June 22, 2013

A few months ago, I heard a story on NPR about Japanese latte artists who create intricate pictures and even three-dimensional sculptures out of foam and espresso.  Leonard Koren, a philosopher interviewed for the article, noted that in Japanese culture there is the concept that "many things are beautiful precisely because they are short-lived and fragile”, whether that be cherry blossoms or latte art.  Now that summer has begun, I’ve been mulling over that concept.  There are many things I love about summer in Minnesota in and of themselves: eating outside on our shady patio every night, fresh corn on the cob, walking around various Minneapolis lakes, running in the nearby park, picnics, and my birthday.  But summer weather never reliably starts until mid-June, around the summer solstice.  Suddenly, the days are getting shorter and summer is slipping through your fingers just as it has begun.  The nagging knowledge that it won’t last much longer makes each beautiful day that much lovelier.

So this year, inspired by Japanese latte art, I decided to celebrate the summer solstice and the fleeting gloriousness of summer instead of viewing midsummer as the beginning of the end.  Since I am of partially Scandinavian descent (one-quarter Finnish) a Scandinavian-inspired midsummer gathering seemed appropriate.  According to Wikipedia, Finns commonly celebrate midsummer with a large bonfire, which our homeowner’s association would frown upon.  So instead, I focused on food and spending quality time with Mike and my sister.

Since my menu is based on a cursory Internet search, a pamphlet from the Ikea food market, and personal preferences, I can only speak to its deliciousness, not its authenticity.

  • Finnish Sour Rye Bread-typical for me, I spent the most time and effort on the bread.  The recipe is from Beard on Bread and involves a starter that is begun four days ahead of time.  It was one of my favorite recipes from my Brooks Bakes Bread project, so it was nice to bake it again.
  • Potatoes with Butter and Dill-Boil about 1 1/2 pounds of new potatoes for 25 minutes, or until fork-tender.  Meanwhile, combine 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill in a large bowl.  Drain the potatoes and add to bowl.  Gentle toss until potatoes are well-coated with butter.
  • Dill-Marinated Smoked Salmon-I bought a slab of frozen salmon from Ikea.  Reasonably priced, delicious, and classy-looking when garnished with fresh dill.
  • Swedish Meatballs-My theory is that meatballs were included on the “Midsummer Buffet” recipe card from Ikea solely in an attempt to move more product.  However, they were a tasty alternative for those who aren’t as fond of salmon as I am.
  • Deviled Eggs-The ultimate party food, for those who don’t like salmon or meatballs (you know who you are).  I sprinkled them with chopped dill in an attempt to include some sort of Scandinavian tie-in.
  • Strawberries with Whipped Cream-Unfortunately, our very cool spring has resulted in a later than usual strawberry crop.  I had to rely on imports from California, but they were decent for non-local berries.