Friday, December 19, 2014

Kale Bruschetta

This was based on a recipe from Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann.   There are many good ideas in this book for Christmas.  It is on my list to make more out of in the near future.

This was another of the appetizer like finger food that I served at the brunch.  It was simple to make and it was delicious.  I wanted some greens because even though it is winter and heavier foods are usually desired, I get cravings for greens.  Kale is a good choice for this appetizer as it holds up well.  Plus, with the oven turned on low it kept these little bites warm until the guests started to arrive.  This would work well with other greens as well.  I think it would be interesting to see it made with rainbow kale to give it a little more color. 

Kale Bruschetta
1 bunch of kale, washed (dried), ribs removed, and chopped
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 leek, washed (as they tend to be sandy), chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 ounces Gruyere finely grated

1 fresh baguette, cut into slices
butter to toast the baguette slices

Toast the baguette in the butter, turning to be sure they are crunchy on both sides.  Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan.  (I used the same one that was used to toast the bread.)  Add the leek and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes, until softened.  Add the kale and mix together over a low heat until incorporated (you can cook this more or less depending on what you like).  Remove from heat and add the cheese.  Mix together so the cheese is incorporated throughout.  Taste and add seasonings if desired.  (I didn't because the cheese is salty enough for my taste.)  Arrange the baguette on a platter and put a bunch of the kale on top of each.  Serve warm.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cold Smoked Salmon with Dill on Rye Crisp

I have never really considered myself to be someone who loves fish.  I like to eat it from time to time, but it is not something I am always crazy about because I have had some not so great fish.  I remember being about 9 years old when someone gave me some smoked fish.  I had never had it before, and I can't even remember who gave it to me.  I never had it again until much later on a trip to Norway.  My friend bought some smoked mackerel.  I loved it.  A couple of years ago when I returned to visit the same friend she asked what I wanted to eat while I was there and that was one of the things that I had to have!  On to salmon....I like it baked, broiled, grilled.  Then I discovered cold smoked love of smoke mixed with a different fish....and again I was in love.

Yesterday, I hosted a Christmas brunch based on my half Scandinavian part.  Cold smoked salmon was one of the appetizers that I made.  It is simple to assemble and the flavors are outstanding.  Nothing says Scandinavia like dill and salmon.

Cold Smoked Salmon with dill on Rye Crisp
Rye Crisp - I used 9 rounds broken into halves
Neufchatel cheese (6-8 ounces)  (You can use cream cheese if you prefer.)
Fresh dill, finely chopped (reserve some sprigs for the top garnish)
English cucumber, thinly sliced
Cold smoked salmon (about 3.5 ounces)

Put the Neufchatel cheese into a small bowl.  Add the finely chopped dill.  Mix until incorporated throughout.  Place rye crisps onto a plate.  Spread dill and neufchatel cheese mixture onto each crisp.  Place finely sliced cucumber on top of the cheese.  Place a piece of cold smoked salmon on top.  Garnish with a little piece of dill.  Keep chilled until serving.  (Don't leave it too long in the refrigerator or else the cracker will not stay crisp.)  Eat and enjoy.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lebkuchen (elisenlebkuchen)

I received this recipe when I lived in Germany.  I fell in love with lebkuchen and although this isn't your traditional baked German treat, it definitely hits the spot baked at home.  Plus, those that have issues with gluten can also indulge in these as there isn't any flour involved.  This recipe also makes a smaller batch than many cookies.  Lebkuchen is traditionally sold during the Christmas season and then those shops which had it are turned into other things (like ice cream shops for the summer season).  There are as many different kinds of lebkuchen as you can possibly think up, so feel free to change things up to satisfy your cravings for other flavors.  If you live close to a German market you can buy oblaten which are little edible discs you can eat and makes the lebkuchen a lot easier to get off the pan.  If you don't have them I would recommend baking on parchment paper or a silicon mat as they can get quite sticky without something under then to release them for eating.

3 eggs
1 cup sugar (200g)
1 package vanilla sugar (or 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1-2 pinches of cloves
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon rum flavoring
2 -5 drops lemon extract
1/3 cup candy glazed citron (you can use lemon or orange if you can't find citron)
2/3 cup ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup ground hazelnuts
8-10 oblaten

Preheat the oven to 375F. Beat the eggs and then add sugar and vanilla sugar (if using).  Mix together until it is light and creamy.  Add the cloves, rum flavoring, and lemon extract and mix.  Then add the candy glazed citron, almonds, and backing powder and mix again.  Then add the hazelnuts, mix and then the dough to settle so it is easy to spread.  Check the consistency and add a little more ground hazelnuts if it spreads too easily.  Put the dough on the oblaten discs and back for 10 minutes.  Let cool and then decorate with chocolate and whole almonds if desired.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Finnish Nut Logs (PÄHKINÄLEIVÄ)

Christmas cookie season is upon us!  My family has a lot of traditions as far as the Christmas cookie goes, but this year my focus has been on Scandinavian items.  The raspberry ribbons was the first of them and this Finnish Nut Log is the next in the series of new cookies.  Of course I will probably have to make Lebkuchen (a German cookie) just because it is a favorite of my husband and mine.  So you can look forward to seeing that recipe coming soon!  At any rate, the holiday season is a great time to try new things to add to the tried and true recipes.  Since Thanksgiving is literally tomorrow, this quick recipe can be one made to supplement the plethora of pies that are being made in my home and yours.

This recipe starts from a butter cookie recipe found on the raspberry ribbon page.   After the dough has been refrigerated for at least 30 minutes, then you can continue with the outside piece of this cookie.

Finnish Nut Logs (PÄHKINÄLEIVÄ)
Butter Cookie Dough
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped and toasted almonds
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Place parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Divide the cookie dough into four pieces.  Roll each between your hands to form a rope.  It should be about a half inch across.  Cut into 1 1/2 each pieces.  In a small bowl combine the sugar and the almonds.  Roll the cookie logs into the beaten egg yolk, then dip into the sugar and almond mixture.  Place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Vanilla Kiperl (Vanilla Butter Crescents)

I love simple cookies.  I used to like them with chocolate and other flavors, but my favorite kind right now are simple vanilla cookies.  Vanilla kiperl are German cookies, usually made at Christmastime, but are simple to make.  They are sweetened with a bit of vanilla and sugar and then dusted in powdered sugar when they are warm.  The sweetness comes through just right.  This is a mixture from a couple of recipes.  You can also make them with ground almonds instead of hazelnuts.  

Vanilla Butter Crescents
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
1 cup flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Your hazelnuts should already be toasted.  Place in a food processor with 2 -3 tablespoons of flour to grind to a fine meal.   In another bowl whisk the rest of the flour with 1/4 cup powdered sugar.  Add the flour mixture to the hazelnut mixture and pulse again.  Add the butter and egg yolk and pulse until the dough begins to come together.  Remove and place in a ball and put in the refrigerator for about half an hour.  Preheat over to 325F.  Line the sheets with parchment.  Form the dough into a ball and then roll into crescents.  Bake for about 9 minutes or until just beginning to brown.  Remove and transfer to wire racks to cool.  Dust with additional powdered sugar when warm and again after cooling.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Raspberry Ribbon Danish Cookies

I love baking Christmas cookies, and we are fast approaching the time which will put my weekends into baking mode.  I am also planning on having a Christmas brunch this year.  Because my theme is Scandinavian, I have been testing out some recipe which I will serve for that brunch.  This is one that was on the list.  The benefits are that a lot of cookies can be made at one time and that they are bite sized, so you can't feel guilty about eating one or two....or more.  They also can be made ahead of time while I am preparing more time needed items like freshly baked bread.
So here is my first new cookie experiment for a lightly sweet touch for brunch.  They gave together very quickly and they were easy to incorporate into my other cooking during the cold weekend.  And as an extra bonus, I got to turn my oven on and make the house smell delicious!

Butter Cookie Dough:
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2  2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Additional ingredients:
Jam (I used a blueberry raspberry mixture.)
1/4 - 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cream

Cream the butter.  Then add the sugar and mix until well combined.  All the egg and mix again.  Finally, add the flour, extract and salt and mix until it comes together into a ball of dough.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Makes about 3 cups cookie dough.

Preheat oven to 375F.  Roll out the butter cookie dough into about an half inch roll.  Place on an un-greased cookie sheet and press down the middle forming a u-shaped log.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and repress the indentation.  Fill with jam.  Return to the oven and bake for about another 5 minutes or until slightly brown.  Remove from oven and cool.  Once cool enough to touch, mix up the powdered sugar and cream and pipe a line across the cookie.   Cut into 1 inch pieces on the diagonal.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Denver Omelette with Coucous

I previously mentioned trying to increase my consumption of grains.  I have been experimenting with Whole Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon.  I have made quite a lot of her recipes and have a bunch more tagged to make.  This recipe is based off one from her book.  Since I love omelettes I thought this would be a different and yet similar dish.    I do miss the eggs a little, but this really turned out well with all the flavors, but yet different.  Next time I will probably scramble up an egg and add it to the end result to give me the same, but more filling Denver omelette.  Add more vegetables if you feel you want a more vegetable heavy omelette which is usually what I crave in summer when all the veggies are fresh.

Denver Omelette Coucous
2 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup finely diced bell pepper (I used a red one)
5 ounces cooked ham, diced into small cubes
2 1/2 cups cooked couscous
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
shredded sharp cheddar cheese (for sprinkling on top, so to taste)
2-3 green onions, chopped

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering.  Saute the onion and pepper until soft.  Stir in the ham and cooked until thoroughly warm.  Fold in the cooked couscous and reduce the heat to low. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and still in the parsley.  Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.  It will start to melt.  Scoop the mixture into a bowl and top with green onions.