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Swedish foods to pair with the 'The Girl in the Spider's Web' book

Dragon tattoos. Swedish winters. Computer hacking. Murder. Coffee. Intrigue. More coffee. It all adds up to one bestselling crime novel: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Stieg Larsson's novel was published in 2005, and since then readers have been captivated by tattooed computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Larrson wrote two book sequels and various film adaptations have been made, but last month, another installment of the popular series was released, penned by Swedish journalist David Lagercrantz. Although Lagercrantz's The Girl in the Spider's Web was met with mixed reviews, it does prove one thing: Even a decade later, readers long to feel immersed in Larsson's universe once more.

Food is probably the safest way to inhabit the gritty world of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. And food is a huge part of the novel. Bags of fresh bagels, warm lingonberry pancakes and sandwiches with distinctively Swedish toppings are the fuel for Salander and Blomkvist as they wade through clues and avoid death traps. So if you're a fan of the series, or if you simply want to enjoy a taste of Sweden with a side of intrigue, whip up some of the classic Swedish dishes that Larsson's unforgettable characters might have enjoyed.

Something sweet

When Salander first realizes she's in love with Blomkvist, she buys them coffee and "breakfast rolls" the next morning. Could these breakfast rolls be kanelbullar? Swedes love their cinnamon rolls so much they created a holiday around it: Kanelbullens dag, on Oct. 4. (When I learned this, I almost boarded a plane to Stockholm. Especially when I heard they also have a holiday dedicated to waffles.)

You can enjoy these rolls yourself, or invite some friends over to share them in the Swedish tradition of fika. "Fika has no translation," explains journalist Rob Hincks, in an article for sweden.se. "It means to take a break with colleagues or friends, over coffee and (usually) something sweet to eat. But it means so much more than that. It is ritual, it is tradition; it is the very fabric of Swedishness. It is something, if invited, you should never say no to." Once your friends discover you're serving these cinnamon rolls, they'd never dream of saying no.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can also whip up a batch of Blomkvist's beloved Swedish pancakes with lingonberries. Okay, so he only ate them once in the series, but I just feel like this is a Blomkvist recipe. Can't you picture him devouring a plate while he works on his latest article?

Lingonberries are small, tart red berries that grow wild in Swedish forests. If you live in Sweden, you can wander into the forest and pick some yourself — but in the United States, you're better off going to Ikea's food section and purchasing a jar. (Because of their tart flavor, they're often mixed with sugar and turned into a sweetened jam.)

Something savory

Sure, you could also pick up Swedish meatballs at Ikea. But why not try your hand at making some from scratch? This recipe makes approximately four to six servings, so it's enough to share if you want to host a small Swedish dinner party. Along with the meatballs, you can serve kroppkakor, or pork-filled potato dumplings. While you and your guests eat, you can re-watch The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo films, discuss the latest book, wear some temporary dragon tattoos, or try your hand at solving an unsolved crime (just kidding!).

Something Salander

You don't have to get a dragon tattoo or pierce your eyebrows to channel Lisbeth Salander. You just have to eat a ton of sandwiches. To make one of Salander's favorite sandwiches, cut a thick slice of rye bread, then pile on one of her favorite topping combos: cheese and pickles, liver pate and cucumber, or cheese, caviar and hard-boiled eggs. If at all possible, play around with your computer while eating the sandwich and curse Blomkvist for being so attractive.

.What's it about?

Stieg Larsson's Millennium series

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the first novel in Stieg Larsson's Millennium series. Fast-pasted and gritty, the novel's strength lies in the dynamic between its two enthralling characters: Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. Salander is a young, tattooed computer hacker who trusts nobody. Blomkvist is an investigative journalist. As they investigate a decades-old case of a missing Swedish girl, they venture into dangerous territory, uncovering secrets they were never meant to find. Dragon Tattoo has two sequels by Stieg Larsson: The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. In August 2015, Swedish author David Lagercrantz published The Girl in the Spider's Web, a new novel featuring Salander and Blomkvist.

>>EASY

Swedish Pancakes With Lingonberries (Plattar)

3 eggs

2 cups milk, divided use

1 cup flour

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ teaspoon salt

Lingonberry jam

Beat the eggs with half a cup of milk until blended. Add the flour and beat until smooth. Add the remaining milk, melted butter and salt. Mix thoroughly. Let the batter stand for two hours.

Grease a heavy cast-iron skillet lightly with a pastry brush or paper towel dipped in a little melted butter. When the skillet is hot, drop in two tablespoons batter for each pancake. Roll the pan around so that you have a round pancake about three inches in diameter. When the edges begin to turn brown, turn the pancake over. Cook for a further two minutes. Top with lingonberry jam.

Serves 6-8.

Source: New York Times

>>MODERATE

Cinnamon Buns (Kanelbullar)

1 1/4 ounces yeast

1/4 cup sugar

1 ½ cups milk

1 egg

8 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cardamom

6 cups flour

For the filling:

8 tablespoons room temperature butter

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

For the glaze:

1 egg

2 tablespoons water

Sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Crumble the yeast in a bowl and stir in a few tablespoons of milk. Melt the butter and pour the milk on it. Add the rest of the ingredients and knead the dough in a dough mixer for 10-15 minutes. Let dough rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough so it is about ⅛ inch thick and 12 inches wide. Spread the room-temperature butter for filling on top. Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the dough. Roll the dough the long way and cut the roll into about 25 slices. Place them with the cut edge upward in paper molds. Place on a baking sheet and let rise under a towel for about 60 minutes or until the buns have doubled in size.

Beat together the egg and water, brush the mixture on the buns and sprinkle sugar (preferably pearl sugar) on top. Bake 5-6 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack.

Makes 25 buns.

Source: Adapted from Carl Jan Granqvist and Lena Katarina Swanberg, Sweden.se

>>MODERATE

Swedish Meatballs

2 slices fresh white bread

¼ cup milk

3 tablespoons butter, divided

½ cup finely chopped onion

A pinch plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

¾ pound ground chuck

¼ pound ground pork

2 large egg yolks

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ cup all-purpose flour

3 cups beef broth

¼ cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Tear the bread into pieces and place in a small mixing bowl along with the milk. Set aside.

In a 12-inch straight sided saute pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sweat until the onions are soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the bread and milk mixture, ground chuck, pork, egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg and onions. Beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Using a scale, weigh meatballs into 1-ounce portions and place on a sheet pan. Using your hands, shape the meatballs into rounds.

Heat the remaining butter in the saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the meatballs and saute until golden brown on all sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon and place in the warmed oven.

Once all of the meatballs are cooked, decrease the heat to low and add the flour to the pan or skillet. Whisk until lightly browned, about 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the beef stock and whisk until sauce begins to thicken. Add the cream and continue to cook until the gravy reaches the desired consistency. Remove the meatballs from the oven, cover with the gravy and serve.

Makes approximately 30 meatballs, serves 4-6.

Source: Alton Brown, Food Network

>>MODERATE

Potato Dumplings (Kroppkakor)

10 medium-sized potatoes

2-3 egg yolks

1 1/4 cups wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 onion, diced

7 ounces salt pork

2 teaspoons cracked allspice

Peel and boil the potatoes. Mash them and mix with the egg yolks and salt. Let the puree cool, then mix in the flour. Knead the dough thoroughly and shape into a roll. Chop the pork into small cubes and dice the onion. Fry the pork quickly with the onion and mix with the allspice.

Cut the potato roll into inch-thick slices, make a depression in the center of each slice and fill it with the pork mixture. Flatten each dumpling so the pork mixture is in the middle and roll into a smooth, even ball.

Boil the dumplings slowly in a pot of lightly salted water without a lid for 5-6 minutes after the dumplings rise to the surface.

Serve with lingonberries and melted butter. The dumplings can also be cut in half and fried in butter.

Serves 4-6.

Source: Adapted from Carl Jan Granqvist and Lena Katarina Swanberg, Sweden.se

Swedish foods to pair with the 'The Girl in the Spider's Web' book 09/28/15 [Last modified: Monday, September 28, 2015 4:48pm]
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