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.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beauty over Practicality in the Kitchen

I'm really into glass jars these days. I was forced into it, as I'm living with an interior decorator right now who loves everything beautiful and banishes all ugliness (which includes despicable things like plastic tupperware containers and toilet paper holders. She said if she could, she wouldn't even have toilets in her house). I don't have anything against toilets, but I can see her point about the Tupperware. Practical, yes. Aesthetically pleasing, not so much. I had to send The Husband to work last week with a glass jar of oatmeal and strawberries for breakfast. Not the easiest container to carry to work, perhaps, but there was something really nice and old fashioned about it. I've always been a fan of Crate & Barrel's glass storage bowls but now I'm hooked on regular canning jars as well. Try bringing a salad to a BBQ this weekend in a tall glass jar (like the thai chicken salad below that I'm totally in love with right now).

Or at the very least, use a glass jar to make and shake-up your dressing.
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and diced
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp Asian fish sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp sugar or honey
1/4 tsp salt

1 lb. chicken breast
1/2 head napa cabbage (or regular cabbage) sliced into thin strips
3 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds (or grated)
1 cucumber, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint

Whisk dressing ingredients together or put in a glass jar and shake. Saute chicken breasts in a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper, or grill it outside. Let chicken cool and then cut into small, bite-sized pieces. Toss vegetables and herbs together in a large bowl. Add chicken and dressing. Toss well.

This chicken salad is also really good as a sandwich, on a baguette with a little mayo

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fiddlehead Ferns

I've always been a little bit afraid of Fiddlehead Ferns. Being an urban forager who roams through cute gourmet shops is quite a different thing than being a forager forager who actually goes into the woods and picks things. But I've been wanting to cook fiddleheads for years - so when I was hiking near Seattle on Whidbey Island and saw them growing wild, then soon after saw them in a grocery store in Connecticut, I knew it was a sign. Suddenly, Fiddlehead Ferns were showing up everywhere in my life. I had to eat them.

Sold for an affordable $6.99/lb, I bought a half pound plus some angel hair pasta and prosciutto. I still felt a little bit of unease - I'm mean, look at these things in my sink! - but I got passed it when I realized how easy they are to cook. Simply give the ferns a quick swim in boiling water (3 minutes or so) and then saute them into whatever dish you like. The flavor is a lot like asparagus and the texture is similar as well but crunchier.

The recipe below serves 2. The prosciutto can be subbed out for mushrooms. This pasta would be delish with a Sauvignon Blanc or Albarino wine.

Fiddlehead Ferns with Pasta and Prosciutto
1/2 lb. Fiddlehead Ferns
1/3 box of angel hair pasta
6 pieces of prosciutto, sliced thin and torn into shreds by hand
2 Tbsp olive oil
Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino cheese for garnish
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil enough water to cook the pasta. Add Fiddlehead ferns first, boiling for 3 minutes. Remove the ferns from the boiling water and then put in the pasta to cook. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pan. Add ferns and a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute ferns 4-5 minutes, then add prosciutto and another Tbsp olive oil. Turn off the heat, add the cooked noodles and cover the pan. Let sit 1-2 minutes, then serve pasta garnished with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino.
Recipe by Jennifer Meier

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Behold, the Humble Vegetable Peeler

We all have that kitchen utensil that we dread using. It's the one that never works right and causes us to swear and grumble and not have as much fun in the kitchen as we should be having. And yet, we never throw this utensil away. We never buy a new one. For no reason other than human laziness (and sometimes cheap-ness) we just keep using the crappy utensil we hate. In my case, this is a vegetable peeler. The Husband swears that if you press down with one finger and hold it at just the right angle it works just fine. This is also the man, however, who thought the vacuum worked fine even though to make it work he had to push down on the top of it with one foot and hop around the room on the other foot while he vacuumed.

I hate our vegetable peeler. It was not until yesterday however, when I used a friend's OXO Swivel Peeler that I finally saw the light. The peels practically flew off the carrot! I was done peeling in record time! Suddenly, I loved peeling vegetables!

This week, go through your drawers. Take out that peeler or knife or spatula or pan that you've always hated and throw it away without a bit of guilt. Cooking is hard enough without unnecessary irritations slowing us down.