Posts by Cara

Homemade Veggie Burgers

Veg Burger | Big Girls Small Kitchen

Veggie burgers have long showed up as fake meat patties that taste awful or vegetable pancakes that turn to mush upon chewing. Chicken sandwiches and ramen have recently left behind mediocre pasts; why can’t veggie burgers too? I decided I’d find out for First We Feast.

Veg Burger | Big Girls Small KitchenVeg Burger | Big Girls Small KitchenVeg Burger | Big Girls Small Kitchen

My discovery? Making a batch of veggie burgers is time-consuming, a limiting factor. Whereas your beef burger entails slapping ground beef at a hot pan, making veggie burger mix means coaxing a lot of different ingredients to serve your purposes in a lot of different ways. No one step is hard, but you’ll need to soak one grain while you toast another, roast mushrooms while you caramelize onions, and then ask your food processor to grind like it’s never ground before.

Veg Burger | Big Girls Small Kitchen

I learned all this from a few bright lights in a world where restaurants make their own ketchup but microwave veggie burgers from a supermarket package – and used their wisdom as my guide.

Those bright lights are several pretty highlevel chefs who have suddenly committed to the veggie burger and toyed with techniques until they created something great. They experimented with grains and legumes and “meaty” vegetables like beets and mushrooms to turn out burgers that look appealing, taste better, and might make carnivores forego beef at least sometimes. Interviewing these pioneers to find out what they did to redeem the VB allowed me to head back to the kitchen and figure out how to make a worthy patty at home.

You can read the full article I wrote over on First We Feast, but I wanted to post the actual recipe back here.

Crumble Topping

Crumble Topping | Big Girls Small Kitchen

When we choose a muffin top but skip the muffin, we make a statement about the bottom of the pastry, that it’s spongy, tasteless, and not worth the calories. But when we make a crumble without apples or blueberries beneath it–the subject of today’s post–we’re not rejecting all fruit. I promise. We’re just sort of nodding to ourselves in recognition that oatmeal-studded, brown sugar-scented crumbles can do more than crown sometimes soggy produce. They can garnish fancy fall trifles, magic a cut-up ripe pear into a real dessert, or make plain yogurt a little bit friendlier.

Crumble Topping | Big Girls Small Kitchen

Deconstructing a dish isn’t just a pastime for trendy chefs. When you separate out the elements of a multi-faceted dinner or dessert, you open up options for re-combinations. Simple components can go into fancier preparations, but not the other way around (you can’t un-curry potatoes, but you can throw plain roasted potatoes into a curried lentil soup). And this gives way to the theory of baking up a crumb without a filling: You can always add a quarter cup of baked crumble to some fruit–chopped or filled with cheesecake or made into compote–but you can also maneuver your plain-jane crumble into opening up a whole world of sweet snacks and after-dinner treats that go beyond a bubbling casserole of berries or stone fruit.

Of course, if you’re the type of sweet tooth who regularly does dessert by pouring chocolate chips into her palm, you know that building blocks make daily mini-indulgences possible. So, to your repository of sugary foodstuffs you can either nibble on right from the container or turn into more ambitious pleasures, I’d like to add this make-ahead crisp topping which smells like fall–of brown sugar and oatmeal and cinnamon and–and tastes like the garnish you want on every scoop of ice cream or ice cream sundae or dish of pudding or bowl of applesauce this season.

Crumble Topping | Big Girls Small Kitchen

I developed this particular version, which uses oats and almond meal and coconut oil, to help a newbie quarter-life cook fashion a gluten-free, dairy-free dessert for her future husband. If you want the buttery, floury version, though, follow the directions for making the crisp part of this recipe, but skip the strawberries and rhubarb and bake the crumb in a pan as directed below.

Appetizer Meatballs

Meatballs | Big Girls Small Ktichen

The dishes that welcome meatballs are numerous. Spaghetti, all covered with cheese, is one. Subs are another. Rice and rice noodles clock in third and fourth. We’ve got skewers that hold meatball-like kebabs, and we’ve got soup: Italian wedding. This list  eventually goes on and on, but today I’d like to add a too often overlooked seventh entry, which is the appetizer spread.

Meatballs | Big Girls Small KitchenA long time ago, using what I think was an Arthur Schwartz recipe that now I can’t find and an impulse I don’t completely remember, my family served appetizer meatballs at some event. Their ingredient list was short. They were baked. I think we put a dipping sauce in a bowl next to the plate on which we arranged the meatballs once they were out of the oven. They went fast.

Meatballs | Big Girls Small KitchenMeatballs | Big Girls Small KitchenMeatballs | Big Girls Small Ktichen

Here are the perks of an appetizer meatball for you: you can make the meatball mix and form balls ahead of time, and no matter how rudimentary your arranging skills, appetizer meatballs will look good on a plate. For your guests, these are great because they’re filling but not actually indulgent, a bite that lands happily in the middle of the crudité and the coconut shrimp. All of this is to say that you should overlook appetizer meatballs no more.

Whole Grain Oat & Millet Pancakes with Shaved Apples

Whole Grain Oat Pancakes with Shaved Apples

I have this thing with pancakes. I love the idea of a Saturday morning spent with a short stack, but regular flapjacks leave me feeling heavy in the gut and light in the head.

So I’ve long wanted a recipe for whole grain pancakes that didn’t drain me of all my Saturday energy. This one came close. This recipe looks good, even if it’s intended for kids. And when I saw that My New Roots had put a recipe for soaked grain pancakes that didn’t require any ingredients besides soaked grains, I knew I had to get out the griddle.

Whole Grain Pancakes with Shaved Apples | Big GIrls Small KitchenTotally Whole Grain Pancakes | Big Girls Small KitchenI’m a big fan of soaking farro, oats, and rice before I cook them. Water (and often some acid, like vinegar or yogurt) helps break down the hard-to-digest elements in the grain, making them quicker to cook, plus easier to stomach and more filling. Those last two qualities were just what I needed in my pancakes! To make the whole grain batter, you blend the soaked oats (for example) with fresh water until they reach the consistency of pancake batter, instead of cooking them up into a pot of porridge. Though the cakes that result aren’t fluffy like a typical diner griddle cake, the pancakes tasted far more like pancakes than like oatmeal disguised in pancake form.

Totally Whole Grain Pancakes | Big Girls Small KitchenTotally Whole Grain Pancakes | Big Girls Small KitchenTotally Whole Grain Pancakes | Big Girls Small KitchenThough you don’t need anything but the grains, blended, I did add a few things: an egg, which helps make these pancake-y, as well as tiny bits of sugar and salt. In future renditions, I may flavor the pancakes with fruit, nut butters, cinnamon, shredded coconut, or lemon zest, and also try replacing some of the water with coconut milk or whole milk, for a richer breakfast.


Dal | Big Girls Small Kitchen

I have a few new and new-to-me cookbooks I’m aching to cook from as soon as the weather cools and spending the weekend in the kitchen, on projects, appeals to me again. One is called Food of Life and is filled with recipes for Persian/Iranian cooking. Pages with kebabs and tahdigs and pomegranate stews are bookmarked with my pink stickies. There’s a Cook’s Illustrated DIY cookbook that’s forced me to formulate plans to brew apple butter, onion jam, and duck confit. Meanwhile, there’s still a slew of Pok Pok dishes I still need to try. I’m hoping to make many of these all-day kitchen extravaganzas.

Dal | Big Girls Small Kitchen

With big goals like that, it’s welcome, in the meantime, to experiment with a dish that has fewer steps and ingredients: dal. It’s easy to start making dal, the Indian lentil soup in which the lentils dissipate into a thick broth as they cook. I know less about mastery of the dish, how to put my own spin on it, to know exactly how to soften the onions without letting them brown, or how hard a simmer the soup should cook at.

But I like foods and activities like these, where starting is easy, even though winning the championship is hard. For dal, all you need are any kind of lentil or split bean, plus water and onions. Dal | Big Girls Small Kitchen

Right now, there’s a container of very plain mung bean dal in the fridge. Yesterday, I heated it up and ladled it over quinoa, then finished with a tadka, a sizzle of cumin, coriander, fennel, and mustard seeds, and just-golden minced garlic. And a spoonful of plain yogurt. Tomorrow, we might supplement a light dinner with small bowls to start. By the weekend, if the fridge is empty, I know we’ll be happy for any dal that remains.

I Grew All This

Lemon Cukes and Notes from the Summer

Hello! As you read this, I’m driving south along the Pacific. We started in Seattle on Thursday, and we’ll make it to San Francisco before the week’s out. If you have recommendations for stops in Portland or along the Oregon or California coast, please share.

While back-to-school season always makes me wish I were a student again, the pleasure of a being able to take a vacation after Labor Day can’t be overstated. The summer’s just longer this way.

While I’m on the road, away from the kitchen, a little recap of what the season has brought to this small kitchen:

Growing in the garden:

CarrotsAfter planting our first few radishes in April, both our vegetables and the number of containers holding them multiplied. Gardening is addictive.

Here’s what we ended up growing: two kinds of little tomatoes (sun gold, red pear), two kinds of radishes, lemon cucumbers, green leaf lettuce, kale, habaneros, carrots and a bunch of herbs (tarragon, sage, dill, basil, Thai basil, and mint). We planted string beans but they petered out early. I also threw in some marigold seeds and some nasturtiums.