Posts by Cara

Winter Squash & Chickpea Ribollita

Squash Ribollita | Big GIrls Small Kitchen

Happy new year! The clicking of digits form 5 to 6 has brought with it one of my three favorite types of New York City weather: the cold, clear day. Though the sun’s still shining brightly enough to keep my cilantro plant alive upstairs in the small kitchen garden, the chill in the air has meant that it finally, finally makes sense to start craving soup. But there is no soup without some carbs.

In the summer, I often use a slice of bread to turn a few tasty extras from the fridge into a meal. I’ll toast and butter a slice and eat with leftover veggies; I’ll tear up some slightly stale pieces and add them to a salad; or I’ll fry up country bread in olive oil and hope it helps the beets go down.

How to Make a Lot of Lasagna This New Year’s Eve

Lasagna | Big Girls Small Kitchen

Last year, I threw a lasagna party. I made four different kinds of lasagnas. Though I spent the entire afternoon in the kitchen, I did no work during the party, and I loved that everyone scraped the casserole dishes clean not long after they came out of the oven. Ever since, I’ve been enamored of the baked pasta dish, the way it’s simultaneously complicated and simple, calibrated yet comforting.

So I had the best time talking to three lasagna geniuses last week for First We Feast, restaurant chefs who know how to get each layer seasoned and cooked just right. I put together a piece that’ll show you how to become a master of your own lasagna, whether you crave a gooey Italian-American pan brimming with marinara and ricotta or a traditional Italian lasagna bolognese. If you’re hosting New Year’s for two or twenty, it’d be a great main to serve.

You can read the whole piece here.

Whole Wheat Bread

Whole Wheat Bread

On special mornings, I can’t imagine dining on anything better than a fresh loaf of bread.

Over the summer, Alex’s aunt told me that she’d gotten in the habit of making two loaves of sandwich bread every other week. She’d freeze one, slice the other for breakfasts and lunches, and then defrost the second and do the same. Supermarket bread was so full of additives, and fancy sourdoughs weren’t always right for simple PB&Js. They spoiled fast, too. She printed out the recipe for me and added her notes. As soon as the weather cooled down, I baked my first batch.

Whole Wheat Bread | Big Girls Small KitchenThe bread requires kneading and has generous amounts of fat and sweetener in the ingredient list. But it slices beautifully to show off a fine, dense crumb, and you’ll be so happy to have it around.

Whole Wheat BreadWhole Wheat Bread | Big Girls Small Kitchen

The first time I made the bread, I made two changes accidentally, both of which made the goodie seem more of a Christmas morning breakfast than a weekday staple. First, I didn’t have any oil, so I melted a stick of butter and subbed that in instead. Second, I wanted to serve the bread with a pot of chowder for dinner. By the time the soup was on, the bread was only just out of the oven. Rather than letting the loaf cool, like a good little bread baker, I put it on the table with a bread knife and a saucer of softened butter, and we attacked it. Ours slices were more like pulls–it felt almost like we were eating monkey bread or cinnamon rolls! Swiped through the butter, each bite was divine.

Whole Wheat Bread

Though it was only September, that made me think immediately that this bread, warm from the oven, would be ideal as a holiday breakfast–one that was special without being indulgent, that felt like a treat without asking you to do oodles of work. I’ve included a schedule in the recipe so that you can do most of the work the afternoon before you want to eat, then proof in the fridge overnight and bake fresh first thing in the morning.

You could make a batch of honey-nutmeg butter to serve alongside.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Sesame Sauce

Sesame Carrots and Parsnips

It didn’t help my holiday habits when I ordered a stollen online.

Last year, somebody’s gift guide mentioned that Quitokeeto, 101Cookbook’s shop, would send out stollen from Big Sur Bakery. By the time I read this and navigated over, I was too late to order. The stollen had sold out. So, all the way back in late 2014, I did what any hungry sweet tooth would. I put my name on a list to be notified when the stollen returned.

Tahini | Big Girls Small KitchenI forgot all about stollen until November 19, 2015, when I opened an email with news. The sweet, dried fruit and marzipan-filled bread was back. Before Thanksgiving had even arrived, I had bought myself a loaf of bread from California. To understand this odd move, you should know that stollen is one of my top fifteen foods, ever since I had my first slice a decade ago in Strasbourg, France, at the Christmas market. Bakeries in New York City sell stollen too, and I could have sought one out  here.Sesame Carrots and Parsnips

Plus, the sweets were piling up. There was extra pecan pie from Thanksgiving, then green tea Kit Kat bars that friends brought back from Tokyo. There were heart cookies from an engagement party we threw and baklava from a Sunday dinner. There were chocolate mint thumbprints.

Hosting a buffet of sweets in my own kitchen is not my usual approach to the holidays.

I tend to figure that if we keep things vegetable and grain-focused at home, we can indulge in rich cuts of meat and gooey desserts at all the parties without feeling bogged down in between. So, with just 8 days left til Christmas and 15 remaining in this year, I’m back on the veggies, and I wanted to share this simple recipe in case you’re looking for a break from all the party food.Sesame Carrots and Parsnips

In other words, this is more of a January recipes. Two root vegetables, parsnips and carrots, roast in the oven. When they emerge, just shy of crisp, you dress them in a sesame sauce that’s got the flavors of Japan but is made with a Middle Eastern ingredient, tahini, instead of sesame seeds. Shreds of toasted nori and crunchy sesame seeds finish the dish, making it satisfying and protein-heavy enough to eat with a bowl of white or brown rice. Satisfying enough to tide you over until the next treat.

Chocolate Mint Thumbprint Cookies

Chocolate Mint Thumbprint Cookies

It’s cookie season, finally. Time to bake a batch of these chocolate mint thumbprint cookies, my new favorite sweet.

Chocolate Mint ThumbprintsThough “Christmas cookie” sounds like a rigidly defined category, in fact the flavors that can appear in sweets this time of year range widely, a delightful development. Maybe you have a must-make traditional cookie in your house. But if you don’t, I love the ability to think as broadly as possible, since so many sweets seem to fit the bill, from cut-out sugar cookies with decorative icing (of course) to frosted orange-flavored cookies with candied rinds. Why not fill the cookie plate with gingersnaps, all-American snickerdoodles, or even cowboy cookies while you’re at it?

Though the combo of mint and chocolate has a place in my heart all year long, I’m happy to note that the bright combination is especially welcome as wreathes and trees grace our living rooms and twinkly strands light the dark-at-5pm streets around here.

Chocolate Mint ThumbprintsChocolate Mint Thumbprints

I count thumbprint cookies as homemade classics all year long, too. Jam-filled thumbprints were one of the first baking projects my sisters and I took on when we were little. And so, when I saw chocolate, mint, and thumbprint in one recipe title in the brilliant cookbook Baked Explorations, I knew these would be the Christmas cookies of 2015. They’re like candy cane chocolate bark in cute cookie form.

Fancy Food, Big City

food-whore

A couple years ago, a recent college grad named Tia moved to New York City with a dream: to work in food. She loved cooking and writing about cooking, and after some college success doing just that, she had the feeling she could pull this off in real life. Turns out, to make a real go of a career in food, Tia’s going to have to make a deal with a devil of a food critic.

That’s the set up of Jessica Tom’s first novel, Food Whore: A Novel of Dining and Deceitwhich came out last month. In the book, Tia contends with a New York City food world that Jess draws as both glamorous and cutthroat. There are run-ins with celebrity writers, a stint working at an Eleven Madison Park lookalike, a roommate with a secret, nights filled with sumptuous tasting menus, days spent amassing a wardrobe from Bergdorf’s, plus an affair with a handsome chef. There are lies and disguises aplenty, too.

“I wanted to write a page-turning novel,” Jess told me recently over a not-very-glamorous lunch in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. (She had a hummus plate, I had a cheeseburger and fries–hardly the pork and snail dumplings with effervescent chive oil Tia eats twice in the book!)Salade Nicoise | Food Whore

Juicy plot twists and ludicrously fine dining episodes aside, this book intersects beautifully with two BGSK concerns: first, eating; and second, eating while building yourself a career in the big city, particularly a career that coincides with your passions. Tia’s life has a lot more intrigue than mine did when I started this blog (or ever…), but I thought the story of a food up-and-comer would resonate with you guys. I asked Jess a few questions about the book after we’d both polished off our lunches. Read on for what she had to say about food, cooking, New York City, and going after what you love, then pick up a copy of the book to read during cold, long winter nights.