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 106: Malta

Situated between Sicily and Tunisia, this tiny cluster of three islands blends Italian and Arab influences with smatterings of the legacies of the empires that ruled over the centuries. As a linguist I'm fascinated by the Maltese language, which derives its structure and pronunciation from Arabic, yet takes plenty of vocabulary from Italo-Romance and other languages. With food, it's the opposite: the structure comes from the north, with breads, stews, and pies reminiscent of the cuisine of southern Italy, but with spices and other accents clearly from North Africa.

Guests included Julie, Levi, Trish, Ericc, Michael, Katerina, Annette, and Sam.

Ftira | Round bread | Recipe

This recipe is a true winner. The sourdough affords tang and structure, the yeast lends big air holes reminiscent of ciabatta, and the olive oil reminds you that we’re unabashedly Mediterranean. But my favorite part is the ring shape, which ensures an even bake in less time. The crust is light and crispy rather than being too toothsome, which makes this a perfect bread for…

Ħobż biż-żejt | Open-faced sandwich | Recipe

Is it possible to improve upon bruschetta? Apparently. What launches this fantastic appetizer/snack into dream-about-it-later territory is the kunserva, a rich, sweet tomato spread that tastes like tons of tomatoes squished into a jam, because that’s essentially what it is. Other Mediterranean staples — capers, onions, garlic, parsley, and especially olive oil — make this into a salad on a bread slice, and with the above-mentioned bread, the textures play perfectly. (You can also add canned anchovies or tuna to make this a light meal on its own.)

Bigilla | Broad bean dip | Recipe

A pretty straightforward hummus-esque dip. Boost or diminish oil or garlic to your taste.

Stuffat tal-fenek | Rabbit stew | Recipe

Although it’s got little land to speak of, apparently they've got rabbits enough to make this the national dish. It's a homey affair, a straightforward stew with tomatoes, carrots and potatoes whose flavor comes from the quality of the ingredients rather than any special technique. This preparation showcases rabbit's subtly nutty (or at least that's how I perceive it) flavor, and a long slow simmer turns this somewhat tough meat into something that flakes in the bowl.

Torta tal-lampuki | Mahi-mahi pie | Recipe

It's often a challenge to find the right fish for a dish from another continent, but it turns out that this one is common to much of the world. The lampuka that's found off Maltese shores in the fall is the same species as dolphinfish, dorado, and mahi-mahi. A very common preparation is in this pie which certainly betrays some Arab influence: in among the pan-fried fish and the vegetables you'll find judicious quantities of raisins, walnuts, and olives. It was a little bit odd, as we're not very used to fish pies, let alone with sweet elements, but certainly not bad.

L-għadam tal-mejtin | Bone-shaped cookies with marzipan marrow | Recipe

While there are several other folks in the fellowship of "Hey, wouldn't it be fun to cook one meal for every country in the world," I really try not to see what the ones who are ahead of me have done, since I'd rather challenge myself to do original research. But when Sasha posted this recipe on her Global Table Adventure Facebook page, timed for the Day of the Dead on which this meal fell, I just had to make it. Plus, as you'll see in the recipe, this is a special one that can't be found elsewhere online.

I'm normally not a big fan of multi-stage piecework, but this was worth it, even considering I had to make the marzipan from scratch since I couldn't find it in the grocery store. (Actually, assuming you have almond meal and a food processor, it's a cinch to make.) The marzipan "marrow" is studded with the exotic aromas of cardamom and clove, and the pastry "bone" features the brigthness of lemon zest. But best of all, the bone shape is a little bit macabre and a lot bit fun.

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.