Monday Meal Review: Norway

I walk out of the kitchen and the steam immediately slides off my face like a mask. The worst is behind me; one pound of large pink shrimp plucked from the bubbling boil now recline in a cool bowl of ice water. I’m on my way to the dining room with an armful of unlikely friends.

First, the mayonnaise. This thick, white creamy spread is never on our table unless guests are present. I grimace, thinking of Ava and Mr. Picky. Oh, how they’ll balk when they see it.

Then the capers, a personal favorite. I get lost in their grassy brine, each bite like a prize, bursting in my mouth like a carnival. Despite Keith’s aversion, Ava and I will be happy, this much I know.

I also carry a lemon, heavy with juice and canary yellow despite the season.

A few fresh sprigs of dill are the finishing touch, their delicate stems like a feather in a hat or a weeping willow, grazing the table with grace. Something I rarely think to use in everyday cooking.

When I’m done the table looks pretty – like a shabby chic “oh this old thing” dress, thrown together with careless abandon and none the worse for it.

Ava scrambles into her chair and surveys the scene. Her face stiffens when she sees the shrimp. She turns the other way and, in one smooth movement, she reaches for a soft round of bread and points at the mayonnaise.

“What’s that mama?” she asks and leans her face so close to the bowl, she nearly dips her chin into the thick, white spread.

I don’t want to sour her mood and risk clipping her enthusiasm, so I elect not to correct her poor manners.

“It’s like salad dressing,” I say smoothly with my “you’re-going-to-love-it” smile tight on my lips.

She coats the end of her index finger and takes a tiny lick. She smiles.

“I like this salad dressing” she says and slathers her bread with a generous, slippery layer.

“How about a shrimp?” I say, but she ignores me, slowly spooning a dozen capers over the mayonnaise. She eats heartily. Mr Picky looks on in horror, sinking slowly into his chair. He’d rather be eating ants and he tells me as much.

With calm determination I make myself a shrimp sandwich. Ava watches me eat it. I offer her another piece of shrimp hopefully.  She shakes her head.

In desperation (this is all I’d planned for dinner), I pop a small piece of shrimp on her bread no bigger than a pencil eraser. Like a piece of paper, Ava’s face crumbles and her little mouth makes a noise so sharp, I can’t tell if she’s yelling at me or crying. My hand snaps back to my lap.

I take a slow, cleansing breath and stare out the window. The trees are shaking in the wind but I’m not fooled; it’s 115F outside. Hotter than hot. “Kids in Norway eat this all the time!” I tell myself. And then I tell her. But now she arches her back away from me; she doesn’t want any dinner at all. It’s too late.

Fear creeps over me like Nosferatu. This is bedtime. She needs to have a good dinner but she wants nothing to do with our summertime shrimp party. The entire thing just… implodes. Admitting defeat, I slowly peel her a banana (her only option if she doesn’t want dinner). It’s only the third time in her entire life she’s chosen the banana over dinner.

I hug her and I tell her I love her. But even in my arms I can feel her eyes straying over to the kransekake, as she admires the whimsical icing zig zagging its way along the tower of rings. But the dessert must wait until tomorrow. I tell her, in a voice so soft I can barely hear myself, “we can’t eat dessert on an empty stomach. It’ll make our tummies hurt.”

Tomorrow is a new day.

What would you have done? How do you deal with obstinate and picky eaters (young or old)? This was  really challenging scene for me and I could use any tips you might have.

Dill & Lemon Pepper Gravlax [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

I’m simply in awe that I made cured fish. Gravlax tastes like smoked salmon but lighter and fresher – the lemon peel absolutely brought the soft fish to life in my mouth where it leaped from salty sea to bright lemon-dill. Each nibble was like a summertime smile. For some, making gravlax might be no big deal, but to me this was a fascinating challenge.

The best part is that this is a  dump-and-go recipe. Three days later I ate magic. Even Mr Picky tossed it down bravely. When I congratulated him on this, he quickly asked “did I have a choice?”


What I loved least about this dish:

I was nervous that I had done something wrong and that the gravlax wasn’t going to be good and fresh. The flavor, however, was fantastic and eating it with a Scandinavian friend really helped quell all my worries.  I didn’t give Ava any of this, just to be sure, but she did try some from the supermarket (which is cold smoked) and she liked it.

Norwegian Shrimp Party [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

Making shrimp “sandwiches” on the fly was so fun and tasty. I loved all the pretty ingredients and the “help yourself, and make what you like” attitude of the whole thing. The fresh shrimp, capers and bright lemon juice made for a perfect complement to the rich mayonnaise.

What I loved least about this dish:

Try as I might, Ava would not touch this. She did, however, eat bread and mayo with capers which, in afterthought, was pretty amazing. I think Mr Picky ate this only out of sympathy after witnessing my epic struggle to get Ava to try even a nibble of shrimp.

Kransekake [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

The soft almond chew of this cake is like a firm macaroon. The cake is sweet, elegant, and tastes of angel whispers. Fun to assemble and even more fun to take apart and eat. Everyone, everyone, everyone loved this cake. Friends requested the recipe one bite in. This cake would be particularly good for an outdoor party because you won’t have to worry about melting frosting (royal icing doesn’t deteriorate, as with buttercream frosted cakes).

What I loved least about this dish:

Nothing. I need to make it again. Soon. Yesterday, even.

Ava’s Corner


*Winner from this week’s Norwegian Menu Giveaway was selected at random by There were so, so many wonderful entries – do go through and read them if you have time. Congratulations to Jenna who told us about her own Global Table Adventures:

“I’ve been “eating the world” in my own way for years…I love to travel, and whenever I visit a new country, I try to master at least one traditional dish that I can make at home. This enables me to share my experience with loved ones (in a culinary way) and reminisce my time there through my taste buds.I’m excited about Norway this week – though I’ve never been there, I’m 1/4 Norwegian and these recipes remind me of my grandmother. She used to have a ring cake form like this and I’m not sure what happened to it when she passed – would be a fun addition to my own kitchen as a tribute to her!”

Yay, Jenna! Please email me (sasha@ to claim your kransekake mold. Thank you all for your wonderful entries.



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