March 2011 Archives

Roasted Beet Salad with Ricotta Salata and Pistachios

Check out our Slightly Springy Dinner Menu for more post-Feb, pre-April fare.

Last weekend, it almost felt like spring. The sun was out, people were frolicking in t-shirts, and the farmers’ market was packed. During the winter months, the stalls can get a little depressing. Come March, I’ve just about memorized every obscure variety of fingerling potato. And though I am a sucker for free samples, if I eat another gala apple sliver, I might be over apples for good. But despite the fact that tulip and hydrangea bouquets were at every other stall, spring veggies had yet to make their triumphant comeback.

Last year, I created this winter to spring pantry pasta to get me through the last cold weeks of March. This year, I made this roasted beet salad—a dish that goes out to all my homies out there who are sick of soup for lunch and, now that St. Patty’s day is over, can’t stand to stare down another potato. Though beets are large and in charge during winter, there is something about this un-self-consciously simple salad that makes it just the perfect dish to ease us into spring.

From my kitchen, ready for spring break, to yours,



Roasted Beet Salad with Ricotta Salata and Pistachios
Makes 2 side servings

There are only a few ingredients in this salad, so make sure all of them are good quality!

4 large beets (about 1 ¼ pounds), stalks and greens trimmed
1/3 pound ricotta salata, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 tablespoons shelled pistachios
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Roast the beets. Follow our Prep School instructions here. Once the beets have cooled, and you’ve removed the skins, cut them into 1/4 inch thick wedges and set aside in a medium mixing bowl.

Toss the beets with the lemon juice and olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cheese and pistachios over the dressed beets. Serve the beet salad atop a bed of arugula or mixed greens for a main course salad, or alongside a simple chicken breast, tofu, or polenta steak for a well-balanced dinner.

How To: Be a Potluck Party All-Star

We’ve been huge fans of a good potluck long before we became the bloggers of Big Girls, Small Kitchen. As you’ll read in The Book, we grew up amongst a group of girls who just plain loved to cook–and who had tastes that were wise beyond their (our) years. At least once a month, we would gather at one of our parents’ dining room tables and feast. There were some especially memorable potlucks during college, when we’d come together over thanksgiving break and pass around a token after we were done eating. When you were holding the token, you had to spill everything about your college life, from classes to travel to guys.

Now, of course, we have Magazine Club, as well as potlucks with that same group of high school girls. We’ve opined before about how great potlucks are, how as the host you don’t have to do everything and as the guest you get to participate. Whether you’re invited to a potluck or you’re hosting one, here are some tips to make sure the food is awesome, the conversation is inappropriate and loud, and the mess is not overwhelming.

**Tips and Tricks**

Invite a Crowd. Because you’re not responsible for the monetary and time expenditures of a regular dinner party, invite lots of people. Potlucks are an awesome time to mix groups of friends, or to introduce someone new to the crowd. As at Make-Your-Own-Pizza Parties, food is an essential part of the discussion, and that makes breaking the ice easy.

Use Paper! Potlucks are parties, and when we host big parties, we like to use paper plates. This way, everyone can share in the very short clean up. We’ll usually use a couple real forks, spoons, and knifes for serving. Plates, as well as cups, forks, and knives, are a good thing to ask one of the potluck guests to bring–a good job for a non cook.

Bring a Vegetable. Especially if you’re potlucking with a group of ladies, everyone will be happy to see one more plate-filling, but not stomach-expanding veggie. Many will err on the side of carbs, since they’re easy to make and transport, but it’s the veggies that tend to be gone at the end of our potluck parties. Salads that improve with time are the best choice. Try these String Beans with Mustard Dressing or Fennel-Cabbage Slaw.

Drink Up. This depends a lot on the type of party you’re hosting, but it’s best to split the booze duties amongst a few. If you’re having a brunch, delegate sparkling wine to some and OJ to others; the result is potluck mimosas. For dinner, you can simply ask a couple friends to bring wine, or you can make a potluck cocktail that can be assembled on the spot: Sangria, dark & stormies, etc.

Divide and Conquer. Though it’s sometimes nice to have a potluck be a free for all, where everyone brings what he or she wants to, you can create a more refined menu when tasks are assigned. (Unless it’s Mag Club, where we have ESP.) Ask one person to bring hummus or another caprese skewers for appetizers. For the main course, you’ll want to have at least one pasta or grain salad, plus a dressed-up green salad, like this Colorful Southwestern Salad. One or two people can bring roasted vegetables, which taste awesome and travel well: try Cumin-Roasted Cauliflower, Parmesan-Roasted Potatoes and Squash, Roasted Asparagus with Lemon, or Roasted Fennel. Have one guest make something heartier, as long as there’s an oven to warm it up–a casserole or a Chicken Pot Pie.  And don’t forget to make sure someone arrives with dessert! Cookies or brownies are key, and cupcakes are always winners.

Make It There. If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to cook something in advance, pick up a some ingredients, arrive a few minutes early, and whip something up on the host’s countertop. Guacamole is a favorite–you can enlist another guest to help you chop. Mexican Dip is another winner–just stop by a grocery store on the way over, and assemble and bake it on site. At the very least, buy good cheese and crackers.

Get Inspired. Whatever your potluck go-to is, branch out from it every so often. Check out our full index of potluck favorites here.

Cooking For Others: Elyssa’s Individual Huevos Rancheros

For tips and tricks on how to host the perfect brunch, see our handy dandy brunch guide.

EVENT: Elyssa’s 26th Birthday Brunch
VENUE: Elyssa’s Apartment, West Villge
PARTY SIZE: 24 girls, 1 boy
TYPE: BFF-BGSK Catered Brunch Buffet
MENU: Individual Huevos Rancheros with Chipotle Black Beans and Creamy Avocado; Baked French Toast with Blueberry Compote; Fruit Platter; Assorted Bread Basket with Raspberry Butter; Moosetracks Cupcakes

One of the downsides of catering is that it’s cooking for strangers, and we really love cooking for people we know (and love). So it’s always a treat when our client is actually one of our best friends. Last year, Sarah asked us to cater her 25th birthday party, which meant we acted as both chefs and guests. While this is certainly more fun for us than hiding in the kitchen, it brought on another set of contingencies: the food needed to be room temperature and made in advance so we only had to replenish once or twice during the party. And there needed to be a lot of it.

Recently, Cara’s camp friend Elyssa asked us to cater a brunch for her 26th birthday on a Sunday afternoon. There’s nothing we love more than hosting brunch parties. But breakfast food presents a few more challenges when it comes to making everything ahead of time, and you certainly would never want your eggs room temperature.

Our solution for Elyssa’s was to create two large assorted platters to tide the crowd over while we finished cooking, assembling, and plating the hot brunch entrees. One included a beautiful and colorful variety of sliced fruit, which Cara had the task of prepping, since Phoebe doesn’t endorse this food group. (More on affordable fruit plates soon.) The second was a platter of assorted breads: brioche rolls, baguettes, raisin-walnut loaves, and Cara’s freshly baked biscuits with a side of raspberry butter.

There was also Baked French Toast with Blueberry Compote, a recipe Cara made from our book. This was easier to time, since it simply sits in the oven til guests are ready. More difficult: the platter of individual huevos rancheros. Usually our make-ahead egg dish of choice is a savory strata. For the huevos rancheros, we went stove-top. Phoebe is a pro at scrambling big batches of eggs for a crowd, and finds it fairly low-stress, as the act of scrambling can easily be executed with a mimosa in hand. The chipotle black beans were made the night before, and the creamy avocado—basically a no fuss guacamole—is no more work than mashing avocados and dousing them with a lot of lime juice so they don’t get brown. The main portion of the labor was in the assembly, and if you have a few friends on hand (or just one member of BGSK), that too is a breeze.

As at Sarah’s, we set up the buffet and then grabbed a plate, gabbed with Elyssa and our other besties, and settled in to a perfect Sunday afternoon, highlighted by the arrival of Elyssa’s brother, the only boy at the ladies’ lunch.

From our kitchen, albeit small, to yours,



Individual Huevos Rancheros with Chipotle Black Beans and Creamy Avocado
Makes 24 servings

Three 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 chipotle chile pepper*, minced
1 tablespoon adobo sauce*
½ teaspoon cumin
Cayenne pepper to taste

6 avocados
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 limes
¼ teaspoon salt

2 dozen eggs
1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
24 small flour tortillas
cilantro (for garnish, optional)

*From a can of chipotle in adobo sauce

Make the beans: Combine the beans, chipotle, adobo sauce, and cumin in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook slowly, covered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are warm and soft and the flavors have melded, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you want them). This can be done a day before. Simply reheat in the microwave.

Make the creamy avocado: in a small food processor, puree the avocado, garlic, the juice of one lime, and the salt. Taste for seasoning. Squeeze the remaining lime over the top. Can be made 2 hours in advance if kept in an air-tight container. (if you don’t have a food processor, mash with a fork.)

Make the eggs: Preheat the oven to 250F.

In a large bowl, crack and beat the eggs with ½ teaspoon of salt.

Wrap the tortillas in foil and heat them in the oven while you scramble the eggs.

Coat a large non-stick skillet with olive oil and place it over medium-high heat—you will need a bit more oil if you are using cast iron or other metal pan. Carefully pour in the eggs. When the eggs begin to form curds, turn the heat down to medium-low. Using a rubber spatula, continuously scrape the bottom of the pan, displacing cooked pieces of egg as they form. Since you are dealing with a lot of eggs, the scrambling process may take up to twenty minutes. Once all the eggs are almost cooked, but still too runny to serve, add the cheese. Cook for 2 -3 more minutes until the eggs are no longer runny and the cheese is melted.

To assemble, place a generous spoonful of eggs in each warm tortilla, followed by a tablespoon of black beans, and a dollop of creamy avocado. Serve on a platter, squeezing in as many tortillas as possible, so they stay folded. Garnish with cilantro, if using, and serve alongside sour cream and salsa, if you want to go all out.

3/26/11: Food For Thought Expo in Fairfield, CT

We’ll be cooking up a storm next Saturday, March 26th at the annual Food For Thought Expo in Fairfield, CT. You can find out more about the event in this article. Our demo is at 2pm, and we’ll be making take-out at home! If you are in the area, we’d love you to stop by.

Recipe Flash: Linguine Aglio e Olio con Acciuga

Recently, after a pasta dinner at my friend Rachel’s house, we were talking about, well, pasta. It was about a week after I’d made this linguine to eat for myself. So when Rachel went around and asked each of her guests what our go-to pastas were, I was surprised to hear her say that hers was fairly similar to this one. Here I was thinking I was alone in enjoying a good fishy splash of garlicky olive oil coating my pasta. Apparently not. Rachel’s version–which I’m sure to try soon–includes broccoli rabe, plus the ingredients in this post’s super simple pasta.

Aglio e olio is the definition of a desperate dinner. Everything in its short ingredient list comes straight from the pantry. It comes together quickly. But that doesn’t make it foolproof: there are a few things you just don’t want to mess up. The garlic should be just golden–never brown–and the olive oil should be good. The anchovies, my addition, are optional, but I think they kick it up a notch. And then you simply top it all with grated Parmesan cheese.

From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,



Linguine Aglio e Olio con Acciuga
Serves 2

1/4 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1-2 anchovies
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 pound linguine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Parsley for garnish (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

Pour the olive oil into a small frying pan. Set it over medium-low heat, and add the garlic cloves. When the garlic begins to sizzle, turn the heat to low. Cook, flipping the garlic occasionally, until all the gloves are deep gold, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves to a small bowl, and mash them if you’d like to use them in this dish, or reserve them for another use (like roasted garlic hummus).

Add the red pepper flakes and the anchovies, and stir to break up the anchovies. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, and drain, reserving 3/4 cup cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot you cooked it in, and add the seasoned oil, the smashed garlic if you’re using, and 1/4 cup pasta water. Cook for about 1 minute, to let the sauce come together, then add half the parmesan cheese and toss.

Serve immediately, topped with more parm and some parsley if you like.

the fried garlic


Southern Flourish: Yankee Girl’s Guide to a Southern Dinner

Southern Flourish asked us to write about how to throw a Southern-style urban dinner party. Our resulting recipes were as pan-southern as they get, infused with our yankee enthusiasm and ability to google. Check out our recipes for jambalaya, fried chicken salad with buttermilk dressing, pecan sundaes, and the yankee bourbon dandy cocktail in the magazine.