A few months back I was lamenting to Husband about the lack of Scandinavian cookbooks, at least those available to us English speakers. It seems like a title comes out every few years but does not stay in print for long. A couple of good ones you can find now are Kitchen of Light by Andreas Viestade, and Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann. If you move away from Scandinavia proper, and include the larger Nordic region, you still do not get much in the way of time honored cookbooks, but there is a brand new one that is a stunner. North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland by Gunnar Karl Gíslason and Jody Eddy.
Oh my. This is one of the most beautiful cookbooks you will ever find. The photography of the food, people, and landscapes are breathtaking. The recipes are surprising.
Many of the recipes and techniques fall under the category of "fine dining", using a multitude of ingredients and steps. But there are others that even a beginning cook could handle. The most surprising addition to many of the dishes are powders. Powders of all sort, dill, rye bread, seaweed, rhubarb...the list goes on and on. Getting cozy with these powders will open up a ton of flavors in the food you cook everyday. My one regret about this book is that there is not a "powder" listing in the index. To find them all you need to look at the recipe listings for each section.
Not every ingredient used in this book will be readily available where you live. Substitutions are given and Gunner says, "Cook until it tastes good and use what you have." A fine way to work in the kitchen.
This is a huge book that I expect will keep me reading and cooking for months to come.
Rhubarb is still growing in my garden, probably yours too, so I am going to leave you with a simple recipe and story from the book.
Rhubarb and Herb Sugar
serves 4 preparation time 20 minutes
When Gunnar was a child and rhubarb was in season, his mother would give him and his brother and sister each a small bowl of sugar. They would then spend the morning wandering through the fields plucking rhubarb stalks to dip into their sugar bowls. This recipe is a twist on that memory, with the addition of lemon balm and tarragon to give the sugar and electric green color and an herbaceous hit. For a grown-up version, pair it with chilled aquavit. Indeed, on a summer's day in Iceland, there's nothing better than joining friends at an outdoor table in the sunshine, with a bowl of freshly cut rhubarb in the center, small bowls of herb sugar around it, and shot glasses filled with chilled aquavit. Skál!
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh lemon balm leaves
2 tablespoons loosely packed tarragon leaves
1 cup sugar
4 rhubarb stalks trimmed
To make the herb sugar, rinse the lemon balm and tarragon under ice-cold running water for 30 seconds and pat dry with paper towels, in a food processor, combine the sugar and herbs and process for about 4 minutes, until the mixture is evenly green.
To serve, set out each rhubarb stalk with a small bowl of herb sugar for dipping.
Doesn't it make you want to jump on a plane?