Norwegian foods, they will be autumn and winter mainstays at our house.


Agny Danielsen’s Surkål

750 grams cabbage
1 or 2 apples, cored
75 grams butter
1/2 liter distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon caraway
2 teaspoons salt
Curly-leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish

Shred the cabbage using the slicing disc of a food processor, then switch to the shredding disk to shred the apple (it’s okay to leave the skin on).

Melt butter in a large, heavy pot, then add remaining ingredients (except parsley) and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 90 minutes, until the cabbage is soft and has darkened and the vinegar has reduced and softened in flavor. You may need to increase the heat near the end to finish reducing the vinegar.

Remove from the heat and, as Grandma Agny indicated, “Serve in a nice looking dish; garnish with apple wedges and parsley.”

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Kladdkaka: Swedish Gooey Chocolate Cake

Kladdkaka Vertical

This is one of the easiest, quickest, and most versatile cakes I can imagine sharing with you. Yet it’s beautiful, isn’t it? Imagine pulling a chocolate cake out of the oven, the warm, sensual aroma escaping from the open oven door and filling your kitchen. The finished product–kladdkaka, otherwise known as Swedish gooey chocolate cake–enveloped in your potholder-protected hands, sizzles slightly and barely looks done by normal standards, which hints at its moist and gooey center, the most luscious and decadent cake of all.

That’s pretty exciting for a cake that has only handful of ingredients, none of them out of the ordinary. But that’s what happens when you use quality ingredients–such as rich, dark chocolate–and find a recipe that somehow just transforms a few ordinary individual items into something spectacular, working its magic like I talked about the other day.

Kladdkaka HorizontalIf you have a couple of dark chocolate bars plus the usual baking arsenal of unsalted butter, eggs, sugar, flour, and baking powder on hand, please bake this cake this week. Once you chop the chocolate–which can be a meditative exercise for those like me who find tranquility in the kitchen–the batter comes together in a matter of minutes, making it the perfect recipe for a weeknight dessert. Just chop the chocolate while the butter is melting on the stove, and then after you add the chocolate to the butter, whip the rest of the batter together. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might even add some sliced pears to the bottom of the pan before carefully spooning in the batter, though you might have to add a little extra baking time.

Kladdkaka: Swedish Gooey Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Scandilicious: Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking

200 grams dark chocolate
200 grams unsalted butter, cubed
4 large eggs
200 grams baker’s sugar
250 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Powdered sugar, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

Put the butter in a small saucepan and melt over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, chop the chocolate in small pieces–you can use a food processor to do this in minutes, or if you’re not in a rush I suggest taking a couple of minutes to chop the chocolate and savor the experience of baking something special. When the butter is melted, remove from heat and add the chocolate, stirring occasionally, as it melts.

Allow the chocolate to cool a little, then beat the eggs and sugar together with a stand mixer until light and fluffy and stir in the chocolate.

Fold in the flour and baking powder, taking care to preserve the air from the whisked eggs. Pour into the pan and bake for 12 to 13 minutes.*

Allow the cake to cool before removing it from the tin. Dust powdered sugar on top before serving.

*The original recipe stresses the importance of not baking any longer than this, as you want the cake to have a gooey chocolate center. While I’ve had some success experimenting with pan sizes and timing for other cake cakes, I recommend strictly adhering to this recipe’s guidelines. The results are worth it!

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Scandinavian Autumn Fruit Soup

Scandinavian Autumn Fruit Soup

There’s nothing like a pot of fruit and spices simmering on the stove to fill a home with warmth and a cozy aroma. Some people turn to spiced apple cider and mulled wines, but a pot of Scandinavian fruit soup does the trick too.

I’m excited to announce that my recipe for Scandinavian Autumn Fruit Soup is part of my latest article for Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine. The article–“Double-duty dishes: Autumn soups to satisfy the whole family”–is on page 36 of the October issue (the digital edition is available here). The article features five soups that parents can make for the whole family, with directions for adapting them for early eaters. In addition to recipes, the article provides plenty of tips on nutrition and raising healthy eaters. I hope you’ll check it out!

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Welcome October

Pears and Tomatoes

My kitchen is the stuff of magic right now. Fresh, almost-ripe Bartlett pears mingle with the last-of-the-season tomatoes from my next-door neighbor’s garden. The pears have been simmering into a sauce on the stove, preceded by a spiced Scandinavian autumn fruit soup. A kladdkaka, or Swedish gooey chocolate cake, is piping hot on the cake stand, fresh from the oven.  The warm, fruity chocolate aroma is the kind that warms the heart and could inspire a weary soul.

October is here, and just as the seasons have shifted outside, the focus in my kitchen has changed. The items mentioned above are just a taste of what’s coming at Outside Oslo this week. Check back soon for recipes!

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A 3-Year Blogiversary

It’s been three years this month since I started Outside Oslo. While my friend Christy and I were driving away from a book signing for Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef the other night (if you haven’t bought her new book, My Berlin Kitchen, yet, please do–you’re in for a treat), my friend suggested that I do a “blogiversary.” I dismissed the idea at first, since the official anniversary of my first post was a few weeks ago. But after considering it more, I realized that it would actually be fun for me to go back and read through my old posts and reminisce over the events and experiences of the past three years.

I took the leap and published my introductory post on September 1, 2009. After Grandma Agny, whom I wrote about on Tuesday, died earlier that summer, I found myself clinging to my Norwegian heritage as a way to try to get closer to her. As part of the grieving process, I went to a Scandinavian bar in Ballard to drink an aquavit in her memory and took a trip to the mall to seek out Scandinavian cookbooks and try to find a Norwegian perfume called Laila. I bought my first cookbooks–Aquavit and The Great Scandinavian Baking Book–and I started a blog.

It took a little while to get my bearings, due in part to what seemed like a limited availability of Scandinavian cookbooks that weren’t old-fashioned (I’ve since discovered many wonderful ones and have a page dedicated to them). I featured the first recipe–Potatoes and Chanterelles with Lemon and Dill–later that month. As the weeks and months went on, I alluded to “an emergency at work” and the stress that accompanied it. Being new to blogging, I didn’t want to get too personal, but looking back at it, the words “emergency” and “crisis” are about as vague as I could have gotten! I woke up one October morning to a voicemail from the newsroom where I used to work. The assignment editor was calling me for the scoop on the fire at the theatre where I was the communications manager. A fire? At the theatre? That’s some way to find out. I skipped the morning shower and got out the door as quickly as I could to get to the scene. Emergency crews blocking the road couldn’t tell me much, but we all soon learned that the theatre and its adjacent building were the target of a serial arsonist. The adjacent building was destroyed. The theatre had to be gutted, but thanks to the firefighters’ aggressive efforts to save it, it could be restored. That experience defined much of that fall as we worked on finding a temporary home for our Christmas production and race to get the theatre restored in time for the beginning of the 2010 season. I got calls from media all the time, and on opening night of the first production back in the original space, I greeted not only the usual critics, but also fielded reporters and photographers in a celebratory frenzy–we were back, and all four local news networks were there to mark the occasion.

While all of that was going on behind the scenes in my life, I blogged about baking lefse with Grandma Adeline and shared scenic photos I had been taking. Over the past several years, Grandma has been teaching my mom and me how to make the perfect lefse, rolling it out round and thin and cooking it just right. We’ve also made sandbakkels, krumkake, and Norwegian waffles, as well as an assortment of cookies. While I’d share photos of our lefse lessons, I’d mainly hint at the other items, not realizing at the time how perfect each one of those experiences would have been to share here on Outside Oslo. As time went on I found myself struggling to keep to a theme, which I had made too broad. I set out to write about my experience discovering my Scandinavian heritage, when what I mainly wanted to write about was the food. I baked cakes–Tosca Cake and Swedish Brandy Cake being two of my favorites–and shared even the non-Scandinavian recipes I loved here on the site (the crab cakes from summer 2010 are amazing).

The next year I kept writing–here on Outside Oslo, and increasingly elsewhere as well. I started another blog, Nooks & Cranberries, with a friend, developed a story for a novel and participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and resumed the freelance writing I had taken a break from. I was working, too, and I discovered how hard it is to balance so many different roles and projects. Before I knew it, I was expecting a baby, and–bam!–the exhaustion and fatigue hit me by surprise. We were also actively trying to buy a new house, and I gave myself permission to put aside my writing goals temporarily and just focus on the immediate needs in my life.

Much of 2011 and the first part of 2012 were pretty quiet here at Outside Oslo, though I tried to touch base here every once in a while, even if just to document progress on the move or share something I thought might be of interest here. Looking back at it, I think that hiatus was one of the best things I could have done for my writing career. It could have been dangerous, had I not started writing again, but stepping back and taking some time to adjust to the changes in life and modify my writing life in the process gave me the ability to dream big. I started sending out queries not only to local publications, but to national magazines, and now I’m officially a nationally-published freelance writer–and a professional food writer! When I left my in 2011 to be a stay-at-home mom, I had visions of trying to reboot my freelance writing career, but I had no idea how exciting it would become. It’s been an exercise in improvisation and trial-and-error to figure out how to keep writing while taking care of a very active little boy and trying to cook and keep the house clean, but I’m doing it, and feeling so encouraged and energized by the progress. I’m excited to see what comes next!

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The Easiest Dessert

Yogurt, Fruit, and Ginger Cookies

The art of cooking simply has always been difficult for me.

I can still remember the first meal I planned for my new husband and myself after we got back from our Italian honeymoon in 2005. Upon returning to our new apartment, which I hadn’t even begun to settle into amidst all the wedding preparation, I flipped through cookbooks and found two recipes that sounded like they would be perfect for a fall weeknight dinner: Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic and Butternut Squash and Sage Pasta.

Little did I realize at the time that such a dinner would require advance planning, with each individual recipe taking plenty of time to prepare and cook. Yet in the flurry of returning to work as a morning news writer and producer (a job that required me to leave for work when my husband was going to bed at night) and adjusting to a new life with a new husband in a new apartment, I hadn’t even thought to shop for ingredients in advance.

I quickly learned that if I was going to plan the meals in our household—something I had been looking forward to—I had to get to work. However, I couldn’t help but add an elaborate touch to my weekly meal planning, getting bogged down with complex recipes and scheduling recipes too rigidly.

These days meal planning is much more relaxed. I’ve found that as long as we have a protein and a vegetable on hand, we can create something delicious using our imaginations and drawing from our cooking knowledge. Plus, having established a repertoire of tried-and-true recipes along with an intimate knowledge of many cookbooks, I can choose a few seasonally-appropriate meals over the course of the week and shop for whatever ingredients we don’t already have in our pantry or refrigerator.

Such progress served me well last week when I was having my sister-in-law over for dinner while my husband was away on a business trip. I had two requirements as I considered the meal: It had to be simple and quick to prepare, and it had to be delicious. I remembered a recipe that I had discovered years ago in an Italian cooking magazine—penne all’arrabbiata. Requiring no more than a handful of ingredients and 30 minutes in the kitchen including prep, it was perfect. Dessert was its sister in simplicity: Fresh berries served over honey-sweetened yogurt with ginger cookies.

Honeyed Yogurt with Berries and Ginger Cookies
An Outside Oslo original

3 ounces plain Greek yogurt (please use 2% or higher here–the nonfat version just doesn’t do the recipe justice)
1/2 teaspoon honey
2 ounces fresh raspberries
2 ginger cookies

Stir Greek yogurt and honey together in a bowl, adding more honey as needed to suit your tastes. (Don’t add too much–you should still be able to taste the tang of the yogurt.) Divide between bowls and arrange raspberries on top, garnishing with cookies on the side.

Serves 1, but can easily be multiplied.

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A Word About Hospitality (and a Gluten-Free Cake)

 Blackberry, Almond, and Cardamom Cake


It’s an almost old-fashioned word, conjuring up 1950’s housewives and a deceptively spotless kitchen hiding days’ worth of preparation.

But I love the grace and ease that the word evokes, and the memories that it conjures up of my late Grandma Agny.

Grandma was born in Norway during the first part of the 20th century, in a time when the country was still enjoying its relative new independence. She grew up Norwegian through and through, and then sometime in the 1950s—after the hardships and heartbreak of watching her beloved country be invaded and suffering the unimaginable grief of losing an infant son—she and Grandpa Lauritz packed up their lives and moved to the United States with my father, who was 11 years old at the time.

The newly-immigrated family arrived in New York in 1956, with the sites of Manhattan and the American cars leaving an impression on my young father. They made their way to Seattle where they would begin their new lives. My grandparents—though already established in their adult years—would learn to speak English with ease, though always with rich, thick accents. They would make new friends and assimilate the best they could into their new culture, while always feeling a bit of yearning for home. Grandma Agny would go on to find a job at one of Seattle’s finest hotels, where she must have honed her gracious sense of hospitality. Her references to that time were always marked with a sense of honor and pride, and she carried that sense of service into her home.

Dinners at my grandparents’ home were always formal affairs, with my grandmother preparing a menu of traditional Norwegian foods and serving them on a table set with fine, creamy linens, decoratively fanned napkins, and her finest dinnerware. We would sit around the small dining room table—which sat the five of us comfortably—each taking our place at one of the chairs adorned with embroidered seat cushions. Grandpa and Grandma would sit with their backs to the window, giving my dad, mom, and me the seats with the view of Puget Sound. On Christmas Eve we could see the houses adorned with Christmas lights in the neighborhood below where their house was perched. There would be Scandinavian red cabbage, steamed carrots, roast pork, and plump little savory meatballs called medisterkaker, which stood out as a juicy contrast to the drier roast. Always prepared with an abundance of food to feed a large dinner party, my grandparents would pass the bowls and platters around, and my grandfather would make his contribution to the meal by frequently asking each of us if he could pass us more meat, or vegetables, or whatever the item might be. We would drink Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider in stemware and mark the occasion together—the little family of five that we were.

My dad, mom, and I were the only family that Grandpa and Grandma had here in the United States, and they poured out their love to us abundantly, most often in the form of giving and service. Though I wouldn’t make my first trip to Norway until I was an adult, they made me aware of my heritage and demonstrated the hospitality that Scandinavians seem to be so good at.

As I develop my own vision of hospitality, inspired by the generations before me, one of my current considerations is how to graciously host friends with dietary restrictions. While it was initially a challenge to plan a satisfying meal for a vegetarian friend or how to bake a cake for my book club while being inclusive to a friend who avoids dairy, I’ve since developed a growing repertoire of menu choices for all sorts of diets. I’ve begun a list: a walnut cake made with walnut oil instead of butter for my dairy-free friends, a protein-packed quinoa and black bean salad for vegetarians, a gluten-free cardamom, blackberry, and almond cake.

Speaking of that cake, it’s made with ground almonds in place of flour, which gives it a different crumb than a tradition cake, but its nutty texture goes perfectly with the texture of the blackberries baked in its batter. I baked it recently for a group of people who were new to me, and bringing a gluten-free cake along with a chocolate one–which I’ll have to tell you more about soon–felt like a great way to quietly ensure that my new friends were properly taken care of, and in such a way that made them not worry about their dietary needs being a burden. I’m sure my grandmother would have done the same thing.

Blackberry, Almond, and Cardamom Cake
This recipe, adapted from Scandilicious: Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking, is given in metric units. I resisted the urge to convert it because I really enjoy the precision.

125 grams unsalted butter, softened
200 grams baker’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medium eggs
250 grams ground almonds
2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
200 grams blackberries (fresh or frozen will work)
200 grams fresh fruit for garnish (I used strawberry, but peaches or nectarines would complement the blackberries beautifully as well)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch round cake tin.

Get started on the batter by creaming butter, sugar, and vanilla together with a stand mixer. Add eggs, one at a time (the original recipe suggests doing so with a tablespoon of ground almonds to stop the mixture from splitting).

Combine the remaining almonds, baking powder, cardamom, and salt and then fold into the butter mixture, taking care not to overmix.

Add the blackberries to the batter, and then pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack in its tin. Serve with fresh fruit.

Serves 6-8.

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