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2012 Scandinavian Food Highlights

Dandelions, Anyone?

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In 2011, I provided a list of the year's "most popular recipes": which inevitably listed perennial favorites like gravlax, krumkake, kladdkaka, aebleskiver, and kransekake. Many of these would star on a list of 2012's "favorites" as well - it's heart-warming to know the level of interest that people have in rediscovering how to make the favorite recipes they remember their parents or grandparents making!

However ... this is an exciting time for the "New Nordic Cuisine" movement, as people are beginning to follow the examples of Scandinavian chefs like Claus Meyer, René Redzepi, and Trina Hahnemann in creating healthy menus based on seasonal, foraged, and locally procured ingredients.

While I certainly haven't sublimated my love of less-than-healthy Scandinavian baked goods entirely, I have begun what I intend to be a permanent transition to emphasizing seasonal Nordic dishes. So here's a list of 12 of my favorite "new" recipes introduced in 2012.

Potato Waffles with Caraway

Prepare these savory, gluten-free potato waffles as Nordic appetizers - cut each one into bite-sized portions, then top with home-smoked salmon, gjetost cheese, or any topping that you would typically enjoy on fried potato skins.

Salmon Cakes Benedict

Whoever said that Eggs Benedict always has to use Canadian bacon? Or tarragon? Crispy fried salmon cakes and a dilled white sauce provide a fresh accompaniment for the poached eggs in this Nordic take on a tried-and-true (also tired) classic; it's sure to be a hit with loved ones during those "breakfast for dinner" nights when you're tempted to jazz up the eggs and English muffins you found in the back of your refrigerator

Blueberry Soup

Blueberry soup, served warm, is a popular beverage served at Vasaloppet, the world's oldest and longest ski marathon, held the first Sunday of every March in Sweden. It's produced and distributed commercially under the Ekstrom's label; when you make it from scratch, however, you can control the sweetness based on the berries you're using.

Dandelion Jelly

Floral, earthy, and sweet, dandelion jelly - like dandelion "honey" - tastes remarkably like the stuff the bees make ... and it's well worth competing with the touchy critters for Spring's first blossoms in order to make it. Be sure to gather the flowers around noon on a sunny day, when any dew has evaporated and the flowers are awake and wide open.

Dandelion-Potato Salad

Dandelion greens are at their best early in the flowering season, when they are still small and tender. If using older greens, cut them in half lenthwise and remove the center vein (as you would for Swiss chard).

Rustic Lamb Pie

Ground lamb, mushrooms, and root vegetables are tucked into the savory rye crust of this comforting Autumn meat pie. Because I'm a lover of highly dilled lamb dishes (like Tilliliha, Finnish lamb stew, I prefer to flavor both my rye pie crust and the filling with dill seeds; caraway or fennel would work equally as well.

How to Make Skyr

Anyone lucky enough to visit or live in Iceland knows all about skyr - the traditional Icelandic "yogurt" that has been made since the 9th century Viking era. Much, much thicker than American or even Greek yogurt, skyr is quite possibly the healthiest of yogurts. Made from non-fat milk combined with live cultures, it is low-fat, high in protein (containing three times the protein of ordinary yogurts), and absolutely loaded with probiotics.

Frozen Strawberry Skyr

Paired with the freshest of local strawberries, frozen strawberry skyr (low-fat and rich in healthy probiotics) is a justifiable indulgence on warm summer evenings.

Blueberry Soup

Blueberry soup, served warm, is a popular beverage served at Vasaloppet, the world's oldest and longest ski marathon, held the first Sunday of every March in Sweden. It's produced and distributed commercially under the Ekstrom's label; when you make it from scratch, however, you can control the sweetness based on the berries you're using.

Dilled Carrots

Two ingredients that you can easily find in any Scandinavian larder are carrots (which, like all root vegetables, grow beautifully in cold climates) and dill. This easy, vibrantly colorful side dish is also a good reminder that not all Nordic food is white ...

Cardamom-Spiced Apples

Serve these fragrant cardamom-spiced apples as a cold relish accompanying pork or lamb or, alternatively, saute them briefly in butter for a warm side-dish. They are also wondeful when used as a filling for apple-cardamom bread.

Swedish Tunnbrod

The characteristic that defines Sweden's very special Tunnbröd, "thin bread," is that it is flavored with fennel or anise seeds. It thus makes a superlative "wrap" for tuna, crab, or shrimp salad sandwiches.

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