Dishing up memories: A book of dishes rooted in place

Photo copyright © 2015 by Stefan Wettainen Mussels with horseradish cream, from Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking by Darra Goldstein.

Photo copyright © 2015 by Stefan Wettainen
Mussels with horseradish cream, from Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking by Darra Goldstein.

Daytona Strong
Taste of Norway Editor

Steamed mussels always take me back to that first trip to Norway, where my husband and I ate them outdoors along the water in Oslo. It was the peak of summer, and as I breathed in the northern air and felt the Nordic breeze, I was struck with a sense of home. I never wanted to leave. I relived those memories when cooking a recipe for mussels with aquavit and horseradish cream from one of my favorite new cookbooks on a recent summer evening in Seattle.

Darra Goldstein, author of Fire and Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking (Ten Speed Press, autumn 2015), was also influenced by the north during her first visit to Finland in 1972 and then when she and her husband lived in Stockholm when they were first married. Now, as professor of Russian at Williams College as well as food writer and author of other cookbooks, she’s returned to that love of the Nordic countries with this stunning release. She captures a rich sense of place; a look through the pages, laden with stunning landscape photography, as well as cooking through the recipes, is bound to transport the homesick or at least those with the north beating someplace in their hearts, to a place of memory or longing.

From mussels steamed with aquavit to fish cakes with remoulade sauce, the book is packed with classic Nordic recipes as well as ones she gives a modern update. In one recipe, cod nearly melts along with butter and horseradish in a dish that’s as comforting as it fresh. Paired with the butter-steamed new potatoes and the swished cucumbers (which is the best recipe I’ve found for Scandinavian cucumber salad), it’s a complete meal that captures the essence of Nordic cooking. I’m keeping a bottle of Goldstein’s ginger and cardamom schnapps in my freezer alongside a commercial aquavit, and both the blueberry Tosca cake and the blueberry “rooster” (basically a Finnish berry slump) are great ways to use the blueberries that are abundant this time of year.

Photo copyright © 2015 by Stefan Wettainen Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking by Darra Goldstein.

Photo copyright © 2015 by Stefan Wettainen
Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking by Darra Goldstein.

As I’ve been reading and cooking, I’ve noticed that the book feels personal, a lovely one to be in the pages of. Goldstein wanted to convey a kind of intimacy with the place, she told me in a recent interview. While New Nordic cuisine is very chef-driven and exciting, it’s not reflective of how people cook at home, she said. “I wanted to give a sense of a normal person’s kitchen and the way people connect with their ingredients.”

“This book ended up being probably my most personal cookbook in many ways because it enabled me to reflect back … and realize that it had a very profound influence on my life, that this way of cooking and of having rhythms of the season, and thinking about nature and all of that, and of Scandinavian design too.”

Goldstein agreed to share the recipe for mussels with horseradish cream with The Norwegian American. While steamed mussels are a very French dish, this recipe is distinctly Nordic.

“It uses aquavit, which Norway as you know is super famous for,” she said. “It’s really good, and its very, very easy. It takes like 10 minutes.”

Whether by the food, the photographs, or through Goldstein’s stories, Fire and Ice is bound to stir up a hunger, if not a healthy dose of wanderlust.

Muslinger med peberrod (Mussels with horseradish cream)
Reprinted with permission from Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking, by Darra Goldstein, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

2 tbsps. butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 1⁄4 cups aquavit
2 pounds mussels, cleaned
3 tbsps. heavy cream
2-3 tbsps. freshly grated horseradish, depending on the pungency, plus shaved horseradish for garnish
2 tbsps. minced fresh parsley
Freshly ground white pepper

Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium-low heat, add the shallot, and sauté until soft but not brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the aquavit, then add the mussels. Cover the pot, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook until the mussels open wide, 5 to 7 minutes, depending on their size. Turn off the heat and discard any mussels that didn’t open. With a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a large serving bowl.

Bring the cooking liquid in the pot to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Lower the heat, add the cream, horseradish, and parsley, and simmer until the flavors blend, about 2 minutes. Generously grind white pepper over the top just before you pour off the sauce.

Pour the sauce over the mussels in the serving bowl. Serve garnished with shaved horseradish. Serves 2 to 4.

Daytona Strong is The Norwegian American’s Taste of Norway editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, Find her on Facebook; Twitter @daytonastrong; Pinterest @daytonastrong; and Instagram @daytonastrong.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 12, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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