You’ve heard it a hundred times before. Whether you just started dating or have been settled into your marriage for years now, making food together is the romantic way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. That’s fine if you’re an experienced cook, but what if a four-course meal leaves you trembling at the thought of forgotten ingredients, messy kitchens and messed up timing?
Take a cue from the Danish and celebrate simplicity – make one dish, and make it really well.
The Danish smørrebrød is best described as an elegant open-faced sandwich. Typically made on buttered rye bread, the sandwich can be topped with anything from high quality cold-cuts to hard boiled eggs – the sky’s the limit. Let’s be honest – if you just started dating, this is a great way to learn each other’s preferences. The polite thing to do is to provide a nice assortment of toppings, but not so many that your date becomes overwhelmed.
With smorrebrod you can stay clear of the kitchen except for a little prep. In fact, with a tray of toppings, this finger food is easily assembled with your date in the dining room (or, better yet, while cozied up on the couch). The fun is in the choices – each person can make their smorrebrod according to their tastes. Or, if you feel like getting wild, you can take turns guessing what the other would enjoy and assemble sandwiches for each other.
Throughout Scandinavia the smørrebrød, or open-faced sandwich is the pretty way to eat lunch. The original version is eaten with a knife and fork, but by switching the rye bread with tiny pieces of sliced pumpernickel, I’ve turned them into dainty canapés – finger food, perfect for a romantic night in. Serve with chilled champagne or sparkling water.
- 12 slices of mini pumpernickel bread
- Softened butter
- 1 package of smoked salmon
- 1/2 cucumber, halved and sliced thinly
- Thinly sliced red onion, to taste
- 1 lemon
- A few sprigs of fresh dill
Set out some butter to soften. About an hour before your date arrives, slice up all ingredients and place them on a pretty platter. Keep wet ingredients from dry ingredients. Refrigerate until needed. Assemble with date.
Instructions to make the smørresbrød as pictured:
Butter the bread. This keeps the bread from getting soggy. Lay thinly sliced cucumber halves on top of the bread. The thinner they are, the easier they’ll lay down. Next, add a layer of smoked salmon. Folding each piece in half makes for a pretty presentation. Thinly sliced red onion and a piece of fresh dill make the perfect garnish. Finally, finish things off with a slice of lemon, so that your date can squeeze a bit on the smørresbrød if desired. The lemon can be served on the side, or you can slice it thinly enough so that you can bend it in half like a bow.
OTHER TOPPING IDEAS
- Tomato slices
- Grated horseradish
- Steamed asparagus spears
- Boiled eggs, sliced
- Baby greens
- Sliced cheese
KNOW YOUR MEAL
DILL: Ancient Romans once claimed that dill, a symbol of vitality, provides energy and vigor to those who consume it. Today, the faintly licorice flavored herb is popular both in Scandinavian and north African cuisine.
LEMON: Lemons used to be a beauty product for ladies. A little on the lips was thought to make them rosy-red, and a splash on the cheeks was thought to make the skin creamy white.
SALMON: Salmon was incredibly popular in Europe during the Middle Ages and was found in all manner of soups, stews and pâtés. People ate so much of the fish that quantities diminished and, eventually, only the elite could afford it. Today, salmon can be found all over the northern hemisphere, especially near Canada, Scotland, Denmark and Norway.
CUCUMBER: The cucumber was first found in the sprawling foothills of the Himalayas. Today there are many varieties at our disposal. While the ones with waxy skins are mostly bland, the long, thin cucumbers sold in shrink wrap – known as European cucumbers, or hothouse cucumbers are excellent and the thin skin can be eaten if desired.
Sasha Martin is cooking her way around the world, one country at a time. Her picky husband and baby girl are along for the ride. Follow the adventure at www.GlobalTableAdventure.com. Cook Global, Shop Local.