Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer Dinner

This Friday, I invited a bunch of my friends over for a summer dinner. My friends were nice enough to indulge me by giving me the opportunity to try out a bunch of new recipes on them. I think in the end, though, they ended up letting me spoil them for a night.

I started planning a few days ahead of time, pouring through cookbooks my mom has lying around the house, looking for recipes that would go well together. I love looking through cookbooks, especially ones that my mom has, because I know she’s used a bunch of them most of her life. Also, I love imagining all of the things that I could possibly end up making, and what they could taste like, organizing, figuring out what to finally make.

I spent the entire day in the kitchen on Friday, and had a great time doing it. The night was a success; how could it not have been, comibining three of my favorite activities: hanging out with friends, cooking, and eating.

I went a little Martha Stewart and decorated the table with dried roses, which were dry cause I forgot to water them, not cause I dried them for this purpose.

The first course was a Mushroom Bisque Soup, a recipe from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. Moosewood is a famous vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, NY and the cookbook is beautiful, all handwritten with little drawings.

I had been thinking about the mushroom soup I had had the week before in Germany since I got back. So once I knew I wanted to make a soup, picking which one to make was easy. The one from the Moosewood Cookbook was pureed, while the German one had bits of mushroom in it, but they were both creamy and rich and reminded me of summer. I made a triple recipe, which is of course way too much for 10 people… But served with chopped fresh chives on top, it was so delicious that I don’t mind eating it for the next two weeks.


Mushroom Bisque

4-6 servings

6 tablespoons butter
1 ½ lbs. (0.7 kg) fresh mushrooms
1 stalk celery
3 fist-sized potatoes
1 ½ cups (3.5 dl) chopped onions
1 ½ cups (3.5 dl) stock or water
Appx. 2 teaspoons salt.
¼ teaspoon thyme
3 cups (7 dl) milk
½ pint (2.5 dl) heavy cream
2-3 Tablespoons dry sherry
1-2 Tablespoons tamari (a special kind of Japanese soy sauce)
fresh black pepper
freshly chopped chives

Peel and slice potatoes thinly. Chop celery and mushrooms coarsely. Begin cooking the onion in butter, adding 1 teaspoon salt. When the onion becomes translucent, add the potatoes and the celery. Continue to cook over fairly low heat, mixing well, so the butter coats everything. After several minutes add the mushrooms, water, and remaining salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until potatoes are done. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Puree the entire mushroom mixture. Heat the milk in a separate pot until just before it starts to boil. Then heat the mushroom mixture very slowly, as you mix in the hot milk, cream, sherry, and tamari. Heat only until hot enough to serve! If cooked or boiled, this soup will easily curdle. Serve right away, topped with freshly chopped chives and freshly grated pepper.


On the side, I served Brown Butter Soda Bread, a round, fluffy bread made without yeast. I found the recipe online on the Bon Appétit website. The spices and pepper in the bread make the bread interesting and good compliment to the soup.

You’re really supposed to have 1 ts baking soda and 2 ts baking powder for this recipe, but I couldn’t find baking soda anywhere in Oslo. So, I just added more baking powder and it worked out fine. Apparently, you can replace soda with powder, but not the other way around.

Provence spices are a mixture of thyme, rosemary, majoram, and basil.


Brown Butter Soda Bread

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon “provence” spices
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper plus additional for topping
1 3/4 cups buttermilk or kefir
1 egg white, beaten to blend

Preheat to 375°F (190°C). Stir butter in a small pot until it turns golden brown, just melting it is not enough. Stir flour, oats, sugar, provence spices, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Pour buttermilk and melted browned butter over flour mixture; stir with fork until flour mixture is moistened.

Turn dough out onto floured work surface and knead it carefully, only until it comes together. Divide the dough in two, shape each part into a ball and flatten it into a round disc, about 6 inches in diameter. Place rounds on ungreased baking sheet and brush tops with beaten egg white. Sprinkle lightly with ground black pepper. Using small sharp knife, cut 1/2-inch-deep X in top of each dough round.

Bake breads until deep golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool breads on rack.


For the main course, I made a recipe from a Dean and Deluca cookbook we have at home. Originally, the recipe calls for cod, but when I was at the store, cod was so expensive that I opted for another kind of white fish, pollack (sei in Norwegian). This type of fish is very common in Norway, and it worked well with this recipe.

I read online that one should calculate 1/3 to ½ a pound of fish fillet per person for a dinner. (between 0.15 and 0.2 kg), so I made a triple recipe for 10.


Cream-Poached Cod (Pollack) Fillets with White Wine, Mushrooms, Onions, and Tomatoes

1 tablespoon butter
¾ pound (0.35 kg) shi-take or mixed mushrooms (I used shi-take, aroma, and champion)
1 medium onion, halved, sliced thin
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 large shallots, sliced thin
¼ cup (0.6 dl) dry white wine
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon thyme
1 ¼ cups (3 dl) crème fraiche
salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ pounds (0.7 kg) fresh cod (or Pollack) fillets

Melt butter in a big pan, throw in the mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, shallots, white wine, the parsley, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, until the vegetables are softened and the liquid is almost evaporated.

Add the crème fraiche and bring to a bare simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the fish, stir the sauce so the fish is buried in it. Cook gently, turning once, after about 5 minutes.

Transfer the fish to a platter, serve the vegetables next to it. Garnish with parsley.


I served the fish with wild rice and a summer salad that I found at allrecipes.com, a Strawberry Spinach Salad. I really like this website because users write in what they think of the recipe once they’ve tried it, and most importantly, what they did to improve it and change it. Originally, this recipe calls for sesame seeds and poppy seeds, but I took some of the users’ advice and used toasted candied almonds instead. Also, instead of honey, it called for sugar in the original recipe, but honey gave the dressing a nice taste. I served the dressing on the side so people could decide themselves how much to use. The sweet and tangy dressing with the slightly sweet strawberries and almonds was a great combination.


Strawberry Spinach Salad

2 bunches spinach, rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces
4 cups sliced strawberries
2 cups sliced almonds
Sugar for sprinkling over almonds

Mix the spinach and strawberries together. Heat a pan, and pour almonds- don’t use any butter, just a dry pan. Sprinkle sugar over and toast almonds until they are slightly browned. Allow to cool before adding to salad.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Shake together in a dressing shaker and serve on the side.


Then came the grand finale, dessert. I love desert. I made a warm blackberry and apple soufflé served with a piece of black and white brownies on the side. I couldn’t believe that the soufflé turned out, I had always heard it was so hard to make. It was light and fluffy and the spoonful of fruit puree at the bottom that was added before baking turned into a great sauce with the soufflé.


Warm Souffle with Blackberries and Apples

Serves 6

Butter and sugar for the
350 g (0.8 pounds) blackberries
1 big apple, peeled and cut into pieces
grated skin and juice of 1 orange
150 g (0.3 pounds) sugar
3 egg whites
powdered sugar for decorating

Preheat oven to 200°C (390°F). Brush 6 small soufflé dish with butter and sprinkle sugar over them. Shake off excess sugar.

Heat berries, apple, and orangejuice- and skin together in a pot until the apples turn soft. Put the mixture through a sift. Stir in 50 grams of the sugar.

Put a tablespoon of the fruit puree at the bottom of each soufflé dish. Wisk the egg whites until stiff and add the rest of the sugar gradually until you have a nice marengs. Turn the rest of the fruit puree into the egg whites, spoon into soufflé pan.

Put soufflé dishes in the oven for about 10-15 minutes until the soufflés have puffed up and the tops have turned golden brown. Shake powdered sugar over and serve right away.


I’ve been making this recipe for brownies since I was about 11 years old. It’s form the New York Times Cookbook from 1961 and I grew up using it. This is the first time I made the black and white version, though, adding chocolate to only half the batter.


Black and White Brownies

4 ounces dark chocolate (1 1/8 bars dronning sjokolade) (use half this amount for black and white brownies)
1/3 cup (80 g) butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
¾ cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ ts salt

Preheat oven to 350°F (177°F). Grease a pan.

Melt butter and chocolate together (or separately for black and white). Beat eggs with sugar until fluffy, add chocolate mixture to eggs (or just butter for black and white). Add flour, blend, add vanilla and salt. Stir well. (for black and white: divide batter in two, add chocolate to one of them)

Pour into pan (Alternately chocolate and non-chocolate for black and white) Bake for about 30 minutes or until knife comes out clean.


Ah, what a night! One of my friends said, “It’s too bad you spent all that money on getting an education, cause you would’ve been a damn good housewife”. Which was a compliment.

It was a great evening and so much fun to make. Yay summer and time to do things like this!

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