Farmers' Market Glory – Summer Potato Salad

Summer Potato Salad | my blue&white kitchen

How can one not be inspired by summer’s bounty? I’m like a kid in a candy shop whenever I visit a farmers’ market these days as I easily get overwhelmed by all the fresh produce: berries, fruit, vegetables, herbs... So much goodness! I’m lucky to live within a short walking distance of not only one but two farmers’ markets, so I try to find my way to them several times a week. You almost never see me leaving without a bagful of green peas (I eat them raw – one of the best things I know), some local strawberries while still in season (they're amazing at the moment), and new potatoes (cause I just can't get enough of their lovely, delicate flavor). Also, I’m addicted to the sweet-like-candy cherry tomatoes that an old lady sells at her stall every summer. They are the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted, and I never miss the chance to tell her that.

I buy what looks fresh and vibrant, what inspires me the most. When you have great produce at hand, you don’t need to do much to them anymore. Rather, let the textures, flavors, and colors speak their own language. That's my summer cooking philosophy.

Potato salad has always been a summer staple out our home. It's the perfect side dish to accompany grilled meat or fish without having to spend too much time in the kitchen. To be honest, I often make salads on the porch. That way I don't have the feeling I'm trapped inside missing all the fun. Potato salad is also what I most often get asked to bring with me to a summer potluck with friends or family. It's a crowd-pleaser and we rarely end up having leftovers. You would never see mayonnaise in my potato salads as I like to prepare them the way it's done back home in southern Germany with a simple vinaigrette. In this recipe, I added some dijon mustard to the vinaigrette as well as honey which may not be traditional but definitely delicious. Feel free to play around with different vegetables and herbs; use what's in season, what inspires you, or what simply make your mouth water.

Summer Potato Salad | my blue&white kitchen

I’m keeping it short today as the sun is shining so brightly outside and it would be a waste to spend more time sitting here in front of the laptop telling you how wonderful summer evenings are. Go outside, soak up the sun while it's still shining so gleefully! That's exactly what I'm going to do right now.

Summer Potato Salad | my blue&white kitchen

Summer Potato Salad

serves 6 as a side

This salad can be prepared in advance. If doing so, add the radishes, peas, and herbs just before serving or they'll lose their color and/or wilt. You may also need to add some more vinaigrette before serving as the potatoes will probably soak up most of it. Furthermore, if you decide to make the salad in advance, I would let the potatoes cool completely before adding the other vegetables and herbs; you can, however, add the vinaigrette while the potatoes are still warm.
 

1 kg (2 lb) new potatoes (preferably small ones), scrubbed
2 small cucumbers (I love to use Kirby cucumbers), sliced
1 red scallion, sliced
1 small bunch of pink radishes, cut into sticks
a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, preferably in several colors, cut into wedges
2 ½ dl (1 cup) shelled green peas
a bunch of fresh herbs, such as dill, chive, or parsley, roughly chopped

for the vinaigrette:
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
a drizzle of honey or agave nectar
fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

 

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Put the pot back to the stove top and let sit for a while to absorb any water that may still cling to the potatoes and potentially make them soggy. Let the potatoes cool a bit. Halve or slice the potatoes, depending on their size. [note: New potatoes usually have only a very thin skin. Therefore, I prefer them unpeeled.] Add to a big bowl.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Add to the still warm potatoes and mix to combine.

Boil the green peas in salted water for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under ice cold water to stop them from cooking further as well as to help them keep their bright color.

Add everything to the dressed potatoes and toss gently. Serve with grilled fish or meat.


Summer Potato Salad | my blue&white kitchen

A Quarter of a Century – Mini Almond Pavlovas with Forest Berries

Almond Pavlova with Forest Berries | my blue&white kitchen

In elementary school, we had to write an essay about how we pictured our lives as twentysomethings. I've tried to find that essay without any success but I'm pretty sure I know what that piece of paper contains. I probably dreamed of a life in a red cottage (so Scandinavian!) with a gorgeous husband and lovely children (so cliché!), as well as a cat, dog, and horse (cause I wasn't able to decide which one was cuter). Little did that brown eyed, open-minded, stubborn, and self-confident girl, who was born exactly 200 years after 'Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ou la Mort!' echoed inside the Bastille, know about where life would take her to in the coming years; that life doesn't always look like the ones in Astrid Lindgren's stories. But does it make it disappointing? Not at all. I've traveled the world and realized both how wonderful and cruel it is at the same time. I may have missed opportunities but I've also said 'yes' and 'no' at just the right moments. I am loved. I'm able to create a career path of my dreams. I can be creative and share it with others; with you. My life may not be perfect but it's good. It's more than good. And that I'm tremendously grateful for.

My life is a bit like these mini pavlovas  maybe not as perfect looking as a layer cake with buttercream frosting but definitely enjoyable and lovable. Pavlova is probably my favorite summer cake and that's why I make it (almost) every year for my birthday. Of course, you can top a pavlova with any fruit of your choice but those winter pavlovas with kiwis and citrus fruit have never really grown on me. I like mine topped with lots of seasonal berries, such as blueberries, bilberries, strawberries, and raspberries. If you're living outside Europe, you may wonder about bilberries. Are they the same as blueberries? Well, not quite but they're closely related. They’re the European wild growing counterpart (and to make it a bit more confusing, we call them 'blueberries' as well). Bilberries are smaller and darker than blueberries but have a fuller, more flavorful taste which is why I most of the time prefer bilberries over blueberries. They’re also a bit messier as their skin and flesh stain everything blue from your fingers and lips to your tongue. As our summer cottage is surrounded by bilberry bushes (I literally have to walk two meters to pick a berry), they’re a heavily consumed summertime favorite. For these pavlovas I used bilberries and wild strawberries which I foraged earlier that day. However, feel free to use whatever berries you have around. I also won't judge you should you prefer to use kiwis and mandarines.

A few notes on meringue. There basically are three different types of meringue which all have distinct characteristics: French, Swiss, and Italian meringue. French meringue is the simplest one and especially popular among home cooks. Egg whites are whipped until stiff peaks start to form, sugar is gradually added, and the mixture is whipped until glossy. Quick and easy, right? Swiss meringue is made by warming egg whites and sugar over a water bath until sugar crystals dissolve completely. The mixture is then whisked until it has cooled to room temperature. Swiss meringue is more stable than French meringue and is ideal if you want meringue that’s crisp on the outside and marshmallow-like on the inside. Personally, I prefer Swiss meringue when making pavlovas because I want to achieve that chewy inside. Furthermore, the heating process makes the egg whites edible without having to bake them. Salmonella isn’t a problem here in Finland (it basically is non-existent), but Swiss meringue may be your top choice especially if living in a country where you have to be careful when consuming raw eggs. The third meringue type is Italian meringue that is made with boiling sugar syrup. It’s the most stable of these three and is, like Swiss meringue, safe to consume without baking. Of course, there are other techniques as well, such as Ottolenghi’s method that I can’t wait to try, but these are the three classic ones.

Now that we’ve covered the three different types, let’s talk about what ensures a perfect meringue. There are a few simple yet important things to keep in mind when making meringue:

  • Make sure that your equipment is absolutely dry, clean, and grease-free. Any small amount of fat will keep your egg whites from getting fluffy. Egg yolks are fat as well so be careful when separating the eggs! Furthermore, it may be a good idea to rub your bowl with half a lemon before starting to make meringue to eliminate any grease.
  • Prefer stainless-steel, glass, or copper bowls when making meringue as plastic bowls can hold onto grease.
  • While eggs are easier to separate when cold, make sure your egg whites are at room temperature when you start making your meringue. However, this isn’t crucial if making Swiss meringue as the egg whites are warmed anyway.
  • Think twice before making meringue on a very humid day. The sugar will absorb moisture from the air keeping your meringue from getting stiff.
  • You often see vinegar or cream of tartar as well as cornstarch added to meringue. Vinegar and cream of tartar mainly stabilize while cornstarch helps to achieve a crisp outside and a chewy inside. These are optional, not necessary to make a successful meringue. In this recipe, I use lemon juice instead of vinegar or cream of tartar and omit cornstarch completely.
  • My meringue formula is really simple and easy to remember: 1 part egg whites to 2 parts sugar (by weight). In addition, lemon juice, vinegar, cream of tartar, or cornstarch as well as any kind of flavoring may be added.
  • Meringue is versatile! You can mix in cocoa powder, berry sauce, different extracts, etc.

Mini Almond Pavlovas with Forest Berries

makes 6 small or 1 big (about 23 cm / 9")
 

For the meringue
4 egg whites (M)
290 g (3 dl + 2 tbsp; 1 cups + 1 tbsp) granulated sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
about 30 g (½ heaping dl; ¼ cup) sliced almonds

For the topping
200 g (2 dl; 1 scanted cup) heavy cream
200 g (2 dl; 1 scanted cup) Greek or Turkish yogurt
2 tbsp powdered sugar

about 500 g (1 l; 4 cups) berries


To make the meringue
Preheat oven to 125°C (260°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the egg whites, sugar, and lemon juice in an absolutely dry, clean, and grease-free medium-sized bowl, pot, or bain-marie. Place over a water bath. While constantly whipping, heat until the mixture has reached 60°C (140°F). At this point the sugar should have dissolved and the mixture starts to get thicker and glossier. Take off the heat. With the help of a standing mixer or electric hand mixer, whisk on high speed until the mixture is cool and stiff peaks form. (You can of course whisk it by hand if you fancy a nice workout. Been there, done that.) This usually takes 6 to 10 minutes. Carefully fold in the almonds.

Spoon the meringue into six equal rounds. Make sure that the meringue is slightly higher at the rims so that the meringue later holds the topping better. Lower the oven temperature to 100°C (200°F). Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. At this point, the outside should be crisp while the inside still has a marshmallow-like consistency (you can lift a meringue round and poke a hole in the bottom; no one will notice). If you decide to make one big pavlova, you'll need to bake the meringue for further 10 or so minutes. Let cool completely.

Unless you're living in a very humid area, you can bake the meringues one day in advance. Store them uncovered at room temperature until ready to assemble.
 

To assemble
To make the topping, whip the heavy cream until very stiff. Gently fold in the yogurt and sugar.

Just before serving, top each meringue with the cream yogurt mixture. Generously top with berries. Serve immediately.


Summer mornings − The Vibrant Table: Double Cacao Buckwheat Granola

Double Cacao Buckwheat Granola | my blue&white kitchen

June was rather cold and gloomy at our latitude. Therefore, these warm, sunny days we have been fortuned enough to enjoy during the last few days have felt like a true blessing. However, I must admit that I wasn't that annoyed by the bad weather we had to endure for way too many weeks. This probably is because life at the summer cottage feels relaxing and wonderful no matter how the sky looks like outside the windows. But now that the sun is shining again, I notice how much I need the smell of sun-kissed skin.

This summery weather also brings lovely mornings with it; I make it my ritual to enjoy breakfast on the porch. On mornings like these, breakfast feels extra special. Normally, I eat a slice of good bread (after a short pause, I'm back in the no-knead bread baking madness experimenting with different flours and proofing times) or a bowl of plain yogurt with homemade granola. These days, strawberries can be found on the table as well. As I drink my regular cup of strong coffee with milk, I listen to baby birds peeping vigorously for food, watch squirrels climbing from one tree to another and eating pine cones like they're bacon & sweet corn ice cream sandwiches, and let my eyes linger on the beautiful Nordic lake scenery. I take a deep breath and my mind and body seem to find peace if only for a brief moment.

I was beyond excited when The Vibrant Table cookbook arrived at my doorstep. I found myself coming back to it multiple times a day; whether it was reading about the benefits of soaking and sprouting or flipping through the pages getting inspired by the recipes and pictures. I love when food becomes a way of expressing ones heritage and love for food. This book reflects both in such a wonderful way. I admire how Anya uses ingredients that are often forgotten or overseen, such as rutabaga and buckwheat groats, or interprets Russian favorites in a new way, such as zapekanka, a kind of cheese soufflé. The Vibrant Table is not only a gorgeous cookbook filled with seasonal recipes for every occasion but also a helpful, easily approachable guide to a wholesome, clean, and thoughtful diet.

This buckwheat granola was one of the first recipes that caught my attention and made my heart beat a bit faster. I could eat granola every single day of the year without getting bored as there are so many ways to keep a granola interesting and seasonal. After making multiple batches of this buckwheat granola, I can say I absolutely love it! In her book, Anya tells that it can be made with raw buckwheat groats or with buckwheat crispies (she also gives a recipe for raw granola but since I don't have a dehydrator I've not made this version and, thus, I'm not going to share that recipe with you today). Buckwheat crispies are simply buckwheat groats that have first been soaked and then dried again. Soaking not only makes grains more nutritious but also easier to Digest (yes, these are the kind of things you learn from the book!). I made the granola both with raw groats and buckwheat crispies and liked the latter better; the flavor was enhanced and the texture was nicer as the granola didn't turn out that hard. You can of course go both ways. Soaking and drying takes a bit time but is by no means much work.

The original recipe calls for cacao nibs only. I, however, decided to share a double cacao version where I added some raw cacao powder to make it extra luscious. With the cherry season nearing its peak, I've enjoyed this granola with a handful of fresh, sweet cherries. However, now that bilberry season has started, and you can regularly find me picking bilberries in the woods until my hands are stained blue and my back is sore, I'm going to replace cherries with fragrant, local bilberries. However, feel free to play around with this recipe! You can add different seeds, grains (I would love to try a version with millet!) or nuts to the basic granola and once baked dried berries or fruit. You can sweeten the granola with maple syrup or use honey or agave nectar instead. I even substituted coconut oil with melted butter once and it worked perfectly. This is a granola that can easily be adapted to your liking and the current season.

Double Cacao Buckwheat Granola | my blue&white kitchen

Double Cacao Buckwheat Granola

slightly adapted from The Vibrant Table, p. 55

makes 6 dl (2 ½ cups) granola

Note: At least in Scandinavia and Germany, most buckwheat groats that you can find at stores are rather light in color. As I've been told that the darker varieties have a much better aroma, I always strive to find those. Here in Finland, it's mostly Russian buckwheat that can be found in some ethnic markets or in the specialty section of a grocery store.

This granola is both gluten and dairy-free.
 

For the buckwheat crispies [makes about 380 g (2 heaping cups) buckwheat crispies]
400 g (4 ¾ dl; 2 cups) raw buckwheat groats

In a large bowl, cover the groats with water. The water level should be 2,5 to 5 cm (1" to 2") above the groats. Let soak for a minimum of one hour or overnight.

Pour the soaked groats into a colander. As raw buckwheat produces slime when soaked, you need to rinse the soaked groats well. Line two baking sheets with clean kitchen towels. Spread the rinsed groats on the towels and let dry for at least 24 hours or until completely dry. You may need to shake the sheets a couple of times while drying to ensure that the groats dry evenly.

Buckwheat crispies should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge and will keep for up to 1 month. You can use the crispies to make granola or, for example, use in salads, tacos, etc.


For the granola
4 ¾ dl (2 cups; weight varies from 310 to 340 g) buckwheat crispies (see instructions above)
OR 400 g (4 ¾ dl; 2 cups) raw buckwheat groats
70 g (1 dl + 1 heaping tbsp; ½ cup) cacao nibs
1 tbsp raw cacao powder
2 tbsp + 1 tsp maple syrup
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted

yogurt or milk as well as seasonal berries or fruit, to serve


Preheat oven to 130°C (260°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mix to combine. Spread in an even layer on the baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.

Let the granola cool completely before breaking it into rough chunks. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. The granola will keep for up to 1 week. Personally, I think that, like many other granolas as well, the flavor develops overnight.


Double Cacao Buckwheat Granola | my blue&white kitchen

Now excuse me, I have some major sunbathing to do before tonight's nerve-wrackingly exciting World Cup match...

Hope you are well and sun-kissed wherever you roam in the world.

Toscakaka – Nordic Caramel Almond Cake

Toscakaka − Nordic Caramel Almond Cake | my blue&white kitchen

Drumroll, please... My summer vacation started this week! Wohooo! I still can't get my head around the fact that someone is actually paying me for doing nothing. So for the next 4 weeks I get paid for sleeping in, eating strawberries and fresh peas by the handful, hanging out with friends and family, spending way too much time watching music videos like this one, staining my hands with the sweet juices of cherries, chatting with the lovely lady at the farmers' market, sitting on the porch enjoying a glass of chilled rosé, and watching the World Cup every single night. Absolutely no complaints.

This occasion definitely calls for cake. So how about toscakaka? It's basically a classic pound cake topped with one giant Florentine. Pretty damn genius if you ask me. Not without reason is it one of the most loved cakes in Scandinavian baking. I'm not sure of its origin but already my great-great-grandmother, a known cook, baker, and author, baked this cake. The ingredients must have been rather expensive at that time so I guess it has been a treat reserved solely for the upper class.

This cake is baked according to a family recipe. Toscakaka was my late great-grandfather's signature cake, and luckily he left a small note with the ingredients needed to recreate this treat. I've kept that small piece of paper like a gem for several years now, but somehow I've never actually made the cake. Maybe I feared screwing it up? Would I be able to make the cake taste as good as he did? Last week, I finally overcame my fear of failing. The cake came out perfect. I don't know if it tasted as good as the ones my great-grandfather baked but it was everything I could have asked for. A moist cake base and a crunchy caramel almond crust. I was proud of myself, and I'm sure he would have been too.

This cake is highly addictive. I've made three cakes in one week. Yeah. Let it be summer vacation.


Toscakaka – Nordic Caramel Almond Cake

makes one 20 cm / 8" cake

I made a few small adaptions to the original recipe like adding lemon zest to the batter. I think it was lovely but feel free to omit it if you wish to. Also, my great-grandfather was known to always double the caramel almond topping. It appears, however, that he must have been using a larger cake pan. I was baking this cake again last Sunday and decided to double the topping cause HOW CAN ONE NOT WANT MORE OF THAT CRUNCHY GOODNESS!?! Well, I ended up creating a mess as the topping overflew in the oven. So that definitely lacks some more recipe testing...
 

For the dough
125 g (4.4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
135 g (4.8 oz; 1 ½ dl; ⅔ cups) caster sugar
3 eggs (M), at room temperature
zest of 1 lemon
138 g (4.9 oz; 2 ½ dl; 1 cup) all-purpose flour
pinch of fine sea salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk, at room temperature

For the topping
55 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
55 g (2 oz; 1 ¼ dl; ½ cup) sliced almonds
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp heavy cream

optional: fresh strawberries (or other berries) and Greek yogurt or lightly whipped cream, to serve
 

To make the cake
Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F).

Grease the cake pan (preferably springform). In a small bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In a bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well incorporated. (If your batter breaks at this step, your eggs have probably not been at room temperature or you've added the eggs too quickly. Don't worry. The dough should come together once the flour is added.) Add lemon zest and about half of the flour mixture and mix until smooth. Gradually add the milk and finally the rest of the flour mixture and mix until you have a smooth batter. Pour into the prepared cake pan. Bake on the middle rack for 25–30 minutes or until risen, golden brown in color, and almost done (the cake will continue to bake once the topping is added but needs to be enough cooked to support the topping).


To make the topping
Add the butter, almonds, sugar, flour, and heavy cream to a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot. Keep your eyes on the cake. When the cake starts to look ready for the topping, start cooking the caramel almond topping (the topping comes together in less than 5 minutes). Over medium-high heat, stir until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken slightly. Remove from heat and pour over the pre-baked cake making sure that it's evenly distributed. I think it's easiest to pour the topping in the middle of the cake and, with the help of a spatula, gently spread into an even layer. Bake for further 10–15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and bubbles.

Cool for about 10 minutes, and run a knife around the edge of the pan to release the cake. Let cool on a wire rack. The caramel will harden as the cake cools down.

Enjoy at room temperature plain or with fresh berries and some Greek yogurt or lightly whipped cream.


Toscakaka − Nordic Caramel Almond Cake | my blue&white kitchen

Side note: I shot this cake at 9pm. Talking about nightless nights and all that amazingness...