There’s something about the holidays that brings out “the old country” in some members of Congress. Democrat Lois Capps of Santa Barbara celebrates her Scandinavian heritage on Christmas Eve.
Capps said it was her daughter who first revived the traditional homestyle menu for Christmas eve — meatballs, of course.
"And there is an old tradition of serving lutefisk," said Capps, before adding, "Which is a very yucky fish, in my opinion, the way it’s cured with lye. But it’s the lefse, the bread that goes with it."
Lefse is a flat potato bread that’s a bit of a challenge to make. When Capps and her husband first moved to California, she thought she struck paydirt in a Goleta mini-market.
“They have lefse on the counter by the checkout stand!” she told her husband at the time. But they were actually flour tortillas. (They were in L.A., after all.)
Capps says there is one traditional Scandinavian dish that's easy to make: fruit soup.
"It’s from the Northern European countries where they didn’t have fresh fruit in the winter," Capps explained. "And so you just take a bunch of dried fruit and simmer it for a long time with a little tapioca."
Congresswoman Lois Capps' Scandinavian Dried Fruit Soup
2 1/2 cups of mixed dried fruit, such as apples, apricots, peaches and prunes cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup of raisins or dried cherries
1/2 one lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
1 cinnamon stick (about 3 inches long)
3 1/2 cups of water
2 cups of orange juice
1 1/2 cups of fresh pineapple chunks or 1 1/2 cups of pineapple chunks packed in their own juice, drained
2/3 to 3/4 cup of honey
1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/3 cup of rum or brandy
1 tablespoon of cornstarch blended with 2 tablespoons cold water
vanilla yogurt or sour cream
In a 3-quart pan, combine dried fruit, raisins, lemon slices, cinnamon stick, water and orange juice; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in pineapple, honey, salt (if desired) and rum. Let stand for 10 minutes to blend flavors and let fruit soften. Return pan to heat; then blend cornstarch mixture into soup. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until liquid is bubbly, clear and thickened.
Remove cinnamon stick and lemon slices. Serve soup hot; or cover and refrigerate to serve cold. Top with spoonfuls of yogurt.
Capps also added this postscript:
- Instead of orange juice, substitute grape juice and add 2 or 3 mandarin oranges, sectioned (or a cup of canned) along with the pineapple chunks.
- Instead of cornstarch substitute 4 tablespoons of quick-cooking tapioca which can be mixed in from the start.
This recipe is very flexible. Any combination of dried or fresh fruits may be used. We usually triple the amounts and make it in a 6- or 8-quart kettle. It keeps well in the refrigerator. Toppings can also include whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. We'll be making it this week.