Archive for October, 2012

Ready, set, roll! Lefse time!

With one month until Thanksgiving and two until Christmas, my brain has started thinking about holiday cooking. Ok, lets be honest, it is always thinking about cooking and baking, but now I think of seasonal things I only plan to make in the coming months. One of my favorites is krumkake, a cone shaped cookie my mom taught me to make and about which I have written before. Another favorite is lefse, a type of Norwegian flatbread. Last Christmas, my husband and I made lefse with his family, and between the six of us we rolled out 200 rounds! (My husband chided me for not writing a blog about lefse after this feat, so all I can say is, better late than never.)

This past weekend I had a chance to take a lefse making class at Ingebretsen’s in Minneapolis. As I mentioned, this is a food I’m familiar with, so I wasn’t going as a beginner, but I know when it comes to cooking and baking it never hurts to learn from others. You might pick up a trick or learn a technique you never knew before, like this video I recently watched on how to efficiently chop onions. Maybe you all know this method, but I sure never learned it. Why on earth did no one in my junior high Home Ec class teach me this?!

Anyway, before I tell you about the class, I want to make sure you know about Ingebretsen’s.

If you’re not Scandinavian or from Minnesota, this shop’s name may not be familiar to you, but if you are, you know the treasures it holds. First opened as the Model Meat Market in 1921, Ingebretsen’s is a wonderful place full of all things Nordic. Whether you’re looking for a wooden Dala Horse, a troll ornament for your Christmas tree, a cookbook on how to make Danish open-faced sandwiches or a the proper slicer for your gjetost (brown goat cheese), they’ve got it all. If you’re the crafty type, head over to the Needlework side of the store where you’ll find no shortage of threads, patterns and other supplies. And of course, the meat market is still there, full to the brim with fish, cheeses and their secret Swedish meatball mix. In 2011, they celebrated their 90th anniversary with a number of events and the release of their book Ingebretsen’s Saga – A Family, A Store, A Legacy in Food. The book features a history of the Ingebretsen family, the store and Scandinavians in Minnesota, plus over 60 recipes for traditional Scandinavian foods, as well as modern twists on old favorites. I loved the picture of the Tomte Sandwiches, cute little appetizers that look like the Swedish beings known as tomte (in Norway they’re called nisse), and think the Nordic Salmon Chowder sounds divine and perfect for a cold winter evening. 

Ingebretsen’s doesn’t only feature items for purchase, but also a number of events and classes, so you can learn the traditions of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Whether you have ancestors from the Nordic region or just an interest in Scandinavian culture, Ingebretsen’s has a wide variety of craft, needlework, culture and cooking classes. Some of those cooking classes include kransekake (a cake made out of stacked rings of almond flavored dough, frequently seen at Norwegian and Danish weddings), krumkake (I actually teach the class!) and of course, lefse.

Which brings me back to the class I took last weekend. The class was taught by Cheryl Netka, who usually teaches the class with her friend Pamela Strauss (who wasn’t able to be there that day). As a side note, Cheryl’s mother also teaches the kransekake class at Ingebretsen’s. You can watch a fun preview of their classes here:


Cheryl shared with us several tidbits about the history of lefse, a variety of recipes and helpful hints to remember when making your own. One interesting things I didn’t know is that lefse wasn’t always made with potatoes. The potato didn’t come to Norway until the 1700’s, so before that it was just flour. It stored very well and was more like a cracker, which kept well during winter months or on ships. When the potato arrived, the Norwegians began mixing it in the dough and it became more of a delicacy, as we know it today. A practical tip that a seasoned lefse roller likely knows, but was a good reminder for me, is to always roll from the center of the dough out. This gives you nice roundish pieces that are more easily transferred to the lefse griddle.

If you’ve never made lefse or want a refresher, I would definitely recommend checking out the class at Ingebretsen’s. It’s a hands on experience, so don’t forget your apron! And if you would like to invest in your own griddle or need a rolling pin, lefse stick or board, they’ve got that too!

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October 25, 2012 at 11:54 pm 1 comment

Moroccan Vegetable Couscous

The end of the season is here. Sad to say, but after a beautiful 75º day Wednesday, I’ve conceded that fall is here and by the time Saturday night arrives, we’ll have a hard frost. Sigh.

That said, we’ve had an amazing growing season and I feel abundantly blessed to be harvesting tomatoes the first week of October. Lots of tomatoes. Which brings me to last night’s dinner: Moroccan Vegetable Couscous. I found this recipe through our local co-op publication called Mix, which is always a good source of tasty seasonal dishes.

As I mentioned, I’ve got a lot of tomatoes. And given how many are on my counter starting to soften and get beyond the point where they are very usable in raw form, I’m on the lookout for new recipes that require cooked or canned tomatoes. Though I appreciate canned tomatoes in January (usually ones I’ve put up myself), I find no reason to use them now, when I can simply boil some water, quick blanch, slip the skins and voilà, better than canned. So, I took those on the counter most needing to be used and did just that.

Moroccan Vegetable Couscous by Beth Dooley

  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15.5-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup canned or boxed chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2–4 teaspoons jarred curry paste, or more to taste
  • 1 10-ounce bag frozen vegetables, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice or more to taste
  • 2 cups couscous
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ½ cups boiling water
  • 1 cup Greek-style whole-milk yogurt or feta cheese

Combine the tomatoes, beans, stock, curry and vegetables in a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are warmed through.

Moroccan Vegetable Couscous

Into a large bowl, mix the couscous with a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir in the olive oil with a fork to coat evenly. Stir in the boiling water, cover and let stand for about 3 minutes; remove the cover and break up any clumps.

Serve the vegetables over the couscous and top with the yogurt or crumbled cheese.

MY NOTES: First, as mentioned, no canned tomatoes. Since the tomatoes I used included some heirlooms, they had a decent amount of moisture, which worked well in this recipe for creating a perfect sauce.

I also didn’t have or want to buy frozen veggies, given all the things I need to use in my fridge, so here’s what I came up with (all grown in my garden):

  • Eggplant – 4 very small ones, sliced and steamed
  • Beet stems and greens – stems steamed, greens added at the very end
  • Pepper – half a yellow bell, raw; whole Melrose Italian pepper, slightly steamed
  • Onion – half a small one, raw

Continuing the list of substitutions, I didn’t have any chicken stock and my frozen veggie stock was in quart sized volumes, so I opted for some of the turkey stock I made and froze last winter, since it obviously needs to be used up too. I had frozen it in muffin tins, which generally are about a half cup, and then stored them in plastic containers – works pretty well and is much healthier than most store-bought stocks which are often chock-full of sodium.

For the garbanzo beans (aka chick peas), I soaked dry beans all day (about 12 hours, though you only need to do 6-8). I then put them right in the pot with the tomatoes, realizing later I should have boiled them for a bit to soften them. I actually decided to separate them all out and cook them, a rather tedious but worthwhile process, because I didn’t like the texture. Post cooking was definitely better.

The directions on this never really say when to add the lime juice, so I put it in the tomato-garbanzo bean mix, near the end of cooking.

Last, I cut the amount of couscous in half, as I knew we wouldn’t need the suggested amount, which really does seem like a massive amount of couscous.

Overall this dish has great flavor. I like it a lot better than another Moroccan Veggie Couscous recipe I’d gotten off a couscous box a few years ago. I love curry and being new to the world of curry paste, it was great to learn another way to use it, since this isn’t something I would normally have thought of. I also liked finding a way to use whole garbanzo beans, since I feel seriously “legume illiterate” and these beans are super healthy for you, high in protein and fiber. So, if you’re like me and enjoying the last bits of the harvest, try this recipe out with fresh ingredients, or save it until winter for a good warm-me-up meal on a cold day.

October 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm 1 comment


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