Posts by Phoebe

Saying Goodbye to BGSK


After over 3 years of sharing my quarter-life cooking with you all, it’s with a heavy heart and a grumbling stomach, that I end this chapter of my virtual food story and say goodbye to BGSK.

If the mid-twenties have taught me anything so far, it’s that this time of life is one of constant transition and questioning. Not just for me. Most of my dinner dates recently have been dominated by exasperated, anxious, and excited friends across the table, expressing pangs of uncertainty related to jobs, relationships, finances, and that big scary capital letter term: THE FUTURE.

Over the past few months, as I grappled with those same tough questions—where do I want to go in life? What makes me happy? Should I really be spending so much money on One Kings Lane? —It became clear that what I need is a change.

Pressing that life “reset” button is scary, but also exciting. When I sat down to write this final post, I thought a lot about the last big change I made, over two years ago, when I decided to end my stint in corporate America, sans gold fish or Renée Zellweger, and move my cubical to my small kitchen for good. The hardest part then, as it is now, was saying goodbye to the people I worked with. Today, there are so many more of you who have made my “job” over the past 3+ years an amazing experience, and I am so grateful to have gotten to know you all.

Creamy Polenta from Bittman

Creamy polenta has always seemed like a rather daunting dish to serve a crowd of guests. It takes longer to cook than one would imagine, and in my experience, it can transform from a soft, pillowy cushion into a rubbery, coarse brick in seconds. Because of this, I’ve always intentionally gone for the brick version for dinner parties.

Recently, I came across this Bittman article and discovered a different way of preparing polenta. Instead of pouring the cornmeal into boiling water in a steady stream and whisking furiously to prevent any lumps from forming, you start by creating a slurry off the heat. Once the polenta and water are thoroughly combined, you slowly bring it to a boil, then continue to add liquid to keep the creamy consistency until the grains are cooked through. The process of adding the liquid feels a lot like making risotto.  And similarly, at the end of the cooking process, you can put on the lid and wait to finish the dish until you’re ready to serve your guests. It takes just a bit more liquid (in my case, milk) to loosen up the polenta and return it to a delightful cushion for whatever Italian specialty you choose to serve over it.

If you’ve ever had the experience of getting splattered by hot bubbles of polenta as it cooks (as I have a few scars to thank for this), you and your whisk will quickly be thanking Mr. Bittman as your polenta cooks evenly and mess-free.

From my kitchen, perfecting polenta, to yours,



Creamy Polenta alla Bittman
Makes 6 servings

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Minimalist column.  You can use all water instead of stock and milk. I thought the combination worked really well.

1 ½ cups polenta (medium grained cornmeal)
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups water
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Put cornmeal in a medium saucepan along with the water and whisk well to make a slurry.

Place pan over medium-high heat, add salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, whisking frequently and adding stock in ½ cups as needed to keep mixture loose and free of lumps. If mixture becomes too thick, simply add more stock. The consistency should be similar to yogurt. Keep whisking and adding liquid until the polenta is done, about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the coarseness of the grain.

You can place the lid on the pot until you’re ready to serve and take it off the heat. A few minutes before service, return the flame to medium-low, add the milk to loosen the polenta and whisk until creamy. Add the cheese and butter and continue to cook until melted. Taste for seasoning and serve as a bed for meatballs or sausages.

2/24: Cooking and Talking at OSU!

Phoebe will be hanging with the Buckeyes this weekend, teaching a class on cheap dinners from the book Friday night, the 24th, followed by an author talk in the Ohio State Union Traditions room at 7pm. All OSU BGSK fans are encouraged to join the fun!

Spanish Rice with Crispy Pimenton Chickpeas

These past two months, Mag Club ESP has been in full effect. And what was on the menu? Beans, beans, and nothing but beans.

At Julie’s, we had falafel, spicy black bean dip, two types of lentils, white bean and cabbage salad, and hummus. A few weeks ago at Michelle’s, the spread was a little more diverse, but no sooner had I whipped out my Tupperware of Spanish Rice with Crispy Chickpeas than I noticed Kate’s bowl of roasted chickpeas in full crunchy glory sitting on the coffee table right before me.

Roasted chickpeas have become a potluck go-to of mine recently, and clearly Kate was onto the same thing. As we waited for the remaining Mag Clubbers to arrive, the contents of the chickpea bowl quickly disappeared (mainly, into Jordana’s mouth). Kate had chosen cumin, while I had dusted mine in paprika, but no matter what you put on them, crispy chickpeas never cease to be an amazingly addictive snack.

For this particular Mag Club offering, I ended up whipping together some Spanish rice and tossing it together with the smoky chickpeas. The leftovers made a great side dish for Mussels with Chorizo and Cherry Tomatoes, and if you added a few more veggies, it would be a totally legit vegetarian main course.

From my kitchen, inhaling crispy chickpeas, to yours,



Spanish Rice with Crispy Pimenton Chickpeas
Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup long grain basmati rice
8 ounces (1 cup) tomato sauce
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups water
Juice of half a lemon
1 cup crispy pimenton chickpeas (recipe follows)

In a small Dutch oven or lidded saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Saute the onion until translucent, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant. Add the rice and toss around in the onion-oil mixture until combined. Carefully pour in the tomato sauce, followed by the paprika and salt. Saute for 2 minutes to help the tomato sauce reduce slightly. Then add the water and bring to a boil. Once bubbling, turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 10 minutes in the pan. Uncover, fluff with a fork, add the lemon juice, and taste for seasoning. The rice should have a little bit of a bite to it–similar to paella. Add more salt if necessary. Top with the crispy chickpeas (recipe follows) and garnish with thyme or parsley (optional).

Crispy Pimenton Chickpeas
Makes 4 cups

Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas (4 cups), rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons sweet paprika
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika (pimenton)
½ teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Use a dish towel or a salad spinner to make sure the chickpeas are as dry as possible. Lay them flat on a non-stick baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, then shake to redistribute, and cook for 10 minutes more. Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Add the roasted chickpeas and toss until well coated. Return the chickpeas to the baking sheet and roast in the oven for 5 more minutes, until very fragrant. Serve warm or at room temperature as a table snack, or use them to top Spanish rice!

Mussels with Chorizo and Cherry Tomatoes

Top of my New Year’s Resolution list this year was to move out. Being 26 years old and living at home is just not a sustainable state of affairs. And yet, all of a sudden, it was 2012, and I realized I had sustained the situation for seven whole months.

After a week of literally doing nothing but climb fourth-floor walk-ups only to discover that the apartment at the top had a dorm-style mini fridge and no dishwasher, I lucked out and found an adorable studio in Chelsea. When I signed the lease less than 24 hours later (yeah, that’s how we roll in NYC), Josh asked me who I thought would be most excited about this development: him, my parents, or me? I’m pretty sure he thought it went in that order.

Living with your parents is one very efficient way of killing the romance in a relationship. Luckily, it didn’t entirely do away with ours. But one thing that did fall by the wayside was the casually intimate weeknight dinner for two. Sure, I cooked at Josh’s from time to time. But since I didn’t live there, it was always something quick, and often times incorporated leftovers from a Tupperware container I had brought with me.

The first meal I cooked in my new kitchen was my kind of weeknight romantic dinner for two: mussels with chorizo and cherry tomatoes. There is something about mussels that feels fancier than usual, even if they are one of the cheapest proteins around. Not to mention that the delicate surgery involved in eating them is downright sexual.

Since Valentine’s day falls on a Tuesday this year, I thought I’d share this meal with all you readers out there who would rather have a casually intimate evening at home with a special home-cooked meal than a mainline romance out on the town with a prix fixe and a bottle of Veuve. It christened my kitchen, and made my house smell like a home. Now, that’s my kind of special.

From my kitchen, brewing romance in Chelsea!, to yours,



Mussels with Chorizo and Cherry Tomatoes
Makes 2 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red chili peppers
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ pound dried Spanish-style chorizo, halved lengthwise and cut into thin slices
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/4 cup parsley leaves, roughly chopped (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large lidded pot or Dutch oven over a medium-high flame. Saute the shallot until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and chili flakes and saute for another minute or so, until very fragrant. Add the tomatoes and chorizo and toss to combine. Allow the tomatoes to sweat and the sausage to brown, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have begun to release their juices, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Simmer for a minute or so, until some of the alcohol has burned off, then fold in the thyme sprigs and mussels. Turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook until the mussels have opened, 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your mussels.  Discard any shells that have failed to open, garish with parsley, and serve immediately straight from the pot.

Delicata Squash Salad with Balsamic-Oregano Drizzle


It might appear in the transcript of my BGSK life that I’ve become a bit of a dinner party delinquent. This is partially, but not entirely true. I still try to have people over for a meal once a week, which is certainly down from the 2-3 night frequency that in part gave birth to this site, but by no means qualifies me as a bore (or so I keep telling myself).

The problem is, I have become a bit of a snooze when it comes to my menu. I’ve been cooking a lot of my tried and true (and easy!) main courses, and relying on ye ole side salad to round out the dinner. It’s been efficient and stress-free, but now that it’s 2012, the whole routine just feels a little uninspired.

Enter: Delicata squash.

Step one to rehabilitating my dinner party delinquency has been to switch out the salad for a warm veggie side. Though carrying five pounds of squash home is certainly more of a drag than 10 ounces of arugula, it more than pays off in the kitchen. Delicata is one of the least labor-intensive winter squash. It requires no pesky peeling, like butternut, which you couldn’t pay me money to put on a dinner party menu these days. And this dish has become one of my new go-to’s.

The tangy balsamic and earthy oregano are the perfect compliment to the sweet and delicate delicata, and once you get the goods home, it’s barely more work than a composed green salad. If you’re feeling like jazzing up your side dish routine, I highly recommend giving this one a turn on the rotation.

From my kitchen, dishing up new sides, to yours,



Warm Delicata Squash Salad with Balsamic-Oregano Drizzle
Makes 4-6 side servings

It sounds like a lot of squash, but it really cooks down in the oven. Plus, it’s so delicious, you’ll be more than pleased if there ends up being extra yield!


2 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds delicata squash
2 medium red onions, halved and cut into thin half moons
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove the ends of the squash and cut it in half length-wise. Scoop out the seeds and stringy interior (a grapefruit spoon works well for this). Cut the squash into ½ inch slices. The end result will look like crescent moons.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, toss the squash together with the onions, olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Arrange in an even layer and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, redistributing once during the cooking process, until browned and tender.

In the meantime, combine the vinegar, oregano, chili flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt . The oil and vinegar might not emulsify, but that’s okay.

Transfer the squash to a serving bowl and drizzle with the balsamic mixture. Garnish with additional oregano, and serve immediately.