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Juhannus (Midsummer) is one of the biggest celebrations in Finland. It’s a weekend for everyone to clear out of Helsinki and head to summer cottages with family and friends--a chance to relax and enjoy good food and drinks. Thanks to the hospitality of some new friends, this past weekend I headed 80 miles west of Helsinki to celebrate in Hanko, a small city on the southernmost tip of Finland that’s full of extraordinary coastline views.
It’s generally hard to cook gourmet in large quantities, and with more than ten of us staying at the house, I was assuming that the fare was going to be bulk-sized and simple. Thanks to our hosts though, there were some incredible summer dishes that I’d recommend as sides for your next cookout. Some of the highlights were: watermelon with cilantro and crumbled feta, grilled red pepper and zucchini, roasted carrots with goat cheese, smoked salmon with dill and deviled eggs, homemade basil aioli, boiled new potatoes, and a rhubarb pie with foamy vanilla frosting.
And while the food was remarkable, the best part of Juhannus was--to quote the ever-quotable Brian Wilson--the good vibrations that were in the air. With sunlight shinning well into the night, and with bottles of white and red flowing freely around the table, Juhannus was the perfect time to make new friends, catch up with old ones, and appreciate the long summer days in Finland.