Scandinavian Cookbooks

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally put the finishing touches on a roundup of Scandinavian cookbooks. You’ll find this list in the menu, or just click here.
I’ve enjoyed discovering new (at least new to me) Scandinavian cookbooks throughout the years, and I’ll continue to update this list as I find new ones. If you have favorites not mentioned on the list, let me know about them!

I’m keeping my promise

Yesterday I promised to share the recipes for Swedish cheesecake and Swedish apple pie with you. Today as I eat a slice of leftover cheesecake for breakfast, it seems like the perfect time to keep my promise and post a recipe for this delightfully delicate dessert. (The apple pie recipe won’t be far behind.)

But first I need you to purge any preconceived notions of cheesecake from your head. This is not the rich, dense, crumb-crusted concoction you’ll find on most American menus. Using ricotta instead of cream cheese, and baked in a loaf pan with no crust, the Swedish cheesecake is airy yet creamy, and dotted with the gentle crunch of finely-chopped almonds. With only two tablespoons of sugar, it’s not overly sweet, and lends itself perfectly to some sweetened whipped cream and cherries (or your favorite berries).

I served this dessert for a group of moms who came to my house with their babies yesterday. Just a few months ago we were in the early stages of motherhood, trying to figure out with each others’ support how to get our newborns to go to sleep at night and learning to cope with the sleep deprivation and new schedules. Now we all seem like pros as we let our babies play together while we enjoy tea and dessert together and talk about the newest adventure in parenting–starting solids–as well as our hopes and dreams as women. It was such a treat to welcome these friends and their babies into my home yesterday and  to treat them to some Scandinavian-inspired hospitality.

Now I’d like to extend a little bit of that to you, with this recipe that I do hope you’ll try.

Swedish Cheesecake (Ostkaka)
Adapted from The Swedish Table by Helene Henderson

If I haven’t already convinced you to try this recipe, let me tell you two other wonderful things about it: It can be made in a matter of minutes, and can be prepared a couple of days in advance. Don’t skip the fruit and whipped cream–they’re crucial to this dessert.

2 eggs
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped fine (a food processor works great for this)
15 oz whole-milk ricotta (I could only find part-skim at my grocery store, and that worked fine)
2 tablespoons sugar
A generous amount of cherries or berries
Sweetened whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 1 1/2-quart bread loaf pan. Now you’re ready to whip this dessert together in a pinch! Whisk the eggs, flour, and half-and-half together in a large bowl, then add almonds, ricotta, and sugar, and stir well to combine. Pour it into the pan and bake it for one hour. Chill for up to a couple of days, and then serve with sweetened whipped cream and a generous spoonful of berries.

Serves 6.

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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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Cod in mustard sauce with pickled beets

When it comes to special events, what menu items come to mind? Dry-aged steak grilled to perfection? Truffles? Foie grasor another rich and fancy hors d’oeuvres? I’m guessing that cod, beets, bacon, and eggs don’t make the list. Don’t be deceived, however; this meal I’m about to share with you is something remarkable.

The other day I was looking for something to serve for dinner. We were having my father-in-law over while my mother-in-law was out of town. Cod was going to be the centerpiece of the meal, but I needed to come up with the rest of the menu. Flipping through a Scandinavian cookbook, I found a recipe for “Cod with mustard sauce and condiments.” On the page next to it was a beautiful spread of five distinct food items arranged artfully on a plain white plate: cod with a pale mustard-dotted sauce, fingerling potatoes, half of a medium-boiled egg, pickled beets, and crispy diced bacon. I decided to give it a try, swapping out the original pickled beets, which required a week of marinating, with a quick version that could be made the same evening, and adding some sautéed beet greens.

The recipes are simplicity at its best, with each item prepared simply and allowed to shine. The dinner is a composition of Scandinavian flavors that lend themselves perfectly to the hospitality that corner of the world has so perfected.

Everyone loved the meal, especially my Scandinavian-born father-in-law. I’ll be keeping this recipe around for the future.

Cod with Mustard Sauce and Condiments
Adapted from The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann

This recipe, as detailed below, will serve four people, with leftover beets, potatoes, and mustard sauce. Feel free to increase the quantity of fish as needed to serve more people.

24 oz cod fillets
Salt and pepper
1 bag fingerling potatoes, boiled in salted water until tender, and kept warm until ready to serve
4 medium-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half (these can be prepared in advance and served cold or room temperature)
4 slices thick-cut bacon, preferably uncured, diced and pan-fried until crispy
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
Quick pickled beets (recipe follows)
Sautéed beet greens (recipe follows)

Prepare all condiments except mustard sauce in advance.

Season the cod with salt and pepper and poach in a large pan with water until just cooked through. Reserve 1 3/4 cups of the water, then cover the cod to keep warm until ready to serve.

To make the mustard sauce, melt butter over low heat in a small pan. Add the flour and stir constantly until it’s incorporated and forms a smooth paste. Gradually add the reserved cooking liquid from the cod, stirring constantly and making sure that no lumps form. When you have a smooth liquid, add the cream and mustard and continue to stir until the sauce starts to reach a boil. Remove from heat and taste to see if it needs any salt or pepper–this will depend on how seasoned the reserved water from the cod was.

To serve, arrange all the condiments on a plate around the cod as shown in the photo above, and spoon the sauce over the cod.

Quick Pickled Beets
6 medium-large beets, greens reserved for the following recipe
2 cups red wine vinegar
2 medium red onions, cut into halves and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
3 star anise
10 peppercorns

Trim the beets by cutting off the stems, but make sure to leave the thin stem and the very end of the stalks–these will help seal in the nutrients when cooking. Cook the beats in a pressure cooker, according to the cooker’s instructions. (Mine says to place beets on the trivet with a half cup of water in the pressure cooker and bring to a boil, then add lid and cook at the second red line for 13 to 16 minutes. Cool using the quick release or cold water method.) When the beets are cooked, set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the brine. Put the red wine vinegar, onions, sugar, star anise, and peppercorns in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the onions have softened slightly, about 6-7 minutes.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and the very end of the stalks. The skins will come off very easily–just hold the beet in one hand and lightly pull the skin off with the other hand. Cut each beet in half lengthwise and then into 1/4-inch slices.

Place beets in a bowl, and pour the onions and brine over them and stir. Allow to marinate for at least a half an hour. These should keep for about a week.

Sautéed Beet Greens
Beet greens (use the greens from the pickled beets)
Olive oil
1 clove garlic

Heat olive oil in a pan and add garlic, sautéing briefly, then add beet greens and cook until tender.

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The return of Scandinavian food, and a traditional yellow pea soup

When it comes to comfort food, one needs to look no further than Scandinavia for inspiration, with its array of root vegetables, meat stews, cured and pickled fish, and soups such as the traditional yellow pea soup. Yet despite its warm culinary traditions, Scandinavian food is much less common among restauranteurs in America than the more popular cuisines of France, Mexico, China, and the like.


Mazarin Torte

Even in Seattle, which boasts a rich Nordic heritage, the presence of Scandinavian-related businesses has thinned in recent years. However, the food of that region will hopefully make a comeback in 2012.

Scandinavian cuisine is projected to be one of the top ten food trends of 2012, according to The Telegraph. Plus, in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, a couple of restauranteurs are opening a restaurant called Queen of Norway this winter. Before that, the neighborhood’s Copper Gate bar declared itself “Seattle’s only surviving Scandinavian restaurant and lounge,” though one could also get coffee and a pastry at Larsen’s Danish Bakery up the street or smørrebrød (open sandwiches), lefse, and other items at the cafe inside Scandinavian Specialties, less than a mile away.


I had the opportunity of picking up Grandma D. some years ago and bringing her to Scandinavian Specialties for lunch. I wish I remembered more about that visit, and that I had done that with her more often. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember reading about my regrets about not asking Grandma to share some of her stories–stories about her youth, what it was like to live in Norway during the Norwegian resistance movement in World War 2, her experience as an immigrant coming to the United States in 1956.  I’m now determined to capture whatever family memories I can, and as food is such a great connector, my mom and I are putting together a book of family recipes and stories. I have dreams of publishing a cookbook someday–a gorgeous photo-heavy book that weaves together food with the memories that surround it–but in the meantime the important thing is preserving my family’s history and recipes. What a fun project to work on with my mom!

I also brought my other grandma to Scandinavian Specialties a while back, and it was there that I learned–after all these years–that she grew up speaking Norwegian and learned English as a schoolgirl. Grandma H. lived in North Dakota at the time, and to this day has never traveled to Norway, so it surprised me that Norwegian was her first language. It’s amazing what stories are there within our loved ones’ lives, just waiting to be uncovered!

I believe it was during that visit that we had a cup of yellow pea soup, which is traditionally served on Thursdays in Sweden and Finland. Grandma H. enjoyed that soup so much that when I saw a recipe for traditional yellow pea soup in a review copy I had just received for Kitchen of Light: The New Scandinavian Cooking by Andreas Viestad, I decided to make a batch and share it with her. It’s a big deal making a traditional dish for a veteran cook who knows all about the cuisine, so when Grandma approved, I knew this recipe was one to keep around.

Traditional Yellow Pea Soup
Adapted from
Kitchen of Light: The New Scandinavian Cooking

This soup, served hot with a dollop of sour cream, truly is comfort food, with its thick, porridge-like texture and hearty flavor–think split pea soup with a Scandinavian twist.

10 ounces dried yellow peas, soaked in cold water overnight and drained
2 thick slices of bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 cups low-sodium beef stock, plus more, if needed, to thin soup
1/3 cup finely chopped celeriac
1/4 cup fimely chopped leek (white and pale green parts)
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon chopped thyme, sage, or rosemary (optional)
Sour cream for serving

Fry the bacon in a pot until it turns golden and somewhat crispy. (The original recipe calls for frying the bacon in a tablespoon of butter, which just seems excessive. I followed the instructions, but in hindsight should have omitted the butter.) Add the chopped onion and sauté until it starts to turn golden as well. Add the yellow peas, 6 cups of beef stock, celeriac, leek, rosemary sprig and bay leaf. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce heat, allowing it to simmer for about an hour. This step is complete when the peas are soft and starting to break apart. Give it a good stir to further dissolve the peas, and add more stock if necessary to thin the soup to your desired consistency. It should be the thickness of split pea soup. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary sprig, adding chopped herbs if desired. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and serve with sour cream.

Serves 4.

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Good books and good food

I love to read. I’ve been keeping most of the books I’ve read this year stacked side by side in my bookcase, and the distance between the beginning of the first one and the end of the last one make me happy. I know, it probably sounds silly, but seeing how many great books I’ve gotten to read this year gives me a sense of satisfaction.

I also love to cook. And eat. Well, honestly, the normal night of cooking—when it’s just done as a necessary step toward having something to eat—can get old sometimes. But I love those nights when I can cook something special and maybe a little more complex because I have the time and that’s how I’m choosing to spend it.

That said, I’ve come to enjoy reading blogs, particularly food blogs—a natural connection, right? And since starting Outside Oslo, I’ve found some food blogs from Scandinavia that I enjoy, and I’d like to share them with you here:

The Transplanted Baker
A Cat in the Kitchen
Anne’s Food

If you know of any other Scandinavian food blogs you enjoy reading, please let me know; I’d love to check them out!

Glimpses of Norwegian culture, one recipe at a time

We’re having a lazy afternoon, the cat and I, hanging out on the couch on this hot late-summer day. The sun has been magnifying its heat through the westward facing window in the living room, and although I’m home sick while my family’s enjoying an outing on the lake, this is a nice way to spend one of the last summer days of the year.


I just picked up a bunch of Scandinavian cookbooks from the library and am perusing them for Norwegian recipes I might like to make sometime.

You’ll probably start to notice soon that I’ll be writing a lot about Scandinavian food. As I’m exploring my Norwegian heritage, the cuisine of Norway–and Scandinavian in general–is of particular interest to me. One can get a lot of perspective from the food of a particular time or place, and I’m enjoying getting to know this part of Scandinavian culture better.

Growing up in a Norwegian family, I spent many holidays at my grandparents’ house, eating food traditionally seen on tables in Norway during Christmastime. Sadly to say, I didn’t appreciate it fully while I was growing up. But when I went to Norway last summer for the first time, and was able to put my grandparents’ holiday meals in perspective, I realized how truly special it was to have had that opportunity.

Well, that’s it for now. Back to the recipes!