Beatrice Ojakangas

Recipes from the Scandinavian Chef

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Location: Duluth, Minnesota, United States



Finn Fest 2008 will be in Duluth, Minnesota on July 23rd. It promises to be a wonderful program with everything from cooking demonstrations to lectures on various aspects of Finnish and Finnish-American life to a "tori" if you want to buy things and spend your money. To get more information, log on to and get the whole schedule. I will be presenting two talks, one on "viili" the true Finnish culture, and the other on "fusion, confusion and finnish foods."



Even in Minnesota, summer’s the time for quick, cool meals. Who wants to slave in the kitchen all day when there’s sun to be absorbed and outdoor things to enjoy? Just about now we’re seeing a rich display of locally grown vegetables at the farmer’s markets, and maybe even in our own back yards. It’s truly time for salads!

Now is when I turn to the microwave, that magical tool that cooks food quickly without heating up the kitchen. I especially love cooking vegetables in the microwave, their color is better, their flavor is better and you can cook and serve them in the same dish. Most frozen vegetables have microwave instructions on their packages. For fresh vegetables, I start with three minutes on high power for two servings. You can always add time, but you can’t take it away is my theory. The reason for this unspecific timing is because microwave ovens vary in their wattage.

Back in the 70s I wrote a weekly column for the newspaper called “The Liberated Cook,” featuring the microwave and food processor as the liberators. In 1981, we compiled the articles into a book by the same name. As the microwave takes on new interest today, when energy (both personal and plug-in) is at a premium, it is a good time to turn to it again for quick meals.

There were a lot of old favorite recipes in that collection. One that I particularly liked was Harriet’s German Potato Salad. Rather than boiling the potatoes, I cook them in the microwave oven. Because it is so easy to do, I add fresh green beans to the salad, too, also poached in the microwave. Harriet, by the way, is a retired German professor from UMD, and would entertain her students, and serve this salad with German Bratwurst.

Because this potato salad tastes better when it has had a chance to chill, I like to make it in the morning, then let it sit all day, refrigerated. Supper is easy. Heat the barbecue, throw on some brats or burgers –or even a fish. Mmm.


Makes 6 servings

2 pounds small red skinned potatoes, skin on, scrubbed and cut into eighths

1 bunch green onions, trimmed and sliced, including green tops

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon German-style grainy mustard

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

8 ounces green beans, ends trimmed

Chopped fresh parsley

Rinse and drain the potatoes and place into a microwave-safe dish. Cover and microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes until potatoes test done. Check once halfway through the cooking time and stir to redistribute. Cook until potatoes test done. Turn into a serving bowl.
Combine the onions, chicken broth, mustard, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a microwave-safe dish and cook on high power for 3 to 5 minutes until mixture boils; stir. Pour hot liquid over the cooked potatoes and stir to blend. Rinse the green beans, place into a microwave-safe dish, cover, and cook for 3 to 6 minutes until beans are tender crisp. Drain. Arrange the beans around the edge of the potato salad. Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, drain the oily marinade and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Here is a list of quick, easy, healthful, and tasty salads that you can just throw together freehand.

1. Quickly stir-fry broccoli florets, cool and toss with soy sauce and rice vinegar; add arugula, cucumber, red onion and sesame seed.

2. Whisk soy sauce, oil, honey, lemon peel and juice and grated fresh ginger. Spoon over orange and grapefruit segments arranged on lettuce leaves.

3. Dress cooked whole green beans, canned kidney beans and chopped onion with soy sauce, honey, mustard, white vinegar and vegetable oil.

4, Toss cubes of jicama with sliced radishes and cucumbers with a mixture of lime juice, and thai style chili sauce and cilantro. Garnish with cucumber strips, cut lengthwise using a potato peeler.

5. Mix hoisin sauce with ranch dressing and drizzle over avocado and ruby grapefruit segments.

6. Mix soy sauce, a drop of truffle oil and balsamic vinegar and toss with watercress and roasted beets, top with crumbled fresh goat cheese.

7. Layer slices of orange and shaved fennel with arugula, red onions and black olives. Dress with olive oil, orange and lemon juice and soy sauce.

8. Waldorf salad, made with celery apples, golden raisins and walnuts mixed with mayonnaise, grainy mustard and soy sauce.

9. Bake pecans until toasted, tossed with teriyaki marinade and toss over endive and arugula with vinaigrette and top with sliced pears, shaved Parmesan; sprinkle pecans over the top.


April First and May First are two springtime holidays we often don’t have a chance to celebrate. Actually, April Fool’s Day or the “Feast of the Fools” dates back to Medieval times according to some sources. The timing of the holiday seems to be related not only to old and new calendars but with the vernal equinox when nature fooLs us with sudden changes in weather.
May First, on the other hand is a holiday celebrated especially in Northern Europe. We experienced the celebration in Finland, where they celebrate “Vappu”, the eve that marks the first day of summer. Although the day was much longer, it wasn’t much warmer. University students dance through the streets and place a white cap on Havis Amanda, the statue of the goddess of the Baltic Sea on the waterfront in downtown Helsinki. It is a day for picnics, with sparkling “sima” , a home brew varying in alcoholic content, and tippaleipa, a deep fried pastry reminiscent of bird’s nests in shape, being consumed everywhere. Colorful balloons, carried by vendors up and down the streets, beckon to every child.
Growing up in Floodwood, we knew about May Day, but the only association was with the cowslips that sometimes began to bloom about then. We made cone-shaped paper baskets and filled them with wild posies and hung them on the doors of our friends.
So, I offer two recipes here. One is an “April Fresh Strawberry Fool” and the other for “Tippaleipa”, the Finnish May Day Pastry. Both are really easy to make and if you want to make the strawberry dessert ahead – I mean, way ahead, freeze it to make a Fresh Strawberry Fool. Just be sure to wrap it well and use it within a week or so.

April Fresh Strawberry Fool
Here’s a simple dessert that can be made in minutes, but needs to be chilled for at least 4 hours using sweet, juicy strawberries. Use this as a basic recipe throughout the summer months with raspberries, blueberries, peaches and other soft fruits.

Makes 4 servings

3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup whipping cream

Combine the berries, sugar and lemon juice in the food processor with the steel blade in place. Process until berries are pureed.
Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks. Stir the puree into the cream until blended. Taste and add sugar if needed. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours before serving.

Fresh Strawberry Frango: Just spread the April Fresh Strawberry Fool into an 8-inch cake pan, cover well, and freeze. Scoop out like ice cream when you want to serve it.

Finnish May Day Tippaleipa
Tippaleipa, the crispy, curled nest of pastries can be found in bakeries through out Finland on May Day. They are not difficult to make, though. Similar to the Pennsylvania Dutch funnel cakes, the thin batter is drizzled into hot oil to cook.
Makes about 36 pastries

2 eggs

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil for frying

Powdered sugar

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, salt and milk. Blend in the flour until batter is smooth.
Heat three to four inches of oil in a heavy kettle or deep-fat fryer to 370 to 380 degrees F.
Pour about half of the batter into a heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bag*. Clip 1/4 inch off one corner. Press the batter through the hole in the bag into the hot fat, twirling it to make a bird’s nest-type shape. Cook until golden brown, about 30 seconds on each side. With a slotted spoon, remove pastry from the oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat until all the batter is used. Dust with powdered sugar.
*It’s best to work with only half the batter at a time even if it seems like the whole amount would fit into the bag to prevent the bag from bursting.

Visiting India

When we left Duluth, it was just about 32 degrees F. but wondered if I’d need my coat in the tropical weather of south India. I decided I’d take it anyway. Detroit was cold, Paris was chilly, but when we stepped off the plane (30 hours later) onto the tarmac in Bangalore, in the middle of the night it was about 80 degrees. Off came the coat!
India has the reputation of “exciting all the senses” you know, of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. It’s true. But if fright could be one of the “senses”, I would put it right on top of the list. The feel of warm air, the smell of exhaust, the lights, were all topped off by the traffic: Three-wheelers and motorcycles wove through cars, busses, trucks, a tractor pulling a wagon, oxen pulling a cart, sometimes six abreast on a two-lane street with no traffic signals. They drive on the left side of the road and the pace was not slow. It was a game of “chicken!”
But the warm cooking aromas of spices – ginger, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, peppers and chilies permeated the guest house we entered as well as the homes we visited. These are the flavors and aromas I was the most interested in.
So here I have attempted to offer simplified Indian recipes to complete one meal. As a guest in Indian homes, I quickly discovered that a full meal took just a few minutes to prepare because the efficient cook toasts and grinds her own favorite spice combinations ready to use. so that cooking can be quick (they need to conserve on fuel), and food brought to the table is really fresh.

Spiced Cauliflower appetizer (Gobi Manchurian)
We had this several times, an example of Indo-Chinese fusion cooking. This is especially popular in southern India and Bangalore.
Serves 4
4 cups fresh cauliflower florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Oil for deep frying
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies, drained
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon soy sauce
5 to 6 fresh chopped basil leaves (optional)
Rinse the cauliflower in cold water; set aside. Combine the flour, cornstarch, chili powder and salt. Mix the ginger, and garlic and add half to the flour mixture. Toss florets in the seasoned flour. Heat about 1 inch of oil in a small pan or skillet. Add the florets and fry in batches until golden brown. Drain and set aside.
Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the oil and add the onions, bell pepper and chilies. Saute over medium heat until vegetables are tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Mix the remaining ginger-garlic mixture with the tomato paste and soy sauce and add to the pan. Stir-fry for 2 minutes over medium heat. Toss the fried cauliflower into the mixture and cook until heated through. Turn into a serving bowl and garnish with basil leaves.

Carrot, Spinach, and Coconut Soup (Gaajar Palak Rasam)
This is a creamy, smooth soup infused with Indian spices. To make removal of the spices easy, either wrap them in a piece of cheesecloth or put them into a tea diffuser.
Serves 4
8 cups vegetable stock or water
1/2 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
8 green cardamom pods, crushed (include pods in the mix)
4 whole cloves
1-inch stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves, crushed
1 1/2 cups peeled, chopped carrots
1 package (5-ounces) baby spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
Salt to taste
1/4 cup coconut milk or cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Heat the stock in a large saucepan. Tie the peppercorns, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves in a piece of cheesecloth. Place into the boiling stock along with the carrots, spinach, cayenne pepper, lime juice and salt to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove from the heat and discard the spice bag. Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Turn into a saucepan and add the coconut milk or cream; heat to simmering and serve garnished with chopped cilantro.

Lentils with Cumin and Chilies (Dal)
I think we had lentils at each and every meal for two weeks. Normally, all foods are eaten with a torn off piece of chapatti, or flat bread. Utensils are not usually offered, and you use your right hand to tear off a piece of the bread. You use this piece to pick up your food in the fold of the bread, Dal varies from simple to complex. This is a simple version.
Serves 4
1 cup lentils, preferably pink, washed and drained
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
4 cups water
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 whole dried red chilies
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, turmeric,salt, and water. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft, about 25 minutes. Add more water if necessary.
Ladle about 1/2 cup of the lentils into a small bowl and mash them with a spoon. Return to the pot and stir. Continue cooking 5 minutes to thicken.
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook, stirring until they turn a light brown color 1 to 2 minutes. Add the whole chilies and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and add the cayenne.
Stir half of the oil mixture and all of the lime juice into the dal and simmer gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and pour remaining oil mixture over the top. Serve hot.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Although we mainly ate vegetarian, this is one of the more delightful chicken dishes, aromatic with spices, and quick to prepare.
Serves 4
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 1 pound
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 whole cardamom pods
1 3-inch stick cinnamon
1 1/2 onions, chopped
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk or 1 cup plain yogurt.
Hot Basmati rice for serving.
Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes; set aside. In a large, shallow skillet, heat the oil and add the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick; heat for a few seconds until aromatic, remove and discard the cardamom and cinnamon.
Add the onions, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, Garam Masala, paprika, turmeric and pepper to the pan. Cook over medium-low heat until onions are tender. Add the tomato and tomato paste along with the water. Simmer and stir until blended, then add the chicken cubes and cook, stirring, about 10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Add the coconut milk or yogurt and stir until blended. Serve hot with Basmati Rice.

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