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Nordic Alaskan with ‘Fire + Ice’

FireIce2When days turn grey and cold, and the holidays have past, I enjoy transitioning from cozy pumpkin spice flavors to a still wintery but fresher palate in anticipation of spring.

With dill, rye, coriander, juniper and lingonberry, Darra Goldstein’s Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking offers a respite from the sage and squash meals I’ve been favoring, while still not skimping on the comfort quality.

Goldstein’s writing is engaging as she shares travel and dining stories from her years living, working and eating in Scandinavia. Her recipes are woven in and out of instruction on Scandinavian fare and way of life.

I like to imagine that our much closer Alaska mirrors these white-lit countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, with their deep icy waters full of seafood bounty, and I consider the Nordic lands of Fire + Ice to be not so unlike my own.

My husband’s mother is Norwegian by birth and her father spent long seasons away on Alaskan fishing boats that left port from Ballard, Seattle. She introduced me to lefse with lingonberry preserves, bought my husband and I a kransekake for our wedding and gave me my first Christmas Eve lutefisk. Her love of Norwegian classics has given me greater affinity for Scandinavia’s unique flavors and dishes, and I was eager to get cooking.

Alaskan King Crab LegsI set to work on several seafood driven dishes of the book, grabbing fresh and frozen Alaskan salmon and large spidery legs of Alaskan king crab at the market. Meatier, with a more delicate sweetness, king crab doesn’t dominate a dish as much as its “crabbier” cousin the Dungeness and made a perfect fit for Goldstein’s vestkystsalat, or West Coast salad, which highlights a combination of shellfish and sports two dressings she ensures are not in excess — she’s right, they aren’t.

The recipes of Fire + Ice are surprisingly simple, despite several of their more complicated origins, and Goldstein is careful to give a heads-up if one is more labor intensive. She adapts for versatility, as in a recipe for roasted oysters inspired from a day on the mudflats of Denmark’s western coast, her instructions are considerate of the home cook and she graciously eliminates our having to build a fire pit or hunt down heather branches to replicate her experience.

Goldstein’s rendition of lohikeitto, or salmon soup, is fresh and not too heavy on the cream. I further simplified the recipe by using a filet of frozen salmon, which after a slight thaw, cuts easily into the instructed cube size. With the comfort of cream and potato, ample dill and a finish of briny trout roe, the salmon soup was a big hit.

I braved the gravlax, which was so easy I’m wondering why I’ve never made it before, and finally used my Ballard-sourced bakers ammonia in the havrekjeks, or oatcakes.

Originally drawn to Fire + Ice for its Nordic recipes, I lingered as Goldstein’s writing pulled me further in. With saffron and raisin studded buns, apple soup with juniper and Jansson’s Temptation — an indulgent dish of Swedish anchovies, onions, butter, potatoes and cream — Fire + Ice’s Nordic kitchen makes the perfect foil for grey cold skies, and my palate feels abated as I wait for the crisp bites of spring.

Get 'Fire + Ice'

Who should buy this? Home cooks with the love for Scandinavia and Nordic cooking. Anyone with even a smidgen of Nordic heritage.

Publisher: Ten Speed Press // Available now on Amazon.com

Want to try a recipe from Fire + Ice?
Try two right here.

More on Alaska’s Wild Seafood

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