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Denmark's Fresh, Simple Cuisine

By Joyce Hendley, "Northern Light," May/June 2008

Discover this country's flavorful, minimalist cuisine.

I used to wonder how such praise could be heaped on lowly potatoes until a few bites of last spring's crop convinced me—in, of all things, a sandwich. Restaurant Ida Davidsen in north-central Copenhagen specializes in smørrebrød—open-faced sandwiches, Danish style. On mine, "asparagus" potatoes (named for their long, slim shape) were layered onto rye bread, then topped with tart apple and thyme-flecked onions. It struck me as a perfect combination of sweet and sour, softness and crunch, and it was just one of dozens of tempting choices I could have made from the 175-plus sandwiches on the menu.

Great bread is the foundation of the centuries-old tradition of smørrebrød. No matter what the size or shape of the bread, whole-grain is the rule rather than the exception, so most Danes get a regular dose of the fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and other nutrients whole grains supply. Though no one knows the origins, smørrebrød ("buttered bread") probably evolved from a custom of using bread rounds as edible plates so that no morsel of food or sauce was wasted. Today it's as much art form as sandwich. The only constant is a single, thin slice of sturdy bread, spread with butter to keep the bread from getting soggy.



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