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. 

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