In my imagination, I am the kind of person who grows things and picks things and takes long walks in the woods. In reality, I am the kind of person who runs out of things and waits on long lines at the supermarket.
That does not stop me, however, from appreciating the leisurely pleasures of Mikkel Karstad's sumptuous "Nordic Family Kitchen: Seasonal Home Cooking."
Karstad, a chef, former culinary advisor to the legendary Noma team and father of four, knows that not all of us can raise our own chickens or have easy access to sea buckthorn. But in his book, he shows a path for working with what you've got, locally, seasonally and simply. "I hope that the book can inspire," he says during a recent chat from his home in Denmark, "because I know it's not possible for everybody to go to the forest or to the beach every weekend, but to maybe sometimes don't just go to the supermarket, and try and go to your local farmer's market."
That titular word "family" is a big component of his philosophy. "I wanted to make it a book to show that in your everyday life, you can cook something really simple with your kids and with your children," he says. "And then in the weekend, you can actually maybe spend some more time on doing that." I know that even in my most frantic moments, my happiest memories tend to be, like Mikkel, puttering around in the kitchen making fresh pasta with my family. And cakes.
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Reading the book, I was immediately drawn to Karstad's rustic rhubarb marzipan cake. Sugary, almondy marzipan is, in my opinion, a genius ingredient that deserves so much more appreciation than its weird cake topper reputation has given it. Because we are a long way from rhubarb season, "That recipe you can use all year round," says Karstad. "Just change the fruit in it with something there's in season. I would do that with apples now."
I've made the "Nordic Family Kitchen" recipe on random a weeknight and can attest that it is absurdly easy and outrageously chic, a dessert that pairs beautifully with short days and sweater weather. It's also the sort of addictive delight that just quietly disappears, slice by slice, from your fridge as the other members of your household keeping cutting off slices to snack on.
But if you want to lower the effort bar even further, Baking for Happiness has a marzipan cake you can throw together with just two ingredients and all of three minutes in a blender. While it's not as rich as Karstad's version (no butter), it is extremely good and happens to be gluten-free. Add some cut up apples, and blammo, you've got a Scandinavian autumn on a plate, in zero time.
- 1 tube of marzipan, cut into small pieces and softened (a few seconds in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl helps here)
- 4 medium eggs
- 1 small apple, very thinly sliced or peeled and cut up
- Optional: White or Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Generously butter a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle all around with sugar, to make a crunchy exterior for the cake. (If you don't have a springform pan, line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment, then butter and coat with sugar. You can also butter and coat a small bundt pan.)
- In a blender, whip your eggs for at least one minute until they are foamy and light in color. If you don't have a blender, you can use a mixer, or do some very vigorous beating with a whisk.
- Add your marzipan a few pieces at a time, until the mixture is smooth and fully incorporated.
- If you're feeling fancy, add a few thin apple slices to the bottom of your pan in a decorative pattern.
- Pour batter into your cake pan and then drop the rest of your apple pieces in.
- Bake about approximately 35 minutes, until golden. (Start checking at around 30 minutes.) Remove from oven and cool thoroughly before serving.
Serve with a dusting of confectioner's sugar or a big dollop of mascarpone.
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