F is for… Finland; Salmon Soup For the Soul

Hei!

Finnish flag

It looks like I might be travelling to Finland this summer. I’m really excited about that, but I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t like talking about things before they’re official. The Finns love Hockey and I’m in full on Hockey fever right now (go Rangers!), but I’m way too paranoid of a sports fan to talk too much about it when we’re tied 2-1 in the series so I don’t really want to talk about that either.

Instead I’ll talk about licorice!

I looove licorice. No not those waxy, red, articfial straw shaped things; I mean real licorice or as we Americans call it, usually with disdain, black licorice. I have never understood why it gets such a bad wrap in the States because I love it. I come from a licorice loving family, maybe because my Grandparents are European, and we always fought to see who could get to the black jelly beans fastest.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Northern Europe, having lived in Denmark, and have often joked with my friends there that if I ever visit Helsinki I expect to find the streets paved with candy. Every time I pick up a package of non-chocolate candy anywhere in Europe it seems to be made in Finland which leads me to believe that these people love their candy. Lucky for me all of the strongest and best licorice also seems to come from Finland. Yum! While I love to travel I’m not much of a souvenir hunter due to my general aversion to having “lots of stuff,” but I know that if I make it to Finland this summer I will be returning with bags full of the best licorice I can find (and extra for my Grandma of course!). It may not last as long as some souvenirs, but I’ll smile every time I eat a piece.

In preparation for this possible trip to Finland, it only made sense to visit there, culinarily speaking, for my “F” recipe. Last night I whipped up some Lohikeitto, Finnish Salmon Soup. I only made two real changes from the majority of recipes I saw in my research. First, most recipes just called for water while very few called for fish stock. I’m a big believer in getting as much flavor in things as you can, but, since salmon is a fairly fishy fish, was afraid the fish stock might be too much so I used vegetable stock. The second change was that I didn’t peel the potatoes. I refuse to ever peel small potatoes for any recipe unless it’s absolutely necessary. Not only is it less work, the skins of potatoes have tons of nutrients so you’re getting more health benefits too.

Lohikeitto

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks; sliced and thouroughly rinsed
  • 32oz low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 large or 2 small bay leaves
  • 1lb small new potatoes cut in to halves or quarters depending on size
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1lb salmon; skin off, cubed
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lots of fresh dill

Heat olive oil in large pot. Add leeks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add vegetable broth and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Add potatoes. Bring pot to a medium simmer until potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes.

Add allspice and salmon and simmer until salmon is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Turn heat to low and gently stir in cream and milk. Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle dill to taste on top.

It ain’t no licorice

FINAL VERDICT: C-

 This soup was fine, but nothing special. I admit that I’m pretty neutral about salmon itself. I’ve never really understood it’s popularity, especially among people who don’t eat any other fish. The texture is nice and firm, but the flavor if fairly strong. The soup could’ve used more pepper, but I really don’t think there’s any way to make this dish any more exciting.

Maybe this summer I’ll meet a Finnish chef wh0 will teach me the culinary secrets of the Finns, but until then I don’t think I’ll be making this soup again. Either way I think my trip will be way more exciting than this dish.

Extreme close up

Hyvää Ruokahalua!

E is for… Ethiopia or Chicken Overboard

Tadiyass!

Ethiopian flag

On Monday, in preperation for my culinary journey to Ethiopia I visited  my butcher who told me had exactly 5 bone in skin on chicken thighs left. They weighed 1 3/4 pounds, but I figured that after cooking I would discard the skin and bones and probably end up with about 1.5 pounds, my desired amount, anyway so I took them all.

Last night I made my Dor W’at, Ethipoian chicken stew. I added the onions, butter, and spices just as the recipe I’d cobbled together instructed. When it came time to add the chicken, I unwrapped the butcher paper held it over the pot and plopped them in (with a minimum of splash) because space is at a premium in my kitchen and that is the easiest way to get things out of the way quickly. When I looked in the pot I noticed there were 4, not 5, chicken thighs, but I figured the butcher just counted wrong- no big.

Once the recipe was complete I was a little surprised by the ratio of sauce to chicken. Though I knew from my research that the consistency of the dish should be loose and soupy rather than thick and stew-like I was still a bit surprised, but it looked pretty and tasted yummy so I didn’t give it too much more thought and let the dish sit and cool on the stove top. Once the dish was cool I pack some for the next days lunch, put the lid on the pot, picked it up to move it to the fridge and what to my wondering eyes should appear behind the stove!? A big ol’ raw chicken thigh!

It must’ve fallen behind the pot when I dumped the chicken out of the butcher paper, duh! Argh, gross and wasteful! If you make this recipe try to make sure that all the chicken makes it in to the pot.

As I usually do with my international dishes, I found a few recipes on the internet and mixed them together to create a recipe that sounded best to me (though most of this one comes from Epicurious). I eliminated fenugreek from my recipe, though it seems to be an important spice in Ethiopian cooking it’s in the lentil family and I’m allergic to lentils, but otherwise I think this is  fairly authentic.

Doro W’at

  • 2 medium onions
  • Salt
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, divided in half
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 – 2lbs bone in, skin on chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • Juice of 2 small limes
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled

Heat the onions and a pinch of salt over medium heat with a pinch of salt until onions begin to give off some liquid, approximately 5 minutes. Add half the butter and cook until onions have just begun to brown.

Add remaining butter, pepper, ground cloves, garlic, ginger, and berbere spice and cook about 10 minutes until the onions are nicely softened and coated with spices.

Add chicken thighs and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add wine. Bring back to a simmer and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.

Add lime juice and eggs and simmer gently for 5 minutes until eggs have heated through.

Remove chicken from pot. Remove and discard skin and bones and put meat back in sauce. Serve

Yields 4-6 servings

If this pot was see through you would see the raw chicken thigh lying behind it

FINAL VERDICT: A- 

Yum-eee! This recipe is so rich and flavorful and perfect for the drizzly overcast weather we’ve had her in New York this week. I would definitely call this a comfort dish and I will definitely make this again. I love spicy food so to me this dish had a nice kick, but wasn’t anywhere near my heat threshold. If you’re not a spicy fan you’ll find the kick more intense. 

There are very few things I’d change next time I make this, besides the whole, “get all the chicken in the pot,” thing. I used bone in, skin on thighs because they have more flavor however, I found there was a touch of oilyness to the sauce so next time I’ll remove the skin before adding the chicken to the pot. I’d also add more ginger, mostly because I love ginger and I’d like to make some Injera, Ethiopian bread, to go with this. 

So good on a rainy day

Melkam Megeb!

Why Massachusetts Is the Best Place to Eat Your Ice Cream

If I had to pick my favorite place in this country to eat I would say Massachusetts. No, not because of the quality of food (though trust me they do have plenty of great food there), but because of the amazing food allergy legislation the state passed two years ago.

A few years ago Ming Tsai, chef; business owner; part time Food Network star; full time hottie and father of a food allergic son, spearheaded an initiative in his home state of Massachusetts to pass a comprehensive and common sense food allergy law that all restaurants would have to comply with.

The law gives restaurants 4 steps to do, the first 3 are mandatory and the last is voluntary:

  1. On all your menus clearly print, “If you have any food allergies please notify your server before ordering.” If you are a food allergic person this should be second nature to you anyway, but it never hurts to be reminded.
  2. In all kitchen a pre-printed poster which lists the 8 most common food allergies as well as general information on food allergies and proper food preparation.
  3. Requires the viewing of a food allergy video as part of standard food service courses. In just the same way that restaurant workers learn that you can’t cut the lettuce with the knife you just used to cut raw chicken, they learn information on segregating ingredients, washing down equipment etc.
  4. Voluntarily create a “food allergy reference book” which breaks down all the food you serve by ingredients and provides a quick and handy reference guide for kitchen staff and servers.

I visit Massachusetts a  few times a year and it is a true pleasure to dine out there. I eat at places that I would never eat at in the rest of the country! For instance, it can be quite difficult to go to an ice cream shop with food allergies because they are constantly using and reusing the same scoop which mixes ingredients from tub to tub leading to cross contamination, but getting ice cream in Massachusetts is a food allergic persons dream. I just walk up to a window, hand the high school kid worker my food allergy card, which list my allergies, and they say “No problem,” check the ingredients get a clean scoop and a fresh tub and within two minutes I’m enjoying my ice cream.

Coffee Oreo. Quite possibly the greatest ice cream flavor ever invented!

Do you have any idea how awesome that is? Probably not if you don’t have food allergies, but trust me; it’s really freaking awesome. It’s not just ice cream shops either, I’ve had great experiences in all the restaurants I’ve dined at in Massachusetts in the last year has been just that pleasant and easy!

So thank you Massachusetts! You’ve made dining a pleasure for people who can often find it stressful. Here’s hoping that one day soon New York, New Jersey and the rest of the country follow suit.