Scandinavian Burger: Where Beet, Not Meat, Is The Star

The beet is an old cultural plant that has been grown in Europe for over three thousand years but likely arrived in  Scandinavia  in the 15th of 16th century.  Both the red beet and sugar beet stem from the beach beet, which grows wild along coastal Europe.   Beets can be round, oval or cylindrical, but more commonly seen is the round shaped beet.  Beets come in red, yellow or orange colors –  my favorite dish is to make a colorful salad which include all the different types roasted, toss them with some good olive oil, season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, drizzle a little good quality red wine vinegar over them and sprinkle with some fresh dill.  Norway on a plate!

beets

Beets are used in a variety of dishes in the Nordic countries, as it is a traditional root vegetable with a long history in the Nordic kitchen.  Beets are served both warm and cold, the latter regularly in salads, and then there is of course red beet soup; borscht.  Cooked, chopped beets are often added to ground meat,  boiled beets are served with new potatoes with a dab of butter, and perhaps the best known way to serve these are pickled; either as a condiment to fish or as a topping on open faced sandwiches.  I’ve also seen them pureed  with butter and whipped into a cream, and with their bright red color, this not only tastes great but adds beautiful color to your plate. Besides beets being incredibly versatile and healthy with their low fat, high calcium, fiber and iron content, they are also amazingly tasty if you know how to prepare them to maximize their sweetness and underlying earthiness.

Beets are in season from May to November, when they are smaller in size and nice and tender,  but they will keep well through the winter, which is why they are so popular in Norway.    Regardless of the time of year, avoid selecting the very large beets, as they may not be as sweet and sometimes have a woody center.  The leaves on the beet stalks are also very nutritious, and can be chopped up and sauteed with some olive oil and garlic for a delectable side dish.  Don’t throw these out!

Since  I no longer include meat or fish in my diet, I wanted to create a dish that would taste “meaty” without the meat, and much better!  I have seen beet burgers on menus in restaurants before, but more often than not, the beets are boiled, then pureed and mixed with whatever other ingredients and fried on the flat top, much like any other burger. The result is generally a mushy mess in the center with an undesirable texture, reminiscent of baby food.  The way I decided to do mine, is shred the beets while raw into thin pieces, then saute them on the pan, almost similar to hash browns.  The result is a crispy exterior with a firm texture that better replicates the meat version. Simply perfection! When I had my catering company, Fork and Glass, we would make these and sell them in to- go containers at local farmer markets, and we could never make enough of these to serve everyone!

I love using a mixture of golden and red beets in the burgers for both taste and presentation.

shreddedbeets

I dare you to serve these to your meat eating friends or someone who has exclaimed before how much he/she hates beets – and see if they won’t change their mind next time they think of burgers!!

ARCTIC BEET BURGERS

2 cups raw red beet, grated

2 cups raw golden beet, grated

about 1 1/2 cups-2 cups oatmeal

2 tbsp flax seed mixed in 6 tablespoons of water

about 1/2 cup-1 cup sweet rice flour (you can use AP flour if you prefer)

3-4 large shallots, o4 1 large Vidalia Onion, sliced and sauteed/caramelized until soft and golden brown

5-6 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tbsp canola or olive oil, for sauteing

Place the grated beet in a bowl, season with salt and squeeze out any moisture. Add the rest of the ingredients, season generously with salt and pepper, and let rest in fridge for about 1 hour.

Prepare a couple of sheet trays lined with paper towels.  Scoop out 1/4 cup of the beet mixture and shape into a flat cake with your hands.  Place them on a separate tray.  Heat the oil in a skillet (I love using cast iron skillets) over medium heat and fry the cakes until golden brown on both sides.

beetsinpan

Transfer the beets to sheet trays lined with parchment paper or  paper towels until you finish the entire batter.

beetburgers

Besides serving them in the traditional burger bun, these are delicious accompanied with a grain salad or a green salad – topped with vegan dilled sour cream or a horseradish sauce.   You can make these cakes the day before and reheat them in the oven.  Who needs meat??

Heart Food; In More Ways Than One

For Valentine’s Day I thought it  appropriate to post about one of Norway’s more popular and well known  foods: our beloved heart shaped waffles. Soft and sweet, these are not eaten for breakfast, but rather as an afternoon treat or served with coffee at night (0r any time of day) when guests come over.  There is something magical about these waffles; they don’t fill you up quite the way Belgian or American waffles do, they are more dainty and elegant, as if they belong at a proper English high tea.  Simultaneously, they are incredibly casual and inviting;  I guess you could say they are just irresistible all around, and everyone I’ve served these to have been ooh’ing and aah’ing and conversations have been known to go on forever about these creations. You see the waffles served everywhere in Norway; at cafes, bazaars, on the ferry crossing the fjord  from one town to another, and if you ever visit a famous Norwegian  “seaman’s church” outside of Norway you will see them  offered for free with a cup of coffee, as a way to comfort Norwegians abroad by providing a familiar and typical flavor.

I’ve posted about our waffle traditions in more detail before, and you can access that post here.

Since I’ve changed lifestyles in 2014, I wanted to post a recipe that omitted dairy and eggs in the waffles, and I’m happy to report that you won’t miss this at all in this batter. I’m always amazed at how fluffy and light batters are when not including eggs, and the additional benefit is that by omitting diary and eggs is that you greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease ,diabetes,  cancer and heightened cholesterol.

Try this incredibly easy recipe that is packed with flavor – I love the addition of cinnamon and cardamom to the batter. To bake these you’ll need a special heart shaped waffle iron – luckily these are easy to come by and you can buy one on Amazon for instance, although it may be difficult to come across an old school one like the one I have:

waffleiron

Don’t despair – your waffles will taste just as good in a more modern iron!  I love dabbing some coconut oil or butter on top of them if I don’t have any jam… sooo delicious and sure to please your Valentine!  Hope you all enjoy the day and feed your loved one something special tonight… how about these Norwegian hearts???

HEART SHAPED WAFFLES

1 1/2 cup soy milk

1/2 cup rape seed oil or vegetable oil (not olive oil)*

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

6 tbsps sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla extract

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Combine everything in a bowl and let rest for 1/2 hour before baking according to your waffle iron’s instructions.

wafflesecretingredients

waffelsbaking

Serve warm right away topped with butter,  jam, plant based cheeses or cheese of your choice or my favorite: (vegan) sour cream and strawberry jam!

wafflesfinished

*If you want a light alternative to other cooking oils, rapeseed is a great choice and has experienced a surge in popularity since around 2008. Although technically the same as canola oil, what you see in stores today sold as canola oil has been tampered with and blended with other kot so great oils, somtry to purchase true rapeseed oil from a health food store. Rapeseed oil Is produced from the bright yellow rape plant that grows freely in Norway. Best cold -pressed, the oil can then be used drizzled as salad dressing, or heated to fry or bake. It’s low in saturated fat, so has been hailed for its health benefits and also has other nutritional bonuses – it contains omegas 3, 6 and 9, which reduce cholesterol and help to maintain healthy joint, brain and heart functions. As it is high in mono-unsaturated fats, it is one of the only unblended oils that can be heated to a high frying temperature and not spoil its antioxidants, character, color or flavor. Homegrown rapeseed oil has been heralded the ‘Norwegian olive oil’ but its flavor is more earthy and nutty than fruity.

Sjokoladekake – A Cake That Will Please Everyone

Chocolate cake is the most baked cake in Norway. The reason might be that it’s easy to put together, using ingredients everyone most likely have in their cabinet already.   Recipes vary, and there are countless versions with different fillings or ingredients, like chopped chocolate, nuts, jam etc.  Some choose to glaze their cake, while others just keep it simple and eat it plain, almost like a mix between a cake and a cookie.   A lot of times Norwegians choose to bake their cake in a 13X9 inch pan, called a “langpanne” in Norwegian – and the cake is cut into squares, and sometimes topped with a chocolate glaze and coconut flakes (one of my favorites!).  This is also easier when baking for kids, as it’s easier to hold on to and less messy.

Regardless of what recipe you choose to do, it is hard to go wrong when deciding to serve a chocolate cake to your guests.  Most everyone I know, light up when they see chocolate, and the dark chocolate in this cake also has some health benefits (ok, that’s a long stretch, I know – but who needs excuses to sink your teeth into this one??)

sjokolade

What makes this cake just a tad  more delicious than the average chocolate cake, is the addition of the typical Norwegian vanilla sugar; a vanilla flavored, powdery confectioners sugar that just makes all baked goods so much tastier than when using the more artificially tasting vanilla extract.  The second ingredient in this cake is the slight touch of cinnamon which I think go really well with the dark chocolate.   If you are not crazy about cinnamon (like us Norwegians), you can of course choose to leave this out of your batter.

I personally find that the glaze is what completes the cake, and while it doesn’t have to be super decadent, it has to be smooth and at the right consistency.  This one is incredibly easy to work with. Play around with different versions – and try my vegan version below that produces a rich, juicy cake, you will be amazed that the recipe does not contain any dairy or eggs! 🙂

JUICY CHOCOLATE CAKE

2 cup all purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tablespoons freshly brewed, strong, black coffee

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 1/2 cups hot water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Glaze:

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 stick vegan butter (about 100 grams)

2 tbsp freshly brewed, black , strong coffee

1 tbsp soy milk (optional)

about 2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a springform or 13 x 9 inch baking pan with a little oil and coat with a little flour.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.  Combine well and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the coffee, brown sugar, water and oil.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk quickly until a smooth batter forms.  Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake in middle of oven for 25-30 minutes until a cake tester comes out clear.

sjokakelangpanne

Cool the cake on a wire rack while you prepare the glaze.

sjokakespringform

sjokakelangpanne2

sjokakeferdigplain

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter.

sjokakeglaze

Add in the optional soy milk if needed, and whisk in the confectioners sugar until a smooth glaze forms.  Spread the glaze evenly over the top and sides of the chilled cake.

chocakeroundglazed

Keep chilled or in a cool spot until ready to serve.

chocakelangpanneglazed

chocakeglazedpieces1

Optional:  You can divide the cake in two and double the glaze recipe and add in chocolate creme in the middle too for an extra, decadent cake!

Honoring the Sami People on their National Day

Had to reblog this beautiful post by Experience North Cape, in honor of the National Sami Day which is celebrated today, February 6th. The Sami people are our indigenous people who live across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, and they have their own language and music genre (the joik). These two videos showcase how beautiful it can sound!

experiencenorthcape

Today, the Sami People celebrate their national day.  To honor their heritage and culture, I thought I’d share a couple of beautiful joiks sung by a Swedish/Sami artist, Sofia Jannok.  For those of you who have never heard this music genre, you are in for a treat!

The following song, Aphi (Wide as Oceans), addresses the struggle over Sami land, culture, identity and the future – issues indigenous people worldwide have in common.  It moved me to tears.

View original post

Kanelboller – part of a Norwegian diet

You’d be hard pressed to find a Norwegian who doesn’t absolutely LOVE cinnamon.  One could say 3 out of 4 pastry recipes in Norway includes this delightful spice (exaggerating here and there) , and kanelboller, or kanelsnurrer as some call them (in English we know them as cinnamon buns) is one of the most popular of Scandinavian baked goods.

Perhaps it is the warming and comforting sensation one gets from cinnamon that is so appealing to northern people – after all, we spend over half the year being cold.  Cinnamon adds a little exotic element to what is otherwise a straightforward cuisine, using what is at hand to create a meal.  I am unable to count how many versions I’ve had of kanelboller; in friends and family’s homes, in cafes, at functions and everywhere else you can imagine food being served, and there have been very few I’ve actually disliked. The key is to get them light and fluffy and moist – the rest will fall into place, because how can you go wrong when adding cinnamon to a recipe?? Spoken like a true Norwegian.

Last year there was a huge uproar among Scandinavian cinnamon lovers, as the EU’s regulations stipulated restrictions of the use of cinnamon, citing the dangers of over consuming the spice due to its content of coumarin, a fragrant organic chemical compound in cinnamon, suggesting it to be moderately toxic to the liver.  Bakers all across Scandinavia fumed, citing to their history of using cinnamon in their breads and pastries for over 200 years. The Swedes circumvented the regulations, citing that kanelboller were “Tradition food” and were allowed a higher dosage in their food. I find this to be quite funny, but also shows Norwegians and our fellow Scandiavians’ attachment to this popular spice.

I’ve covered cinnamon buns in the past here at Arctic Grub, but I wanted to develop a dairy free and egg less recipe since I decided a few months ago to no longer include these products in my diet.  If you think eggs or dairy are needed to make a gorgeous dough – boy,  will this one prove you wrong!! In fact, dare I say that this is perhaps the best recipe for kanelboller I’ve come up with to date?? You be the judge. I would highly recommend using fresh yeast in this recipe. There is something magical about the scent and consistency of dough made with fresh yeast – something that truly reminds me of being in Norway in someone’s kitchen while yet another delightful pastry is baking away.

While I am fully aware this is harder to come by in the U.S., I am lucky enough where my local market’s pastry department will sell  me their fresh yeast by the pound.  I suggest you ask the bakery department at your grocery store or bakery – many people are happy to make a few extra dollars selling their base ingredients! The dough for these kanelboller  is truly light and airy- a dream to handle!  Another mention is  that the spread in the middle should not be excessive – just a thin, even layer is enough. Remember, these aren’t super decadent cinnamon buns as we’re used to in the U.S. where both the fat and glaze is dripping and one bite seems enough before we deem it “too much” and “I can’t have anymore”. This is a bun that is not too sweet but that you (unfortunately??!) could eat three or four of in one sitting! 🙂

DAIRY FREE KANELBOLLER

For dough:

1 1/2 cup soy milk or other plant based milk

100 grams or 1/2 cup vegan butter

50 grams fresh yeast (or 1 packet dry yeast)

500 grams or roughly

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour

100 grams or 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp baking powder

For the filling:

113 grams (1 stick) or 1/2 cup vegan butter, softened

60 grams (1/4 cup) light brown sugar

60 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

Additional vegan butter (melted) and sugar for brushing and sprinkling on buns

Directions:

In a small pot, heat up the soy /plant based milk and butter until luke warm, around 98.6 Fahrenheit (37 Celcius).  Crumble in the fresh yeast  or dry yeast if using. In a large bowl, combine half the flour with the rest of the dry ingredients, pour in the yeast milk mixture and add the rest of the flour until a firm, smooth dough shapes.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm spot to rise for about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine the ingredients to the filling in a small bowl and set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (210 degrees Celcius) and spray two baking sheets.

Punch down the dough and roll it out to a rectangle about 15 x 20 inches (40 x 50 cm). Spread the filling thinly all over the dough and start rolling from the widest and closest edge until you have a “sausage”. kanelbollesmor Using a dough cutter, divide into about 15-20 pieces and place cut side up on the prepared baking sheet. kanelbolledeling Cover with a towel and let rise again for about 20 minutes. kanelbollerforheving kanelbolleforsteking Brush the buns with melted butter and sprinkle some brown or regular granulated sugar on top.  Place in oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes until nice and golden.   Note: If you are a fan of glazed cinnamon buns, you can mix a bit of soy milk and confectioners sugar together until you achieve a thick but runny consistency and spread the buns with these after they have cooled down. kanelbolleferdig kanelbolleferdig2