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Midsummer Smörgåsbord

As June is my birthday month, Midsummer signals the start of a new year for me each annum. While I do have Northern European heritage, I did not grow up celebrating Midsummer, it was something I came to as an adult. For me, it is a way of having celebration with loved ones to kick of my next trip around the sun.

In all honesty, anything goes for a great Midsummer dinner party, but if you enjoy the structured beauty of repeated tradition, there are some key foods that are frequently found on a Midsummer Smörgåsbord table. While I don't strictly adhere to those foods for my Midsummer table, I do like to use them as a guide.


The classic fish options are Sill (pickled herring) and Gravlax (cured salmon). While my maternal grandfather would have been delighted by any celebratory meal that included pickled and cured fish (a trait my son Luc seems to have inherited), for this menu I am representing that component with a recipe by Melissa Clark: Sous-Vide Salmon With Caper-Parsley Vinaigrette. It's a nod to pickled fish with the briny pickled flavor found in the caper parsley vinaigrette. If you do not have a Sous-Vide tool, I find you also get a great result serving the vinaigrette poured over slightly flaked poached filets. For poaching salmon my on-line go-to method is Andrew Zimmerman's Cold Poached Salmon, otherwise my go to is The Joy of Cooking.


A traditional component of a standard Midsummer table is new potatoes boiled and served with butter, salt, sour cream and dill. No complaints here about that option, but there are advantages to having a prepared potato salad that can be made well in advance to having guests gather around the table. My most often prepared summertime potato salad is not your classic mayo based American version (although, I do love that option), it's the Austrian Style version (Austrian Style Truffled Potato Salad) that is my standard. The simply dressed salad's flavor improves as it sits out and marinates (sitting out on a hot day is not actually the best idea for the American version... I think that has contributed to many tummy aches from my childhood potluck picnic days).


States Coffee + Bread California Wheat Bread

Knäckebröd can be readily picked up at your local IKEA (if you have one), but I would also suggest adding a beautiful dark bread from a local bakery. Any assortment of bread and crackers that lean into whole grain flavors and seeded spices like caraway will round out your Midsummer table. On the crackers front, I definitely give Finn Crisp a shout out as my favorite Scandinavian crackers.


A Kaldtbord, is the Norwegian term for a cold buffet. I am not sure my Norwegian ancestors would be delighted that I am counting the Kaldbord as part of a Smörgåsbord (Swedish)... all the same I would recommend rounding out your midsummer table with an array of cold items: salads, meats, canapes, whatever you like best. For our table I include: Tarragon Pickled Onion Green Bean Salad, Deviled Eggs and radishes with butter and salt (a classic French summertime small bite).


Strawberry Cake. Everyone, in my experience, is on board with this most iconic Midsummer dessert. What's not to love about delicate sponge cake, whipped cream and strawberries!?! Absolutely nothing, it's simple perfection. All the same, if you're interested in mixing it up a bit, my riff on the Jordgubbstårta is my Strawberry Elderflower Crêpes Cake. Notably, crêpes cakes typically contain less sugar than traditional cakes, with a little more layered drama.


One of the things I loved most while working in Sweden was my introduction to the pairing of foods with Aquavit. The array of seed, spice, floral, herbaceous infused spirits was a delight. I brought home a sample pack of 8 from the Stockholm airport and quickly found sourcing anything similar in the US was going to be a challenge, to plain impossible. That said, Aquavit can be found in some places in the US, as well as replicating at home (infused vodka), but I have found that my enthusiasm for it is not universal among dinner guests. It's strong, making it not well suited for the folks not used to drinking spirits straight. I will typically set my midsummer bar with an array of beverage options, but I nod to Aquavit with a Botanical Gin and Elderflower Tonic. In addition, when making the Strawberry Elderflower Crêpes Cake, there is typically a lot of syrup leftover from the macerated strawberries. I use that excess syrup in two additional beverage options.

  • Strawberry-Elderflower Champagne Cocktail: 1/2 ounce liquid from macerated strawberries + 1/2 ounce of Elderflower liqueur topped with sparkling white wine.

  • Strawberry-Elderflower Soda: 1 ounce liquid from macerated strawberries + 1/2 ounce of Elderflower Syrup (this is optional if you cannot find it, just add more strawberry syrup. I find this syrup at my local IKEA and it is also available from Torani)stirred in a glass, add ice, top with soda water and stir.

Skål + Jubel

Cheers! Whether you choose to have a Midsummer dinner party or any other summertime celebration, I hope you found some inspiration for your summertime table from this Midsummer Smörgåsbord menu.

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