I was given the opportunity to cater a wedding during my stay in Iceland. The Head Chef allowed me to create a menu for 100 people. My training from catering on tour required food for 100 people, twice a day, so this task was definitely something I felt confident in doing. It was to be an outdoor garden wedding. The food needed to be convenient and practical, yet gourmet.
On the menu:
Grilled Asian-Latin fusion marinated shrimp, beef, and chicken skewers
Ceviche (individual servings)
Garbanzo salad w. sesame-garlic dressing
Cucumber, feta, kalamata olive salad w. oregano vinaigrette
Southwestern pasta and bean salad w. corriander-lime dressing
Caprese salad w. balsamic reduction
Last summer I took advantage of being in Continental Europe, so I did a bit of a tour of four countries. This year I was so fortunate to visit an amazing country:Iceland. A dear friend that I met in Denmark invited me to stay with her and her family in a small town in Iceland for the summer. That wasn’t even the best part. I also managed to get a summer job cooking in the local hotel/restaurant. Normally, you are supposed to relax during summer holiday, but we worked 6 days a week in this quaint kitchen—and I couldn’t have been happier.
The challenge was using the extremely local and seasonal ingredients. The produce and the dairy shipments came by on a weekly basis to the town we were living in. In the U.S., everything we need is at our fingertips. Even in Denmark, I can usually find a wide variety of ingredients at the local shops. But here in this town in Iceland, supplies were limited. I really had to put in some thought about using what was available.
In the restaurant, hotel guests and locals had the option of ordering ‘a la carte’. If it was a large reservation, the guests had the additional option of ordering a set 3 -course meal.The latter was my favourite. At least 5 times a week we had reservations of 20-30 hungry tourists. Usually the Head Chef would decide on the menu. However, he was always open to my suggestions and ideas, which enabled me to create some exciting,new dishes. I was elated with the support and knowledge I received working here this summer.
I have written about the new method I learned when making Swedish meatballs. However,now, I am going to write about Italian meatballs, plus, home-made Vodka sauce, in which equates to the perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs.
In a previous post on Vegetarian lasagne, I wrote of making Marinara for most any pasta dish. The only difference in this version is I add Vodka. ‘My Vodka sauce’ is not, per se, the ‘traditional Vodka sauce’, which is usually a pink sauce (cream and tomato w/ a splash or Vodka). I usually skip out on the cream as a lighter version and/or Vegan-friendly sauce. The Vodka, in short, has the similarity of a sugar molecule which has a bit of sweetening effect-it does indeed enhance the flavour. So just as you are bring your Marinara or red sauce to a simmer, add half a cup of Vodka (and a bit for the chef) and simmer for at least 25 minutes.
As for the meatballs, I use a pork and beef blend. The trick is to mix the ingredients of the recipe below at least 24 hours before cooking. Again, we marinate to enhance flavour and cut cooking/preparation time. For cooking, I use a frying pan coated with a thin layer of grape seed oil. Place the meatballs in the hot oil and allow to sear on one side. After browning occurs, rotate meat balls until all sides are brown and crispy. To ensure proper cooking inside, stick a meat thermometer in the middle which should read around 70 C (medium well). Note that proteins continue cooking after being removed from direct heat. Put the cooked meatballs onto a platter with a towel and cover.
Again, to keep this dish on the lighter side, I use a whole-grain Spaghetti, cooked al dente and tossed in olive oil. After plating the Spaghetti, spoon on the Vodka sauce, meatballs, and I garnish with freshly-grated Parmesean and chiffonade Basil. Buon Apetito!
0.5c finely diced onion
0.25c smash garlic cloves
1.5c bread crumbs
0.5c fresh Italian herbs
2 tbs. olive oil
8oz of EACH two meats, or 16oz of one
2 tbs. crushed Rose pepper
salt to taste
Min første Påskefrokost! This meal was my first traditional Danish Easter Lunch. My friend, who invited me to his house for Easter Lunch, called me frantically the day before saying that he had just realised he needed to have food for his Easter celebration, and had no idea how he was going to make it happen. He then desperately inquired if I had any ideas or suggestions. Calmly, I told him I would call him back in ten minutes. I called him and told me to pick me up in 20 minutes—we were going to the grocery store.
Basically, I knew this was my time to put my catering experience to use. My friend needed me. I wanted to use the traditional elements of Danish food, but also add a bit of my American Easter traditions.
Pickled Herring, eggs (of some sort), rye bread, potatoes, and liver paste topped with bacon, are all very traditional Danish foods, served mostly at any holiday gathering (or so I’ve noticed).
Back home, there was always a pork dish and/ or poultry, mashed potatoes, green beans, and I have been working on perfecting my oven-roasted chicken, so I threw that in there for good measure.
My contribution was green bean Almondine, roasted potatoes with fresh herbs, oven-roasted French chicken, pork tenderloin marinated in paprika and orange zest and a orange-honey glaze (a sort of play on honey-glazed hams in America). Some of our Danish friends brought the traditional foods in which they showed me how it was to be prepared, and also where I should buy these items if I wanted the best quality.
The luncheon was truly amazing. It was a perfect conglomeration of America and Denmark, yet again; The American sticking to her roots while warmly embracing Danish tradition.
Soup is always a winner at the house. It is simple, quick, and delicious. This dish is asparagus soup garnished with toasted garlic, pan-fried croutons, and bacon.
The soup itself is very easy:
Sweat onions, celery, and carrot along with asparagus (about 2 bunches). I let all the vegetables get a nice colour before I added vegetable stock. Asparagus is one of those vegetables that you do not want to over cook, so just as it starts turning that lovely bright green, is when I add the vegetable stock, knowing it will continue cooking as I let it simmer. I bring this mixture to a boil and then turn off the heat, allowing it to cool for about 20 minutes.
After cooling, I use the hand mixer and blend until desired consistency. (You can either strain the soup in a china cap or keep the fibrous bits intact in the soup—it’s a matter of preference). I then turn the heat back on to low for a slow simmer. I add a bit of salt and white pepper to taste. Using vegetable stock rather than plain water adds flavour without excess sodium. Also, if you want to make the soup creamy, adding about a cup of cream is possible, or you can keep it on the lighter, healthier side and leave it be.
While the soup is simmering, fry some bacon for garnish. A nice trick for some homemade croutons is to throw in a few cloves of garlic to flavour the bacon fat, then toast a few strips of bread to absorb the goodness left over from the bacon. The croutons are crispy and perfectly seasoned, and the garlic melts in your mouth. Serve the soup and garnish. Enjoy!
Summer Salads P. II : I make as many raw vegetable dishes as possible in the house. And as always, I make salad dressings from scratch. It is hard to say what exactly is in store-bought dressings these days, plus, it just tastes better.
These are all very simple salads. The dressings are usually garlic-based with an olive and grapeseed oil blend. I enhance with complimenting herbs and spices depending on what else is being served.
My weaknesses have always been food and men - in that order.
- Dolly Parton
My employer used to cook when he served in the Swedish Navy. He always has a few tricks of the trades that he enlightens me with. First, marinating meat a few days before cooking allows for less actual time cooking and a more developed flavour. Second, little or no waste. In other words, leftovers!!
I cut a whole clove of garlic into pointed pieces. I then pierced the cut of lamb with my knife all over so that I could insert the points of garlic. I finished the surface of the lamb with oil, pepper, and a few herbs from the garden. I wrapped it in plastic tightly and forgot about it until towards the end of the week.
Thursdays are usually my busiest days so around 14:00 I placed the lamb into the 80 C oven for dinner to be served around 19:00. The temperature seems a bit low, but slow-roasting coincides with marinated meat. Slow-roasting allows the meat to retain the maximum amount of moisture. And, because I marinated days in advance, I need to do nothing to meat, knowing the flavour will be brilliant. Medium-rare meat in this house is the norm, which for lamb is about 60 C. I use a meat thermometer just to make sure it is at the temperature the family likes and remove from the oven. I immediately cover the roast with foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving. At this point, the lamb is so tender it literally falls off the bone. The juice from the lamb make a nice pan sauce that you can simply tighten up with a spoonful of corn starch.
The leftover lamb was a nice addition to a simple salad the following day, Friday-when I am in the most rush to get off of work and join my friends in the city.
I have learned from my employer that planning and using what is left in the refrigerator not only saves time, money, and food, but also allows for new creations in the kitchen.
The winter in Denmark is long, dark, and cold. There is approximately 5 hours of sunlight a day. Well, the sky is light—the sun seldom comes out. With this extreme climate comes a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, winter blues, or seasonal depression. SAD is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer. To offset these symptoms, I made sure here at the house we enriched our diet with Vitamin D, not only with supplements but mainly 4-5 fish meals per week. Herring, Cod, Sardines, Salmon, Cow’s milk, and yoghurt were a main part of our diet during these long winter months.
This is a white fish lightly breaded and pan-fried in rapeseed oil. I paired it with bok choy (also high in Vitamin D) cooked with apples which I allowed to simmer in the juices of the apples. I then topped it off with an ever so appropriate yoghurt-based dill sauce.
When he’s late for dinner, I know he’s either having an affair or is lying dead in the street. I always hope it’s the street.
- Jessica Tandy