by: SUBMITTED PHOTO   - The Scandinavian tradition of serving a smorgasbord is a festive way to treat family and friends during the holidays. All the family favorites can be presented at one time.

There is something about the holidays that gives me a hunger for the foods of my heritage.

Perhaps my dearly departed grandmothers’ whisperings in my ears come in more clearly this time of year, or maybe I’m inspired by a little bit of a song that reminds me of those Grandpa Iver would hum while he danced us around the Christmas tree.

There is a cozy feeling to this season, a feeling that is enhanced by preparing the Norwegian and German foods of my ancestors.

When I was growing up, we ate lutefisk and lefse on Christmas Eve in honor of my grandfather, Iver Iverson, and our Norwegian heritage. None of us particularly liked it — including Grandpa Iver — but it was fun to eat something unusual for Christmas Eve dinner. Being a man of few words, it was several years before Grandpa told my mother she didn’t have to make the lutefisk on his account. From then on we enjoyed a satisfying soup on Christmas Eve.

Christmas breakfast always included Mom’s homemade stollen bread, a German braided bread filled with candied fruits and then iced and decorated with almonds.

The entrée for Christmas dinner could be anything: ham, roasted turkey or goose, German sauerbraten, crown roast pork. My sister, Carol, was a most adventurous cook as a youngster and introduced roast beef with Yorkshire pudding to our Christmas table one year and paella another year. Our tradition was that there were no sacred foods that had to appear on the table at any holiday, except for Mom’s homemade rolls.

I have friends of Hispanic descent who enjoy making and sharing tamales each Christmas and French friends who serve escargot on Christmas Eve.

What would you serve to honor your heritage?

Make this the year you return to your roots. Prepare a favorite cookie, appetizer, entrée or dessert to share with your family. It’s a great way to connect your family to their ancestors and share your heritage.

The Internet makes it easy to find interesting and authentic recipes of all cuisines.

I share with you two recipes today, one German and the other Norwegian. Both are simple and sure to be family favorites.

Bon Appétit! Eat something wonderful!


4 pork loin chops

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil1 onion sliced into rings

1 1/4 cup apple cider

1 cup chicken broth

Brown the onions in oil in a large, deep pan over medium heat, and add the pork chops. Brown chops for 3 to 4 minutes on each side over high heat. Add chicken broth and apple cider. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes, adding water to the sauce as needed to keep sauce liquid. Serve with pickled vegetables, such as sauerkraut and pickled beets and buttered noodles or mashed potatoes.

Norwegian Cardamom-Almond Tart

Makes 8 to 10 servings


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons whole milk or heavy cream

Filling and assembly:

Unsalted butter (for pan)

2 cups slivered almonds

1 cup powdered sugar

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk

Special equipment: 9-inch diameter fluted tart pan with removable bottom, decorative cookie cutters

For crust:

Whisk flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter and sugar in a medium bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolk and milk. With mixer running on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients and beat just until thoroughly combined.

Pat dough into a ball; break off 1/4 of the dough. Form each piece into a ball. Flatten balls into disks. Cover separately and chill dough disks for at least 2 hours or overnight.

For filling and assembly:

Butter tart pan. Break larger dough disk into small pieces and scatter over bottom of tart pan. Using your fingertips, press dough onto bottom and up sides of pan. Use the flat bottom of a measuring cup to smooth the surface and trim the edges. Roll out smaller dough disk to about 1/8-inch thick. Using decorative cookie cutters, cut out shapes and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover and chill crust and cutouts for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Pulse almonds, powdered sugar, cardamom and nutmeg in food processor until nuts are finely ground. Transfer dry ingredients to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and vanilla in a medium bowl until medium peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into dry ingredients.

Whisk egg yolks and 2 teaspoons water in a small bowl to blend. Fill chilled crust with almond mixture; smooth top. Arrange cutouts on top and brush cutouts with egg wash.

Bake tart until crust and cutouts are golden brown and filling is set, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool.

Do ahead: Tart can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Bon Appétit, Dec. 2004

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 100 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twitter at @barbrandallfood.

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