Sweet-and-Sour Red Cabbage (Rødkål)

Rødkål Red Cabbage

Do you remember when I shared my grandma Agny’s recipe for surkål–Norwegian sauerkraut–a few weeks ago? That’s just one type of Scandinavian cooked cabbage that has been part of my family’s holiday menus in years past. Another is rødkål, a sweet-and-sour red cabbage that’s prepared basically the same way and with similar ingredients yet yields very different results.

Rødkål Red Cabbage

Whether your Christmas meal involves roast pork or medisterkaker–Norwegian pork meatballs–rødkål will add a festive yet homey touch to your Scandinavian holiday menu.

Rødkål Red Cabbage


1 (2 pound) red cabbage
1 apple
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons currant jelly
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons salt

Core the cabbage and shred using the slicing disc of a food processor. Core and shred the apple (it’s okay to leave the skin on).

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot, then add cabbage, apple, and remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 90 minutes to two hours, until the cabbage has softened. Serve.

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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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Norwegian apple soup

It’s a quiet Sunday morning here at my house. Birds are chirping outside and I hear the quiet hum of the computer and refrigerator, but all is still. I’m still in my pajamas, sipping a cup of coffee, and I have a baby all bundled up in the softest little blanket you can imagine. If that’s not cozy, I don’t know what is.

Before the day starts, I want to take a moment to share a recipe with you. I made this dessert soup on a winter evening when my parents were over for dinner, and then I forgot to post it for you.

The beautiful thing about this soup is that you can serve it warm or chilled. Imagine sitting at the candlelit dinner table on a winter evening, content and relaxed after a hearty meal. Conversation is pleasant, no one is in a hurry, and while it’s raining or snowing outside, you’re warmed by the fireplace crackling in the living room and by luscious spoonfuls of hot apple soup. Wouldn’t that be a lovely way to spend a winter evening? Or, in the late summer when apple season is just beginning, you could serve this soup cold at an outdoor afternoon lunch with the first apples of the season. Either way, this simple dessert is the perfect way to showcase the dependable apple.

Norwegian Apple Soup (Eplesuppe)
Adapted from Authentic Norwegian Cooking

2/3 cup sugar
1 stick cinnamon (or a few dashes of ground cinnamon)
4 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch flour
5 apples, peeled, sliced, and cored
3 teaspoons lemon juice
Butter cookies, for serving (optional)
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add apples and cinnamon and cook until the apples are tender but still holding their shape. Remove the cinnamon stick, if using, and discard. Reserve one quarter of the apple slices and puree the rest in a food processor, then add the puree back in the saucepan. Mix potato flour and a little water in a small bowl to make a thin paste, and then add to the soup in a thin stream, stirring to incorporate. Bring the soup to a boil, stirring constantly, then remove from heat and stir in the reserved apple slices and the lemon juice. Allow to cool with the lid on. Serve warm or chilled, with butter cookies and whipped cream if desired.

Serves 4-5.

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Cookbook Review: “Kitchen of Light”

Every once in a while you come across a cookbook that you feel you would like to live with exclusively for a few weeks, cooking obsessively through the mouth-watering recipes and discovering the full range of the author’s palate. For me, one of those cookbooks is Kitchen of Light: New Scandinavian Cooking with Andreas Viestad.

In this colorful book, Viestad, a Norwegian food writer and TV host, takes hungry readers on a culinary tour of Norway through his eyes. Viestad’s essays take readers to big cities like Bergen–which boasts northern Europe’s largest outdoor fish market (he also shares a recipe for the classic Bergen Fish Soup)–as well as to remote parts of the country that few of us will ever see. For example, as the host of American Public Television’s New Scandinavian Cooking, Viestad has had the opportunity to tape an episode in Spitsbergen, a Norwegian island well north of the mainland and less than 750 miles from the North Pole. He calls it “the last frontier,” and “one of the few remaining areas of totally unspoiled wilderness in Europe, even the world.” Not many of us will ever step foot on its snow- and ice-covered ground, but thanks to Viestad’s book we can get a taste of what it must have been like to be a trapper or hunter living on a chilly island, the “northernmost inhabited place in the world,” over a century ago; with his accompanying recipe for Svalbard Beet Soup with Goose Stock, we can imagine what it must have been like to eat a steaming bowlful of soup made with goose meat when the geese arrived in the spring.

What I love about this book–well, one of many things that I love–is how Viestad manages to modernize Scandinavian food while staying true to its roots. While you won’t find recipes for rømmegrøt, lefse, or many of the other dishes my grandparents would have cooked, you will occasionally find other traditional dishes, including Viestad’s lovely herb-scented Traditional Yellow Pea Soup (I recently featured the recipe here) and the classic dessert called Veiled Farm Girls. The recipes are based on ingredients commonly used in Norway, including cod and pollock and berries such as lingonberry.

While much traditional Scandinavian cuisine is hearty, such as porridge or lamb stews, and sometimes consists of preserved foods like lutefisk or gravlax, Viestad shows readers the fresh and seasonal side of how Norwegians eat, highlighting the sun-kissed berries ripened to perfection in the long summer days and the wild mushrooms found in late summer (I made his New Potatoes with Chanterelles and Dill a few years ago, and loved it).

It’s rare to find a Scandinavian cookbook published recently that doesn’t veer from the traditional and include recipes that look nothing like the Nordic food of days gone by–Kitchen of Light included. But Viestad includes notes throughout the book on how his recipes fit into Scandinavian cuisine. For example, accompanying his recipe for Slow-Baked Salmon with Soy Sauce and Ginger, he points out that soy sauce and ginger have been known in Norway for centuries but have recently been popularized by Asian influence on Scandinavian cuisine. However, I still have no idea how Viestad’s recipe for Broccoli with Capers, Garlic, and Anchovies, while delicious and full of flavor, relates to Scandinavian cuisine.

Kitchen of Light, is a lovely book that’s so much more than cookbook. Viestad’s essays on places and products–with beautiful photos by Mette Randem–will make you want to visit Norway and discover its food. If I haven’t sold you yet on checking out this book (I have no incentives to do so, other than wanting to share something delicious with you), let me offer a few recipe titles to entice you. Here is a sampling of what you’ll find in Kitchen of Light: Rosemary Cod with Vanilla-scented Mashed Rutabaga; Salt Cod with Peas, Mint, and Prosciutto; Mussels with Aquavit, Cream, and Tarragon; Juniper-Spiced Venison with Brown Goat Cheese Sauce; Onion Pie with Jarlsberg and Thyme; Summer Berries with Bay Leaf Custard; and Cloudberry Cream with Rosemary and Vanilla. Enjoy!

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Kitchen of Light from the publisher. However, I made no promises to give a positive review, and am sharing my honest opinions of this book.

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A chocolate orange cake for your coffeetable


I knew exactly what the flight attendant was saying. Though I speak virtually no Norwegian, that word transcends most Western languages. Though spelling and intonation may change, coffee, in a way, is almost a universal word in the Western world.

It was something else that caught me off guard: how I was to respond. It was a word—a one-word question—so familiar, so intrinsically understood, even when spoken in a different language. Even the answer—a simple ja or no—would have been so easy for my unschooled tongue. Or so it seems.

Blonde and fresh-faced, a Nordic beauty, the woman offering me a cup of steaming coffee on the Scandinavian Airlines flight could have been my cousin. Perhaps that’s why I stumbled over my thoughts, unsure of how to answer. She was so like me—or, rather, I was so much like her—yet I had one big, shaming disadvantage.

At 26, I was a full-blooded American-born Norwegian who had never been to the fatherland, and had taken a less-than-helpful Intro to Norwegian class hoping to get a crash course in the language before visiting. The phrases I learned as a child—jeg elsker deg (I love you), du er en kjekk gutt (you are a cute boy), du er en gris (you are a pig)—weren’t going to cut it.

On that SAS flight, on a trip that took me around Greece, Turkey, and Norway, the flight attendant must have taken one look at me and identified me among many of the other blondes on the flight: a Scandinavian. What she got was a half-second-generation Norwegian with a surface-level grasp on the culture of her father and grandparents.

I fumbled for the correct response. At that point it wasn’t even a matter of whether I really wanted coffee or not. That was beside the point. Was she really offering me coffee, was it as simple as that? Would my yes or no or ja or nei be an adequate and correct response?

That was 2008. Today I still don’t speak Norwegian, but I’ve come to grips with it (at least until the next time I travel to Norway). What I’ve truly latched onto is the food of Scandinavia, and how it brings back fond childhood memories as well as furthers my appreciation of my heritage.

Since we’re on the topic of coffee, I’ve learned a lot about the significance of coffee among Scandinavians through The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas. I grew up witnessing a ritual of coffee in my family, but this book helped me to understand coffee’s place in the culture.

“Coffeetime makes up three of the six meals of the Scandinavian day,” Ojakangas says (page 67). “And what you eat with coffee… is a coffeebread. Coffeebreads are not served with meals, but accompany morning coffee, afternoon coffee, or evening coffee.” She goes on to describe the coffeetable that accompanies special events such as birthdays, name days, and anniversaries; the spread may include “cardamom-flavored coffeebreads, plus other special sweet yeast breads, plain as well as frosted cakes, and a variety of cookies” (67).

Though Scandinavian cuisine is generally less known than others such as French, Mexican, or Chinese, it offers no shortage of variety–from the caramel- and nut-topped Tosca Cake (one of my personal favorites) and an endless assortment of cookies to savory traditional dishes such as klüb. For today’s coffeetable, here’s a recipe for Norwegian Orange Cake.

Norwegian Orange Cake
Adapted from the Los Angeles Times

3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
Grated zest of one orange
1/3 cup orange juice, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 ounces dark chocolate (70%), finely chopped (or, if you have a 3.25 ounce bar, just go ahead and use the whole thing)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
Candied orange peel (optional), or fresh orange wedges

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 9-inch bundt or angel food cake pan. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, beating until incorporated before adding the next. Add the orange zest and 1/3 cup of orange juice and combine.

Sift together the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Slowly add it to the cake batter with the mixer running, beating just until incorporated, then add the chocolate and fold to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. It will only fill about a third or half of the pan–that’s okay. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a cooling rack before removing from the mold.

Meanwhile, sift the powdered sugar in a bowl and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of orange juice to make the icing. When the cake has cooled, drizzle the icing over it. Garnish with candied orange if desired, or serve with orange wedges.

Serves 10-16.

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Britt-Arnhild for pointing out an error in my Norwegian–it has since been updated!

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 soup for fall

How much money do you spend on food a week? Or a month? Seriously, do you know? I have to admit, I don’t know the answer for myself.

I try to pay attention, but it’s so easy to lose track.

A couple of things I’ve come across recently, though, have inspired me to put some good practices in place once again. Jen of use real butter took part in a one-week hunger awareness challenge in October: eating on $30 for the entire week. I don’t know if I’d be able to do it, but it’s a reminder of how good I have it. Also, attending an instructional session on coupons last month, I was astounded by the amount of money one can save on groceries. Now, to be honest, I have no intentions of clipping, filing, and actually bringing coupons to the store (I’d drown in paper), but I did learn some things that will help save money. The easiest lesson for me to put into practice is looking at stores’ online ads before shopping. That way I can plan my list partly around the specials.

That’s where the recipe I’m about to share comes from.

Broccoli Soup

One local store recently sold 10 pounds of broccoli for $10. A great deal, right? At least it sounds like it. Broccoli is healthy, so I bought a lot of it, figuring I could decide later what to do with it.

Finally I came up with an idea: adapt a traditional Norwegian soup using broccoli.

As I peruse Scandinavian cookbooks I see multiple recipes for spinach soup, or spinatsuppe, sometimes garnished with slices of hard-boiled egg. I plan on trying the spinach version someday, but in the meantime, the broccoli soup is a good substitution.

Norwegian-Inspired Broccoli Soup with Hard-Boiled Egg
Adapted very loosely from Food & Wine

This is a basic broccoli soup. If you have a favorite version, by all means go ahead and use it. The eggs are the special touch.

2 heads of broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 Tb unsalted butter
1/2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large white onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 quart chicken broth
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c milk
1-2 hard-boiled eggs

Peel broccoli stems and chop florets and stems into evenly-sized pieces. Melt butter and olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli and broth and gently simmer for about 20 minutes until broccoli is cooked through, adding more broth if necessary. Working in batches, purée soup, then stir in cream and milk and simmer until heated through. Garnish with slices of hard-boiled eggs.

Serves 4

Change of plans

I was supposed to attend a Norwegian food demonstration tonight. Supposed to being the key part of that sentence. Sometimes, though, things don’t go according to plan. And that’s okay.

Like the time I was supposed to learn to make lefse last month with Grandma H. Her plans to move to a new place, and all the work associated with it, meant we had to postpone the lefse lesson until sometime this fall. Disappointing, but the change is good: Grandma no longer has to cook—except for the occasional baking she’ll do for pleasure—which at 90 years old is a huge relief to her.

Or like the time the threat of a hurricane forced a premature end to a vacation in Key West. Now, I don’t think I’ll ever be happy about a vacation being cut short, but those extra free days at home at the end did give me a chance to try out painting as a hobby. (In case you were wondering, that hobby quickly died.)

In any case, tonight’s change of plans gave me some extra time to work on a blog post I’m writing for my church, the deadline for which is coming up sooner than I’d like.

I’m just excited to have more Norwegian experiences to share with you, and that’s probably the most disappointing thing about tonight’s change of plans. But check back soon, and hopefully I’ll have a recipe posted for some tasty Scandinavian treat.