It’s been cold here in New Mexico, like really, really cold. When it’s ten degrees outside you only want one of a few things: 1) a cup of hot coffee and light the fireplace, 2) a big bowl of homemade minestrone with a crunchy slice of sourdough bread, or 3) go outside for approximately 2 minutes while the dog runs through the snow, be thankful for a warm home, and promptly return indoors. Don’t get me wrong, I love snowboarding (and we have excellent snowboarding nearby), snowshoeing, and dog walks with 3-plus jackets on, but a day inside with hot coffee and comfort food is a beautiful thing.
The cold weather had me motivated to look at traditional foods made in colder regions, and thus my recent acquisition of The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson (in case you’re wondering, yes, I have more baking and cookbooks than I know what to do with. Something is terrific about cookbooks: they instantly transport you to the kitchen of another cook and are filled with endless potential for exquisite new food). When they say, it’s a tome they are not exaggerating. Upon opening, I immediately paged to the section titled smørrebrød, which translates to “butter and bread,” but represents the daily ritual of “open sandwiches” in Nordic cultures. Placed on a slice of rugbrød, or sourdough rye bread, these open sandwiches are miniature works of art with delicately placed meats, cheeses, butter, vegetables, pickles, and greens. One can easily get lost in the research of smörgås, as the Swedish call them, there are endless variations with a myriad of delicious ingredients. Rye bread is a foreign thing to me. I didn’t grow up eating it, and my parents, being Italian, surely didn’t eat it often or bake it at home. I equate it with a bitter, strong taste that can be overwhelming and yet I find it strangely appealing. While I baked a few of these in the past, they mostly went uneaten here in my house — as I read through The Nordic Cookbook, I was inspired and wanted to give them another try.