Because a bare cupboard and an empty fridge are sad sights to behold, the Urban Forager hunts through food & wine shops bringing home tasty morsels that make your kitchen table the best place to eat in town.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sea Beans

The sea is indeed a mysterious place. Who knows how many plants and creatures and creatures that look like plants are lurking down there. In a much less mysterious place this week (Whole Foods Market) I discovered a vegetable pulled from the sea called a Sea Bean. Now, I can't guarantee these little sprigs were actually pulled from the sea, but "Farmed in a Salty Marsh on Land Bean" doesn't have the same charm. So lets just believe these were actually plucked from their natural habitat, shall we?
Boil Sea Beans for only 1-3 minutes and whatever you do, don't salt the water - these little guys carry the salt of the sea with them. The flavor is slightly more asparagus than bean-like to me, but there are definite traces of green bean in both the flavor and looks. I think they'd be great served with rice or fish, or tossed with shrimp and tomatoes for a chilled salad. Sea Beans maintain a beautiful bright green color after cooking and would be visually stunning on a dinner table. that I think about it, a chilled glass of sake would perfectly balance the saltiness of the Sea Beans. Why didn't I think of that before I ate them?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pinot Blanc

It’s official. Spring is finally muscling its way in. I know this not because tiny buds are finally visible on the trees, not because I want to burn the sweater that five months ago I adored, and not because there was a brilliant blue swath of sky that mesmerized me on my walk home. I know that spring is here because I suddenly had an overwhelming desire for white wine.
Since starting this blog, I’ve given myself license to fulfill any craving I have at any time and I can’t recommend it enough. Sometimes I let the craving simmer and grow for a few days, but tonight I was all about instant gratification. I detoured into my neighborhood wine shop and left with a bottle of 2005 Kuentz-Bas Pinot Blanc from Alsace. What I didn’t realize until I got home was the name of the importer on the back, Kermit Lynch. I wasn’t surprised - I don’t know who Kermit is, but the guy’s got a good palate (and a great name). Over the years I have found that many of the moderately-priced French wines I enjoy have been imported by his company.
There are many great Pinot Blanc’s from regions in Italy, Germany, Austria, New Zealand and Oregon, but Pinot Blanc is especially known for being grown in Alsace, a region of France bordering mostly Germany and a little bit of Switzerland. Pinot Blanc from Alsace comes in the long, thin, green glass bottle that strikes fear in the heart of many wine buyers.
Repeat after me: tall thin bottle and green glass does not equal sweet wine.
It’s been said that Pinot Blanc can taste like Chardonnay, but frankly, I don’t buy it. To me, Pinot Blanc has a lot more acidity. It makes the back of your mouth sweat. And, it makes the perfect companion for the acidic tang of a fresh goat cheese. The flavor of Pinot Blanc leans towards apples and pears and a little apricot. There is a slight bitterness on the finish – it reminds me of when I was a kid and my mom would make apple pies. She’d peel green apples and I would sit in the kitchen and eat all the discarded peels that had a little bit of fleshy apple still attached to the tart and slightly bitter peel.
The texture is a little fuller-bodied than say, a Sauvignon Blanc. The texture of Sauvignon Blanc is like drinking non-fat milk; The texture of Pinot Blanc is like drinking 2%.
But enough wine lessons for the evening. Happy Spring, everyone.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Monday Blues

I don’t know where you’re living, but yesterday in my neighborhood a few rogue snowflakes dared to fall and today I was wearing a hat and scarf. I’ve been wanting to write about the new foods and trends of Spring, but it’s hard to feel springy when you’re wearing long underwear. A salad drenched in blue cheese dressing may not be everyone’s idea of therapy when they’re feeling blue, but today it worked for me. The best part is that I didn’t eat it as a meal, I snuck it in at 4:00 and then went on to eat dinner a few hours later as if the salad drenched in creamy blue cheese never even happened.
I used Maytag Blue cheese and a recipe printed last week in the New York Times that I have posted below. When you make the salad, be sure to leave mixed baby greens out of it – a creamy dressing like this needs the crunch of Iceberg or Romaine.
If you want a completely different but equally delicious Blue Cheese experience, seek out Great Hill Blue from Massachusetts. This luscious and slightly funky blue is one of the few made with both raw and unhomogenized milk. Raw, meaning the milk is unpasteurized, which some say imparts a stronger and more authentic flavor, and unhomogenized, meaning the lumps of fat are not mixed up and separated, which gives the cheese an especially creamy texture. Next, buy a loaf of bread from your local artisan bakery that contains nuts and fruit (like a walnut raisin loaf). As a rule, I don’t like dried fruit in my bread, but trust me on this one. When you lightly toast the bread and the sweetness of dried fruit and nuts is paired with the salty cheese, you'll be hooked.
Blue Cheese Dressing:
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese 1/2 cup buttermilk 1/2 cup mayonnaise1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk, or to taste1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Mash together cheese and 1 1/2 tablespoons very hot water in small bowl. Cheese should partly melt, but there should be some lumps. Mix in buttermilk, mayonnaise and enough cream or milk to make dressing pourable. Stir in pepper. (printed from NYTimes, April 4, 2007)