Create: Things in batches

limoncello/ good house guest

Exchanging a dozen of your fresh eggs for a jar of your neighbor’s honey was once standard practice in small towns and rural communities. This friendly and practical barter of goods is now experiencing a revival in cities across the country by like-minded food enthusiasts through highly organized food swaps. BK Swappers, founded in 2010, is one such group that my dear friend and fearless-home-cook, Jane Lerner is behind.


I got in on the action last month, and discovered how this pantry-stocking-swap works. First, you have to show up with something to trade, and everyone brings up to 10 jars, bags, bottles or tins of whatever they’ve preserved, pickled, baked or stirred up. This being my first swap, I went with a safe bet and just made a giant batch of spiced nuts. However, this event is not for those shy around the kitchen – there was kimchi stuffed sausage, Meyer lemon limoncello and orange bitters in amber-hued tincture bottles, to name a few items.


Everyone snags a space to display their wares. They also fill out a swap sheet with a description of their goodies, and then others can write in a proposed trade for your treat (for example: My jar of Sichuan chili pepper oil for your bacon-infused vodka). Trick of the trade: having a little tasting sample set out to entice fellow swappers.


It’s a very social affair. In addition to all the nibbles on the swap table, people bring pot-luck style dishes to share, and one swapper had even set up a knife-sharpening station. Just as if you were at the most delicious (and ambitious) cocktail party ever, folks stand around chatting and clinking beer bottles in-between bites of lavender shortbread or a scoop of pepper-infused jelly. All is casual and friendly… until the call to swap.

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This is where things get serious, and a bit hectic. Seasoned swappers circulate quickly to pounce on those chocolate-covered pretzels or tangy pickled Brussels sprouts they’ve been eyeing. The uninitiated (ok, me) hung back and tried their luck after the initial rush. No matter your swap style though, no one walks away empty-handed or without something new and different to try. After all, who couldn’t use a jar of peppery giardiniera or homemade butternut squash butter?

Does your pantry need a spring re-stock? The next BK Swappers event is Thursday, April 24 at the West in Williamsburg. Spaces can be reserved starting this Friday, April 4. Join their mailing list for the full scoop. Happy swapping!

Gift: Post-feast treats

Last year, a friend who had hosted a giant Thanksgiving dinner tipped me off to the most thoughtful hostess gift: breakfast for the next morning. As a host, what could be better following the days of cooking and hours of cleaning involved in these epic holiday feasts than having someone else plan a meal for you?

And as a guest, it’s pretty simple to pick up a dozen bagels, bake muffins, make a quiche, whip up a batch of Jane Lerner’s granola or, if staying overnight, wake the house up with a pan of Adam Miller’s chilaquiles. You will surely score yourself a return invite every holiday. And that’s certainly something to be grateful for. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Pass the stuffing… tip the turkey to me… and wishing heaping helpings of love and gratitude to all.

Create: Best.Granola.Ever.

Guest post by Jane Lerner

Big day here on Good House Guest: our second guest post comes from the very first rate Jane Lerner. In addition to being a top-notch writer and editor, Jane throws an excellent party, always suggests just the right restaurant and is the woman to call about a food adventure. Plus, she shows up with treats from one of her favorite neighborhood spots or her magic kitchen. Jane’s granola recipe is a secret I’ve been after for awhile now, so I’m thrilled she is sharing it with GHG. Thank you Jane! Connect with Jane on Twitter and be sure to check out her gorgeous new website. You’ll love Jane as much as her granola.

I host a lot of house guests. There was one stretch in late 2010 where 14 different sets of guests stayed in my apartment over a four-month period. Granted, I have a spacious three-bedroom apartment in a popular part of Brooklyn, and when I moved in I extended an open invitation to all of my friends. Problem is, everyone took me up on it.

I love having guests in theory, but I have learned—the hard way—that I contain a finite amount of hospitality. My sincerest apologies to those friends who stayed with me when I was at the end of my gracious-host rope. At the conclusion of that 14-guest run I was ready to relocate to a 300-square-foot studio just to discourage anyone else who might want to visit. Luckily my friends are wonderful people, most of them with good manners and a real consideration for the fact that staying in someone’s home means that a gift is in order. I’ve received a colorful cutting board, a gigantic jar of local honey and an array of specialty foods from the gourmet shop down the street, but truth be told the best present is a guest who does the dishes, is fun to hang out with and doesn’t burn the house down (yes, a few folks have introduced fire into the equation).

Homemade gifts are especially sweet, and if you’d really like to warm the hearts of your hosts, may I recommend whipping up a batch of granola to present as a pre–thank to get in good graces the minute you step over the threshold. This granola is a mishmash of a few recipes I’ve tried over the years, and I think I’ve hit upon the perfect version. As a friend recently emailed, after sampling a batch of the stuff: “Your granola game is tight. Best I have ever eaten!” Package it in a large Mason jar and add a little tag that says, “THANK YOU!” I guarantee that no one will complain about you on Good House Guest ever again.

GHG Granola

3 cups rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tsp Maldon salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup dried unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup French coconut cubes (optional, as they are only available at Fairway)
1 cup golden raisins and diced dried apricot

Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, cardamom, salt, olive oil and maple syrup. The mixture should be well coated but not super wet. Spread evenly on two large baking sheets, put in oven and bake for 20 minutes until the mixture is a toasty light brown, stirring two or three times. Add in the coconut flakes and coconut cubes. Bake for 15 minutes more, stirring once or twice. The granola should be a dark golden brown—monitor it closely to avoid burning.

Remove pans from oven and let cool on racks. Stir in dried fruit. Transfer to a few large Mason jars and give away as gifts.

Adapted from/inspired by published recipes from Mark Bittman and Early Bird Granola.