The Best Broccoli Linguine

The Best Broccoli Pasta

This dish has been lurking behind the scenes for months, maybe years. It’s the delicious, unglamorous, vegetarian, and speedy dinner that we eat once a week very happily. The Best Broccoli Linguine solves 82 percent of what-should-we-have-for-dinner dilemmas. The Best Broccoli Linguine is responsible for 100 percent of all the unmade calls for takeout–for the fact that I do not have a Seamless account.

One-quarter of the charm is the short ingredient list: broccoli, olive oil, garlic, pasta, and Parmesan. If you don’t have everything, the rundown is short enough to assure your supermarket stop is rapid. Another quarter is about ease and speed: you boil water, you break up the broc, you peel the garlic. By the time the pasta is cooked, the vegetable is ready to sauce it. The third piece has to do with health: while this isn’t a salad, it does deliver a whole lot of vegetable servings with your carbs, more than Pad Thai, more than dumplings. The final bit–and you have to trust me on this, because I know that florets cooked past emerald to that more muted, nameless shade green might not appear incredibly appealing–is that this is so, so tasty.

The Best Broccoli Pasta | Big Girls Small Kitchen The Best Broccoli Pasta | Big Girls Small Kitchen

It’s tasty by design. Years of regretting overpriced, much too large take-out orders taught me that access to ingredients and the ability to boil water isn’t always enough to deter you from paying someone else to make you dinner. You have to want the thing you’re offering yourself.

To make the pedestrian offerings of broccoli and dry pasta truly crave-able, I cook the broccoli in a good bit of oil, for a while (the same amount of time that it takes water to boil and pasta to cook, incidentally). This helps bring out the flavors, and it makes a simple vegetable taste really satisfying. I try not to skimp on oil or time. The slowness of cooking also reduces quite a large amount of florets into an unintimidating portion. When I combine the pasta with the falling apart (don’t call it overcooked!) broccoli, I add some pasta cooking water, which transforms two parts into one whole. I sample a bite, adjusting the seasonings, thinking always to myself that this is the best weeknight dinner there is.

The Best Broccoli Pasta | Big Girls Small Kitchen The Best Broccoli Pasta | Big Girls Small Kitchen

And then I unapologetically pile on the Parm.

The Deal with Meal Replacement Snacks

Goldenberry Date Bars | Big Girls Small Kitchen

Everybody snacks. We’re at 94% of American adult snackers this year, with half of the population munching more than two times a day. Some snack because they’re starving, others because they adore cheesy bunnies or salty pistachios or blueberry yogurt or ants on a log, and still others because it’s become a healthy part of their diet plan. Though often functional, snacks have grown to have an emotional hold on us. We love them.

I’ve gotten so curious why.

There are recipes for snacks on this blog – Fried Cheerios, Granola Nuts, Lemon-Herb Popcorn. Mostly, though, there are meals. That’s because I’m a fan of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I almost never skip a meal. Perhaps as a result of the delight I take in meal eating, I don’t snack too often, outside of days when I go for long bike rides or when deadlines force me to hole up in the library with a water bottle and some GORP.

Goldenberry Date Bars | Big Girls Small KitchenGoldenberry Date Bars | Big Girls Small KitchenGoldenberry Date Bars | Big Girls Small KitchenIn the last few years, I’ve started to feel alone in this, an alien meal lover in a world of snackers. So, in an effort to pinpoint the sources of our snackophilia, I’ve been doing research about the history and culture of eating between meals.

There are a lot of reasons that people snack. One is because they’re too busy for meals. Whereas I count down the minutes to lunch, some people see the midday break for ingestion as a distraction. And it sort of is. Lunch as we know it derived from the habits of industrial revolution workers, who didn’t have much control of their own schedules. Factory owners granted them a certain hour for eating and getting fresh air. Likewise, for kids at school, the pause of eating was supposed to replenish both body and mind. But if you’re swamped or running between meetings or classes, that pause starts to seem superfluous, or even annoying.

The thing is, until recently, snacking meant subsisting on junk. So if you didn’t make time for lunch, you’d end up eating chips or pretzels or candy, whose empty calories eventually make most people over the age of 14 feel slow and off-kilter. It’s one thing to enjoy a bag of chips when you want some chips, but it’s another to wish fried potato slices into lunch.

Goldenberry Date Bars | Big Girls Small KitchenGoldenberry Date Bars | Big Girls Small KitchenIn other words, I’m not sure that most of us approach our snacks with as much cleverness and insight as our meals. So I wanted to think seriously about an eating occasion that’s often overlooked as a matter for serious consideration, hooking practical tips and delicious recipes into bigger ideas about why and when people snack.

One of those occasions is the meal-replacement snack: the bite you eat when you don’t have time to sit down for a meal–but you need nourishment all the same. Julie Morris, the author of several books on “superfoods” and the chef at Navitas Naturals, a superfoods company that sells pre-made snacks as well as ingredients like coconut chips and goldenberries, helped me see how dedicated snackers could optimize what they eat instead of breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

“I’m a huge snacker myself and usually snack all day,” she told me. “A lot of the time I’m out on the road, and that’s where these come in and save the day. My favorite recipes are in energy bars and bites. I never get too hungry, and I never get too full. My cravings are always answered and I overall feel really good.”

Morris talks to a ton of people as she tours the country, cooking and promoting her books. She’s found that she’s hardly alone.

“A lot of us are looking to achieve a healthier diet, and we’re adding more and more healthy attributes to our day: eating salads, drinking smoothies. These are easy to put into practice. A lot of people get caught up on snacks. They’re the often forgotten part of the day. You’re starving because lunch is long gone and dinner’s not for a few hours and you need a fix. When hunger strikes, that’s when cravings come into play.”

Goldenberry Date Bars | Big Girls Small KitchenWhile many of us have a sense of what goes into a good (or at least a passable) meal – a sandwich and carrot sticks, a chicken breast with string beans and baked sweet potato fries, a pizza with broccoli florets baked on – we have yet to settle on what makes an ideal snack. When I choose a meal, my ultimate goal is satiety: I want to know that after I eat, I’ll, well, feel like I ate. I may choose certain foods that wouldn’t satisfy you, but if a slice of pizza or small bowl of lentils feels like lunch, then it is lunch in my world. I won’t generalize from my experience, but I would venture to say that many snacks, even those deemed healthful, won’t point you to satiety. They’re just not real sustenance. And that’s what Morris wants to help solve.

Winter Squash & Chickpea Ribollita

Squash Ribollita | Big GIrls Small Kitchen

Happy new year! The clicking of digits form 5 to 6 has brought with it one of my three favorite types of New York City weather: the cold, clear day. Though the sun’s still shining brightly enough to keep my cilantro plant alive upstairs in the small kitchen garden, the chill in the air has meant that it finally, finally makes sense to start craving soup. But there is no soup without some carbs.

In the summer, I often use a slice of bread to turn a few tasty extras from the fridge into a meal. I’ll toast and butter a slice and eat with leftover veggies; I’ll tear up some slightly stale pieces and add them to a salad; or I’ll fry up country bread in olive oil and hope it helps the beets go down.

How to Make a Lot of Lasagna This New Year’s Eve

Lasagna | Big Girls Small Kitchen

Last year, I threw a lasagna party. I made four different kinds of lasagnas. Though I spent the entire afternoon in the kitchen, I did no work during the party, and I loved that everyone scraped the casserole dishes clean not long after they came out of the oven. Ever since, I’ve been enamored of the baked pasta dish, the way it’s simultaneously complicated and simple, calibrated yet comforting.

So I had the best time talking to three lasagna geniuses last week for First We Feast, restaurant chefs who know how to get each layer seasoned and cooked just right. I put together a piece that’ll show you how to become a master of your own lasagna, whether you crave a gooey Italian-American pan brimming with marinara and ricotta or a traditional Italian lasagna bolognese. If you’re hosting New Year’s for two or twenty, it’d be a great main to serve.

You can read the whole piece here.

Whole Wheat Bread

Whole Wheat Bread

On special mornings, I can’t imagine dining on anything better than a fresh loaf of bread.

Over the summer, Alex’s aunt told me that she’d gotten in the habit of making two loaves of sandwich bread every other week. She’d freeze one, slice the other for breakfasts and lunches, and then defrost the second and do the same. Supermarket bread was so full of additives, and fancy sourdoughs weren’t always right for simple PB&Js. They spoiled fast, too. She printed out the recipe for me and added her notes. As soon as the weather cooled down, I baked my first batch.

Whole Wheat Bread | Big Girls Small KitchenThe bread requires kneading and has generous amounts of fat and sweetener in the ingredient list. But it slices beautifully to show off a fine, dense crumb, and you’ll be so happy to have it around.

Whole Wheat BreadWhole Wheat Bread | Big Girls Small Kitchen

The first time I made the bread, I made two changes accidentally, both of which made the goodie seem more of a Christmas morning breakfast than a weekday staple. First, I didn’t have any oil, so I melted a stick of butter and subbed that in instead. Second, I wanted to serve the bread with a pot of chowder for dinner. By the time the soup was on, the bread was only just out of the oven. Rather than letting the loaf cool, like a good little bread baker, I put it on the table with a bread knife and a saucer of softened butter, and we attacked it. Ours slices were more like pulls–it felt almost like we were eating monkey bread or cinnamon rolls! Swiped through the butter, each bite was divine.

Whole Wheat Bread

Though it was only September, that made me think immediately that this bread, warm from the oven, would be ideal as a holiday breakfast–one that was special without being indulgent, that felt like a treat without asking you to do oodles of work. I’ve included a schedule in the recipe so that you can do most of the work the afternoon before you want to eat, then proof in the fridge overnight and bake fresh first thing in the morning.

You could make a batch of honey-nutmeg butter to serve alongside.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Sesame Sauce

Sesame Carrots and Parsnips

It didn’t help my holiday habits when I ordered a stollen online.

Last year, somebody’s gift guide mentioned that Quitokeeto, 101Cookbook’s shop, would send out stollen from Big Sur Bakery. By the time I read this and navigated over, I was too late to order. The stollen had sold out. So, all the way back in late 2014, I did what any hungry sweet tooth would. I put my name on a list to be notified when the stollen returned.

Tahini | Big Girls Small KitchenI forgot all about stollen until November 19, 2015, when I opened an email with news. The sweet, dried fruit and marzipan-filled bread was back. Before Thanksgiving had even arrived, I had bought myself a loaf of bread from California. To understand this odd move, you should know that stollen is one of my top fifteen foods, ever since I had my first slice a decade ago in Strasbourg, France, at the Christmas market. Bakeries in New York City sell stollen too, and I could have sought one out  here.Sesame Carrots and Parsnips

Plus, the sweets were piling up. There was extra pecan pie from Thanksgiving, then green tea Kit Kat bars that friends brought back from Tokyo. There were heart cookies from an engagement party we threw and baklava from a Sunday dinner. There were chocolate mint thumbprints.

Hosting a buffet of sweets in my own kitchen is not my usual approach to the holidays.

I tend to figure that if we keep things vegetable and grain-focused at home, we can indulge in rich cuts of meat and gooey desserts at all the parties without feeling bogged down in between. So, with just 8 days left til Christmas and 15 remaining in this year, I’m back on the veggies, and I wanted to share this simple recipe in case you’re looking for a break from all the party food.Sesame Carrots and Parsnips

In other words, this is more of a January recipes. Two root vegetables, parsnips and carrots, roast in the oven. When they emerge, just shy of crisp, you dress them in a sesame sauce that’s got the flavors of Japan but is made with a Middle Eastern ingredient, tahini, instead of sesame seeds. Shreds of toasted nori and crunchy sesame seeds finish the dish, making it satisfying and protein-heavy enough to eat with a bowl of white or brown rice. Satisfying enough to tide you over until the next treat.