Picaccia ; a perfect Norwegian-Italian snack

What on earth is picaccia, you say?  My own creation that was invented on a Sunday afternoon, when I had next to nothing in my fridge except Jarlsberg cheese, milk and some herbs, combined with an insane craving for carbs.

I felt like having something hearty and naughty, but wasn’t in the mood to make anything complicated.    I say “naughty’ because I always associate bread and carbs with something bad, which it isn’t of course, but I suppose it’s my background in competing in bodybuilding shows that has made me think about this food group as something that should be consumed only on special occasions.

Besides Norwegian food, my other favorite cuisines are Mexican and Italian.  The former because my husband grew up with this food and taught me how to make simple, delicious dishes utilizing completely different ingredients than I grew up with and I love it, and the latter because I spent a year in Italy after high school and learned how to properly cook.  It was in Rome my obsession for food and wine began at the age of 18, and where my now 2,000+ cookbook collection started.  So why not make focaccia?  Easy but delicious and would definitely satisfy my desire for bread. The nice block of Jarlsberg cheese was staring at me from the fridge, begging to be a part of my meal.   I proceeded to make a focaccia dough,  and topped it with some caramelized onions (the only vegetable I had) , some leftover herbs and my beloved, shredded Jarlsberg. In the end, it came out more like a pizza – so I ended up calling it picaccia!

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This is not really part of my Jarlsberg series – more like a bonus recipe I wanted to offer in between so we can have another excuse to eat this gorgeous cheese… not that we need one!

The focaccia dough recipe is adapted from Beth Hensperger’s fabulous book “The Bread Bible” – a dangerous book to keep in your kitchen, because all you’ll want to do is make bread every day.    This recipe may be more Italian than Norwegian,  but while Italians have mozzarella, parmigiano and gorgonzola –  we Vikings have Jarlsberg and that is what makes this recipe!  The sweetness from the caramelized onions, combined with the rich, nutty flavor of Jarlsberg topped on a fluffy focaccia dough  makes this a truly special snack.   Who said Norwegian and Italian cuisine can’t be combined??!

jarlsbergfocacciaslices

PICACCIA a la Jarlsberg

Makes one 17 x 11 inch rectangular focaccia

1 tbsp (1 package) active dry yeast

4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 cup hot water (120F)

1 cup hot milk (120F)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

olive oil for oiling bowl and brushing top of focaccia

Topping:

1 large Vidalia onion, peeled cut in half, and sliced thin

3-4 shallots, peeled, cut in half and sliced thin

1- 2 cups shredded Jarlsberg

2-3 tbsp fresh herbs, chopped  (thyme, oregano, or whatever you have on hand)

Maldon salt or sea salt for sprinkling on dough

Note: It’s important to use good olive oil here, as I feel it really adds depth and a special earthy flavor to the dough. I love Greek olive oil, in particular one I get at my local farmer market called Kountoulis  extra-virgin olive oil.   It is run by a Greek couple who live in Westchester (NY) but are from Kalamata, Greece ,where they have their olive farm. After I tasted their olive oil, I couldn’t go back to any brands at the super market.  Truly special!  As it’s very pungent you only need a few drops to achieve a wonderful flavor.

oliveoil

To make dough:

In a heavy duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the yeast, 2 cups of the flour, and the salt. Add the hot water, hot milk and the olive oil. Beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough that just clears the sides of the bowl is formed.  The dough will be sticky soft and oily.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, drizzle sides with a bit more olive oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Oil a 17 x 11 inch baking sheet. Turn the dough onto the baking sheet. Spread and gently pull the dough, flattening it to fit the entire baking sheet.  Let rest , uncovered for about 15-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450F, with a baking stone on the bottom rack, if desired.

In a large saute pan, over medium heat – saute the onions and shallots with a bit of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and a dash of sugar. Saute for about 15 minutes or so until the onions are soft, brown and caramelized.

caramelizedonions

Brush the focaccia dough with some olive oil, sprinkle with some Maldon or sea salt, and top with the caramelized onions, Jarlsberg cheese and herbs.

jarlsbergfocacciabefoven

Place the focaccia sheet directly on the hot stone, if using, or on the lowest rack and bake 15 minutes. Reduce the oven thermostat to 350F and continue to bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden. Let cool in pan 5 minutes, before loosening sides with a knife and slip the bread onto a cooling rack.  Serve warm or at room temp, eat as a snack with a salad or as side with your lunch or dinner! 🙂

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A little Jarlsberg makes everything better

I am very happy to announce that I’ve formed a relationship with Jarlsberg USA and I’m excited to begin developing some recipes utilizing their awesome cheeses!!  I’ve been a fan of this cheese since I was a little girl in Norway, and am always happy to see it in stores here in the U.S.  In addition to the delightful Jarlsberg cheese,   I was also sent the most delicious brown cheese,  “Ekte Gjetost”, as well as the more commonly seen Ski Queen and the spreadable white goat cheese, Snøfrisk. The cheeses are distributed by Norseland Inc. who is the exclusive importer and sales and marketing agent of Jarlsberg in the U.S.

jarlsbergcheese2

If you’ve ever tasted Jarlsberg, you instantly notice there is something special about this cheese.  Its deep flavor, rich, buttery and round with a slight nuttiness, as well as the special consistency is the perfect choice for a grilled cheese, but there are so many other ways to utilize this tasty product. Try to add it to your cheese trays, topped on our popular Scandinavian open face sandwiches, in salads and on pizzas and in other hot dishes.  I’ve also cut the cheese in cubes and placed them in a glass jar with some good olive oil and herbs and garlic, which makes for a tasty snack alongside a nice crusty loaf of bread and of course a good glass of red wine… Jarlsberg pairs perfectly with wine, beer and aquavit – whatever your drink of choice, this cheese will do a great job as a pairing partner.

A semi-soft, part-skim cheese made from cow’s milk and aged for a minimum of one year,  Jarlsberg is characterized by its large round holes.  It has often been compared to the Swiss Emmentaler because of its appearance, but it is both sweeter and stronger (and dare I say better?).

jarlsbergcheese

Jarlsberg is one of the world’s most  famous cheeses, which is not a small feat  coming from such a small country as Norway.  The unique flavor of Jarlsberg was created as a result of a lengthy research task led by professor Ole Martin Ystgaard at  “Landbrukshøyskolen” (The Agricultural University) in Ås dating all the way back to 1957. To this day,  a secret ingredient has been said to be responsible for the very particular taste we find in Jarlsberg today.

Since 1957, over 900,000 tons of cheese has been produced, and every little grams is said to originate from this small bottle containing the secret ingredient. That is why the cheese has been called irreplaceable.

Jarlsberg began exporting its cheese slowly in 1961, and today it is being sold all over the world.  In the U.S., an impressive nine out of ten supermarkets carry Jarlsberg, and is the most sold and recognized cheese in its category in this country.

So with all this wonderful information, how does one even begin to develop a recipe that will best showcase this incredible product?  I had to limit it to three of my favorite foods I like to eat, and today I am going to start with an “ost og skinkepai” – literal translation is “cheese and ham pie” but most of you will most likely think of it as quiche.

jarlsbergcheeepiesliced

I remember my sister making this pie when I was a young kid, and I was mesmerized because it seemed so modern and exotic (my mom only made ultra traditional Norwegian food at home), but it still tasted very Norwegian.  The versatility of this dish also appeals to me;  perfect for lunch or dinner, or as a snack at any point of the day, and it tastes just as good cold as it does warm.  Satisfying, rich but still light – it’s a perfect choice when you want a meal that looks both simple and impressive.

jarlsbergcheesepie2

For my pie, I chose to add some caramelized shallots to the mixture, which I believe gives it that extra sweet flavor.

shallots

I decided to serve the pie with a mixed green salad, drizzled with a Norwegian inspired salad dressing.   I am not one to brag, but this turned out better than I had dared hope for, and I’m sneaking into the kitchen for leftovers as I write this!! I am hoping there will be a piece left for my husband when he gets home from work tonight… 🙂

jarlsbergpiehalfeaten

JARLSBERG PAI m/SKINKE OG SJALOTTER  (Jarlsberg Pie w/Ham and Shallots)

Serves 4-6

For the pie dough:

300g 10.5 oz all purpose flour

1 1/2 stick butter (about 185g)

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp ice cold water

For the pie filling:

300g/10.5 oz thick ham, diced /cubed

6 large shallots (or 9-10 small), peeled, halved and sliced thin

1 bunch scallions, cut the greenest tops off but utilize both white and some of the green, sliced thin OR

1 small leek, cleaned, halved and sliced thin

3 tbsp butter for sauteing

6 large eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup shredded Jarlsberg cheese

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

Make the pie dough:  Combine flour and salt in a food processor, pulse a few times to combine.  Pull the butter from the refrigerator (it has to be cold) and cut into 1/2 inch cubes and add on top of the flour.

piedough1

Pulse to combine a few times,  until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal; the butter should not be larger than the size of peas. Add the water and pulse until a dough starts to form and you can see it can come together.

piedough2

Pour onto a work surface and knead into a disc (do not overwork it), cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for about 1 hour.   You can do this step up to two days before you make the pie.

piedough3

Preheat the oven to 400F.   Coat a pie pan with spray.

In the mean time, place the 3 tbsp of butter in a large saute skillet, add the onion and scallions and sprinkle with a little salt, saute for a few minutes until starting to soften. Add the ham and saute for a few minutes and season with some cracked pepper.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, crack the eggs, add the cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg and add in the onion-ham mixture and Jarlsberg cheese. Combine and set aside to let flavors combine.

Pull the pie dough out of the fridge, dust work surface and rolling pin with a little flour and and roll out into a circle large enough to fit into your pie pan.  It may be a bit hard coming right out of fridge, so if need be, let it rest for 10 minutes or so until it becomes soft enough to handle (not too soft though!).  Push the dough into your pie pan, pushing the dough up against the edges, and covering the entire pie pan.

piedoughpan

Prickle the bottom with a fork, cover the pie with parchment paper or tin foil and place a bag of dried beans over it to prevent the pie dough from shrinking. Place in middle of oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Pull out of oven and remove the beans and tin foil/parchment paper.  Pour in the egg/ham/onion mixture.

Jarlsbergcheesepaibefoven

Reduce oven to 360 degrees and place pie in oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes until set.   Enjoy warm or room temperature, and serve with a mixed green salad (recipe to follow).

Jarlsbergcheesepieslice

MIXED GREEN SALAD WITH SYNNØVE’s DRESSING  (that’s me – Synnøve:))

1 small head of Boston (butter) lettuce, washed and torn into bite size pieces

1 small container of mixed greens

2 large tomatoes, diced

1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

any other vegetables or ingredients you desire in a salad!

Dressing:

1 small container sour cream

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1-2 tbs chopped chives, thyme, oregano or herbs of your choice

sea salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and keep adding ingredients until you get the consistency you want for your dressing. It’s supposed to have a combination of sweet and tangy with a hint of salt. This is also delicious on poached salmon!

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Jarlsberg is made by TINE, the biggest dairy company in Norway. Its history goes all the way back to 1881, and today makes over 500 different products.  Norseland Inc. is owned by TINE and employs 29 people.  Regional sales offices are located in Montreal, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas and New York with the corporate office in Darien, Connecticut.

Arme riddere – a cooler name for French toast

Who knew Norway had French toast?  Pieces of white bread dipped in milk, eggs, cinnamon and sugar, then fried in a pan until golden brown and topped with jam.  The epitome of a decadent dish made with inexpensive ingredients. What’s not to love?  The french actually call this dish “Pain Perdu”,  while in Germany they call it “Arme Ritter” . In England it is referred to as “eggy bread” while the Scottish probably take the medal for the coolest name with “Gangsta Bread”.   In Sweden the term used is “Fattiga Riddare” and in Denmark and Norway,  the dish is called “Arme Riddere”.   This translates to “Poor Knights”.   Why the name?  If knights ate this dish,  I certainly don’t feel sorry for them.  🙂 There doesn’t seem to be an exact story behind the reason for the name, but “poor” would most likely refer to the fact that this is a cheap dish to make.   Finding use for bread that has gone stale and making it into a delicate and tasty meal, suggests that the dish has a long history and some researchers suggest it dates all the way back to the Middle Ages.  Where the knights come in seems to still be a mystery.

Arme riddere is an incredibly easy dish that qualifies for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a snack anytime of day. Using leftovers and any ingredients you have in your fridge or cabinets, this makes for a classic go-to meal not just in Norway, but everywhere in the world.  This dish is also something Norwegians would refer to as “restemat”, Norwegian for ‘leftovers’.  Coming up with a new recipe with leftover ingredients is one of my favorite things to do, there is a certain feeling of creativity and achievement that arises from this that I don’t get otherwise.

There are a million different varieties of Arme Riddere, not just sweet versions.  One of my favorite Norwegian websites to visit for ideas is matprat.no.  I like that they have a mixture of both classic and more modern recipes. Not living in Norway,  I love keeping up to date with how Norwegians come up with spin offs of traditional dishes, making them more current, and in some cases, more decadent. So props to this website for doing a great job and inspiring me to create my own!

So what type of arme riddere can you make? There is of course the classic version, as mentioned above.  Pieces of toast dipped in a standard egg-milk-sugar mixture, fry it in a pan and top with your favorite fruit jam:

armeridderematprat

Image: matprat.no

If you have day old bread and feel like making an easy dinner or snack, you can always add some cheese and ham, and top it with an egg, sunny side up. Delicious!

armeridderematprat2

Image: matprat.no

Some people choose to call this dish “Rich Knights” (Rike Riddere) because it can end up being quite rich, like this version, where sponge cake is substituted for regular toast, and is topped with whipped cream, red currants and crushed pistachios.  You can also add whipped cream, bananas, or fruits of your choice, perhaps drizzle it with chocolate sauce if you want to be extra naughty.

armeridderematprat3

Image: matprat.no

Below is a basic recipe you can use, and the toppings I will leave to your imagination, or you can take some inspiration from the suggestions above.  By the way, there is nothing wrong with using whole wheat or whole grain bread should you wish, this might be a good option for breakfast, in particular.  I hope you’ll have some fun with this dish, and add it to your repertoire this weekend! Don’t forget to visit my Facebook page for more tips, fun facts and posts on Norwegian cuisine http://facebook.com/forkandglass

ARME RIDDERE

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cardamom

1 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)

6 pieces of day old bread (white)

butter for sauteing bread

Mix eggs, milk and seasonings together in a shallow bowl. Dip the pieces of bread thoroughly  in the mixture. Add butter to a saute pan over medium heat and place pieces in the pan, saute on each side until golden brown. Top with your favorite jam or drizzle with maple syrup and dust with confectioners sugar.  Alternatively, if you want a savory dish, top with sliced ham, turkey or chicken and/or an egg, sunny side up.

Trilogy of Flatbreads: Part Three

LEFSE

Lefse is without doubt the Norwegian flatbread most well known to the international world. Whenever I mention to people that I’m Norwegian, I’ve had numerous “ah, I love lefse!” outbursts, as lefse seems to be a culinary item most folks can agree is a great invention. Lefse is a soft flatbread made from either potatoes or flour, milk, cream or even sour cream, sugar and butter. It is spread with butter, sugar and sometimes cinnamon and folded up and eaten at room temperature. The making of lefse is incredibly laborious, and a reason why very few choose to make these from scratch anymore. Much like many  foods from the old days, it has experienced a come back and younger people today have thankfully taken an interest in bringing back the tradition of baking lefse.

lefselaging2

Lefse is baked all over Norway, and the ingredients and variations are too many to count. As with most food items I choose to cover in this blog, Norway has a long history of making lefse. Today we see many lefser made from potatoes, but in the beginning, lefse was normally made with flour.  In the 1800s, potatoes started to get used, particularly in the south-east, and later, the lefse has typically contained a mixture of potatoes, flour and cornstarch. On the west coast (known to many as the best coast) the common ingredients are flour, sour cream and kefir or buttermilk.  The kefir was in essence, “sour milk”, and was used in the lefse before the milk went bad.  The use of the potatoes and flour mixture were probably  a result of the housewives having to use whatever they had left on the farm. While the “flatbrød” covered in part one of this trilogy, was considered an every day bread, lefse belonged to special occasions and holidays, such as Christmas.  As lefse baking is an involved process, they were kept dry and then patted with some water right before being spread with a combination of butter and sugar, or filled with savory items, and served.  Lefse can also be frozen and kept for months this way.

lefsebaal

Some special equipment is needed to make lefse, but luckily we can easily find this even in the U.S. these days, and at a reasonable price. My favorite online store for all things lefse is www.lefsestore.com where the below photo is borrowed from – illustrating the items useful in lefse baking: the patterned rolling pin, the special griddle (on which you can make all the flatbreads I’ve written about these past few days), a cloth with measurements used to gauge how large the rolled out circles of lefse should be to fit the griddle, a potato ricer if potatoes is included in the dough, a cloth to moisten and cover the rolled out  pieces with, and finally the wooden pin used to flip and transfer the lefse circles with.

lefsekit

As we have talked about, there are endless variations of this traditional flatbread, and although I’ve always preferred my mother’s version, it is worth giving a quick description of some other popular lefse types:

Tjukklefse (“Thick lefse”): This is a variety I’ve often seen made by Norwegian-Americans, and perhaps not what I personally assosicate with lefse, but it, as the name implies, a thicker variety, most often made of potatoes but can also be flour, and usually spread with a cinnamon sugar mixture. I also find this a bit drier and not as delicate as the flour version.

Tjukklefse

Potetlefse (“Potato lefse”): Made from potatoes, and has a thickness between the tynnlefse and tjukklefse. It is a bit smaller and often round, and sometimes used as a hot dog  bun to roll up the dog (called “pølse med lompe”, another popular food item in Norway which I will touch upon in a different post).  I’ve seen these also used as a wrap, either in the version of a sandwich or “pin wheel” appetizers, both savory and sweet.

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Møsbrømlefse: This is a version popular in northern Norway,  made of half water and half brown cheese that is mixed with flour to create a thick sauce. When cooled it is smeared on to the lefse and is topped with butter, sugar and sour cream before being cooked on the griddle.  When the butter is melted and “møsbrømen” is warm, it is ready; hence this lefse type is served warm, and wrapped up to look like an envelope.  Ice cold milk is the preferred drink with the møsbrømlefse, sometimes topped with syrup. It has a strong taste, and is considered more a meal than just a snack.

mosbromslefse

Hardangerlefse (Lefse from an area in Norway called “Hardanger”): A thin lefse, rolled out with a pin that has ruffled patterns on it, creating a grid in the lefse which helps prevent air pockets in the dough while baking.  The lefse is left to dry, and can keep for about six months as long as it is properly stored. When dipped in water, it regains a bread-like texture and the water is even said to enhance the flavor profile of the lefse.  Often savory items such as herring, salmon and eggs are folded in the lefse.

hardangerlefse

Tynnlefse (“Thin lefse”): This is my mother’s recipe, and perhaps the more common version found on the west coast of Norway; it’s soft, light and thin, flour or potato based, and spread with a butter, sugar and vanilla mixture and folded up and cut into about 7-inch size pieces. In my house you never eat these without “søst” (pictured with my mother’s lefse below), a traditional condiment from Sunnmøre, the region where I grew up.  Whole milk (preferably milk which has not been homogenized) and kefir is brought to a boil, syrup is added and the mixture is slowly boiled down until it separates, darkens and start forming lumps. The whole cooking process can last an entire day.  A sample recipe of søst has been included below my lefse recipe at the end.  Søst can also be called “gomme” in other parts of the country.

Lefse og søst

While I’m saving my mother’s recipe for another time (some things have to stay a secret), I’ve chosen to share another really great recipe which I hope you will all want to try out!

1 recipe makes about 25 “lefser”:

2 sticks butter, unsalted and softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs1 quart buttermilk or kefir

3 1/4 lbs all purpose flour

2 tbsp hornsalt (or baking soda if you can’t find hartshorn/horn salt)

To spread lefse with:

3 1/2 sticks butter, room temp/softened

1 1/2 cup sugar

2 tbsp vanilla sugar (you can  make your own vanilla sugar, by adding a couple of vanilla beans to confectioner sugar in an airtight container for about 1 -2 weeks)

Directions:

Whip butter and sugar in kitcen aid with paddle attachment until light yellow and fluffy.  Whisk the eggs and kefir together in a small bowl and add to butter-sugar mix inter-chcanged with the flour and hornsalt. Don’t overmix the dough as it will become too elastic and difficult to handle! Let dough sit in a cool place for a couple of hours before handling.  Divide the dough into pieces of about 100 grams each. Start rolling them out using your rolling pin and measurement cloth. The element should be shaped into about 15-inch circles.  When rolled out, bake on griddle until light brown, place the baked circles on top  of each other to gently flatten them out.

Spread: Whip butter, sugar and vanilla sugar together until combined.

When ready to serve the lefse, moisten them lightly with water before spreading them with the butter-sugar mix. Spread the mixture on half the circle, and fold it in half or fold each side in so they meet in the middle and fold again.  Cut into serving pieces and enjoy!!

SØST

10 quarts milk (preferably not homogenized)

3 quarts kefir or butterilk

1 cup dark syrup

1o tbsp barley meal

2 cups raisins

3 tbsp cinnamon

2 tbsp ground cardamom

1 tbsp unsalted butter

Heat a big pot over medium heat and add the butter. Pour in the milk and bring to nearly a boil.  Add in the syrup and whisk until combined. Add the kefir/buttermilk and stir a few times before letting it sit until the mix separates. You will see the white “cheese” clump up and the liquid will turn yellowish and a bit dark because of the syrup. Bring the mix up to a gentle boil again.  the liquid is supposed to now steam away while the content in the pot will get darker (it’s the sugar in the milk which causes the darker colorization).  You don’t need to stir much during this time, but if the mix starts to boil or simmer too hard and the liquid becomes light brown, stir more often.  This entire process will take about 3-4 hours. After this, add the barley meal to add some consistency to the ‘søst”. Mix the flour in properly, followed by the cinnamon, cardamom  and raisins. Cook for about 10 minutes while stirring continuously. This completes the cooking process at which point you can pour the mixture into a wide bowl and continue stirring until it cools down.  If you prefer big lumps in the søst, make sure to only carefully stir now and while cooing on the stove, if you want it finer in consistency/less lumpy, stir a bit harder. When the søst has chilled down, it is ready to be served, or packed away.

What is Norwegian Cuisine?

I often get asked by friends and acquaintances, “what exactly is Norwegian food? What is a typical dish?” This is not easily answered, because it depends where in Norway you’re from. Norway is a large country – despite its tiny population of only under 5 million people – and it’s divided by large mountains, fjords, valleys and rivers.  There are SO many national dishes, regional specialties and favorite meals that I could probably spend a lifetime writing about them all (and hopefully will!). This is what makes my country so fascinating though, and I am lucky because I will have plenty of material for my blog!

Tradition is very important to Norwegians, but tradition and our culture is also constantly changing. As I’m getting older, I’m becoming more and more interested in diving into the history of our food, culture and people and will be aiming to research and learn along with my readers. We as Norwegians, often don’t appreciate how rich the culinary history of Scandinavia is, and particularly in our own country. Hence many Norwegians will embrace the cuisines of other countries instead, and have adopted pizza, tacos and foods from the middle east as their favorite foods.  Living in a big city like New York, I naturally get a fair share of international delicacies, and while I love and appreciate the flavors from these other countries, I have recently become determined and passionate about discovering my very own culture.

Personally, I’m from a small town called Sykkylven, which is situated in a region called “Møre og Romsdal” in the western part of Norway.  The west coast is mostly known for it’s enormous fjords and waterfalls. From the Norse times, “Møre” meant “The land by the ocean”, and we’ve got lots of ocean! A large number of the population in this area live on islands and are dependent upon ferries which travel from the various islands to the mainland. The inner portion of the area is dominated by mountains, which attract a large number of tourists from around the world.  Because the area is separated by islands and ocean, our cuisine is very varied, and each household has their “specialty”.  Fish definitely dominates, naturally, because of our large coastline, and the fishing industry has always been a big part of the commercial life here.  Preparations are varied, from fish soups to dumplings, using the innards, fish heads, smoked, prepared in lye (“lutefisk” anyone?), grilled, baked or dried… we eat it all.  Of course, most of you will think SMOKED SALMON, and while we certainly produce our fair share of this, Norwegian cuisine is so much more. One of my favorites is fried trout (preferably caught in the small river not too far from my childhood home) with sour cream and pickled cucumbers.. and of course; our famous boiled potatoes that accompany 90% of Norwegian meals 🙂

stektorret

With the above dish I would drink a Gruner Veltliner or a Chablis – producer of your choice..Riesling with these delicate fish dishes is also a good choice.

I will be covering more in depth about the regional differences in cooking in Norway and perhaps in a more methodical fashion – but for now, I leave you with a stunning picture of “Trollveggen” (The Troll wall), one of the most famous tourist sites in the region where I’m from. It is the tallest vertical rockface in Europe and very popular with rock climbers and base jumpers. Now that’s what we call mountains!!

trollveggen

Welcome to a new experience!

If you are reading this; thanks for stopping by! This will be my brand new blog in which I will attempt to describe, explain and discuss Norwegian culture. More than anything, as a food and wine and spirit professional, I will focus on the foods and drinks typical of this country.  Being passionate about wine, the blog will definitely include some tips on what to pair with food from this cool climate; often mild flavors, but other times strong, salty and smoky notes dominate. As a Norwegian, having lived in NY for the past 20 years, my ties have gotten stronger and my homesickness grown bigger as I am becoming older. With my entire family overseas, it is my way of staying close to my roots, connecting with old and new friends, and remembering why I’m so proud to be from Norway.  Through my own company, Fork and Glass, a wine and food consulting firm, I will also aim to help people become more familiar with this fascinating place.

Many things surely have changed tremendously since I lived back home in the town of Sykkylven, a small, picturesque village tucked away in the fjords of western Norway.  I emigrated when I was 19, but have been back yearly ever since to visit family and friends, visiting restaurants, bars, farms and spirit makers, to keep myself current on what is going on. My goal will be to stay real, but romantic when diving into researching this very rich culture.  I hope to be able to evoke memories, both for myself and my readers who may be Norwegian or have visited, while discovering new gems that will create excitement and curiosity.

I look forward to starting this journey with you all, and I’ll start by teaching you a saying in Norway that I miss in the U.S.:

“Takk for mat!” 

Which literally translates to “Thanks for the food”, something everyone is taught to say after a meal; a sign of a well brought-up individual. It shows gratitude, appreciation and enthusiasm towards the host for his or her efforts to feed their guests.  Don’t ever think of not saying this after a meal in Norway!!

I leave you with a dreamy winter picture of my beautiful home town of Sykkylven – I sure will miss it during Christmas this year!