Author Archive

Open-Faced Avocado & Red Pesto Sandwich

Posted by on Monday Jul 7th, 2014

This weekend, we made and ate a lot of food, as I hope you did too. Dinners involved grilled steak, pulled pork sandwiches, and mac ‘n cheese. For breakfast, we cooked doughboys, biscuit dough squeezed onto s’mores sticks and roasted over a fire, then stuffed with butter and strawberry jam. At lunch, we made sandwich after sandwich. There were so many fillings and spreads at hand that sandwich-making inevitably turned into a game show.

That’s fine by me. I’m competitive, and sandwich making is an art worthy of judgement. The right proportions are part of the championship formula, as are the right mix of textures. At the very least, you’ll want some spicy or pungent ingredients, and some that are more mild. When a sandwich errs on the side of too mild, I reach for the sun-dried tomatoes, which deliver a serious punch to creamy components like mozzarella or avocado.

And so when Carly, whom you know from taking the beautiful photos herehere, and here, told me about an open-faced sandwich she loved that featured mild avocado and bright sun-dried tomato pesto, I couldn’t wait to get the post and photos up on the site. Here’s what Carly says about this delicious five-ingredient number:

This sandwich was born out of a moment when, scouring the cupboards in a moment of hunger, something random came together and worked. Really worked. A friend had introduced me to a similar sandwich, with cottage cheese and avocado slices, but being without cottage cheese, I put together this alternative, which has now surpassed the original. A bold red pesto complements the creaminess of a well-ripened avocado creating a rich, satisfying flavor.


Have a five-ingredient sandwich you adore? Tell me in the comments, and I’ll add it to the repertoire. See the first two posts in the series here.

Easy Mango Sorbet with Coconut Cream

Posted by on Wednesday Jul 2nd, 2014

Natalie of Good Girl Style is back today with a dessert I hope you’ll consider making for any July 4th festivities. Why? Because her instructions provide a genius way of crafting sorbet without an ice cream maker and  whipping up “cream” without any dairy. Wow. Natalie joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just good old-fashioned butter, sugar, chocolate, and fruit. Don’t miss her most recent posts, about Lemon Bars and Mini Rhubarb Cheesecake Pots.

gluten free mango sorbet dessert

Mango is one of my favorite tropical flavors. It pairs magically with coconut and lime (and cardamom!), making this creamy treat utterly refreshing on a hot day. The color is so intense and cheerful. Design-wise, I love it paired with the freshness of jadeite glass dishes. The recipe can be made any number of times (do each batch separately in the blender) and frozen in a deeper metal pan to make enough to feed a crowd. Adjust the sugar once you’ve gauged the sweetness of your mangos (if you had beautifully ripe mangos you froze yourself you’ll need less than a bag of supermarket frozen fruit may require).

The brilliant topping, coconut cream, basically comes straight from a can of coconut milk. It’s kind of miraculous. So you don’t get lost at the store, remember that coconut milk is usually found in the Asian cooking aisle of the supermarket. Don’t grab coconut water instead: it won’t work! If you can’t find it, you can use regular whipped cream and flavor it with coconut extract.

Lastly, dipping your ice cream scoop in hot water will make beautiful scoops every time. For garnish, a sprinkle of shredded coconut and a dash of extra lime zest make this dessert extra pretty for guests.

The Anything-Fruit Easy Summer Cake

Posted by on Monday Jun 30th, 2014

I have been lazy in the kitchen. Last week, I cooked all of one (1) dinners, and you saw the soba noodles and tilefish on instagram if you follow. Though delicious, the meal was hardly ambitious. Partly I owe the lack of cooking to long summer days and fun plans. But we’re already picking up our CSA, which means there are vegetables in the fridge, which means I’ll be cooking again soon. I gotta!

This cake is for exactly that situation: when your motivation to cook clocks in lower than the percentage of your fridge occupied by seasonal vegetables and fruits. Maybe you picked up pints of cherries in a more ambitious moment than right now. Maybe you, too, are in a generously portioned CSA (great tips for using up CSA veggies in the comments here). Or maybe you come from the reverse angle, that you need to go to a party and bring a cake.

You’ve seen this cake before. The apricot-pecan version in these photos is another version of Grandma Esther’s Plum & Walnut Cake. When little plums are in season (September, round here), I make that. But in other seasons, I’ve found, the oil-based batter crisps up into a luxurious cake around any fruit, and any nut. That means cherries in July, peaches, in August, and plums in September. The flexibility also means that dried fruit works: plump dried apricots are a welcome addition in the colder months, and the add-in in the version of this cake I made for Food52.

In a small kitchen, you don’t need a lot of equipment to cook great food. Still, you do need some pots, pans, utensils, and dishes–obviously. In the BGSK book, you’ll find a bare bones list of necessary tools, but I’ve long wanted to bring you a similar resource on the web.

So we’re going one by one, stocking up our virtual pantries and maybe our real ones too. You can see the whole “set” here.

With summer in full swing, I hope you’re planning parties. And whether your parties occur at brunch, by a barbecue, or long past sunset, I hope you’re mixing some drinks. (Start with this week’s Strawberry Gimlets.) Yet one item I didn’t have for a long time was a glass pitcher from which to dole out the booze. If we made Bloody Marys, we poured them from plastic tomato juice bottles. If we mixed up Manhattans, we had to disappear into the kitchen and miss moments of the party.

And so, when we got a beautiful 84-ounce crystal pitcher as a wedding gift, I adored it immediately. Serving problems solved! Here’s a large glass pitcher that’s a bit more affordable, if a bit smaller. If you host a lot, you might even like to have two!

When not in use for parties, your pitcher doubles as a vase for all those flowers you keep in your tiny but lovely kitchen!

Here are a few ways you’ll use your shiny pitcher–two out of the three are alcoholic, but a nice pitcher holds non-boozy liquids just as well. Serve sun tea, iced coffee, and, well, water:

Make this right now. No, not to drink right now. There’s no instant gratification (or morning drinking) here. But if you want to be sipping these bright red drinks before linking arms, belting patriotic songs, and admiring at the fireworks on July 4th, you’ll have to start now.

That’s because this is no ordinary gimlet. I took a deep dive into DIY terrain and infused my own plain vodka with strawberry tops. After two weeks in my pantry, my little jar of booze had turned a deep pink, the once-fresh strawberries gone limp and their color dimmed as they donated their flavor and hue to the vodka. And so, 14 days after I started this project, I was ready to mix a drink.

I knew I wanted something simple after waiting so long (despite doing so little–infusing alcohol is surprisingly easy).

A gimlet normally requires nothing more than vodka (or gin), lime, and sugar. The generous amount of lime makes the drink taste like a sour, rather than a cocktail simply finished with a mere squeeze of citrus. Since I was already perverting the gimlet’s purity with berry vodka, I added a second dose of strawberry by muddling a few berries from a fresh pint with sugar–the berries, for me, really round out the drink’s flavor. After the muddling, the instructions include: pouring vodka, squeezing limes, and straining. Easy. Two drinks are ready for toasting to the U.S.A.!

Over the weekend, one of my oldest friends got married. You know her from her jalapeño cheddar bread–a good thing to be known for. She was beautiful, the setting was incredible, and as the sun set on the longest day of the year and the florescent fuchsia light melted over the converging lines of the vineyard’s vines, the twenty other friends I’d known since childhood or preteen-hood were beautiful too. Awww.

One of the ways we’ve all stayed friends for so long is through potlucks and dinner parties. After a night of eating and drinking, it’s never long before someone emails to begin planning the next event. Geographically, we’re only scattered across a city, not the country, so gathering is easier. But you can’t underestimate how much a love for food–particularly rich vegetarian food like cheesy jalapeño bread and avocado aioli–can keep a group together.

Not all the events are the result of long email chains. I brought this carrot and avocado dip to Essie’s impromptu barbecue the other day (the final version included cut-up beets, too, but those stain your thumbs red, and this recipe is all about easy-to-eat finger food). Essie is one of the few high school friends who’s made it to Brooklyn, and I can walk to her apartment, which has a terrace, in 10 minutes. She has a grill, and I have a way with carrots, avocados, and herbs–and a couple Sundays ago this added up to yet another beautiful day spent over food with people I’ve been eating with since I wore pastel bell bottoms in 7th grade. Yes.

Rhubarb Cheesecake Pots

Posted by on Thursday Jun 19th, 2014

Natalie of Good Girl Style is back today with cheesecakes. And not just your standard cheesecakes. These individual pots of rich goodness are topped with tangy rhubarb, still one of the main local fruits we’re seeing, as strawberries try their best to ripen (more soon, please!). Natalie joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just good old-fashioned butter, sugar, chocolate, cream, and almonds. Don’t miss her most recent posts, about Lemon Bars and Coffee Granita.

Being a midwestern girl at heart, I love rhubarb in most any form, except perhaps straight out of the garden like some hardy Minnesotans. But add some sugar and some creamy cheesecake and “yah sure, you betcha,” it’s one of my favorites. This rhubarb sauce is so versatile, my Minnesotan grandfather always had a bowl of it in the fridge to eat on top of yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese, or just plain with a spoon. Here it pairs deliciously well with a cool, sweet, creamy cheesecake filling.

Pick thin rhubarb stalks with plenty of red for the most delicious (and colorful!) sauce. Just remember not to include the leaves as they are poisonous to ingest! This no-bake dessert is the perfect ending to a grilled dinner. If you use little jars with lids and don’t fill them all of the way, the cheesecakes travel well in a cooler.