March 2011 Archives

Serious Eats: Leek Soup with Lemon and Dill

Phoebe’s favorite spring ingredient takes center stage in this creamy, bright soup accented with lemon and dill. See the recipe here.

Recipe Flash: The Best Seared Radicchio Salad

Last summer, I had a blast cooking up a fresh head of radicchio into these delightfully simple tartines. I photographed them, savored them, blogged about them…and then I failed to have another bite of radicchio for six months.

I love the taste and the texture of radicchio, and I love how it’s as good seared or grilled as it is raw (that’s a versatile lettuce for you!). It was great last summer, but you have to believe me that it’s incredibly satisfying now, when I’m in winter mode–that’s no mood for fresh vegetables at all mode. I make a sweet, thick dressing to balance out the bitterness, and I can’t think of a veggie I’d rather be eating.

From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,



Seared Radicchio Salad
Serves 1 as a main, 2 as a side

Eat this salad with slices of good bread to help sop up the yummy drizzle.

1 small head radicchio
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
about ¼ cup shaved pecorino

Trim the radicchio, removing its outer layer. Cut it in half through the root, then cut each half into 3 wedges. If the root is very big, trim it down on each wedge with a paring knife.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard, honey, a pinch of salt, a good grind of fresh pepper, and the thyme. Stir well with a fork and set aside.

Heat a castiron pan over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, then arrange the wedges in the pan, one of their flat sides down. Cook for about 2 minutes, until quite brown, then flip and cook each wedge on its second flat side for another 1-2 minutes. Remove the radicchio to a plate and sprinkle with salt.

Turn the heat down to low and add the remaining tablespoon olive oil and the garlic. Cook, stirirng constantly, until the garlic is just golden, about 20 seconds. Add the vinegar mixture, stir to distribute, and let it bubble down for about 20 seconds—it will reduce and become syrupy almost immediately.

Remove the pan from the heat and drizzle the dressing over the radiccio. Top with the shaved pecorino and more fresh pepper. Serve immediately.


GQ France: BGSK Pommes de Terres

It looks like our potatoes or “pommes de terres” have made it all the way across the pond! Check out this petite write up in GQ France here.

How To: Master Grains

Without being melodramatic, the ingredient that puts the disaster in most of our kitchen disasters comes from the pantry. Grains, from rice to millet, are some of the most challenging items to cook and serve right. Not only are they prime for over- and under-cooking (or both!), but they can also be somewhat lackluster, wanting for flavor. Still, we like to make them part of our diet, not only because many of them are incredibly healthful, but also since they are truly delicious when we don’t mess them up.

Here are our tips & tricks for getting grains right, which, we’ll have it be known, we more often than not learned the hard way. Practice makes perfect! Tell us about your best tricks–and your worst calamities–in the comments.


2-to-1. When in doubt–and if you’re away from your recipes or have thrown away the packages–you’ll want to use 2 cups of liquid to every 1 cup of grain. This is not a steadfast rule, and it’s usually better to err on the side of more water than less. Whole grains, especially brown rice, are best made in a ratio of 2 1/4-to-1.

Get low, low, low, low, low, low. To make great grains on the stovetop, you’ll want to be sure you’re simmering at the absolutely lowest possible flame. Examine your burners carefully: some stoves have burners that vary in size. The littlest burner will provide you with the least heat–perfect for grain cooking. Cara’s Ikea stove even has an “extra low” setting on one burner which makes cooking grains practically foolproof.

Vary the liquid. Use homemade chicken or veggie stock in place of water in your couscous and rice. This Cinnamon-Scented Rice uses stock, not to mention cinnamon, for added flavor. Coconut milk is also a wonderful flavor-booster; we use it in this Coconut-Vegetable Rice Pilaf with Peppercorns.

Try new grains from the bulk bin. The bulk bins at your local store will often have the largest variety of different grains. Since you can buy in small amounts, it’s a good idea to scoop out only a cup of a new grain the first time. That way, if you detest it, you won’t clutter your pantry with half-used boxes of grains you’ve discovered you hate.

Mix ’em up. By itself, millet is dry, amaranth is gelatinous, and buckwheat can be strong. But substitute one of these for one-eighth or one-quarter of your favorite grain next time you prepare it, and you’ll enjoy the health benefits of these grains without having to force them down your throat.

Sauté. Sauteeing some onions, garlic, or other aromatics in the pot before adding rice or other grains is a lovely way to brighten a dish. Simply coat the pan with oil, cook your vegetables, herbs, or spices until just cooked, then add the rice and cook until it’s coated with oil and slightly opaque. Finally, add the water and proceed as usual. Risottos, by the way, do this step automatically. Check out our favorite risottos here, here, and here.

Bake. Because the oven can distribute heat far more evenly than your burner–extra low or not–baking grains is a brilliant way to streamline your cooking process. Alton Brown popularized this baked brown rice. We go further with flavor and heartiness in this Squash, Leek, & Quinoa Stuffing.

Don’t be afraid to check. For a while, we were convinced that lifting the lid on the rice pot in the middle of cooking would destroy our rice cooking efforts entirely. Sure, you’ll lose a little bit of steam when you do so. But how else will you know if the rice is short on water? It’s best to check your grains once or twice during the cooking process, correcting as necessary–adding more water if need be, or letting some extra water boil off by leaving the lid off for an extra moment.

Steam at the end. Once your grain is basically cooked, turn off the heat and leave the cover on for 5-10 minutes. This will allow the grains to absorb any last traces of liquid, and it’ll turn out the fluffiest grains around.

Love leftovers. Extra grains are great to have around for meals over the course of the week. For breakfast, we make Rice Pudding Cereal; for dinner, Zucchini & Rice Gratin.  Never underestimate the deliciousness of reheated grains mixed with olive oil, parm, salt, and pepper, or doused with a generous serving of BGSK Peanut Sauce and topped with fresh veggies.

Cooking For Others: BGSK’s Spring Break Blowout

EVENT: Spring Break! with BGSK
VENUE: Phoebe’s “Beach Bungalow, “Flatiron
TYPE: Spring Break Buffet
MENU: Fish Tacos; Cilantro-Lime Crema; Cabbage Crunch; Mango Salad; Spicy Black Bean Dip; Mini Pulled Pork Tacos with Fennel Slaw; Tropical Chocolate Bark

With the launch of Small Kitchen College, and students everywhere migrating to tropical locations, we’ve been hankering for a little old-style, cheap-booze kind of fun. We’ve also been doing a lot of party planning for the book, which is now less than two months away, and so to give ourselves a little break (and do a little bit more low-key promotion for the book), we decided to invite over a bunch of editors and bloggers for an at-home Spring Break Bash, BGSK style.

When in doubt, buy bright flowers!

It was a little daunting to invite over so many people whom we know and respect, including one of our all-time favorite bloggers, Cup of Jo. But after Phoebe cleaned her apartment for three hours, set out napkins in every neon color that Party City had to offer, and Cara began mixing these Grapefruit Margaritas in a giant punch bowl, the whole apartment began to look, feel, and smell like Spring Break (minus the wet T-shirt contests).

We cooked up some recipes from the book, including the Fish Taco Buffet, inspired by the Spring Break the two of us spent together in Costa Rica circa 2007, and the dinners we created there in our rented condo’s oven.We also added one of our favorite recipes, Mini Pulled Pork Tacos with Fennel or Red Cabbage Slaw, elegantly tied together with a chive!

But what really brought the whole thing together was the music. Some of it was Bob Marley, some Madonna, but the highlights were thanks to our friend Jennie. Back in 2003, she made us all a Spring Break mix CD after our trip to the Bahamas our senior year in high school. The 50 cent and Britney Spears got everyone in the mood, and the margaritas didn’t hurt either.

From our kitchen, littered with colorful cocktail umbrellas, to yours,



Mini Pulled Pork Tacos with Fennel Slaw
Makes 40-50 tacos

These tacos are great make-ahead finger food. The tortillas hold up fairly well overtime, and rarely get soggy.

2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons white wine or cider vinegar
10 large flour tortillas, cut into 4-inch disks
2 cups pulled pork (recipe follows)
1 large bunch chives (50-60)

Note: you can also use 2 cups of thinly sliced red cabbage in place of the fennel.

Combine the fennel, oil, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and vinegar in a small mixing bowl. Stir to combine.

Arrange the tortilla rounds on a flat work surface. Place 1 tablespoon of pulled pork on each, followed by small forkful of fennel slaw. Carefully tie 1 chive around each tortilla, as you would a ribbon, so the bundle is securely fastened. Repeat with the remaining tacos.

Pulled Pork
Makes 2-3 cups

2.5 pounds pork butt (bone removed)
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried coriander
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch cinnamon
2 teaspoons safflower oil
1/2 small jalepeno pepper, seeds discarded, mince
1 clove garlic, minced
6 cilantro stems, minced
1/2 chipotle pepper from a can of chipotles in adobo, minced, plus 1-2 teaspoons of adobo sauce from the can
3/4 cup good barbecue sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock

Combine the sugar and the 3 tablespooons of kosher salt. Rub all over the pork, then put in a non-reactive bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight (at least 6 hours).

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Combine the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, the chili powder, cumin, coriander, brown sugar, cayenne, and cinnamon. Take the pork out of the fridge and discard the juices. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork.

Line a roasting pan with two layers of foil. Place the pork in the pan and roast for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, basting the butt with the fat from the pan every hour. (Turn your fan on and open your windows: your apartment will smell strongly of pork.) When the pork is very tender and the crust is crispy but not too hard, remove from the oven.

Let the pork cool slightly, then use two forks to shred the meat. If any of the crusty outside is too hard to shred, chop it with a knife. You can make this several days in advance.

To make the sauce, heat the oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro stems, and cook until softened, 2-3 minutes. Add the chipotle and the barbecue sauce and let simmer for a moment. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered, about 10 minutes until the sauce is thickened but not as thick as the original barbecue sauce.

Warm the pork, then add the sauce by the tablespoon until it is sauced to your taste.

Tropical Chocolate Bark
Makes 30-40 pieces of bark

1.5 pounds good-quality milk chocolate
1 1/2 cups mixed dried tropical fruit, such as papaya, pineapple, and mango, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coconut chips
1/2 cup puffed rice cereal
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped salted cashews
4 ounces good-quality white chocolate (should contain cocoa butter)

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 20-second intervals in the microwave. You want it to be just melted—don’t let it bubble or burn. As it’s melting, stir it occasionally with a heatproof spatula.

Remove the chocolate from the microwave or the heat, and add the nuts and cherries or the pretzels and toffee bits. Stir to distribute.

Pour the mixture onto two parchment-lined cookie sheets, and spread it evenly with a spatula. Put the sheets in the freezer and let the bark sit until hardened. This should take about 1 hour. If you don’t have room for both pans in the freezer, place them in the fridge—they will just take a bit longer to harden.

Melt the white chocolate until just melted. Using a fork, flick white chocolate across the surface of the bark as if you’re Jackson Pollack. Return to the freezer to harden.

Using your hands or a knife, break the bark into bite-size pieces. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Great Minds Eat Alike: Kate Jaffe’s BGSK-Inspired Favorites

We started our Great Minds Eat Alike series this fall in order to mix up the usual BGSK offerings with interviews and submissions by cooks and eaters whose mentality towards cooking and eating meshes with ours. Today we bring you a tour through BGSK from Kate Jaffe, a BGSK contributor and fan, who learned how to cook by using the recipes on these pages to motivate her own self-education in the kitchen.

Kate Jaffe was born and raised in Westchester County, NY. She currently works as a teacher in Westchester and lives in NYC. A lifelong food lover and adventurous eater, she really started cooking herself when she began living with her boyfriend. Read on to find out about her journey through small kitchen cooking.



I have always been a reluctant chef. While I have loved eating adventurously my whole life, cooking was not something that came naturally to me. Both my parents and my brother spent most of my childhood cooking interesting, inventive dishes, whereas I preferred to go out to eat at my favorite restaurants. Fast forward to my early twenties and I am now living with my boyfriend on a slightly tighter budget. Going out to dinner is still such a relaxing, enjoyable experience for me. But I realized, budget-wise, that I could not keep doing it multiple times a week. During college I would eat out every night! No more. After watching Barefoot Contessa I learned about Big Girls, Small Kitchen [note from P&C: that’s us!], and had to check it out for myself. Much to my delight, these recipes were geared toward someone just like me: young, working in a small kitchen, and obsessed with food. I started off reading through the current postings and then found myself digging through the archives. I was able to start my cooking during the summer–I am a teacher and am lucky enough to have July and August off.

I couldn’t resist feeding my sweet tooth, so I made the Yellow Butter Raspberry Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream. Since I do not own a Kitchen Aid mixer (yet!) and did not want to lug my mom’s all the way to my apartment, I got out my trusty (and easily tucked away) hand mixer. After mixing the batter, I was able to gently fold in the raspberries by hand, and then I used the mixer again for my delicious icing. The fact that these cupcakes came out a success absolutely boosted my confidence. Even more, my boyfriend was thrilled with the results and began to love me even more. I then moved on to a delicious garlic-infused salad dressing and the Artichokes with Caper-Scallion Mayonnaise.

I decided to take a big cooking break due to a very hard semester at grad school but as soon as winter break started, I got to work on my soups. The Garlic Soup and Green Goddess Soup were such hits in my tiny household and my boyfriend was once again very impressed with my cooking skills. Of course I had to give credit where credit was due and have been explaining my great admiration for the Big Girls, Small Kitchen blog.

A few other favorite recipes I’ve come to love are the “deconstructed” Eggplant Parmesan Rigatoni (a huge win with the boyfriend, who is Italian) and the Sweet and Sour Tofu. The tofu in particular was a big adventure for me since I have never worked with tofu before, but it was such a welcome addition to my diet. I try to be healthy, but tend to veer off course when something is especially tasty. This tofu is delicious, healthy, and easy. (Unfortunately, my boyfriend is not as fond of tofu as I am. I’m sure if he had actually tried the recipe, though, he would have loved it!) Big Girls, Small Kitchen has turned me into a real at home cook and I am so grateful for that. I have been able to slowly discover my style as a chef and have enjoyed experimenting with various recipes. Many cookbooks that I read are geared towards at home cooks with large kitchens and all of the latest appliances. I was so excited to find recipes that could be modified to my kitchen tools and that were made by people my age. My friends and family are totally impressed with my new skills and I look forward to showing them off in a more public setting at my housewarming party when I move to a tiny NYC kitchen soon.

–Kate Jaffe, BGSK Contributor