Beet hummus stands in for butter in this recipe for smorrebrod, an open faced Scandinavian sandwich on hearty rye bread.
It's no secret that travel is my great passion in life. Exploring new cities, soaking up the culture and sights makes me happy beyond words.Every time we travel somewhere new, I come home feeling intensely inspired. Of course, being the dietitian and food lover that I am, much of that inspiration is in the kitchen.
Traditional diets are endlessly fascinating to me. You can learn so much about a culture from what and how they eat. And from a nutritional standpoint, I realize more and more that embracing traditional diets is the key to health. Around the world, there are areas called blue zones, known for low rates of a specific chronic disease. We can learn a lot about what type of eating pattern and foods protect against chronic disease by looking at what people eat in those areas. Think of the Mediterranean diet, rich in healthy fats that reduce the risk of heart disease. Or the plant-based Japanese diet, linked to low rates of cancer. And then there's the traditional Mexican diet, rich in healthy carbs like corn, squash and beans, which offers protection against diabetes.
Since happiness and wellbeing are the name of my game, I'm particularly interested in cold spots for depression. What does a happy diet look like?
Scandinavia has some of the lowest rates of depression, thanks to a diet rich in fatty fish, whole grains and berries. With the popularity of The New Nordic Diet, some are saying it's poised to be the next Mediterranean diet. I'm all on board with that! Not only is there tons of research showing the Nordic diet promotes weight loss, heart and brain health, but the food is incredible. There's a reason the best restaurant in the world is in Denmark!
Here's a look at the basic tenants of the Nordic diet:
1. Buy local and seasonal produce. The Nordic diet is all about embracing what's fresh and local. Not only is it better for the environment, but fresher produce contains more nutrients.
2. Eat plenty of fatty fish. With plenty of access to fatty, cold water fish, the kind that's richest in omega 3 fats, Scandinavians eat fish almost daily. Salmon is a great choice, but mackerel, herring and sardines are also on the menu. The omega 3s in fatty fish are known to combat depression, anxiety and boost mood.
3. Focus on whole grains. Dense, hearty wholegrain rye bread is a Scandinavian staple. Oats, usually in muesli, and barley, also play a major role in the Nordic diet. High fiber whole grains boost levels of serotonin, a mood boosting hormone.
4. Choose wild game or grassfed options for meat, and eat less of it. While Nordic options like elk and reindeer may be a bit hard to come by, go with what's local to you. Venison, rabbit, and other game meats have higher amounts of omega 3 fats.
5. Include plenty of Nordic staple produce. Berries, dark green leafies, mushrooms, and root vegetables are great choices and local options are available most places.
Smorrebrod, a type of open faced sandwich, is one of the most popular Scandinavian dishes. Traditionally, it's made with buttered rye bread as a base, but when Eat Well, Embrace Life sent me a lifetime two week supply of hummus, including a life changing beet hummus, I decided to swap that for the butter. I'm gonna go ahead and call that a stroke of genius.
Instead of assembling the smorrebrod before serving, I put out the toppings along with a big bowl of toasted sprouted rye bread. It was a lot of fun to get creative with the toppings, although I had a hard time not going overboard with the toppings. Let's just say a few of mine needed a fork and knife!
I think this would be such a fun dish for entertaining. Feel free to go over more all out with the toppings. You could also add sliced cucumber, gravlax, watercress, cheeses, pickles, and sauteed mushrooms to round out the spread even more. Have fun with it!
- Whole grain rye bread, toasted
- Beet hummus
- 1 tin of wild smoked sardines
- 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
- Sauerkraut, preferably fermented
- Thinly sliced red onion
- Thinly sliced radish
- Fresh dill
- Spread a little beet hummus on each slice of bread and top as desired!