This recipe, based on a traditional niçoise salad, conveniently brings all the best of midsummer to the table. All you need is the biggest serving plate you own! For dessert, serve a delicious Finnish traditional strawberry Brita cake, the undisputed queen of summer cakes.
RARELY IS THERE so much dispute about recipes as there is for the niçoise salad. If the purists are to be believed, the original recipe for salade niçoise only contains tomatoes, anchovies and olive oil. But after countless versions by countless cooks, including home cooks, nowadays you can find almost anything in a niçoise salad. The most commonly encountered ingredients are tuna, boiled potatoes and beans, tomatoes, radishes, olives, capers, boiled eggs, cucumber, peppers, spring onions, lettuce, artichokes... the list goes on.
So let the name of this recipe be Midsummer Salad: although it borrows from the classics, it also takes some artistic license. Many of the ingredients in this niçoise salad are automatically suitable for a festive midsummer table. New potatoes, spring onions, dill and cucumbers are at their best, and the tuna in the recipe can be replaced with smoked or grilled whitefish, salmon, perch or Baltic herring.
For a vegetarian salad, just leave out the fish, and for a vegan salad also leave out the boiled eggs and replace the fish with vegan skagen spread, for instance (see recipe at the end of this article).
Brita cake is one of the most popular Finnish summer pastries, and you should dig out the recipe for it in June at the latest. Combining meringue, a sponge cake base and whipped cream, this recipe is surprisingly easy and forgiving. With this recipe you don’t have to worry about a dry or cracked cake base, and the decoration is more relaxed than with a traditional coated cake.
This version is flavored with elderflower juice, which is quite a traditional accompaniment to strawberries in Sweden, the United Kingdom and elsewhere on account of its summery and pleasantly floral flavor.
You can find elderflower juice concentrate at least in the bigger supermarkets. And you can also add it to summer cocktails: it’s a great pairing with mint and cucumber in a traditional gin smash drink. The drink can also be made non-alcoholic by simply omitting the gin or choosing an alcohol-free brand.
Ingredients for four servings:
400 g new potatoes
250 g green beans
1 bunch of radishes
70 g olives
1 bunch of spring onions
dill, parsley or basil
400 g fish (canned wild fish, whitefish, salmon, perch, Baltic herring, etc.)
150 ml olive oil
50–100 ml white wine vinegar
1 tbsp mustard
2 tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper
Do as follows:
Boil the potatoes and eggs until cooked. Boil the beans and drain them. Remove the stems and tops from the radishes and cut them in half. Slice the cucumber and the spring onions. Mix together all the ingredients of the sauce.
Arrange the salad ingredients in groups on a large, flat serving dish. Sprinkle with a generous amount of fresh dill, parsley or basil, and salt and black pepper to taste. The salad dressing can be portioned on the plate to taste.
Strawberry and blackcurrant Brita cake
Ingredients for four to six servings:
4 egg whites
170 g sugar
150 g butter
130 g sugar
4 egg yolks
130 g wheat flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla sugar
100 ml milk
50 gr almond flakes
1 liter of strawberries (about 800 g)
300 ml whipping cream
250 g unflavored cream cheese
100 ml elderflower juice concentrate
30–60 g powdered sugar
Do as follows:
Set the oven to 175 °C. Separate the egg yolks and whites into two medium-sized bowls. First, whip the egg whites until stiff, gradually adding the sugar to the foam. The meringue is ready when it is hard and shiny and stays in the bowl when turned upside down. Then beat the butter and sugar in another bowl until pale and fluffy (there’s no need to wash the whisks first after making the meringue). Add the egg yolks one at a time to the creamed butter, beating well in between each addition. Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Mix them into the cake batter alternately with the milk.
Use a scraper to spread the batter on a baking sheet covered with baking paper into an even rectangular base. Gently spread the meringue over the batter, but do not mix them together. Sprinkle almond flakes on top of the meringue. Bake the cake base on the lower shelf in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the meringue has taken on some color. Allow to cool and cut lengthwise horizontally in half.
Having removed the stalks, cut the strawberries in half. Whip the cream to a foam, then soften the cream cheese and stir it into the cream. Add the undiluted elderflower juice concentrate and powdered sugar to the cream and cream cheese mixture. Put one half of the cake base onto a serving dish and spread half of the cream mixture and strawberries on top. Place the other half on top of this, and spread the rest of the whipped cream and cream cheese mixture and strawberries on top. Decorate with fresh edible flowers if desired. Serve immediately.
Elderflower gin smash
Ingredients for one serving:
3–4 cucumber slices
1 sugar cube
1 sprig of mint (Moroccan mint, not spearmint)
1 tbsp elderflower juice concentrate
1 tbsp lime juice
40 ml gin
ice and sparkling water
Do as follows:
Place the sugar cube, cucumber slices and mint in the glass. Grind them up. Add lots of ice and the gin and juice. Stir and add sparkling water to taste.
Vegan skagen spread
New potatoes, dill and vegan skagen. Vegan skagen is made by grating smoked tofu in a bowl and adding 3 tablespoons of vegan mayonnaise, 1 container of vegan oatmeal crème fraîche, 1/2 finely chopped red onion, plenty of fresh dill, the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, and a generous sprinkling of salt and black pepper. And since it’s Midsummer, the skagen is of course crowned with seaweed “caviar”.
Design Stories contributor Suvi Kesäläinen is a photographer, who loves to create dishes that are not only delicious but also fast and easy to make. She’s passionate about the best seasonal ingredients, local food and intriguing culinary trends.
Text and photos: Suvi Kesäläinen