Cookbook Spotlight: The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson (+ a smørrebrød dill spread recipe)
Magnus Nilsson's cooking tome, The Nordic Cookbook, has nearly 800 pages worth of Scandinavian food culture packed into it. It is one of the few Scandinavian cookbooks in my collection that is both comprehensive and in English-- so it saves me from having to Google translate my way through recipes. Nilsson is a chef in Sweden and you already have an appreciation for him if you have watched his appearances on the PBS show The Mind of a Chef or Netflix's Chef's Table. But even if you aren't into cooking shows, just flip through a few pages of his book to appreciate his ambitious project to thoroughly catalog Scandinavian cuisine.
After spending quite a bit of time in Copenhagen, Denmark, I grew very attached to the food culture there. Danish cuisine is not widely available in southern California, so it's up to me to make my own food when a nostalgic craving hits. With a heat wave coming our way, smoked salmon open-faced sandwiches (called smørrebrød in Denmark) seemed like an ideal no-oven cold dinner option.
Nilsson's book features some of the most popular smørrebrød recipes, and as he says "they all start with a slice of Danish rye bread." Unfortunately, my cold dinner menu was a last minute Friday night plan, and I had no time to make my own rye bread or to drive to the Danish bakery that is a good 1.5 hours out of my way. So I settled for Friday night sort-of-smørrebrød. Light rye Wasa crackers, widely available in most American grocery stores, are a nice crunchy option, and La Brea Bakery's whole grain loaf provided a more filling choice. As for the sandwich toppings, I'd like to recommend my favorite dill spread for the foundation of the sandwich.
Dill spread for smørrebrød/Danish open-faced sandwich:
Cream cheese, whipped, 6 oz
Sour cream, 1/2 cup
Dill, one bunch, chopped (reserve some for garnish on top)
Capers, 1-2 tbsp (reserve some for garnish on top)
Shallot, 1 each, minced (reserve some for garnish on top)
Dijon Mustard, 1 tsp
Garlic, 1-2 cloves, minced (to taste)
Worcestershire, 3 dashes
Horseradish, prepared, 1-2 tsp (to taste)
Tabasco, 1 dash
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Method: Mix all of the ingredients together, reserving a bit of dill, capers, and shallot for garnish when you're plating up your sandwich. Spread on Danish rye bread, whole grain bread, or crackers. Top with smoked salmon, and sandwich toppings of your choice. I recommend arugula, thinly sliced radishes and cucumbers, capers, orange zest, lemon zest, and dill.
That's my California take on Danish smørrebrød. I'm not sure if Nilsson would approve, but I hope to have the opportunity to eat at his 12-seat restaurant in northwest Sweden one day so I can ask him!