Thursday, July 29, 2010

Country Sweden

On the very day we returned from Istanbul, we were delighted to see that our sweet peas had bloomed! They smelled so sweetly fragrant.

That very day we sluggishly left home for the south of Sweden, to the Skåne countryhouse. It's beautiful and peaceful there with rolling hills and cows and sheep grazing on lush grass. It reminded me very much of the English countryside. It's one lane roads and wild flowers everywhere. All we did was swim and eat good food, of course.

After a few days, we headed to Gotland, an island east of Sweden, to visit our friends whose parents built a summer house there. We landed in Visby, a quaint town with its original medieval walls surrounding the town built to protect from intruders. A bus took us two hours deep into the south of Gotland to Vänlingbo. It was so picturesque in a different way than Skåne - flat land with lots of sturdy trees and farmland and grazing black sheep everywhere. But best of all were the golden rye fields studded with tomato-colored poppies -- it was Monet's painting coming to life.

Coral reefs from long ago that were exposed to air after years of erosion created special rock formations by the beaches in Gotland. The Swedish botanist Linneaeus described them as homes without roofs, except that no one could live in them because of the thrashing waves, the deep sea penetrating whenever it pleased. We climbed the rocks to feel high and swam in the Baltic Sea, in shallow clear water, and when the waves came, we danced with them.

After our swim, our friends Bo and Gerda served this amazing tangy yogurt cheese with hard bread that they dressed with fresh herbs from Gerda's mom's garden. It was a charming, well-equipped garden with chives, lavender, numerous kinds of thyme and mint, basil, parsley, celery and many flowers. It was a delight because everything just tasted better when we used all those fresh herbs. It's my dream to have a garden like that one day.

Gerda's Yogurt Cheese
An ideal party dip

1 liter full-fat yogurt
200g creme fraiche
 Herbs of your choice

1. In a heavy-bottom sauce pan, mix in the yogurt and creme fraiche and heat just until it's warm, only just warmer than room temperature.

2. Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth or dishtowel-lined strainer that sits on top of a bowl and then cover with a plate. Allow the whey to drip for 12 hours or overnight. This process also allows the dip to become perfectly tart and solid. (You can freeze the whey that dripped from the cheese and use it to make bread/flatbread.)

3. Decant the cheese into a bowl and dress with herbs of your choice. We used almost a cup mix of chives, thyme, mint and basil. Ideally, allow to sit for an hour so that the herbs mell together, but we were too hungry to wait. You could also add salt and pepper, but it's not necessary.

4. Enjoy with hard bread or good sourdough.

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