Easy!

Big news! This toasty piece of delicious toasted Stonefire naan topped with tomato achaar (made and sold by my friend Chitra at Brooklyn Delhi) and homemade raita laced with grated cukes and toasted mustard seeds, is not like the other dishes on this blog, the ones that exist only on your computer screen unless you go through the trouble of cooking them yourself.

This delicious piece of Indian-inspired pizza is yours to eat on April 5th in Williamsburg (at Kent & North 8th; it’s Smorgasburg’s first day outdoors), where I’ll be helping welcome Stonefire’s traveling food truck to the city and sharing bites of the delicacy above with all of you. Come say hi!

Here’s a little more about what we’ll be serving. As you can see, it kind of resembles a pizza. In reality, everything is spiced with Indian flavors, rather than being morphed into an Italian look-alike like this naan meatball pizza. Instead of tomato sauce, we’ve got achaar, a sweet, spicy, and tangy relish that’s traditionally used as a topping for rice, curries, or dal. In place of cheese, there’s a cooling raita, a yogurt sauce often paired with achaar. Lastly, we replaced pizza’s basil or oregano with bright mint and cilantro.

Though you might not normally see this naan prepared in exactly this pizza-like style, you definitely could wind up at an Indian feast with condiments, bread, and herbs on the table and find yourself eating just this combination of achaar, raita, and naan, bite by delicious bite.

And if you’d like one of those delicious bites to be yours, come try the Toasted Garlic Naan with Tomato Achaar & Raita in real life. With me. In Brooklyn. See you on Saturday, April 5th outside Smorgasburg, Kent Ave. & N. 8th St. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

This post was sponsored by Stonefire. Read previous Stonefire posts here and figure out where to get your own naan on Stonefire’s store finder. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that keep Big Girls, Small Kitchen delicious!

There are no excuses right now. The year is new, and if you resolved to cook at home more, you can’t disasppoint yourself just yet. Like you, I sometimes get home at night and don’t want to cook. But I remember, almost always, that dinner doesn’t have to be fancy and that there are myriad meal possibilities that use only a few ingredients and dirty just a pan or two. At those moments, I re-resolve to cook, and in order that you can share in this minor triumph, I put together 11 dinners that take almost no effort, each with a mini summary of what to do so that you don’t really have to read the instructions.

**11 of the Easiest Dinners You Can Possibly Make**

1. Za’atar Roasted Salmon with Greens. Sauté greens and garlic in some olive oil. Turn on the oven, put the salmon on the greens, bake, sprinkle za’atar if you have it and then squeeze on some lemon.

2. Chicken Sausage & Ravioli Soup. Brown sausage, onion, and garlic. Add tomatoes and chicken stock, then simmer away. Cook ravioli and spinach right in the pot. Eat.

3. Grilled Swiss & Roasted Fennel Sandwich. Roast fennel. Pile onto a sandwich with Swiss and Parmesan. Toast in a pan with melted butter.

Sweet & Sour Chicken

Posted by on Monday Jan 6th, 2014

Growing up, one of the dinner categories my sisters and I elevated to the top of the requested list was “Chinese food.” On nights when our parents conceded to our begging, we’d sit down to a table of two dishes, fresh from the wok: stir-fried noodles or fried rice and saucy chicken or steak tossed with equal parts vegetables.

Even though neither of them had traveled to China, they knew intuitively that the food there was richer in vegetables and lower in inch-thick General Tso Chicken-style crispy coatings than anything you could get at Hunan Balcony. In today’s parlance, I guess they were just making anything-goes stir-fries of the kind that got really popular at restaurants in the 2000s, but the perfect combination of ingredients and salty-sweet sauces always hit the spot.

In my diet, Chinese takeout has mostly given way to the less greasy Thai and Vietnamese–both of which have now crossed over, at least in New York City, from hole-in-the-wall joints to studied, elevated restaurants like Pok Pok and my new fave Uncle Boons. But an at-home dish of stir-fried chicken, in a thick sweet-and-sour sauce (borrowed from the ever-popular sweet-and-sour tofu), beats out any kind of takeout, almost any day. It’s got some oil, sure, but the dish also features a whole bunch of wintry turnips, both root and green, and a hearty portion of white meat chicken.

Old Bay Peanuts

Posted by on Monday Nov 11th, 2013

Over the summer, Alex came home from a weekend in Maryland with a container of Old Bay-flavored peanuts. As we devoured them, fingers covered with spices, I thought: I must recreate these.

Old Bay Seasoning is a 70-year-old Maryland specialty most often sprinkled on blue crabs and crab cakes. The mixture contains 18 herbs and spices supposedly designed to suit seafood so well that 1940s-era Marylanders would eat the free crabs that bars offered, and, due to the spice mix’s saltiness, order more drinks. The most prominent flavors  are celery salt (vegetal, salty), paprika (sweet, earthy), mustard (pungent, hot), and red pepper (spicy). I also taste a citrus-y zestiness that probably cuts through the fishiness of a crab and also does great things for the richness of peanuts, the quintessential bar snack when there are no free crabs around.

Procrastinator that I am, it took me months to actually pour some spices into a bowl, add peanuts, and bake. But unlike most procrastination, this one had an advantage: these peanuts make a welcome addition to holiday appetizer tables, and they have serious gift potential, especially for Maryland ex-pats and those whose tastes run towards the flavor combination in a Bloody Mary.

Bulgur and Cauliflower Salad

Posted by on Monday Oct 28th, 2013

Here’s a fun part of my morning routine: realize, as I’m heading towards go-to-work time, that I haven’t packed a lunch; consider, as I dream of getting out the door on time, that maybe the take-out lunch options today won’t cost $12 and taste mediocre; and go back to the kitchen to improvise a brown bag lunch from the fridge. Leftover grains, extra roasted vegetables, a handful of nuts, some leftover chicken, and good grated cheese go into a travel Tupperware, and, hopefully, become more than the sum of their parts. Some lunches are good, even deliberate. Some are humble. I have a real affection for humble food, so usually my makeshift approach works okay.

Sometimes, it works out way better than okay.

One day a couple weeks ago, that routine produced this unbelievably delicious little grain dish. I had roasted cauliflower, I had cooked bulgur, and I had leftover salad dressing from a recent dinner. Naturally, I mixed this all together. At lunch, I went in thinking I’d be eating something humble but found I’d happened upon a flavor and textural synergy I didn’t expect. Perhaps it’s in the proportions: the grain and the vegetable sit at about equal levels in the final dish. Perhaps the success is some otherworldly manifestation of the Middle Eastern techniques I’ve absorbed during these months of experimenting with the region’s ingredients and methods. Or maybe it’s just a little narcissism: this exceedingly delicious salad is delicious because I made it, this morning, from almost nothing, and each bite helped cure the lunch blues.

This sponsored post is part of an ongoing collaboration with Sargento, called Flavor Journey. Throughout the year, with the support of Sargento, I’m exploring Middle Eastern cuisine–at home, in Brooklyn, at cooking classes, and wherever the flavors may take me. You can see the whole series here. Sponsored posts let me do some of my best work on this blog, and I only ever work with brands whose values and products mesh with the content I love to produce for you. Here’s my affiliate disclosure.

Za’atar Roasted Salmon with Greens

Posted by on Thursday Oct 24th, 2013

Oh gosh, I’m not totally sure how to sell this one to you. This is what we eat for dinner when we don’t know what to eat for dinner. It’s quick. There are five ingredients. What you spend on wild salmon, you make up for with nearly no prep and just 10 minutes of cooking. This is really good and really healthful, detox food that will still fill you up.

In fact, this is Alex’s recipe. He used to make it before I made dinner for us most nights. All you do is sauté garlic, add a lot of greens, arrange the salmon on top, and bake for a couple of minutes. In the oven, the greens get slightly crisp on top but rich underneath, since they benefit from cooking in a little bit of the salmon’s fat, just like the potatoes from Alex’s roasted chicken. Don’t get me wrong, though: this is not bachelor food. The pink salmon presents itself pretty handsomely, sitting there on top of tender farmers’ market greens.

Of course the za’atar is my addition. I’ve been sprinkling it on salads and sandwiches since this post, when I started my Middle Eastern exploration with Sargento. With the salmon, the herb mix serves two purposes. One, the combination suits salmon perfectly: the thyme is fragrant, the sesame seeds are rich, and the tangy sumac, like lemon, helps cut through salmon’s fattiness.

Chicken Soba Soup with Miso and Spinach

Posted by on Monday Oct 14th, 2013

As I learned last week when the nights turned cold again after a tank-top weekend during which I nonetheless spent Saturday simmering stock, containers of homemade chicken soup in the fridge translate into quick, warming dinners even on weeknights. On Tuesday, we sipped plain chicken broth, and on Wednesday, I made this, only with homemade chicken broth instead of veggie. On Thursday, I made risotto.

I hardly ever have homemade chicken stock, even though I know it’s neither hard nor labor-intensive to make. And I don’t love buying pre-made chicken stock at the grocery store. It’s not cheap, and shelf-stable perishables make me squirm a little.

Ever since I read an article (I think by Ruhlman) about building up stock as you cook a meal, I’ve no longer been in a bind when I want to make a quick soup or broth-based meal on a weeknight, even when there’s no stock–homemade or otherwise–in my pantry. Instead, I sauté aromatics and other vegetables with some chicken and just add water. By the time the chicken is cooked, the water has turned into a light, flavorful chicken stock. This is no slow-simmered, rich-as-butter broth, but it’s pretty damn good!

All that’s needed is a spoonful each of several ingredients from the Asian section of my pantry–miso, soy sauce, and mirin–and this soup is on its way to being a hearty and healthy–and incredibly easy to make dinner. A weeknight gem.