Cooking For Others: 25 Years of Jor, 1 of BGSK

EVENT: Jordana’s 25th Birthday, and the 1-Year BGSK Anniversary
VENUE: Jor’s Parents’ Apartment, Upper West Side
TYPE: Hardy, Asian-Themed Cocktail Buffet
MENU: BBQ Chicken Satays (P); Soy-Sesame Tofu Satays (C); Asian Meatballs with Tomato-Ginger Chutney (P); Manchurian Cauliflower (P); Summer Rolls (C); Peanut Udon Noodles (C); Potato-Pea Masala with Cilantro-Mint Chutney (P); Naan (Local Indian Takeout); Cupcakes Three Ways (C)

Exactly a year ago, as I tried to fit one more piece of Thanksgiving leftover poundcake into my stomach, I got this email (recreated below) on my Blackberry:

From: Phoebe
Date: Fri, Nov 28, 2008 at 4:57 PM
Subject: blog!
To: Cara

send me the recipe for the sweet pea bruschetta and a little “tid bit” and we’ll get this sucker going!!! I’m trying to figure out the software. It won’t let me put up two “About me’s”, one for each of us. So we will just have to figure out one together.

let me know what you think!! was surprised by how nice the format was to begin with. Now we gots to start posting!!!!



Two weeks prior, I had volunteered Phoebe to co-throw a cocktail party for our best friend Jordana’s 24th birthday. After that, we must have been talking about how much we liked cooking and what we should do with that affection, because although I have no gmail evidence of it, I don’t remember being completely aghast when I got the above email from Phoebe. The record is a little hazy. As far as we can piece together, she was talking to her cousin Sarna at her Thanksgiving table about the emptiness of corporate work. Her cousin, ever logical, said, “Well, what would you rather be doing?” Phoebe said, “cooking.” Her cousin answered, ever logical once again: “Well, why don’t you do something about that.” And then the next morning, still full and with food on the brain, she created a Blogger account (which seemed as complicated back then as it does simple now), and sent this email. And the rest is history.

Since Jordana’s party, the subject of our first post ever, would mark the approach of our one-year anniversary, we were keen to prove to ourselves, our friends, and our readers just how far we’ve come. We spent a week rearranging recipes into various permutations, but as soon as we figured out the perfect menu–Asian and Indian, mostly vegetarian–it all seemed to fall into place. A year of working together gave us the intuition to cook on our own on Friday and Saturday. We met in Jor’s parents’ kitchen about 6pm (4:30pm was the intended time, but we were running a little late), put on random old clothes from Jor’s childhood closet, and got to work:

frying the cauliflower,

icing the three kinds of cupcakes,

arranging udon noodles in orange bowls,

warming meatballs and chutney, and
rolling filling into rice-paper for summer rolls (couldn’t have done it without you, Sarah!).

We had just changed into our regular clothes at 8:15 when the first (fashionably late) guests began to arrive. The table was laden with the products of our cooking:

And then there was the birthday girl herself, in a dress of her own design and construction.

You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but she ate most of those bowls of peanut udon noodles.

As we carried out the cupcakes to Jor and sang an off-key rendition of Happy Birthday, we caught each other’s eyes: it was our birthday, too!

From our blog, one year old today, to your kitchen,



Asian Meatballs with Tomato-Ginger Chutney
Makes 50 meatballs

After the success of my birthday meatballs, I felt inclined to put an Asian spin on my winning recipe for Jor’s Indian-esque buffet. In place of basil and parsley, cilantro. Instead of ketchup and Parmesan, red chili paste and ginger.


For the Meatballs:

3 large shallots, minced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1/4 cup
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
3 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp roasted red chili paste*
3 tbsp fresh chopped ginger
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
8 garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1lb ground beef
1lb ground veal
1lb ground pork

Tomato-Ginger Chutney

2 large onions
6 garlic cloves minced
3 tbsp fresh chopped ginger
1 28-ounce can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp roasted red chili paste*
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves

*use 2-3 tbsp of the Thai Kitchen brand. Don’t add as much if using a more authentic brand, since it might be a lot spicier.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs and fold them together thoroughly with your hands.

Roll the meat mixture into 1 ½ inch balls and place them next to each other on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil. They can be fairly close together, as they will not expand like cookies.

Bake them in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until tops have browned and the meatballs are cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or saucepan, sauté the onions until translucent and soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and the ginger and cook for an additional two minutes. Carefully pour in the tomatoes, salt, chili paste, and cumin and stir to combine. Simmer over medium heat for ten minutes, until the mixture has thickened. Add the vinegar and simmer for another few minutes.

Puree the sauce in a food processor or using an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in half the cilantro and use the remaining leaves for garnish.

To serve, place the meatballs in a shallow bowl next to the tomato chutney and some torn naan. Let guests create naan meatball sandwiches, or just use toothpicks for dipping the balls in the chutney.

Udon Noodles with BGSK Peanut Sauce
Serves 30 as an appetizer

These may be our most-requested dish, especially when Jordana is doing the requesting. We have her to thank for the lovely orange and green palette.

You can quarter this recipe to make it for a smaller group–and definitely serve it as a main; don’t reserve it only for cocktail parties!

4 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons chile paste
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter, preferably natural
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 cup water

3 pounds fresh or frozen udon noodles (not the dry, packaged kind)

Chopped scallions (green parts) or julienned cucumbers for serving

Process the ginger and garlic in the food processor until smooth. Add the sugar to help smooth things out. Add the rest of the ingredients, up to the water and process until smooth. Add the water. If your food processor is small, you may have to do this in two batches. Set aside to let the flavors meld, at least an hour, or refrigerate overnight.

When ready to make the noodles, bring an enormous pot of water to the boil. Cook the udon for a few minutes, as per package directions, then drain and add to the peanut sauce, tossing to combine evenly. Serve in small portions, topped with cucumbers or scallions.

You can also make this sauce for plain wheat noodles (e.g. linguine), but you won’t get the sumptuous carbiness of the thick white udon noodles.

Summer Rolls
Makes 30 rolls

30 rice paper wrappers*
1 cup carrots, julienned
1/2 cup mint leaves
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 package rice noodles, soaked in hot water for 5-10 minutes until soft, then drained, tossed with a few teaspoons peanut oil, and cut into smaller pieces
1 small Napa Cabbage
1/3 cup roasted peanuts

*These are different than egg roll or spring roll wrappers, which need to be cooked. Find them cooked or fresh at specialty stores or in Chinatown. If dried, you’ll need to follow the directions on the package, moistening the circles in very warm water before adding the filling and rolling.

Prepare the cabbage: cut the leaves and some of the white stems very fine. Layer in a colander, sprinkling kosher salt over each layer. Leave in the sink or on a plate to drain for 1-2 hours. Rinse, drain, and press out even more moisture by wrapping the cabbage in a dish towel.

Have all the other ingredients prepped and in bowls in front of you.

Prepare a rice paper wrapper as necessary, then add about 2 tablespoons rice noodles and a few carrots. Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of the cabbage, then a few herbs and a few peanuts. Don’t worry as much about neatness as about size: there shouldn’t be more than about 1/4 cup of filling total.

Starting from one side, beginning rolling the filling in tightly, folding the sides in to seal. Arrange the rolls on a platter and serve with nuoc cham dipping sauce (below).

For the Nuoc Cham:

2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon chili paste (or to taste)
2 tablespoons julienned carrots (optional)

Pulse the garlic with the sugar in a food processor. If you don’t have one, mince the garlic, then sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of the sugar and use it to pulverize the garlic while y0u chop.

Add the lime juice and let sit for about half an hour so the garlic can mellow.

Add the remaining ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

Potato-Pea Masala with Cilantro-Mint Chutney
Makes 10 main course servings (roughly a gallon)

3 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb Sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 jalapeños, seeded, coarsely chopped
1 5-inch knob peeled ginger, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves
½ tbsp cumin
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp honey
2 large onions, chopped
2 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen peas
1 cup golden raisins
2/3 cup dried grated unsweetened coconut, toasted
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup chopped cilantro

In a large bowl, cover the potatoes with cold water.

In a small food processor, purée jalapeños, ginger, garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric, ¼ cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup water, honey, and 1 teaspoon salt until smooth. Transfer purée to skillet and cook over medium-high heat until fragrant, about a minute. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, about 8 minutes.

Drain potatoes, then add them to the onion mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are barely tender, about 10 minutes.

Add chickpeas and 1 1/2 cups water. Stir to combine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Cook covered until the potatoes are completely tender and the water is absorbed, about 15 more minutes. Add peas and raisins, and cook until heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, toasted coconut, and cilantro, saving some for garnish.

Cilantro-Mint Chutney
Makes about 2 cups

2 cloves garlics
1 shallot
2 inch knob of ginger, peeled
1/3 cup cashews
1-3 jalapenos, seeded and roughly chopped
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 bunch mint, roughly chopped
1 tbsp honey
Juice from one lemon
1/2 cup golden raisins

In a food processor, pulse the garlic, shallot, ginger, cashews, and jalapenos until minced. Add the herbs, honey, lemon juice and ¼ cup of warm water and puree until smooth. Add the golden raisons and puree again, adding any additional water to thin the mixture to your desired consistency. It should be slightly thinner than a pesto.

Garnish with mint and cilantro leaves, and serve alongside some naan.

Posted in: Cooking for Others
  • Kate

    Congratulations, girls! I love reading the blog and all the amazing ideas it provides. I also can't wait to try those summer rolls, which seem particularly refreshing after Thanksgiving and copious amounts of Thanksgiving leftovers. Congratulations again on such a wonderful first year!

  • Andrea

    Happy Birthday, Phoebe and Cara!
    The photos are gorgeous (Alex), but can't fully capture the incredible warmth and enthusiasm you both exuded at Jor's 25th. You are great friends, great writers and great cooks!!!! Thanks for putting our small kitchen to such good use!
    Andrea and David

  • Jessie

    Ooh, all of this sounds sooo good!! Especially the peanut noodles, a favorite of mine. Happy Blog-iversary, Cara & Phoebe!

    [PS: Jordana's dress is awesome!]

  • shayma

    yay! happy anni! the menu looks wonderful. congratulations cara and phoebe and happy birthday to your friend, Jordan. x

  • Kelsey

    Happy Anniversary and a great story!! We have to meet sometime. Thanksgiving on the Vineyard was fun – but bad weather. Our ferry was canceled early yesterday, had to wait 4 hours for gale force winds to go away and the seas to calm. Hope you had a great tday!

  • Sara Bennett

    Do you have a recipe for the soy/sesame tofu satay?

  • Phoebe and Cara, the Quarter-Life Cooks

    Thanks, everyone, for the congrats!

    Sara–yes, we do, we just haven't quite had the stamina to write up all the dishes yet. We'll post it soon!

  • Phoebe and Cara, the Quarter-Life Cooks

    Sara: Here is the post with a recipe for the tofu skewers. Enjoy!

  • Amanda

    I’m bringing the peanut noodles to a potluck and want to make the noodles and peanut sauce the night before and dress them right before we eat. How can I cook the noodles in advance so that they don’t get stiff, crunchy or dry? And how should they be stored? Thanks!

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