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Swedish Treat

March 15, 2000

This Scandinavian-inspired dinner proved to be a perfect meal for friends. It's not what you would find on most restaurant menus, which may be one reason it had so much appeal. It also has tremendous flavor.

Serve it family-style as I did; this informal service reinforces the warmth of the menu.

Myrna Christopherson's Swedish meatballs are the real thing and absolutely mouthwatering. She makes these meatballs with the lightest coating of gravy, just enough to add more flavor to the noodles, which are tossed with fresh dill. The braised sweet-sour red cabbage adds great vibrancy--in color and taste--to the plate.

The good news is that it can all be done ahead; the meatballs and cabbage have much better flavor when they are reheated.

Mandel is author of "Celebrating the Midwestern Table" (Doubleday & Co., 1996).

Swedish Meatballs With Gravy and Lingonberry Preserves

Active Work Time: 1 hour * Total Preparation Time: 2 hours plus 2 hours chilling

These are also a delicious appetizer; serve in a chafing dish to keep warm. Look for lingonberry preserves at stores that carry Scandinavian and German products.

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs

3/4 cup milk

1 onion, finely chopped

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 pound lean ground beef chuck

1 pound lean ground veal

1/2 pound lean ground pork

1 to 2 tablespoons butter, for browning

1 to 2 tablespoons oil, for browning, plus more for greasing

* Put bread crumbs and milk in large bowl. Stir. Soak 10 minutes. Add onion, eggs, allspice, nutmeg and pepper. Use wooden spoon to combine.

* Break meats into small bits with your hands. Add to bowl. Use wooden spoon to beat until mixture is well-mixed. Shape into 1 1/4-inch balls; handle gently and rinse hands often in water to keep mixture from sticking. (Easiest way to make them is to use small 1 1/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, then gently shape with moistened hands. Alternately, use tablespoon and moistened hands to shape mixture into balls.) Arrange meatballs in single layer on lightly oiled baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

* Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs in batches, without crowding. Cook until browned, shaking pan occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer to wide, shallow, oven-to-table casserole. Repeat with remaining meatballs, adding more butter and oil as needed. Reserve hot skillet, unwashed, for making gravy.


1 onion, sliced

2 1/2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups canned beef consomme

1/2 cup whipping cream


Freshly ground white pepper

Lingonberry preserves, for serving

* Add onion to reserved skillet. Cook over medium heat until softened, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add flour; cook 1 minute. Stir in consomme. Stir until thickened, about 4 minutes. Add cream. Stir until hot. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Strain gravy and pour over meatballs.

* Cover casserole with lid or foil. Bake at 300 degrees, shaking several times to shift meatballs, until just heated through, about 45 minutes. Cool 20 minutes. Use slotted spoon to set meatballs aside; skim fat from gravy. Put meatballs back in gravy. Reheat at 300 degrees until hot, 10 to 20 minutes. (Can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month. Let come to room temperature before reheating. Reheat, covered, in 300-degree oven until hot, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.)

Serve hot, spooned over Dilled Noodles. Pass lingonberry preserves separately.

8 to 10 servings. Each of 10 servings: 294 calories; 288 mg sodium; 128 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 20 grams protein; 0.21 gram fiber.

Dilled Noodles

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes

1 pound egg noodles


3 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Freshly ground white pepper

1/3 cup snipped fresh dill

* Cook noodles according to package directions in boiling salted water. When cooked, reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid; drain noodles. Toss noodles with butter until melted. Add reserved liquid as needed if mixture is too dry. Taste and season with pepper. (Can be cooked in advance and kept at room temperature; gently reheat on stove top or in microwave oven.) Toss in dill. Serve hot.

10 servings. Each serving: 207 calories; 67 mg sodium; 52 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 33 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.18 gram fiber.

Braised Sweet-Sour Red Cabbage

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup chopped onion

1 red cabbage, cored and shredded (6 cups packed)

1 large apple, cored and roughly chopped


3 tablespoons currant jelly

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

* Heat 1 tablespoon butter in 3-quart non-aluminum pot over medium-high heat. Add onion. Cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add cabbage, apple, 1 1/4 cups water, jelly, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil. Stir until well mixed, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until very tender with a slight crunch, about 40 minutes. If mixture is too dry, add more water as needed. Stir in remaining butter. Taste and adjust seasoning, vinegar and sugar. (Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature before reheating. Gently reheat on stove top or in microwave until hot, adding more water if needed. Adjust seasonings.) Serve hot.

8 to 10 servings. Each of 10 servings: 57 calories; 264 mg sodium; 6 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.52 gram fiber.

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