Guides

How Expert Cooks Do Easy

Posted by on Friday Nov 28th, 2014

The Thanksgiving feast is hard to execute and tastes delicious. But that doesn’t mean that all delicious meals are hard, welcome news on this weekend after the biggest cooking event of the year.

A few weeks ago, I asked an assortment of my favorite chefs, cookbook authors, and bloggers for the dishes they make that are deceptively simple yet outrageously delicious. The ones that require little effort but deliver a huge payoff. I wanted to point you to it today, because once I’m done gorging on leftovers, that’s the kind of food I’ll want to make. See the dishes, from salt-crusted fish to crispy fried eggs, over on First We Feast.

You’d think that a move between two apartments two blocks apart would be easy. But the distance from apartment #1 to #2 turns out to matter a whole lot less than the number of years you’ve hoarded kitchen equipment in the old place (four) and the sum of stair flights to be climbed between the pair of Brooklyn walk-ups (six and a half). Two blocks can be long indeed. We were going to need some help.

How to Make the Best Parm at Home

Posted by on Thursday Sep 25th, 2014

We grew up with chicken parm (served with French fries!) on the dinner rotation. Man, I loved that meal. Then, for a while, I neither made nor ate parm. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe it had too many steps. Maybe red sauce Italian would just never fully be okay again.

Yet with the emergence of Parm as an NYC restaurant force, the dish is truly back. I decided to figure out the best methods for making it, plus suss out where it came from in the first place, what’s authentic when it comes to parm, and if you really need to bread eggplant and let frying crumbs splatter in your face to make a great dish.

You can read the full piece, with recipes and tips, over at First We Feast.

I started Big Girls, Small Kitchen because I love to cook at home–obviously. But when I’m inspired by the cuisine of a far-flung place, sometimes it’s hard to find the right ingredients to follow even a simple recipe, and the only option is to go out. To equip ourselves to cook any cuisine in the confines of our small kitchens, we’re sending contributor Lauren Rothman off to visit the Russian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, Greek, and Italian supermarkets of New York City. Her shopping expeditions will yield the specialty ingredients we need in order to make the food we’re craving at home these days.

Today, Lauren’s off to Bangkok Center Grocery, a Thai emporium in New York City, located in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Will the store have everything she needs for pad see ew and som tum?

Here’s Lauren:

As an avid home cook and an enthusiastic eater of New York City’s myriad cuisines, my appreciation of southeast Asian dishes goes way back—all the way to middle school, when some like-minded friends and I (read: total geeks) formed an “ethnic” cooking club. As de facto president, it was my responsibility, each month, to comb through my mother’s extensive selection of cookbooks and select the 4 or 5 recipes that club members and I would prepare together before sitting down to feast. Ostensibly, any type of fare could be eligible for the “ethnic” moniker, but over and over again, I found myself drawn to fragrant Indian rice pilafs; bright, cilantro-and-mint-stuffed Vietnamese summer rolls; and, above all, fiery, fish sauce-heavy Thai curries and noodles. More often than not, the cooking club sat down to a meal redolent of galangal, palm sugar and Thai basil.

Part of the fun of preparing for these monthly feasts was the excuse, as an intrepid young subway rider, to hop a train to parts of the city previously unknown to a brownstone Brooklyn native, in order to seek out those exotic ingredients. That’s how, all those years ago, I first discovered what remains my favorite Manhattan source for Thai ingredients: Bangkok Center Grocery. A tiny, supremely well-stocked store located on Chinatown’s Mosco Street, Bangkok Center crams all the essentials of larger southeast Asian groceries onto its well-curated shelves, from fish sauce and dried shrimp to fresh herbs and bitter melon.

Make the Best Burritos at Home

Posted by on Saturday Aug 23rd, 2014

In college, this joint Felipe’s opened up not far from my dorm, and everyone started going there for burritos and tacos all the time. Though my classmates from San Francisco and other parts of Boston were acquainted with the assembly-line format of this sort of burrito place, I was amused and amazed to watch the burrito assemblers go. Tortilla: steamed! Cheese: melted! Beans: scooped! Meat: chopped! Sour cream: gobbed on! Burrito: rolled. Go, go, go.

Though you don’t really want to be in the business of making small batches of burritos, because where’s the assembly line fun in that, you might want to add these to your repertoire if a) you’re having a party or b) you could eat burritos all day, every day. I interviewed one of the founders of Dos Toros and tested the formula at home to make burrito-making more approachable. You can read the full piece, with recipes and tips, over at First We Feast.

Pesto Everything, Please

Posted by on Monday Jul 28th, 2014

My summer solution to dinner comes in a one-word package: pesto. Right now, basil is fragrant, billions of vegetables are ripe and ready to be paired with pesto, and there’s little reason not to whiz together the green paste in your mini food processor while your pasta boils and your zucchini sautés.

But pesto can transcend its Ligurian herby roots. Forget basil for a minute, and blend together arugula or spinach (even quicker to make dinner if you’ve purchased pre-washed), radish greens, or even kale for a nutritious substance that delivers you plenty of vegetables even when you’re too tired to make a salad. Forget pasta, and turn pesto into a spread for tartines and sandwiches or a sauce for egg bakes. There’s a wide and delicious world of pesto out there. Here’s how to navigate it.

1. First, master pesto.
There’s not much to it. Bookmark the basic recipe for pesto right this second, mainly for the proportions. You’ll need nuts, vegetables, salt, garlic, olive oil, lemon, and usually a hard cheese like parm.

2. Eat with pasta and veggies.
I can never get enough of Whole Wheat Pesto Pasta with Broccoli Rabe. Leftovers make lunch the best thing ever.

3. Mix with yogurt.
A little bit of pesto plus a little bit of yogurt transforms into a sauce that’s great on fish, chicken, or Crispy Potatoes & Baked Eggs with Pesto Yogurt.

4. Add to quinoa salad.
In addition to pesto, roasted tomatoes, avocado, and mozzarella are responsible for this quinoa salad being irresistible.

5. Craft the best sandwiches.
What do Pesto Chicken Sandwiches with Arugula & Sundried Tomatoes, Roasted Eggplant Sandwiches with White Bean Spread and Chive Pesto, and Grilled Salmon Sandwiches with Heirloom Tomatoes & Chive-Cashew Pesto have in common? That’s right: pesto.

6. Use the whole plant.
Beets, radishes, and even carrots are all candidates for “whole plant eating,” by which I mean that you should slice radishes, pesto radish leaves, and pile both onto a Radish & Radish Leaf Pesto Sandwich.

New York City’s {Indian} Emporium: Patel Grocery

Posted by on Thursday Jul 24th, 2014

At Big Girls, Small Kitchen, we love to cook at home. To equip ourselves to cook any cuisine in the world in the confines of our small kitchens, we’re sending contributor Lauren Rothman off to visit the Russian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, Greek , and Italian supermarkets of New York City. Her shopping expeditions will yield the specialty ingredients we need in order to delve deep into the kinds of cuisines we’re craving at home these days.

Up next, Patel Grocery, an Indian emporium of New York City, located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Here’s Lauren:

As a native New Yorker, I’ve always ranked my favorite neighborhoods according to how good their eats are. For that reason—never mind its handsome brownstones and lush eponymous park that affords a stunning view of Manhattan—Sunset Park, in south Brooklyn, has always topped my list. I love good food, but I love it even more when it’s cheap, and Sunset Park’s grub meets both criteria: un-fancy taco-and-cerveza joints line Fifth Avenue, their cumin-and-grilled-meat aromas wafting out of unpretentious storefronts; walk a little further east, down to Eighth Avenue, and the sights (and smells) change: Chinese lettering advertises the strip’s many noodle and dim sum joints. It’s hard to beat the area’s restaurant options, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: Sunset Park is a great destination for the home cook, too.

“Little Latin America” and “Brooklyn Chinatown” might be the area’s most well-known sub-neighborhoods, but Sunset Park is also home to a sizeable Gujarati Indian population, and when I feel like stirring up some delicate curries I head to Patel Grocery, which opened on Fourth Avenue just steps from the 53rd Street subway station in 1981. Inside a tiny, somewhat haphazard but well-stocked store, owner Ishwer Patel sells all the Indian ingredients a cook dreams of, from the dozens of “pulses” (legumes) that are the main ingredient in Indian dhals and porridges to well-curated ground and whole spices to fresh produce such as gingerroot, curry leaves and bitter melon.

On a recent visit, my shopping list included paneer, the squeaky fresh cheese indispensable for paneer bhurji or saag paneer, or stewed spinach and cheese; black mustard seeds, tamarind paste and curry leaves, which I use in a variety of Indian dishes; some kind of dried legume; and kulfi, or Indian-style ice cream, for dessert. I knew from previous shopping trips that I’d find everything with ease, so I lingered in my favorite aisle of the store, where Patel stocks its pulses and spices. Hoping to score something unusual, I zeroed in on two of the store’s more vibrant legume offerings, opting for a bag of bright-green dried chickpeas (“you cook them just the same,” Ishwer’s wife volunteered) and similarly grassy-colored mung beans, which resembled tiny beads. Browsing the spice selection, I remembered that I needed asafoetida, the funky-tasting dried, ground resin of a perennial herb that in small quantities lends a leek-like flavor to dishes such as the aforementioned saag paneer.

Patel’s prices are low, low, low—before I knew it, my basket was full of $3-per-bag legumes, a $4 chunk of paneer and a 59-cent nub of fresh ginger, and it was time to hop back on the R train and head home.