Meal 127: Norway

The Midsummer festival, which is celebrated in Norway with the rest of Scandinavia, is a bit of a misnomer, in that it's actually around first day of summer. But whatever, it does celebrate the peak of the year, when days are super long and gardens are finally abundant with fruits and vegetables. We held ours a few weeks earlier, which actually worked out in Portland's seasons because we got the new potatoes, strawberries and rhubarb at their peak. Certainly not all Norwegian food is colorful and zippy. The most representative aspect of the traditional Norse diet is porridge, called grøt — from which we get the English word "grout," to give you a sense of the texture. Its centrality is represented in the Great Porridge Feud of the 19th century, in which a debate over whether to throw in a handful of raw flour right before serving served as a proxy for the conflict between tradition and science.

I ought to point out that the nearby Ikea was very handy for this meal, with items such as the right kinds of mustard and coffee, herring, rye crispbread, and even a mix for bread. Another Swedish import that proved indispensable was our guest Erika, who sliced the gravet laks and in general was a handy consultant on the preparation and service of all the dishes. This is all to say that Norwegian food is similar to Swedish food, but don't tell any Norwegian I said that.

Joining us for this outdoor feast were Kim, Dave, Melia, Carmen, Will, Ana, Erika, Peter, Maya, Douglas, Kevin, Suj, Kyra and Annie.

Rabarbra Likør | Rhubarb aquavit | Recipe

Doesn't that look pretty? It takes as good as it looks, too, tart and flavorful, especially good when chilled. You could do some great cocktails with it, dilute with soda water, or simply sip it from a shotglass. (Don't shoot it, though, that'd be a waste!)

Agurksalat | Cucumber-dill salad | Recipe

Sweet, tangy, and extremely crispy and refreshing thanks to the ice-bath soak. As far as I'm concerned this is now my Platonic ideal of a cucumber salad.

Gravet laks | Salt-cured salmon | Recipe

So easy to make, and so impressive. A few minutes of plastering the fish with salt, sugar and dill (the name translates as "buried salmon"), turning it over once or twice a day in the fridge for a few days, and you're done. In fact, the most time-consuming and challenging part is the slicing, which Erika thankfully took care of. She shared a pro tip, that if you put the salmon in the freezer for a little bit, the firmer flesh is easier to slice. Relatedly, this dish freezes really well, just defrost and eat, so as long as you're making it you may as well make a lot. Oh, and don't forget to make the classic mustard-dill sauce to accompany.

Rekesalat | Shrimp salad | Recipe

There's more treats in the Norwegian sea. We had some little jars of various pickled herrings, and also this nice little shrimp salad, which in typical style features a lot of dill. This is a good opportunity to share an anecdote about why Norwegians traditionally don't eat predator fish: it's feared that any one of them have eaten part of a friend or relative who died at sea, so it's an abundance of caution to avoid being a second-hand cannibal.

Rabarbrasuppe | Cold rhubarb soup | Recipe

Just about the simplest way to eat this vegetable we treat as a fruit. Cook with water and sugar, chill, serve. It's a vibrant pink and exposes in the most essential way the complex flavor of this very cold-hardy late-spring treat. I tipped the leftovers into the ice cream machine and it made a fantastic sorbet.

Rømmegrøt | Cream pudding | Recipe

Heavy cream, sour cream, milk and buttermilk, totaling nine cups. And a cup of flour. This is one of the richest things I've ever eaten, and while more than a little tangy with that sour cream and buttermilk, it was pleasantly balanced out with cinnamon and sugar. It's the culinary opposite of Midsummer, and indeed it's best known as a Christmas Eve dish. You could see why someone would want to eat this in the middle of a dark and cold winter.

Nypoteter | New potatoes

A true new potato is so delicate you can rub the skin off an uncooked one with your thumb, and unlike most potatoes really ought to be kept refrigerated and hence is only available around the late-spring/early-summer harvest time. It has a texture that's both flaky and creamy, with a much brighter flavor than a typical potato. As far as I'm concerned there's only one way to cook new potatoes: boiled, drained, and tossed with butter and a bit of salt. Oh, and because it's Scandinavia, a healthy helping of dill too.

Kjøttkaker | Meatballs | Recipe

Compared to the more famous Swedish meatballs, these have more spices, and are a little bigger and flatter. The balls were as tasty as they look; the sauce was a lot of work and not my favorite, which is likely because of the brunost — a unique "cheese" that's actually made of caramelized whey.

Vafler | Waffles

I made so many dishes that I ran out of time to assemble the cake. I baked it, but just didn't have the time to make it up, so I froze it. And everyone wanted waffles anyway. Maya did a super good job of making them (unfortunately I've lost the recipes we used!), covering them with strawberries, and making everyone happy.

Meal 115: Montenegro

While the language, culture, and some of the food of this little seaside country are definitely Slavic, the food of Montenegro evinces a strong Italian influence. It's the consequence of centuries under Venetian rule and influence, plus the lingering effect of being a hop across the Adriatic from the boot of Italy. The result is a cuisine that is both high in milkfat but that also has a place for delicate flavors. Really, it was quite delicious. Ellenby Ellenby Ellenby Ellenby Elizabeth Elizabeth +1 Tink Tink +1 Kristin Winslow Ana DLR Ana DLR +1 Anna Marti Anna Marti +1 Anna Sagatelova

Our guests were the Ellenby family, Elizabeth, Tink, Kristin, Miguel, Ana, Anna, Anna, and friends.

Sok od Šipka | Pomegranate juice

Across much of Montenegro, wild pomegranates grow abundantly, and families press the juice and boil it down to syrup for use all year long.

Pomegranate juice is a fantastic example of the huge price differential you can find when shopping at an ethnic market. I found a three liter jar of the pure juice for $9 at the Russian market; you’d be lucky to buy a liter for that price at your local supermarket. Since it was already at drinking strength, it seemed silly to boil it down just to reconstitute it, so we enjoyed it straight.

Appetizer spread

In browsing various descriptions of Montenegrin food, just about all of them talked of a good meal starting with preserved meats and various cheeses. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t find the specific meat items they called for (in particular, a local variation of prosciutto), and the descriptions of the cheeses were quite vague. So I did my best and bought some stuff that looked good from the counter of the Russian market. Surprisingly, the most popular component was a generic-looking cheese that was sliced as a wedge from a hefty round; it was kind of in the direction of a queso fresco, but a bit firmer, and a bit squeaky on the tongue.

Pogača | Rustic bread | Recipe

A rich bread for a rich meal! Note how all the liquid comes from animal products, there’s not a drop of water in the dough. With all that lactose, it’s a quick riser, so there’s not a ton of flavor development from the yeast. But this bread has a solid crumb that’s equally good with cold cuts as well as soup.

Raštan | Collards | Recipe

With all the heavy meat and dairy in the rest of the meal, thank goodness there's a common dish of greens to provide a bit of balance. I made them without the pork because we had some non-red-meat eaters, but it was still nice. I like the bit of flour in there to make it a bit saucy, too.

Brav u Mlijeku | Lamb in milk | Recipe

What a happy accident! Since I ran out of stovetop space, I put the pot of lamb chunks in a milk bath into a low oven, left it uncovered, and then kinda forgot about it until the smell was irresistible. The milk got really thick, and the lamb got really soft, so it was all one great, smooth mess of a really dense and spectacularly tasty dish. Delicious as it was, I'm not confident I actually made it Montenegrin-style — while I heard many mentions of lamb in milk, details on the preparation were few, so I turned to this recipe from nearby Italy instead. Any leads, my friends?

Riblja čorba | Fish soup | Recipe

So simple, so tasty. It hardly requires a recipe: simmer fish with some vegetables and garlic, strain it and remove fish, cook rice with olive oil in the broth, put fish back in. Despite the lack of any exotic ingredients or flavor combinations, as long as you’ve got good fish (in this case, rockfish and black cod from the farmers market), you’ve got a great soup.

Smočani kačamak | Fatty porridge | Recipe

Can’t decide between polenta and mashed potatoes? Well, how about both, mixed with a hefty dose of sour cream plus some cheese! It was really tasty and extremely unnecessary given how much other rich food we had. Everyone ate it anyway, because it’s as yummy as it sounds.

Pomegranate sorbet | Recipe

Probably the most appropriate way to enjoy Montenegro’s most representative fruit would have been to simply peel and eat, but they were out of season. Given the Italian culinary influence, I figured a sorbet would be appropriate. It’s hard to tell if this is something they’d actually eat in Montenegro, but it was a delicious and light conclusion to an otherwise heavy meal.

Meal 112: Monaco

Another beachside birthday party, another meal from a tiny, rich European country! The principality of Monaco is a Central Park–sized nugget on the French Riviera, whose Italian-sounding name is a giveaway of a linguistic, cultural, and culinary heritage that’s more closely connected to northern Italy than southern France.

For such a small place, there’s a surprisingly thorough culinary heritage, which is far better documented online than those of countries several orders of magnitude larger. Of course, it’s squarely within the Mediterranean flavor realm, though with its own twist.

Barbagiuan | Chard turnovers | Recipe

Nobody knows why these are called “Uncle John” in the Monégasque language, but these tasty, stuffed-dough, fried nuggets are the national dish. They’re stuffed with chard, which almost makes you think they’re healthy. Quite tasty, a great accompaniment to sparkling wine or rosé. Thanks to Ellen for prepping and folding the dough!

Oignons monégasques | Stewed baby onions | Recipe

This one was the crowd favorite. Small onions — you should probably use pearl onions but all I could find were little cipollini, which seemed to work too — are first sautéed, then gussied up with tomato paste, vinegar, and, intriguingly, raisins. A delicious sweet-and-sour appetizer.

Socca | Chickpea flatbread | Recipe

I’m figuring it’s a North African influence that brought chickpea flour to this corner of the world. With it,street vendors in the area whip up a sort of crêpe that’s eaten as a snack. Frankly, I found it pretty bland and thin, and I clearly did something wrong because I then had it at a restaurant and it was thicker and fluffier and a whole lot better. Also, I left the big heavy round skillet I used to bake them at the rental house, so it was frankly a doubly disappointing dish. (Maybe choose a different recipe to avoid my fate, but even that won't help you keep track of your cookware.)

Fougasse | Focaccia bread | Recipe

The fougasse for which Monaco is known is actually a dessert covered with sprinkles and studded with various dried fruits and spices like fennel. I didn't make that. Instead, I made this lovely herb-y bread, which all went very quickly toward sopping up the onion sauce.

Stocafi | Salt cod stew | Recipe (scroll to "Le Stockfish")

I saw a few different variations on the name, but all are local adaptations of the English work stockfish, which itself is a misinterpretation of the Scandinavian term for white fish dried on a stick. It’s not even true stockfish that’s used, but rather bacalao, or salt cod. (Stockfish traditionally has no salt, it’s purely the passing wind that dries the fish-on-a-stick into eternal preservation.)

Anyway, stocafi is a seafood stew with a very Provençal assortment of ingredients: tomatoes, olives, potatoes, plenty of garlic, and a generous dose of olive oil. The dish was nice, though nothing special. We didn’t do the optional anchovy-garlic-basil puree at the end, perhaps we ought to have.

Pogne au fruits | Fruit cake | Recipe (scroll to "Le pogne au fruits")

Laura wanted cherries, so cherries she got. This is a fairly simple dessert, just fruits pressed into a fairly rich flat yeasted dough. And tasty!

Meal 100: Luxembourg

Food from this little Grand Duchy bordering Belgium, France, and Germany is for sure Germanic, with pork and potatoes, but also with a surprisingly strong showing from fresh beans. It’s also one of the most northerly wine-growing areas in Europe — just about all of which is white — and we Noshers bring our A-game when wine is culturally appropriate. Or preserved meats.


For a relatively simple meal from a little country, Luxembourg turned out to be a big occasion! It was our first Nosh in Brooklyn since moving nine months ago, and a nice round Meal 100 to boot. Michael and China were super-generous in hosting us in (and renting a second table for!) their ample Park Slope apartment, so we had a grand crowd of 16 for really fun evening with friends old and new. And I really enjoyed heading back up to Astoria to do the shopping.

Among the attendees were our friends Jessica, Miriam, Lisa, Kirsty, Anna, Eli, and Sarah-Doe!

Wäin | Wine

The wines of Luxembourg are similar varieties to those grown in the adjacent German Mosel and French Alsace regions: Müller-Thurgau and Auxerrois (very similar to Chardonnay) top the list, along with pinot gris and riesling. Alas, we couldn’t find any wines from the Grand Duchy, so we substituted with said neighbors. Generously.

Bouneschlupp | Green bean soup | Recipe

If schlupp isn’t an onomatopoeia for the slurping of soup, I’d be shocked!

Don’t be fooled by the simple recipe and lack of a stock, or dismayed at how long the green beans are simmered. Instead, focus on how you start by sautéing bacon in butter as an indication of this being a recipe 100% devoted to flavor.This is one rich, delightful soup, where every ingredient’s flavors shine through. Accordingly, make sure you’ve got what it calls for, particularly with smoked bacon and dried savory. Maybe you could make a good soup with unsmoked bacon or some other choice of herbs, but I doubt it’d have the particular richness of flavor we enjoyed.

Judd mat Gaardebounen | Smoked pork collar with fava beans and potatoes | Recipe

While this is given as one recipe, it’s really three dishes, all held together by a common ingredient: salty, smoky, meaty stock.

It starts with a smoked pork collar/neck, soaked for a few hours and then gently simmered with a generous assortment of the sorts of vegetables that make for a rich broth. (You could perhaps substitute another body part, but it’s gotta be smoked pork.)

That’s all it takes to make the pork; the rest is just taking that broth and using it to make the other parts really yummy. Fava (aka broad) beans trade one enrobing for another: peel-blanch-peel those notoriously well-protected beans, then smother them in a velouté made of roux, white wine, and some of that pork broth.

And the potatoes are par-boiled, skillet-fried until getting crisp, and then doused with a healthy dose of more broth which they happily absorb. (I recommend making quite a bit more potatoes than the recipe calls for, because in the worst case you end up with leftover salty-pork-broth-laden potatoes. And by worst case I think I mean best case.)

Yum! Pork so tender that it succumbs to a plastic knife, potatoes at just the right texture to be speared with a plastic fork (you’re getting the idea of what we ate with!) without falling apart, and creamy-salty sauce balanced by fresh-firm favas. Luxembourg, your national dish may be oddly specific, but you figured out a darn good thing.

Quetschentaart | Plum tart | Recipe

A quetsch is a damson plum, a tart variety best cooked into jam or pie. It’s also only available in the fall, and not exactly the sort of thing that’s popular enough to be shipped fresh from the Southern Hemisphere, so I had to get creative. One market I stopped into had both regular ripe plums (thanks, Chile!) as well as the sort of sour plums used to make those weird and wonderful Japanese preserves (who knows where they came from), so I got some of both in a vague hope that the combination would resemble a quetsch.

I’m not sure if I was successful in attempting the original with that combination, but it was tasty! China played the role of pastry chef, working together a really nice and solid crust. I think the egg in there helped. It’s an extremely simple recipe, but with a little whipped cream I think it turned out just fine. If I ever see damson plums at the market, I’m now intrigued enough to try making something with them.

Big thanks again to Michael and China for being so generous in so many ways for this special occasion, our 100th Nosh and return to New York! This feast couldn’t have happened without you.

Week 2: Albania

A nation's food is quite often a reflection of its geographic and historical circumstances. In Albania's case, it's across the Adriatic from Italy, not far from Greece, and was a part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. Hence: yogurt, peppers, lamb, and a hell of a lot of olive oil. (See the shopping list, which doesn't include the gallon of olive oil I bought later.) But of course, each country adds its own twist. In the case of Albania, it's egg. Of course, almost every culture makes use of eggs. But I've never seen a cuisine that puts a little bit in almost every dish!

Our guide for the evening was Rudina, a radio producer from UNICEF from the north of Albania. (Thanks also to Elton and Quinn who sent their advice!) We met her through Snezan, the agent who found us our amazing apartment, and his girlfriend Neely. Rudina gave me a bunch of suggestions of what to cook, and the recipes that went with them. Along with the three of them, we had my college roommate Jeff, his girlfriend Elly, another college friend Sarah-Doe, and Laura's coworker Kirsty.

There were six dishes in the meal, four of which were oven-baked and three of which were fried in olive oil. (Huge thanks to Kirsty for helping with chopping, frying, and much more.) For those of you doing the math, that means that one dish was indeed fried and then baked. It required some gymnastics to do it all on the small range, but it all turned out quite well. Most of the dishes came from Rudina directly; she's graciously allowed me to include them at the bottom of this post.

Rakia | Grape brandy

The Turkish national drink is Rakı, a potent licorice firewater which gives me an instant headache. Given the similarity of the word, I was a bit scared when Rudina brought a bottle of Rakia. But contrary to my assumption, it wasn't licorice-flavored at all, but rather a nice grape brandy.

Fergese | Fried peppers with tomato-feta sauce | Recipe below

The recipe calls for 1.5 cups of oil. Eek! But yum. The same oil that fried the peppers is the foundation of the sauce with tomato and feta (and a little egg). Pour the sauce on top of the peppers, eat it with a chunk of bread, and you have a deliciously self-contained dish.

Tarator | Fried zucchini with cucumber-garlic yogurt dip

This one is so simple I don't need to give a separate recipe. Just peel and slice zucchini lengthwise and fry it. Pour on a sauce of yogurt with some chopped cucumbers and minced garlic. Done. Yum. These zucchini came from the local farmer's market this morning, and were so fresh they still had that little fuzz on the skin.

Musaka | Spinach and egg casserole | Recipe below

I know the word from Greek food, as an eggplant dish. So what a surprise to see this one based on spinach. Really simple, really good.

And that was just the first course. Here's the mains.

Byrek me spinaq | Spinach pie | Recipe (scroll down to find it)

I'm only a slight bit ashamed I didn't make the filo dough. It was effort enough even using pre-made sheets. Did this one have egg too, you ask? Yep, mixed in with the spinach. Baked it most of the way earlier on, then finished it off right before serving. Could have baked it a bit more to make it even crispier, but the filling was great.

Stuffed eggplant | Recipe below

Ta-da! This is the one that was first fried, then baked. The eggplant was lovely and tender, and the filling a nice balance of veggies and meat.

Tavë Kosi | Lamb casserole with rice and yogurt sauce | Recipe below

Despite appearances, I am pretty sure I'll be making this one again. I had never poured dry rice into a pan of roasting meat, let alone an entire quart of yogurt (with — you guessed it! — a bit of egg). Took a while to all set and get the nice crust on top, but worth the wait. Creamy and meaty, but not heavy.

Rudina didn't give any advice about dessert. When I told her I had an ice-cream machine, she advised that I make anything that Italians would eat, "not oreo or cookie or something." I saw the most beautiful cherries in the market, and I knew what I had to do.

Cherry sorbetto | Recipe


When Rudina saw it, she said I couldn't have done anything more appropriate. Apparently, cherries are a popular fruit in Albania. Yes for guesswork! It was so good too. Elly had the genius idea of pouring a bit of rakia over the sorbet to give it a kick, and by the time dessert was over, the entire bottle of 50% alcohol rakia was gone.

As we lingered over dessert, Rudina told some stories about Albania: how folklore has it that rakia cures just about any disease; how the entire country fell into a pyramid scheme in 1997; and how the house she grew up in is 2,500 years old, older even than the Albanian language. I bet that even back then, they were putting a few eggs into whatever they were cooking.

As promised, some recipes from Rudina.


• 10 italian frying peppers, seeds removed, cut into strips • 1-1/2 cups olive oil • 4-5 big, ripe tomatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces • 1 tablespoon flour • 2 eggs • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced • 1/4 lb feta cheese, cut into small pieces • chili pepper (optional) • crusty bread

Fry peppers in olive oil until soft and brown. Remove them from the pan and place on a plate to cool off. Pour off about a half-cup of the oil and saute tomatoes and garlic slowly until it thickens a bit. While sauteing, beat eggs with flour. Add chili (if using) and cheese. Cook for few more seconds, than add the egg mixture. Cook for 1 minute until the sauce looks thick. The red sauce is put in the middle of the plate and the idea is to deep the peppers to it.


• 1 shallot, minced • 1 kg (a bit over 2 pounds) fresh spinach, cleaned and cut • 5 eggs, beaten • some olive oil, salt and seasonings

Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a large pan, saute the shallots, than add spinach, salt and spices. Cook until the spinach is wilted and some of the water boils off. Put a baking pan in the oven a few minutes before the spinach is ready. Move spinach into baking dish, pour eggs on top, bake for 30-35 minutes.

Filled Eggplants

• 6 pieces of eggplants (smaller the better) • 2 onions • 250 gr minced meat • 3 tomatoes • 1 small can of good tomato sauce • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled but not minced • 2-3 green peppers • parsley • black pepper • paprika • salt

Clean eggplant by removing the tip end. Peel in stripes, dark stripe – white stripe. Cut the eggplants in the middle and scoop out the bitter inside. Put them in salted water for 45 min. After drying the eggplants with a paper towel, fry them in olive oil. Remove the eggplants and fry the garlic, onion, minced meat, tomatoes and peppers, and add parsley, spices and salt.When done, fill the eggplants and lay them in a oiled baking pan. Add the canned tomato sauce and a glass of water. Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Tavë Kosi • 1 kg of good quality lamb • olive oil • salt • pepper • 1 liter (4 cups) of fatty yogurt, the fattiest you can get • 2 eggs • little rice (a handful, I used about a half tup) • 2 tbs flour

Cut the meat in five or six pieces. (Note: I used lamb stew meat and it turned out great.) Put it in the baking pan with some olive oil, salt, pepper and bake in miedum heat (I did 350 degrees). Just before the meat is ready, add rice with ½ glass of hot water. Mix the rice into the juices and let it cook. In a bowl mix yogurt, eggs and flour. When rice is done, add the yogurt sauce slowly, stirring it in so it doesn't shock. Put it back in the oven for another 10-15 mins until the top begins to firm up, then remove and serve.