Though Washington remains without a Scandinavian restaurant, it did have one day of culinary teasing, an all-Scandinavian cocktail buffet at last week's Corcoran gala to open the Scandinavia Today exhibit. Chefs from five Scandinavian embassies prepared the buffet, which was more a matter of obtaining and arranging foods that are usually unavailable -- smoked reindeer and smoked lamb -- than actual cooking. And such ingredients went to show why it is so hard to get a Scandinavian restaurant going in Washington.
The Washingtonians at the reception gorged on the salmon -- gravlax cured for four days at the Swedish embassy, plus smoked salmon and salmon-trout rolled around sprigs of dill. The Scandinavian guests found the smoked reindeer the greatest treat.
As for actual cooking, the most interesting bit on the buffet table was Karelian Pasties from Finland, tiny purse-shaped pastries of rye dough filled with rice and served with a creamy spread of butter and chopped hard-cooked eggs. Chef Rauni Murtovaara-Nikkinen and her assistant Annaleena Holopainen had rolled and formed 1200 of them, which took two days and left Holopainen "rolling in my dreams." Both agreed that a proper Finnish home would make Karelian Pasties every Saturday, then they would be eaten for lunch, as bread for dinner, maybe as an appetizer for a company meal, throughout the weekend until they were gone. And always they are served with egg-butter topping. "Always!" Murtovaara-Nikkinen reiterated.
As to why the pastries are rice-stuffed, when Finnish cooking almost never otherwise uses rice, Holopainen explained that Karelia is in the east, and in fact is now largely a part of the USSR; so eastern rice made its way into this dish, which then spread throughout Finland. In any case, such a starch-stuffed dough and its room-temperature buttery sauce are unlike any other cuisine's national dish, and diverted considerable attention from the salmon at the Corcoran's buffet. It is also readily made at home with the following recipe: KARELIAN PASTIES (Makes 15) Pastry: 1/2 cup water 1 teaspoon salt 1 to 1 1/4 cups rye flour, plus more for rolling 1/4 cup white flour Filling: 4 cups milk 1 cup uncooked rice 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon butter Buttering: Melted butter or butter mixed with water
Stir salt into water and add white flour and 1 to 1 1/4 cups rye flour, enough to form a stiff dough. Mix until dough is solid and compact. Set aside.
Heat milk and sprinkle in rice. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover the pan and simmer for at least 20 minutes, or up to 45 minutes, until rice is cooked through. Season with salt and 1 tablespoon butter. Set aside to cool.
Form dough into a long roll and divide into 15 portions. Round each part into a ball and flatten into a cake. Stack the cakes with flour between them. Sprinkle table and hands with plenty of rye flour to keep dough from sticking. Roll each ball of dough into a thin round, thin enough, as the saying goes, "to see seven churches through it."
Put a large dollop of rice on each round of dough, using plenty of filling to keep it from being dry. Fold the edges so they meet in the center over the filling to form ovals and pinch the edges to make tiny pleats but allow the filling to peek through. Fill a few at a time and bake immediately, at 500 degrees for about 7 minutes. They are ready when the bottom is slightly browned and the rice filling has a few brown spots.
Butter them all over with melted butter or a butter-water mixture. Place pasties, separated with waxed paper, parchment or brown paper, in a flat bowl and cover with a towel to soften the crusts and let the butter soak in to turn them soft and golden brown. Serve warm or room temperature with egg-butter. EGG-BUTTER 5 ounces (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) butter 2 hard-cooked eggs
Soften butter and cream it. Chop eggs finely and mix with butter. Serve at room temperature to spread on Karelian Pasties.
Every office has -- or ought to have -- its own morale boosters, and what keeps the PM Magazine staff at Channel 9 happy is popcorn. For the last couple of months producer-director Steve Howard has kept the staff supplied with fresh munchies from a hot-air popper; it takes 8 to 10 pounds a week, but what is any media circus without popcorn, after all?
Last week we listed where you could pay for learning to cook. But the fall free-demonstration season is starting also -- free lessons from some of the country's top cooking teachers, usually breezing through town to promote a new book. And since they can't write a book all that often, the chance to see them otherwise may be rare.
Sept. 30, 1 to 3 p.m. is Jacques Pepin, one of the most charming and likewise among the most skilled and knowledgeable cooks in the country. He'll be at the Kitchen Bazaar, 4455 Connecticut Ave. NW, and seats can be reserved by calling 363-4600. Then you can see him on a public television series starting October 9.
Next Saturday, Sept. 25, quiches and pa te's will be the subject of demonstration at the Kitchen Bazaar, this time by Peter Kump, founder of the New York Cooking School. Reservations are not necessary; the demonstration will be 1:30 to 4 p.m.
At Williams-Sonoma the treat will be tasting rather than watching. On Sept. 24 at 7 p.m., that Mazza Gallerie kitchenware shop, in conjunction with Rex Liquors, will be offering free samples of new German wines, to all who show up with a thirst for knowledge -- or just a thirst.
Again the emphasis is on tasting, next Thursday through Saturday at St. Lukes Church, Wisconsin at Calvert Street NW, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. A bazaar will be sponsored by the Soorp Khatch Armenian Church, and the foods to buy will include Armenian string cheese, pumpkin preserves, soujouk, basterma, lule kebabs, toushi, tabulleh and Armenian pastries.
Gourmet Baltimore is the unexpected title of a tour of Lexington Market and the McCormick spice factory sponsored by the Fairfax County Department of Recreation. Next Thursday, Sept. 23, is the date, $11 is the price, and the tour includes a chartered bus departing at 8:30 a.m. from Annandale and returning about 6 p.m. after an on-you-own visit to the food stands of Harborplace. For more information call 691-2671 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Also in Baltimore will be lectures by Nathan Pritikin, followed by a cooking demonstration, Pritikin-style, by Robin Rifkin, who teaches cooking at the Pritikin Center in Downington, Pa. The two lectures will be on Oct. 2, in Hecht's downtown store at Howard and Lexington Streets from noon to 1 p.m., and at the Towson Plaza store, 2 to 3 p.m.