“Congratulations to Ingebretsen’s on 100 years of incredible education, outreach, and dedication to your community. Skål from your friends at The Norwegian Restaurant in Rockford, Illinois!” And as an anniversary present, The Norwegian has shared their recipe for Scandinavian marinated beet salad with blue cheese. (A printable .pdf version of the recipe is at the end of this post.)
The joyful greeting is from Emily Hurd-Christensen, co-owner of The Norwegian. The Norwegian serves as a gathering place for Nordic cuisine and live music in north central Illinois. We first learned about the restaurant in 2018 when Emily contacted Ingebretsen’s to arrange for a private lefse class for her chef and herself. Our lefse teacher, Heidi Eger, was pleased to share her grandmother’s trusty recipe and her favorite tips. During the time together, we learned more about Emily’s journey towards opening a restaurant and live music venue. It was a challenging journey and we were glad that Ingebretsen’s could play a role in helping her accomplish her goal.
Reviving Nordic roots in northern Illinois
Rockford has deep Scandinavian roots. It’s roughly 45 minutes northwest of where Cleng Peerson led a group of Norwegian immigrants to the Fox River Valley. Swedish immigrants left a powerful imprint on the city, founding hospitals, colleges, banks, and cultural institutions. Emily’s grandmother kept Swedish traditions alive in the home and she remembers her grandmother’s aesthetic of using natural items to set the table and decorate her river cabin. (Though Emily’s roots are Swedish, the restaurant is named in honor of her husband, who is the Norwegian.)
Emily was enjoying a successful music career in Chicago when her father died suddenly. After moving back to Rockford to be close to family, she decided to open a restaurant. She wanted to help revive a truly distressed neighborhood in a city that has seen some bad times in the last 50 years.
Emily bought a massive and once-grand building and began restoring it. No remodeling project ever goes smoothly. Although many people pitched in to help make her idea a reality, the discovery of asbestos brought work to a halt. A Kickstarter campaign raised the necessary funds for safe removal and allowed progress on the restaurant to continue. Fast forward four years and The Norwegian is kicking out great Nordic recipes, lots of lefse, and has become a focal point for the neighborhood. If you are in the Rockford area, be sure to take time to visit.
A make-ahead recipe with elegant results
Emily’s anniversary present to Ingebretsen’s is the recipe for The Norwegian Beet Salad, an elegant version of a Scandinavian staple. She has included some trimmings that are less traditional, but truly complement the rich flavor of the marinated, roasted beets. Don’t be scared by the number of steps.
This recipe can be completed in stages. Give yourself a couple of days to marinate and roast the beets. On another day, make the dressing an
d put it in the refrigerator. Set out the trimmings when you are ready to serve the salad. Composed salads are showstoppers and this one will earn you compliments at family gatherings and potlucks.
At the end of the recipe, you will notice an optional drizzle of pomegranate molasses. If you are not familiar with this ingredient, it is pomegranate juice that has been cooked down and concentrated. It is tart and should be used with the same judicious hand that you would use with balsamic vinegar. The Dark Tickle Cloudberry Sauce is another option, punching up the salad with the tart, familiar taste of cloudberries.
The Norwegian Beet Salad
2 1/2 C olive oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 C 100% orange juice
1/4 C maple syrup
1 T mustard
8 C organic mixed greens
Kosher salt & pepper to taste. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Clean beets in water; remove any dirt. Place beets in roasting pan. Drizzle with 1/2 C olive oil. Add sprigs of thyme & 2 cloves garlic to pan. Wrap pan tightly with tin foil & bake for about 90 minutes, or until a knife easily slides
through the beets. Cool slightly.
Toss organic greens with one cup of dressing, then divide greens between 8 plates. Arrange beets on greens, then top with cheese, nuts, onion, pomegranate molasses, and a little kosher salt. Serve immediately.
Var så god!