Thursday, February 17, 2011

Another Trip to the Library

Because I can sometimes be an old fashioned girl, I dropped by the library on my way home from the mall to see if they had any Scandinavian cookbooks. It's a tiny branch library with nary a Jane Austen novel, but I did find two cookbooks to aid me in my adventure: The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann and Cooking the Norwegian Way by Sylvia Munsen.

Cooking the Norwegian Way is a children's book from the “easy menu ethnic cookbooks” series. Recipes designed for children are a fantastic way to get started with an unfamiliar cuisine. I have a number of such in my personal collection. This particular book has taught me a valuable lesson right on page 13:

When you use cornstarch in a recipe, put the required amount of dry cornstarch in a cup and add just enough cold water to form a smooth, thin paste. Then add to the other ingredients. This method keeps the cornstarch from forming lumps when cooked in liquid.”

Wish I'd known this trick when I was making the gravy for the Swedish meatless-balls! But now I know, and knowing is half the battle. This book also suggests adding nutmeg to meatballs, which I have plenty of from January's Indian dishes, and suggests two different ways of cooking them, one Norwegian and one Swedish. As far as I can tell, the difference is that Norwegians brown them in a skillet before popping them in the oven, and Swedes just cook them in the skillet. (So I guess technically I made Norwegian meatless-balls?)

I was also delighted to find three recipes for rice pudding, Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish (in order of difficulty). Norwegian style is more or less how I am used to making rice pudding, Swedish adds eggs and grated lemon rind (to taste), and Danish requires unflavored gelatin and a ring mold. One day, I would like to try all three of these recipes. I love rice pudding!

The Scandinavian Cookbook is filled with not only mouthwatering pictures of food, but gorgeous Scandinavian landscapes as well! It is also organized by season since these countries are so affected by the seasons and their food reflects it (something I can relate to here in Michigan, part of a region I like to call the Frozen North). I flipped immediately to page 26 to see what February has in store. (Incidentally, February 26th is my mother's birthday. I just found that to be a neat coincidence.) Lots of soups and sandwiches. Sounds good to me!

I absolutely love books like this where each recipe has a story. Combined with the landscape photos, I am really given a feel for the place these recipes come from. I also enjoy finding nifty little recipes to make ingredients from scratch (like when I made my own paneer), and included in this book is a simple recipe for making my own mayonnaise, something I've wondered about since playing Harvest Moon: Magical Melody for the GameCube years ago. There is also a recipe for homemade hot chocolate starting with semisweet chocolate chunks, not cocoa powder like my mother used to do.

Reading through these books sure does make me hungry! And also stirs deep within a longing to travel. Someday, I would like to venture to the homeland of the ancient Vikings. In the meantime, I will just have to explore from the comfort of my kitchen.

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