Friday, March 17, 2017

7 Things to Eat & Drink in the Swedish Arctic

7 Things to Eat & Drink in the Swedish ArcticArctic char

Arctic char does, indeed, come from the Arctic. Related to salmon and lake trout, it has similarities in color, texture, and flavor to both. It is not a fish that can be easily preserved, but locals fish for it in the summer and ice fish for it in the winter. While traditionally boiled or fried and served very simply with butter and salt, today it’s offered in more modern and flavorful preparations. Try it at Camp Ripan in Kiruna.

Coffee cheese

7 Things to Eat & Drink in the Swedish Arctic

If you want to eat and drink coffee cheese in an igloo, the only way to do it is with the Taste of the Arctic program offered by the Off the Map Travel. Chunks of “kaffeost” cheese are served in cups of hot coffee. This comes after a feast on some unusual delicacies such as smoked reindeer heart, black crowberry slush, and juniper butter on traditional flatbread. A local guide does the cooking and igloo building, and he will regale you with harrowing tales of Arctic rescues and close encounters with a polar bear.


7 Things to Eat & Drink in the Swedish Arctic

Reindeer are a way of life for the nomadic Saami people, also known as Laplanders. Drying and smoking are the traditional ways of preserving meat in the Arctic and even predate the use of salt. Suovas is reindeer meat, traditionally smoked in a peaked hut for eight hours over an open fire and lightly salted. The meat is then cut into thin slices and grilled or eaten raw. Try it at the Café Sápmi in a lávvu-tent just down the road from the famous Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi.


7 Things to Eat & Drink in the Swedish Arctic

Many kinds of berries grow in the Arctic, including acidic crowberries, bilberries (wild European blueberries), and golden tangy cloudberries. But lingonberries are most common. They are frost resistant and because they are high in benzoic acid, they do not need to be preserved and can be stored outside all winter long. They are served with meat, but also with dairy products like yogurt and sour milk at breakfast. Try them at Hotell Fjället in Bjorkliden.

Torne Islager

7 Things to Eat & Drink in the Swedish Arctic

Made by New Carnegie Brewery, a Swedish brewery that works in conjunction with Brooklyn Brewery, this beer is a Vienna lager brewed with Arctic ice from Sweden’s Torne River. It’s served almost exclusively at the Ice Hotel restaurant in Jukkasjärvi. Gently carbonated, it’s amber orange and frothy, with grassy, malty, fruity, and caramel notes.

Whitefish roe

7 Things to Eat & Drink in the Swedish Arctic

Roe is very popular in Sweden and is often served at breakfast with bread or mixed with pickled herring. In the Arctic, whitefish caviar is also served as a snack and in elegant preparations—such as on an ice plate at the Ice Hotel restaurant or with a leek puree at Camp Ripan in Kiruna. It’s mildly salty, clean, and bright with a stunningly brilliant orange color. Most prized is Kalix caviar, harvested from the Bothnian Bay of the Baltic Sea in northern Sweden and the only Swedish product with PDO status, issued by the European Union.

Drinks in ice

7 Things to Eat & Drink in the Swedish Arctic

Thousands of ice cups are made for serving guests at the Ice Bar at the original Ice Hotel, which is now open 365 days a year. The design of the bar changes each year, and vodka drinks are a mainstay. Whether or not you are spending a night at the hotel in a 23-degree Fahrenheit room, you’ll want to swing by the bar to have a drink and marvel at the artful and otherworldly environment composed entirely of ice, snow, and “snice”—a combination of the two.

The One Cooking Shortcut I’ll Never Take

It’s easy to get sucked into Tasty cooking videos. You know the ones that create something over the top and crazy to eat in about 30 seconds flat?  Like everyone else, I want picture perfect Food & Wine meals in a microsecond. Yet every time I see a recipe for slow cooker risotto, pressure cooker risotto, or no-stir risotto I feel a twinge of regret, because that means someone has decided that the precious minutes it takes to cook risotto are a waste of time. But for me, those minutes standing over my stovetop slowly adding broth and stirring, saves my sanity.

All my life I’ve been told I was intense. I even thought being a stress-head was normal. But it turns out my intensity, over-thinking, and worry was an anxiety disorder. I might never have known it had it not been for a series of unfortunate events that occurred this past year—a job loss, my husband’s prolonged stay in the hospital for what was a relatively simple procedure, my own emergency room visits and subsequent heart surgery. Add in multiple daily phone calls from my mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s and my worry over my father’s chronic health issues and suddenly I was on the brink of a meltdown. For the first time in my life, I clung to a bottle of Xanax like a security blanket. About now you’re probably wondering what does any of this have to do with risotto? A lot actually.

Risotto is not only a comfort food for me, but also a practice in mindfulness and presence. I was first introduced to risotto when I was 25 and lived in Italy. I got a job as a household assistant for a wealthy family in Florence. They quickly discovered I had no talent for ironing, but that I could open bottles of wine, set and clear the table, fetch groceries, and do the washing up. Dining with the family often meant eating risotto as a first course – it was always creamy and soothing.  Risotto was not something I grew up eating, but it was a newfound comfort food that I absolutely loved, and I learned to make it myself by watching my Italian boss.

I’ve seen tons of recipes for risotto and in general, and they get it all wrong. People add cream or way too many ingredients that compete with the rice. Mainly they overcook it, turning it into a dry, mushy sludge. And worst of all, they try to speed up and simplify the process. I’ve timed it and risotto takes just about 18 minutes to cook if you use carnaroli, vialone nano, or, in a pinch, Arborio rice. Risotto starts with finely diced onions cooked gently before the rice is added. The rice must be toasted in the butter or oil. When the grains of rice start turning opaque, it’s time to add the wine to deglaze the pan and moisten the rice. When the liquid evaporates with a whoosh of steam, you add in the warm broth, a little bit at a time and stir. And watch. And stir. As the broth is slowly and gently absorbed into the rice, you add a ladleful more. And so it goes, for 18 minutes. Those 18 minutes at the stove aren’t just for making superior risotto, they are for me: they’re 18 minutes of concentration and paying attention to detail, slowing down, and letting go of my anxiety.

Cooking is like meditation –  a time to block out all extraneous thoughts, focus on the tasks at hand,  and be in the moment. If I were to use a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, or a microwave oven I would lose on two fronts: my risotto won’t taste as good and I would miss out on an opportunity to slow down and get in touch with my true self.

(not pictured) Serves 2 as a main course or 3-4 as a starter

2 beets
2 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cups white wine
3 or more cups of chicken stock or broth, heated but not boiling (canned chicken broth is fine)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Black pepper to taste


Begin by washing the beets, wrapping them in foil and baking at 450 degrees until done, about an hour, but check them after 45 minutes. Let them cool then cut them into small cubes.

In a large saucepan heat a tablespoon of butter with the olive oil. Slowly cook the onion until it softens but does not brown. Toast the rice in it over low heat until the grains become opaque, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the wine and let it cook, when the wine is completely absorbed add the beets. Begin adding the warm chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently. When it begins to completely absorb, but before the pan dries out, add more broth. Risotto takes almost exactly 18 minutes to cook, and you really should stir and watch and listen for the sound of the rice as the stock absorbs and evaporates.

When the rice is tender yet firm, neither mushy nor chewy, remove from the heat and add a splash more stock. Let it sit covered for just a minute, it should not be too dry. Risotto makes its own “sauce”. Add the last bit of butter and the grated parmesan, mix and serve seasoning with just a touch of black pepper at the table.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Spicy Italian Sausage & Kidney Bean Soup Recipe

Spicy Italian Sausage & Kidney Bean Soup Recipe

I'm not big on most convenience foods, but I am a fan of sausages. I always keep a package or two in the freezer. They are quick to cook and combined with a few other ingredients they can take the leading role in soup, stew, casseroles or pasta dishes. I’ve paired them with everything from pears to rapini to make meals on the fly.

During the Fancy Food Show last month I got a chance to try Mulay’s Sausage at Food Fete. I was impressed by their products and especially founder Loree Mulay’s dedication to using high quality ingredients. Her Italian sausages were juicy but not greasy. “No one should see how laws or sausages are made” goes the Otto von Bismarck quote, but I'm not so sure about that. Loree spoke passionately about the sourcing of meat that goes into her sausages made according to her family’s recipes. She uses meat from animals never treated with anitbiotics. She doesn't use nitrates, MSG, soy, dairy, sugar, artifical flavors or colors and her products are gluten-free. These are sausages I would not fear seeing made.

After receiving some sausages I was even more impressed, because cooking them up there wasn’t a huge pool of fat in the pan. I used Mulay’s Killer hot Italian sausages in a variation on a recipe from a favorite cookbook of mine, Elegant Meals with Inexpensive Meats.  My version has less liquid so the result is a richly spicy and flavorful soup that is almost the texture of chili. Note: If you use another brand of Italian sausages you may need to drain the grease after browning the meat.

Spicy Italian Sausage & Kidney Bean Soup
Serves 4

1 12 ounce package Killer hot Italian sausage
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup diced mixed mini peppers (red, yellow and orange)
1 clove garlic, pressed
28 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can kidney beans, drained
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/3 cup red wine


Remove the sausage from casings and crumble into a 4 quart pot. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink. Add the onions and peppers and continue to cook until the onion is completely translucent and begins to melt. Add the garlic and stir. Add the tomatoes, beans, water and fennel seeds. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the cover, add the red wine and simmer uncovered for 3 minutes. Serve with or without grated Parmigiano Reggiano.



 Mulay’s Sausage provided me with samples of their products to use in recipes, I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post.

My Goose Was Already Cooked

Goose, Sauces,

Many years ago I remember trying to cook a Christmas goose. It wasn’t a total disaster, but I do remember gamey, less-than-tender meat, and copious amounts of grease. So, despite several food wishes for this iconic holiday roast, I decided it wasn’t something I wanted to revisit.

Then, I received an offer to try a pre-cooked, smoked goose from Schiltz Foods. They’re the country’s largest goose producer, and a sponsor of this year’s Tasty Awards. They were offering their geese to select Tasty Award nominees to try out, so I decided to give it a whirl.
Goose, Sauces,

I’ll admit to being skeptical since reheating pre-cooked meats usually don’t produce the best results. However, this turned out amazingly well. As you’ll see, the skin roasted up perfectly crisp, and the meat was moist and flavorful. By the way, I did zero food styling in this video, and the magazine-quality final product you see in these photos was exactly what came out of the oven.

Since the bird is brined and smoked, the taste is that of a very rich, moderately salty ham. So, if you want a Christmas goose that actually tastes like goose, this may not be your best choice. But, if you’re considering a holiday ham, and want a real showstopper in the center of the table, I think this is a great choice. Think of it as a delicious ham with wings.

I sacrificed half the wings to make a basic reduction sauce, and the subtle smokiness worked wonderfully with the red wine, balsamic vinegar, and blackberry notes. The sauce is certainly optional, as this could be served plain with just some cranberry sauce on the side. I hope you’re able to give this very easy-to-prepare, gorgeous roast goose a try. Enjoy!

1 whole pre-cooked smoked goose (mine was about 6 pounds)
For the sauce:

2 flat sections of goose’s wings
1/2 cup red wine
3 cups water
1 star anise
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup blackberry jam
2-3 tablespoons cold butter, cut in cubes
salt to taste


As stated above, this post was made possible by Schiltz Foods, Inc., who provided the smoked goose free of charge. I’d like to thank them for bringing goose back into my life. If you want more information, or are interested in ordering a goose for the holidays, please follow this link to their official website.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Red Lentil Soup With Lemon


This is a lentil soup that defies expectations of what lentil soup can be. It is light, spicy and a bold red color (no murky brown here): a revelatory dish that takes less than an hour to make. The cooking is painless. Sauté onion and garlic in oil, then stir in tomato paste, cumin and chile powder and cook a few minutes more to intensify flavor. Add broth, water, red lentils (which cook faster than their green or black counterparts) and diced carrot, and simmer for 30 minutes. Purée half the mixture and return it to the pot for a soup that strikes the balance between chunky and pleasingly smooth. A hit of lemon juice adds an up note that offsets the deep cumin and chile flavors.


3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
 Pinch of ground chile powder or cayenne, more to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
 Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Nutritional analysis per serving (4 servings)

293 calories; 10 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 7 grams monounsaturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 38 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 4 grams sugars; 12 grams protein; 212 milligrams sodium
Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.


In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.
Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.
Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.

Eggplant “Bacon” Because Fake Bacon is Better than Real Eggplant

I love that my wife, Michele, follows Questlove on social media, but not just because it makes me feel cooler by extension, which it does, but also because he’s a huge foodie, and this enticing eggplant “bacon” came from his Instagram. 

Links were followed, and I discovered the recipe was from Minimalist Baker, and although I did tweak the technique and ingredient amounts a bit, the recipe is basically thieved from this gorgeous blog post. Thank you, Dana! By the way, there they were brushed, but I decided to dip. Because my slices may have been wetter, they did take way longer to cook.

Personal taste being what it is, you’ll have to experiment with not only your sweet-salty-smoky ingredient ratios, but also with how thick you cut your eggplant, as well as how long you cook it. I went for thin and crispy, but it was closer to a bbq potato chip in taste/texture than bacon. I may slice it thicker next time, and see if I can get some chewy bits, woven through the crispy bits.

These would make for some tasty vegetable chips, but were especially enjoyable in a BLT, which I inexplicably didn’t photo. I blame low blood sugar. Regardless of how you enjoy them, I really do hope you give this eggplant “bacon” a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes enough “bacon brine” for 2 medium-sized eggplants:

2 tablespoons maple syrup
4 tablespoons tamari, or soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 to 1 teaspoon liquid smoke, depending on strength
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, a little coarser than usual
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggplants, sliced to about 1/8th inch

The original recipe calls for a 225 F. oven, but I would probably start this like I finished it, and that’s in a 250 F. oven. I’d plan on at least an hour baking time, but that will depend on thickness, pans, etc. Simply cook until they are how you want.

How To Make a Better Side Salad

How To Make the Perfect Simple Salad

What You Need


About 4 ounces lettuce or mixed greens, washed and torn
Finely shredded carrots or julienned cucumbers (optional) 
Small handful finely shredded basil, mint or other aromatic herb (optional) 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
Flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese, to garnish (optional)


Large bowl
Your hands


1. The greens should be completely dry. 

 No matter what kind of greens you use, they should be as dry as possible. If greens aren't dry, they feel weighed down and even a little slimy when the dressing is added. I like to buy bags of mixed salad greens (sure, I could make my own mix, but I don't always have the time or inclination to buy frisee, radicchio, romaine, arugula, and butter lettuce and wash and chop them myself!), but these should be washed too.

Wash the greens and spin dry if you like, then lay them out on a towel to air-dry for a little while.

2. The greens should be bite-sized.

 Really. Make sure the greens are torn into bite-sized bits. I really hate those oversized wedges of lettuce left in restaurant salads; you have to cut them up to get them in your mouth! No good.

Tear up your greens if you think they will be too big to spear and eat gracefully.

3. Put the greens in a really big bowl. 

This gives you space to dress the salad without splashing or compressing all the air out of what should be a light, fluffy mix of greens.

No matter how you serve your salad, it's best to toss it in a really big bowl — much bigger than the volume of the green themselves.

4. Add any other vegetables you like (make sure they are dry too).

 Herbs are extra-good. For a really simple salad, this is where you toss in any little extras. I don't like to over-complicate my side salads or weigh them down with lots of heavy vegetables. But sometimes I add a little carrot or cucumber, finely shredded and blotted dry. Finely shredded herbs are wonderful in salad too; I'm partial to mint.

Here I added about 1/3 cup grated carrot (I didn't peel the carrot, and I grated it straight into the salad) and a small handful chiffonaded basil.

5. Always dress your salad. 

Bottles at the table — no. All right. Here's my salad manifesto. I don't believe that salads should ever ever be dressed at the table by the diners. A good salad is not a pile of vegetables with gloppy dressing on top. A good salad has dressing mixed all throughout, and a dressing calibrated to the salad itself. I know some might disagree with this, but I'm positively militant about it! Salad should never come to the party naked.

For this salad dressing, whisk 2 tablespoons good olive oil with 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar until thick and emulsified.

6. Most dressings need a touch of sweetness. 

In salad dressing, sweetness should always be a deliberate part of the equation. Sometimes you deliberately leave it out, balancing the dressing with something funky and strong, like Amanda Hesser's anchovies in her French dressing. But I find that just oil and vinegar lack a little something, unless you are working with really terrific oil and aged balsamic. A half teaspoon of honey or maple syrup won't sweeten the dressing noticeably; it will just make it taste more rounded and full.

Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon honey and blend.

7. Taste the dressing first.

 Always taste the dressing before you pour it on the salad. Adjust if you want a little more acidity or sweetness.

Taste the dressing and adjust as needed.

8. Use far less dressing than you think you need.

 Here I used all the dressing, but I wish I would have actually used less (and there's only 2 tablespoons of oil here!). You want to lightly dress the salad, not drench it.

Drizzle the salad very lightly with dressing, just enough to moisten the lettuce, and work it in with your hands or two forks, stopping to toss it before you add all the dressing you've made. You want to coat the greens very, very lightly.

9. Salt and pepper! 

Now for perhaps the most important part of a well-dressed salad: Salt and pepper. This is what that flaky salt in your cupboard is for.

As you toss the salad with your hands or forks, sprinkle on salt and pepper. Taste and adjust as needed.

10. Add any other mix-ins, such as nuts, cheese, or other dressy things.

 I like to serve salad in individual bowls and sprinkle any last-minute grace notes like a shaving of Parmesan or some slivered nuts directly on top. This makes them look finished and pretty, and it also is a good way to make sure that these heavy ingredients don't fall immediately to the bottom of the salad. If you don't use any other garnishes, I like to add just a touch more pepper on top.

Serve the salad in individual bowls, or on plates. Garnish with some pepper, a shaving of cheese, or some fruit or nuts.
Additional Notes: 
More good mix-ins for a quick salad: Dried fruit, nuts, shaved zucchini or squash, cooked eggplant cubes, all sorts of cheese.