Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Break from Finnish Cooking...

Dear readers -- I will be taking a break from my Finnish cooking adventures. My doctor has advised me to follow a low-fat diet, so baking and cooking in earnest is probably not a good idea for now. Especially cookies and the like! I will be writing about my life as a "Low Fat Foodie" at a new blog. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Kurkkusalaatti - Cucumber Salad

Is everyone "detoxing" today from all their Christmas feasts? We had a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with some Finnish favorites, and also some non-Scandinavian treats too.

One of the things that I made for our Christmas Eve buffet was Kurkkusalaatti or Cucumber Salad. This was a recipe from Beatrice Ojakangas "The Finnish Cookbook" and was highly recommended by my family friend's daughter, Lisa. We decided that it would be a nice refreshing counterpoint to the Swedish meatballs, smoked salmon, and Italian antipasti. And so it was!

As a side note, since it is the middle of winter in New England, it is difficult to find fresh dill. However, I think that the fresh herb would have made the salad even better.

Kurkkusalaatti - Cucumber Salad
Serves about six. Make this salad two hours before you plan to serve it to allow the flavors to blend.

4 medium cucmbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh or dried dill
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons salad oil

Toss the cucumber slices with the dill. Arrange the cucumber in a chilled glass bowl. Mix the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and salad oil and pour over the cucumber slices. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Warm Wishes for the Winter Solstice

Dear reader, it seems like ages since I last posted. I returned from Italy last weekend to find a winter wonderland here at my home. Here is a photo of my barn taken this morning -- I thought it looked lovely and peaceful -- how I imagine the Finnish countryside in winter must look.

It is the Winter Solstice -- the shortest day of the year. And I imagine that there are places in Finland where the days are very short indeed, if the light dawns at all! However, it gives me hope to think that from now until June, the light each day will be getting a little bit longer.

I think that my ambitions for trying many new Finnish recipes for Christmas were just that -- ambitions and perhaps overly ambitious at that. Tomorrow, I will be baking Nisu -- however, you have already heard about my adventures in that department. As part of our Christmas Eve dinner, we plan to make a Finnish cucumber salad (Kurkkusalaati). However, the rest of my time has been absorbed with our family traditional recipes, which are not Finnish in origin -- cranberry bread, Spritz cookies, "black bottom" cupcakes.

Peace to all in these days of the Solstice and Advent. I leave you with a picture of our pine grove in the snow. In ancient Rome, the evergreen was considered a symbol of the Solstice, and still today we see sign of never-ending life in the pine

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fun Online Advent Calendars by Finnish Artists

If you have kids, or are just a kid at heart :), you may enjoy these online Advent calendars by Finnish artists. The "Kidzone Finland" Advent calendar includes brief Christmas stories for each day. A fun way to measure the days, as the light gets briefer. Take a moment out of the hectic holiday craziness to enjoy the quietness outside, even if it may be cold where you are!

Virtual Finland Online Advent Calendar

Kidzone Finland Online Advent Calendar

Some Finnish Christmas Recipes to Contemplate

Believe it or not, at this time tomorrow, I will be in Italy for two weeks! That will be a whole different type of food adventure - especially our visits to Bologna and Parma in the Emilia Romagna region. I am looking forward to seeing the Christmas markets and enjoying the country at a quieter, less touristic time of the year.

While I am away, I will leave you with some Finnish Christmas recipes to contemplate... The Virtual Finland web site has posted their Christmas site, including a page of recipes, which you can find here.

The measurements for these recipes are in cups, teaspoons and tablespoons, so there is no need to do metric conversions. Some that look particularly good to me include:

Glögg -- This warm, mulled wine always reminds me of the wonderful Christmas Eve parties at the home of a family friend, complete with an authentic Swedish smorgasbord

The dark, Christmas bread which includes rye and graham flours, as well as caraway seeds, orange peel and "dark syrup" (which I am assuming is molasses)

The Gingersnaps or "Piparkakut"

and the Prune Christmas Tarts or "Joulutortut"

On the savory front, the freshly salted salmon looks interesting -- a sort of gravlax, I would say. And of course the baked ham.

I think I will stay away from the Baked Lutefisk and the Liver Pate, even if they are traditional! When I return, my kitchen will become busy once again! Enjoy the quiet days of Advent... Peace.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Finnish Gifts for the Holidays?

Dear readers - I will warn you now that this post has nothing to do with food. I have had a horrible cold for the past week and have had no desire to do anything in the kitchen! However, I have had lots of time to contemplate the impending holiday season and gift shopping. In an effort to support independent artists more and "big box" stores less, I am trying to buy as many handmade gifts as possible. There are a number of Finnish crafters who sell through a web site called etsy. There's still time to have items shipped from Finland for the holidays! Here are some of my favorite items and artists...

Who could resist a charming print like this by Terese Bast. Terese is a illustrator located in Jakobstad, Finland. Her etsy online store is filled with wonderful and whimsical prints, as well as postcards and magnets. And all are very reasonably priced.

Are you looking for a special place to record your thoughts in a journal? How about a beautiful handmade notebook from Paperiaarre? Paperi means "paper" in Finnish and aarre means "treasure". In addition to lovely journals, at the online shop you will find unique jewelry with botanical and abstract designs.

Happy shopping!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Christmas in Finland

After all the Thanksgiving cooking and eating, I am not quite ready to start cooking again for the Christmas holidays. As I mentioned, I do want to try the traditional Finnish prune tart cookies -- here is a picture of the pinwheel cookies. In the meantime, here is some information about Christmas in Finland.

Independence Day in Finland coincides with the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas -- December 6. We always associate our Independence Day in the United States with warm, summer weather, along with cookouts and fireworks. It must be interesting to have Independence Day be an introduction to the holiday season!

On the Christmas tree, it is traditional to have an ornament in the shape of an apple. According to the Finnish calendar, December 24 is the name day of Adam and Eve. Christmas dinner includes pickled herring, rosolli (a salad with beets, carrots, potatoes, and pickles), raw salmon, turnip casserole, and ham. On Christmas Eve, gifts are delivered by "Joulupukki" or Santa Claus. Then the gifts are opened!

After the excitement of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day is more relaxed. Visits to family and friends are made on December 26.

Here is a charming web site with a pancake recipe by Santa's elves.

And just for fun, here is a site which has webcams of various highways in Lapland, the land of Joulupukki!