Archive for March, 2008

surviving the shop

March 28, 2008

This is not going to be about food at all, it is my weekly rant about elbows. We are back from the store. It is Friday afternoon, and even this time, we survived. This isn’t so easy as it sounds.

I’m born in Western Germany. One would think that this prepared me for most shopping styles of the world – however, a Friday in a Swedish store makes me wonder. But let’s go generalize nation for nation. (more…)


crunchy veggie horrors

March 27, 2008

During the 1992 opera rehearsals in the beautifully situated Swedish castle Läckö we, that is the singers, the musicians and the people who talk with their hands in their pockets (we call them producers) got mass lunch in the castle’s cozy restaurant Fataburen. As soon as the performances began, I was suddenly the only one who stayed out at the castle (the rest of the gang traveled from elsewhere) – in the most fantastic weather on the camping site nearby – and still needed lunch. They gave me a special price, and during those three weeks I tried their whole menu up and down again. This is long ago – nevertheless I should recommend their kitchen wholeheartedly even today.

…or at least almost wholeheartedly. (more…)

game symphony and other swedish pizza

March 27, 2008

I thought that low tide in Swedish spring was reached during this year’s edition of the annual song contest, with Christer Sjögren’s abysmal sixties-schlager-revival song “I love Europe” and the flopped joint venture ( link updated 1 Sept 08) of Carola and that other cowboy, but no. We are bracing ourselves for the next big event: the Nordic Championship In Pizza 2008.

Nordic Pizza? But of course. (more…)

ribs from another world

March 26, 2008

Swedish pork ribs are different. They come with a four-inch layer of meat-streaked blubber un-firmly attached, and are pretty difficult to treat in the kitchen. Here are the choices:

– You cut off the offending layer and treat the ribs as ribs. Use the fat and the meat for sausages.

– You do a Chinese slow pot roast with star anise, garlic, soy sauce and spring onions. This will have to be a heck of a slow pot roast, or you’ll end up with layers of salty, tough meat embedded in sweet wobbly matter that carries a faint taste of anise. If you manage to summon the patience to cook the ribs all the way through (three hours…four hours??), discard as much of the accumulated fat as possible, rescue the heavenly sauce, but take care to have the Vodka chilled nevertheless – you will need it.

– You make several deep cuts in the meat parallel to the ribs and oven-roast – or grill – the whole combo, with the objective of letting the fat cure or tenderize the meat, or at least getting it to dissolve and vanish. This is, however, not going to happen: (more…)

banana chunkz 1977 style

March 23, 2008

The recently announced Split Banana in Staunton is, we hear, a smashing success. Their ice cream is too good for words; great enough to make people return multiple times and once more; people line up on the pavement all the way to Waynesboro – okay, only half the way. The story of the day that came through the phone punctuated by attacks of howling laughter is the creation of (more…)

lamb cigars

March 21, 2008

My recipe for meatball-cigars has been waiting in my private recipe archive for a year. Today I gave it a new try in the kitchen, allowing for a few improvements, and here are the results.

Ingredients for two:

– 400g (0.9 lbs) of ground, fresh and wool-smell-free lamb. If you’ve got a meat grinder, try finding assorted bits of lamb-for-cooking, cut the meat off the bones, deep-freeze the latter for some future soup-orgy, and mince the meat. Otherwise, some butchers offer decent (albeit often greasy) minced lamb. (more…)

braised vegetables, the buttery kind

March 21, 2008

One of the classical methods to braise vegetables (as, for example, taught by Marcella Hazan) is to put them into a wide pan with olive oil and/or butter, water to cover, and salt, and to cook them until done. At the end the water should have evaporated and the vegetables just begin to hiss in the fat. Here is a refined version of this technique. (more…)

split banana announcement

March 17, 2008

If you are in Staunton Va. one of these days, make sure to visit the new ice cream parlor The Split Banana on 7 West Beverley Street just beside the Baja Bean Co. They’re opening today, March 17.

I was one of the first to put a crowbar between some planks on the first renovation day last October. That was about all I ever did at the Split Banana. (Look. I was on vacation.) Being snowbound in a side street of West Sweden at the moment of writing, I’m not there to test their products and to make snarky hands-in-my-pockets remarks about their work flow.

Split Banana’s ice cream was presented for the first time yesterday at an open house of Taylor & Boody, organbuilders (here’s the page). Private rumor has crossed the ocean that it was “wonderful.” Today it is 43 degrees F in Staunton and sunny, good enough for some real-ingredients shop-made ice cream, no?

back to the roots – labskaus

March 17, 2008

Labskaus belongs to my childhood food. As I learned to know it, it was a mishmash of potatoes, red beets and some other fillings a child is unable to analyze, and it came with a pickle wedge (or is it wedge of pickle), a pickled herring of one or another sort and a fried egg. This is, more or less, how my mom makes labskaus. She’ll chime in and protest, I’m sure: labskaus is, in fact, not a recipe: it is once through the pantry and back. Of course, we’re talking a ship’s pantry.

My thoughts keep returning to Daffy Duck and the line, halfway into the cartoon “Duck Amuck”: “Thea picture, eh? I alwayth wanted to do a thea epic,” (I did supply a YouTube link, but it died). So, yes, when I looked on the web for orrriginal labskaus recipes, fantasies of twenty hungry sailors, of a stiff breeze and of shrieks of greedy gulls started forming in my mind. Here’s a list of ingredients with which someone’s father used to cook true navy-style labskaus forty years ago: 5 kilogram (11 lbs) of salted pork, same amont of salted beef. 8 kg (17 1/2 lbs) potatoes, the non-fluffy kind. 2 1/2 kg (5 1/2 lbs) onions. 1 1/4 kg (2 3/4 lbs) butter. Pickled herring and eggs to serve.

The author of this writes that those recipes that add red beets to the mash are Not Authentick; the red color of labskaus comes from the salted meat. I have an issue with red beets: they upset my stomach and give me a headache. One day shortly after a lunch with warm beets, a neighbor’s kid split my head open with a huge enameled green pan that functioned as a toy in his sandbox (I was about five years old). I saw too much red on that day. A good reason to test the sea picture mash. Since there are no twenty hungry sailors here who have been scraping rust or done whatever else sailors do in the cold for a whole morning I scaled the total amount down a bit, as can be seen on the pictures.

The meats are boiled in separate pans, “until firm to the bite” (I wonder what they were before boiling, but okay…), as well as the potatoes.


liver?? liver.

March 10, 2008

Another one of the conventions that apply to TV cooking shows (see my previous post) is clearly that things need to look nice, and that everyone should sound like they taste nice as well. On this German show a few days ago, one person fried slices of liver.

There was a pedagogical episode where he pared off the skin and the (as Marcella Hazan calls them) “large gristly tubes.” This is an absolutely necessary, and rather fiddly, administration. One of the common horrors of liver consumption is one’s bite-for-bite confrontation with tough bits of membrane. The meticulous cleaning is the very thing that makes liver possible.

Then came a rather more dubious episode where the slices entered a frying pan and stayed there altogether too long. (more…)