Beatrice Ojakangas

Recipes from the Scandinavian Chef

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Location: Duluth, Minnesota, United States



Once a year we fill our freezer with salmon fillets we order from our friend, Dave Rogotzke who commercially fishes Alaskan salmon in June and July. Another of Dave’s projects is making maple syrup from his 5000-tree maple grove just north of Duluth. This makes a wonderful combination! Dave cures the salmon in a maple syrup brine before smoking it over charcoal. The recipe here is a combination of Dave’s and my ideas.
Lest you think this is a very ambitious project, I have to say that it isn’t difficult to make smoked salmon at home, It is definitely worth the effort - but you do need to plan your time so that you can allow 4 hours for the fish to cure. Once cured, you rinse the fish, place it on racks and allow it to dry, refrigerated, overnight. You smoke the salmon on your backyard grill using plenty of wood chips – but only for 20 minutes. Cook it too long and the salmon is dry instead of juicy.
This is what is called “hot smoking” which cooks the fish while it smokes. It works best on a charcoal rather than on a gas grill on which it is harder to control the results. Cold smoking is another process to try someday, but it is more complicated and requires a special grill. Cold smoked salmon remains raw (as in graavlax), and has a smoked flavor.
Hot smoked salmon is delicious served flaked on top of a bagel or toasted bread spread with cream cheese. You might want to try Dave’s favorite way – that is, to cut the salmon into 1-1/2 to 2-inch cubes before curing and smoking. This makes a perfect appetizer to serve with just a toothpick.

Makes 6 servings
2 pounds salmon fillet, skinned and boned*
1/2 cup coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup pure maple syrup (not artificially flavored syrup)

Cut the fish into 3 to 4-inch pieces crosswise. Place into a glass or ceramic pan. Mix the salt, pepper, allspice and ginger and rub the mixture into the fish. Pour the maple syrup over, coating the top and the bottom of the fish pieces evenly.
Cover and refrigerate 4 hours. If you allow the fish to stay in the brine longer it becomes unpalatably salty. Rinse the brine off the fish, pat dry, and place on a rack over a pan and refrigerate overnight, uncovered, to dry. (If you place the fish on the rack from the barbecue, rub it with oil or coat with nonstick spray so that the fish can be removed easily after smoking.)
Light a charcoal fire and place a drip pan in the center of the grill. Divide the coals evenly on either side of the pan. Place 1 cup of drained wood chips on each side. Rub the grill with oil or coat with nonstick spray and arrange the fish on the rack over the drip pan. Cover and smoke for 20 minutes or until the fish is firm to the touch but not dry. Transfer onto a serving platter to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
*If you skin the fillet yourself, save it and make a “salmon chips” from it. Simply brush both sides of the skin with oil – a flavored oil such as dark Asian sesame oil is wonderful. Grill the skin directly over the coals until crackling crisp, 10 minutes per side. Serve at once.

Follow the directions for Maple-Smoked Salmon, but cut the fish into 1-1/2 to 2 inch squares before brining. Makes about 24 appetizer servings.



Maybe it’s the farm girl in me, but a meal of soup and bread is comfort food. Growing up, it was almost always “mojakka”(a Minnesota Finnish stew) and rye bread. I still crave the combination.
Soup and simple bread is food of common folk that encourages conversation and relaxation. Just look into the ethnic foods of any country and you find ideas. Latin American black bean soup matches with cornbread. Indian Mulligatawni with pita bread, or Russian cabbage borscht with black bread are a few examples.
So, pick your menu, bring the soup pot to the table, put the bread on a board, light candles and turn down the lights. Here I’m offering a Southwestern soup and bread combination.
Although it is springtime, evenings are still chilly. What’s more, this time of year is busier than ever. But that doesn’t mean that you have to entirely abandon the idea of entertaining. If you, like I, want something tasty, economical, colorful, and not too time consuming to prepare – just give this soup and bread combination a try. You can make the soup ahead, cool and refrigerate and then reheat it for serving later. It makes a generous eight servings, so if you cook for just two or four, you have soup for more than one meal.
This Southwestern Chicken Tortilla Soup is like one that I enjoyed in Santa Fe in an outdoor café. It was served in wide bowls with the toppings on the side. This is my attempt at copying it. The toppings add color and freshness to the soup.
The Cowboy Beer and Cheddar Bread is my adaptation of a beer bread recipe I picked up last summer when I visited Colorado Dude Ranches. It’s incredibly simple to stir up and is good hot from the oven or sliced and toasted the next day.

You can find dried ancho chilies in the produce section of the supermarket. The chili itself is mild, but the seeds are spicy. The flavor of ancho chilies rounds out the distinctive flavor of this soup.
Makes 8 servings
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 teaspoons ground chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 cups chicken broth
1 dried ancho chili
2 (15 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cooked, shredded chicken breasts
3 cups frozen whole kernel corn
2 ripe avocados, peeled, diced
Tortilla chips or strips
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
Chopped fresh cilantro
Shredded Jack or Cheddar cheese
Sour Cream

In a 4-quart soup pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, chili powder and cumin and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes until vegetables are tender and mixture is aromatic. Add the chicken stock and ancho chile. Cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes or just until the ancho softens. Remove from the soup, pull off the stem and discard the seeds. (If you prefer a spicier soup, leave the seeds in.)
Put the chile with the diced tomatoes into the lender and process until smooth. Add to soup pot and continue simmering 1 hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Before serving, add the chicken and corn and heat to serving temperature.
Serve the garnishes separately to add to each serving of soup as desired.

This is a stir-it-up bread that takes just a few minutes to mix. If you bake it in the convection oven, the baking time is reduced by about one-fourth.
Makes 1 loaf
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 bottle (12 ounces) beer, any kind will do – even non-alcoholic brands
Preheat the oven to 350*F. (325*F. for convection oven).
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cheese, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the beer and mix with a fork until all dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t overmix. Spread the dough into a 5 x 9-inch loaf pan. Bake for 40 to 55 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean and dry. Brush top of hot loaf with butter.

Welcome to my website!

I was about five years old and I had already discovered that it was far more pleasurable to satisfy the wishes of my parents than to rebel. Maybe it was because my mother lost her mother at the age of five. She must have told me the story, though I don’t remember, but for some reason I carried this vision in my mind. I know she told me more about it later in life.
She always referred to “Stepmother” when she talked about the woman who had replaced her mother after her untimely death. “Stepmother never let us into the kitchen,” she would say, “I want my kids to know how to cook.”
So when she said I needed to learn how to bake a cake, I agreed. She took out the big tan crockery mixing bowl with blue stripes round the outside, the wooden spoon, and the essential ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, salt, baking powder, flour, vanilla and milk.
The wood stove had been fired up so that the gauge on the front of the oven read “350*F.” It was winter and the stove was always hot and ready for baking.
She scooped an egg-sized sphere of butter and slapped it into the bowl. “About a half cup is right”, she said. Then she poked the butter with the tip of the wooden spoon making indentations that looked like so many commas in a row. This was to soften the butter, she said.
Then she added sugar in twice the measure of the butter, about a cup and stirred it until it was all creamy. She added eggs, two of them, stirring really fast so that the liquid of the eggs was whipped into the butter mixture. She went on to mix in the flour and baking powder, and explained that one teaspoon of baking powder to one cup of flour was the best proportion. Vanilla for flavor and enough milk to make a smooth, pour-able batter and the cake was ready for the baking pan.
“Taste it” she said, “If it tastes flat – add a pinch of salt. We did, and we mixed it in. Then we scraped the batter into the buttered pan and stuck it into the oven to bake until a straw plucked from the corn broom and stuck into the center of the cake came out clean and dry.
I tried to memorize all this. I hadn’t yet started first grade and couldn’t read or write so I couldn’t take notes.
It was some time later and my mother was in labor, not an uncommon occurrence – there eventually were ten of us. Dr. Van Valkenberg (Floodwood’s resident physician) and my father were in the bedroom with her. I wasn’t allowed into the room. The kitchen stove was fired up because they needed boiling water to sterilize stuff. My job was to open the side lid of the wood stove and add a piece of firewood every fifteen minutes or so.
I decided then to bake a cake for “Mummy”.
I took out the bowl and spoon and tried to remember all the ingredients. I mixed the batter as I remembered it. Last of all, I tasted it. It was flat. I added a pinch of salt. Still flat. I added another pinch of salt. Still flat. Finally I was tossing handfuls of salt into the batter and it didn’t help at all. The batter looked good. So I poured it into the pan and put it into the oven. Pondering what could have been wrong when the cake was half baked, I realized that I had forgotten the sugar.
The cake turned out golden and beautiful. It looked good! I proudly served my mother a square. She didn’t say anything about it being salty. She only said that it looked beautiful.
Many years later she admitted that the cake I had made was so salty it made her mouth pucker. That was Mummy - always encouraging and always looking for the best in others.