Monday, January 16, 2012

Profile of BK Swapper Jane Lerner + Cabbage Coconut-Milk Slaw recipe

Jane & I sharing lunch @ MoMA, NY circa 2007
I am so happy to have my first swapper blog profile feature the fabulous Miss Jane Lerner. Not only is she a longtime close friend, she is also the co-host of BK Swappers and our inspiration for starting SF Swappers. Add to the list an amazing cook, an incredible New York host, fellow food adventurer and excellent writer. I love the detail she answers these questions with — at once personal and informative, and also very fun. I only hope to be with her on the last day on Earth so we can eat everything on her below list together...

Name: Jane Lerner (@janelerner)
Home (+ hometown swap): Brooklyn, NY / BK Swappers
Profession: Writer and editor
How did you first get involved in food swapping? How long ago? My involvement with the swap is all because of Twitter! After being on Twitter for a few years, in early 2010 I started corresponding with Kate Payne (@hipgirls) who invited me to the very first swap that she was hosting with Megan Paska (@bkhomesteader). The 20-person event was held in Kate's home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and I got to meet a number of people I knew online but whom I'd never met in person. Several months and a few swaps later, Kate moved to Austin, Texas, and asked me take over the co-organizing duties. Meg and I now share the responsibility to keep BK Swappers happening.
Jane's famed gravlax for the swap potluck
What did you make for the last food swap and what inspired your choice?: For the last swap (November 20, 2011) I brought three jars of salted-caramel-rum sauce; two bottles of Spanish olive oil steeped with whole chilies, cardamom pods, mustard seeds, star anise, coriander seeds and Sichuan peppercorns; and three containers of an Indonesian-style lime and tamarind dipping sauce/marinade. No direct inspiration there, though I am always looking at my cookbooks to find good swappable recipes and I keep a running list of ideas. I'm not much of a proper canner (I'm still not confident that I won't poison other swappers with botulism), so that informs what I make, for sure.
What’s your favorite thing about swapping? I love coming home with an amazing bounty, and having these goodies in my fridge for weeks. It makes me so happy every time I use something I scored at the swap. Plus, I have tons of love for the swappers who come to our events—everyone is so appreciative and nice, and I've made many new friends.
Recent BK Swappers haul
Who or what most influences your cooking? I think about eating, cooking and entertaining so much that virtually everything influences my ideas on the topic. Living in NYC I eat out a lot, and am always trying new things—every meal feels like an opportunity here and I try not to squander it.
What’s your favorite kitchen tool? A perfectly sharp knife. Or the gorgeous, bright-yellow enamel Dutch oven I inherited from my mom.
Your current flavor or ingredient obsession? Coconut milk. I made coconut milk-chocolate pudding last week. And I can't stop making rice with a can of coconut milk in place of half the water—I top it with a fried egg, crispy shallots, cilantro and a huge spoonful of sambal oelek. I also have a thing lately for toasted coriander seeds.
Swap sheet for Salted Caramel Rum Sauce!
Biggest food surprise? That food would become the focus of my career to the extent that it has. I never expected to be in the food world professionally, nor thought that I would derive such pleasure and happiness from preparing food for my friends and family.
If the Rapture came tomorrow, what would your last meal on earth be? I'm taking a whole day, sorry. For breakfast, smoked-meat hash and a lox and bagel sandwich from Mile End in Brooklyn, along with a giant bowl of fresh-picked raspberries, blackberries and hunks of perfectly ripe papaya; Xi'an Famous Foods' cumin lamb noodles and Momofuku pork buns for lunch, along with a salad from Ti Couz in San Francisco circa 1996 (while I'm in SF I'll take an El Farolito carne asada super burrito too); for dinner I'll party hop between Per Se (wines, caviar, impeccable vegetables), Minetta Tavern (duck-fat potatoes, maybe a steak) and the mei goreng I had standing on a street-corner in Bali 17 years ago. Then I'd make a piece of home-baked sourdough toast, spread it thick with two tablespoons of soft butter, eat it, and die.
Favorite local food experience: Walking up and down my very own street—Court Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn—and saying hello to the local shopkeepers, buying the specialty of the house at each place. There's the best mozzarella at Caputo's, homemade soppresata at Esposito's, renowned sandwiches and ridiculous pastries at Court Street Grocers, Frankies' meatballs and pretzel baguettes at Prime Meats Deli, killer coffee at Black Gold, all served by my neighbors and friends. It makes me happy.
Recipe by Jane: 
Cabbage Coconut-Milk Slaw
1 small head of Napa cabbage, thinly sliced (you can throw in a bit of red cabbage too, if you like)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, grated
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large bunch cilantro, chopped
1 small jalapeño, chopped fine
1 can coconut milk
juice of 2 limes
salt to taste
Mix together the vegetables, cilantro and, jalapeño in a large bowl. Shake the can of coconut milk before opening, and pour the can into the bowl. Add in the lime juice and salt to taste, mix thoroughly. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving; the cabbage will soften and the flavors will come together as it sits. Serves 8-10, if not more. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Holiday Swap Recap

Festive swap decor (thanks Patricia!)
For me the December food swap was truly like the kick-off to the holidays. And it delivered some serious good times and cheer! Plus with everyone's delightfully decorated and presented goodies, it was even more than usual like taking home a storeful of presents.

Held once again at the lovely Patricia's Foodscaping space, we had both a great turnout and excellent diversity of foods.

The potluck tables quickly separated themselves into the sweet and savory categories, with lots of holiday cookies, breads and candies on the former and everything from lasagna to kale chips to fresh salsa and bean spread on the latter.

Talkin' swap
The swap tables filled up with a mouth-watering array too, which everyone ogled and sampled while sipping wine and chatting.

Here's the complete list:

Vanilla extract, pie dough, simple syrups, LOTS of yummy spiced nuts and mulling/toddy spices, lavender facial scrub, Christmas matzo, pulled pork, fresh salsa, marinara pasta sauce, vareniki (Ukranian dumplings), roasted red peppers, mini lentil pies and mini pumpkin pies, assorted preserves, cordials and mustards, fresh sushi, gingerbread bundt cakes, beef jerky, dried persimmons, spicy candied ginger, togarashisalty sweet granola, flavored salts, Earth food nuggets, arugula pesto, pickled green tomatoes and pickled ginger, Meyer lemons, herbs and greens from the garden, and whew, ...did I miss anything?

Vanilla extract & lavender facial scrub by Cathy

Preserves & pickled green tomatoes by Robin

Pie dough, spiced walnuts & ginger simple syrup by Christina

Arugula pesto by Stephanie

Spiced nuts & red hot toddy spices by Jaemin

Fresh marinara sauce, salsa and pulled pork by Herb

Mulling spices by Jaemin

Spiced nuts by Shannon

Gingerbread bundts by Seri

Cordials & lemoncello by Kari

Sushi by Toshi

Earth Food Nuggets by Jessica

Vareniki (Ukranian dumplings) by Olga

Roasted red peppers by Jim

Pickled ginger by me

Host Patricia with garden fresh produce & pies

While some of the fresh stuff got devoured immediately (meaning as early as later that evening), I've also still been enjoying lots of stuff into the new year. For example the remnant roasted red pepper oil, garlic and spices became a great salad dressing base the other evening, I've been using a dash of the ginger simple syrup in bubbly water to wean myself off the holiday cocktail over indulgences, and may I recommend the candied ginger in oatmeal, cooked with raisins, and topped with a small pat of butter and some maple syrup? I'd love to hear some of the creations you've all made, so please comment below or share recipes etc. with everyone on Facebook.

I have even turned some of the swap goods into my own preserved items, like Meyer lemon curd, dried lemon verbena tea and tarragon pickled eggs {stay tuned for those write-ups soon}, so the food swap really is the gift that keeps on giving.

The next swap will be held in mid to late February, we'll announce the date the week of January 23rd, so stay tuned.

Swap on!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cookbook Review: Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon

I have been meaning to read Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It for quite some time now. In fact, food swap co-founder Stephanie and I reached out to author Karen Solomon when we were first getting started with the food swap since among many other things, she hosts the popular Jam It! Salon at 18 Reasons. She was super supportive of our endeavor, offering tips, insights and introductions where needed, as well as plugging the swap events themselves to her community and followers.

These days I am trying to seriously limit the number of books I buy, but I swear I think this book must be permanently checked out of the Mission Branch Public Library because I frequently troll the cookbook section there and never see it. But today was different. When I spied the book on the shelf, my heart leapt a bit and I eagerly grabbed it.

Grab this book now!
Once home, I immediately sat down on the back porch in the sun and read the entire thing, cover-to-cover.

Totally accessible and designed to make seemingly daunting and difficult cooking projects very simple, this book is written for regular folks  but not excluding accomplished chefs  who want to try their hand at making everything from their own condiments (ketchup to compound butter), to smoking fish and meat, making fresh pasta, candy and so much more. The recipe language is easy to follow and she clearly lays out how much time you'll need, materials as well as ingredients, storage tips and flavor variations. I also like how she gives you quantities for both dry and canned versions of ingredients like beans. The photos are both instructional and beautiful...truly it made me want to hit the kitchen and start making stuff right now.

TOC teaser
But where to start? Well I am definitely going to make the Oregano & Cumin Dressing with the bunch of fresh oregano I have. That plus the head of cabbage in the fridge will be the makings of a tasty slaw!

I am also excited to make ravioli, crackers, hot sauce, salt cod, beef jerky, yogurt cheese and Arnold Palmer Pops (heck, it is pleasant 65° out today).

And, I've got my eye on something in here for the next food swap too, but you'll just have to wait and see what it is.

Of course I recommend you get this book yourself  even if just from the librarybut in the meantime you can also score a few free recipes from Karen's website.

As noted above, while I've met and semi-regularly interact with Karen in the social media space around food swapping, preserving and more, this has in no way influenced my assessment of this most excellent cookbook. I've already put in a reserve request for her latest cookbook as well: Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It. Yay!

Happy New Year of cooking everyone - there's lots to look forward to...