Beatrice Ojakangas

Recipes from the Scandinavian Chef

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Location: Duluth, Minnesota, United States




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.


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