November 20, 2015 § Leave a comment
September 12, 2014 § Leave a comment
For the 2014 special dinners, Mr. E suggested we should look at some of the less often used cookbooks in our household for inspiration.
This August, we picked a collection of recipes from Louhisaari Manor in Askainen, Finland. The recipes and remedies were written down in the late 1700s to mid-1800s and read like family knowledge: there’s no need to share measurements or detailed information because everyone already knows exactly what size your pots and pans are. Mr. E had therefore to improvise a bit.
Mr. E made a simple omelet with salt, pepper, and parsley as a starter. The “trick” was to whip the eggs into a light froth before adding the rest of the ingredients. For the main course, Mr. E wanted to try a smoked geese recipe, but we’re not equipped for smoking, nor did we have access to geese. Instead, he picked two small Cornish game hens and roasted them on the grille outdoors. The hens were served with a simple cucumber-tomato salad, which wasn’t called for in the recipe, but which we wanted to add anyway for extra veggies. The cucumbers came from our yard.
As dessert, Mr. E chose a flourless lemon cake. It’s made on an almond paste crust topped with cooked rice flavored with lemon and sugar. I’d rather call it a pie, I think. Whatever you call it, it tasted very good.
For the table, I picked our blue willow China because the pattern was popular in the 18th century, making it a perfect historical fit. I then chose coordinating dishes and textiles to go with the plates, and I think the combination looks really good, even if I say so myself. For an additional Finnish touch, I placed our Iittala annual bird 2012 as a minimalistic centerpiece.
It’s another keeper of a dinner! Mr. E said he’d like to try the lemon cake another time to tweak it even better. Well, I’m not one to say no to that! 🙂
July 14, 2014 § 2 Comments
For the 2014 special dinners, Mr. E suggested we should look at some of the less often used cookbooks in our household for inspiration. For June – to continue the historical theme – we chose the Viking Cookbook.
Mr. E made cabbage-beet-carrot soup as starter, served with a dollop of sour cream. The beets turned the soup red, of course, and tended to overwhelm the taste as well, but the sour cream worked as a surprisingly good neutralizer.
The main course was pork with apple. Mr. E cooked most of the meal outdoors on the grill (until he ran out of coal and had to finish inside on the stove), and that might be why the pork came out a bit dry. However, the mushy, cooked apples kept the dish juicy.
As dessert Mr. E made a blueberry oven pancake with whipped cream.
(A note on pancakes: Even though we call them pancakes, Scandinavian / Finnish pancakes are not the thick, fluffy, flour-y American breakfast stuff. There’s actually two kinds of dishes called pancakes. One is baked in the oven, usually in a deep cookie sheet; Mr. E put his into a pie dish, though. These oven pancakes come out dense, eggy and rich. Oven pancakes are an especially delicious way to use up old milk. The other kind resembles American pancakes, but is cooked ultra thin like crepes. Both types tend to be enjoyed as dessert more often than breakfast, typically with fresh berries, jam, ice cream or whipped cream. One of our favorite restaurants in Finland serves the thin crepe-style pancakes with both savory and sweet fillings of your choice.)
I kept the table simple and incorporated traditional crafts, namely clay dishes and the runner (handmade in Finland from unbleached linen and dyed cottons). Our glasses are actually replicas of medieval drinking glasses that we got years ago at the Historiska museet in Stockholm (I believe) on a research trip for Mr. E’s dissertation.
Even though Mr. E had some qualms while cooking, I think this dinner came out really tasty. The pancake is definitely a keeper – he’s already made it twice more. Yum! 🙂
June 6, 2014 § 1 Comment
For the 2014 special dinners, Mr. E suggested we should look at some of the less often used cookbooks in our household for inspiration. The May cookbook is The Classical Cookbook. It presents recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome and adds a version that’s adapted to the modern kitchen.
We had honey-glazed shrimp (a Greek recipe) as starter. They were very sweet, but not overly so. Mr. E did comment that all of the recipes he made for this dinner took a surprisingly large amount of honey. I guess the ancient Mediterraneans had a sweet tooth. 🙂
For the main course, Mr. E made a cold Roman chicken and sausage salad with nuts and cucumbers and molded in a shell of bread. (The recipe actually called for sweetbread – brains – but Mr. E used sausage instead.) The bread shell didn’t settle very well, but the salad still tasted good. The combination was a little different due to the dressing made with honey, wine, mint and coriander. Certainly not what we’d associate with Italian cooking nowadays. We also had mushrooms cooked in honey and wine as a side.
Lastly, there was a pear patina, a custard-like sweet dish flavored with pear and sweet wine. It reminded me of pancake, so I suppose you could call it flourless pancake as well. Very delicious, in any case, and, very aptly, washed down with wine.
It would’ve been nice to deck the table with an ancient Greek / Rome theme as well, but I’m afraid I don’t have the brain power at the moment. I did pick our blue napkins with Greek key meander at the perimeter, though, and used wooden chargers and hand-blown glass dessert plates for a dash of rusticity, if that’s even a word. 🙂
All in all, some of the flavor combinations aren’t typical for the 20th and 21st century Western tastes, but we enjoyed this dinner immensely nevertheless. Definitely a keeper!
May 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
For the 2014 special dinners, Mr. E suggested we should look at some of the less often used cookbooks in our household for inspiration. April’s cookbook is Marjory Standish’s classic Cooking Down East for some good, hardy Maine cooking. Mr. E grew up with Standish’s recipes, but these particular ones he’s either never had or never tried himself.
As April is when Mr. E’s work ramps up, it was a little difficult to schedule a special dinner date before the month’s end, but we did it. (So far the same applies this month – we’ll see what happens!
We started with lightly battered baked scallops with a dash of salt and pepper. The recipe calls for rolling the scallops in melted margarine (I believe Mr. E used butter instead), which made them really juicy.
For the main course, Mr. E cooked a piece of beef slowly over a long period of time. According to Standish, this is called stifled beef in Maine, but apparently elsewhere it’s known as smothered beef. We had it fried cabbage and roasted potatoes. Whatever the name, the beef came out incredibly tender and tasty.
The yummy dessert was a hot milk cake with broiled coconut icing. Simply perfect!
I wanted the table to reflect my impressions of Maine and Cooking Down East – modest, good-humored, comfortable and unpretentious. (There’s a reason Maine reminds me of Finland and feels like home. 🙂 ) For the table, I used a plain white tablecloth topped with a folded green-white check cloth to make runner-placemats. I chose mostly white dishes and glass. For a few actual Maine touches, I just pulled our salt and pepper shakers and put a plant in a basket – the silver shakers were inherited from Mr. E’s family and I received the plant from Mr. E’s mother.
This special dinner was very successful. I really wouldn’t mind having it again. 🙂
In other news: I’m taking the rest of the month off to recharge. See you in June.
December 14, 2013 § 2 Comments
Both Mr. E and I had a busy fall. Not crazy-busy-always-in-motion busy, but busy in a way that required planning and thought and analysis and concentrated effort almost entirely throughout the fall. The big issue for Mr. E was his tenure process. My big effort was a new job working for myself. It’s been fun to get to do new things, but also demanding in so many ways. We’re both quite ready to take time off, get de-worn-out and just enjoy each other’s company!
Due to the busy, we’ve kept our Christmas decorating very minimal. We’re not very big on holiday decor to begin with, but this year it’s even more pronounced. I have to say I quite like it for a change. Here’s a short tour of our holiday decorations.
We picked a small tree from the local farm where we get our meat, eggs and veggies:
We only used silver ball ornaments, a string of lights and our white bow tree topper this year. Behind the tree are my recycled 5-minute hanging snowflake ornaments and a Scandinavian-style electric chandelier.
I already mentioned the amazing re-blushing poinsettias:
They’re further along now, although a little less than I thought:
Ohwell. I’m just happy they’re still alive! 🙂
In the corner of the living room, I used a short string of lights to make a “nest” for our wonderful glass Mirella (the Iittala annual bird for 2012):
Thanks again, K! It’s beautiful, and we love it.
I also turned our arm chairs towards the fireplace – time to toast those toes! – and set out a shallow dish with the remaining silver ball ornaments for a tad more bling. I’m delighted that the Christmas cactus is also blossoming!
Since my first attempt at making a himmeli, I made a new, bigger one. (Ruokahalu kasvaa syödessä. 🙂 ) It usually lives at the doorway between the green room and the kitchen:
I moved it into the front hall for the season. I also set out our straw pig and goat (seen in an old holiday wishes post), along with some extra branches from our tree and a small jar of partridge berries in moss we got from Mr. E’s mom.
The branches are hung from a “plank” (actually a table leaf on its way to storage after Thanksgiving) with a quick remnant-ribbon bow.
And as usual, we’re collecting Christmas cards on the mantel facing the kitchen. These little touches, along with some white on the ground – and some yummy smells from the kitchen! – are enough for us to get into the spirit.
December 10, 2013 § 1 Comment
Mr. E decided on doing special dinners with a color theme this year. When Mr. E was little, he associated months with a combination of two colors (much like his colors for weekdays). His aim is to make dinner with ingredients that are naturally as close to each month’s colors as possible; food dyes are right out for this project. November colors are silver and grey.
…and impossible! There is no way to make a meal with naturally silvery-colored and grey foods! (Unless you want to eat charcoal, maybe.)
Mr. E cooked two small rainbow trouts for the main course – we each got one – with mashed potatoes, grilled mushrooms and milk. We skipped the starter this time, but had white chocolate pudding as dessert. The meal was unassuming, but very tasty. The rainbow trout, especially, was so good we had repeats: in the evening, Mr. E picked the leftovers and made fishcakes.
Creating the table was easier than the food, although I ended up fudging it a bit, too. Besides a grey piece of cotton duck from my fabric stash, I used a lot of glass for its reflective qualities. To include more silver, I put out a bowl of our silvery Christmas tree ornaments with a white candle on a gleaming silvery candlestick. Our white napkins were unintrusive enough to accompany the glass.
Because there’s not much light at this time of the year, we’ve moved our special dinners to midday. It was so nice to eat a sit-down meal with Mr. E in the sunlight. I also think Mr. E did a wonderful job with this particular color challenge, all things considered. I’ve racked my brain since, but just can’t think of appetizing food options for silver or grey. Any ideas, anyone?