In a small kitchen, you don’t need a lot of equipment to cook great food. Still, you do need some pots, pans, utensils, and dishes–obviously. In the BGSK book, you’ll find a bare bones list of necessary tools, but I’ve long wanted to bring you a similar resource on the web.

So we’re going one by one, stocking up our virtual pantries and maybe our real ones too. You can see the whole “set” here.

With summer in full swing, I hope you’re planning parties. And whether your parties occur at brunch, by a barbecue, or long past sunset, I hope you’re mixing some drinks. (Start with this week’s Strawberry Gimlets.) Yet one item I didn’t have for a long time was a glass pitcher from which to dole out the booze. If we made Bloody Marys, we poured them from plastic tomato juice bottles. If we mixed up Manhattans, we had to disappear into the kitchen and miss moments of the party.

And so, when we got a beautiful 84-ounce crystal pitcher as a wedding gift, I adored it immediately. Serving problems solved! Here’s a large glass pitcher that’s a bit more affordable, if a bit smaller. If you host a lot, you might even like to have two!

When not in use for parties, your pitcher doubles as a vase for all those flowers you keep in your tiny but lovely kitchen!

Here are a few ways you’ll use your shiny pitcher–two out of the three are alcoholic, but a nice pitcher holds non-boozy liquids just as well. Serve sun tea, iced coffee, and, well, water:

Make this right now. No, not to drink right now. There’s no instant gratification (or morning drinking) here. But if you want to be sipping these bright red drinks before linking arms, belting patriotic songs, and admiring at the fireworks on July 4th, you’ll have to start now.

That’s because this is no ordinary gimlet. I took a deep dive into DIY terrain and infused my own plain vodka with strawberry tops. After two weeks in my pantry, my little jar of booze had turned a deep pink, the once-fresh strawberries gone limp and their color dimmed as they donated their flavor and hue to the vodka. And so, 14 days after I started this project, I was ready to mix a drink.

I knew I wanted something simple after waiting so long (despite doing so little–infusing alcohol is surprisingly easy).

A gimlet normally requires nothing more than vodka (or gin), lime, and sugar. The generous amount of lime makes the drink taste like a sour, rather than a cocktail simply finished with a mere squeeze of citrus. Since I was already perverting the gimlet’s purity with berry vodka, I added a second dose of strawberry by muddling a few berries from a fresh pint with sugar–the berries, for me, really round out the drink’s flavor. After the muddling, the instructions include: pouring vodka, squeezing limes, and straining. Easy. Two drinks are ready for toasting to the U.S.A.!

Over the weekend, one of my oldest friends got married. You know her from her jalapeño cheddar bread–a good thing to be known for. She was beautiful, the setting was incredible, and as the sun set on the longest day of the year and the florescent fuchsia light melted over the converging lines of the vineyard’s vines, the twenty other friends I’d known since childhood or preteen-hood were beautiful too. Awww.

One of the ways we’ve all stayed friends for so long is through potlucks and dinner parties. After a night of eating and drinking, it’s never long before someone emails to begin planning the next event. Geographically, we’re only scattered across a city, not the country, so gathering is easier. But you can’t underestimate how much a love for food–particularly rich vegetarian food like cheesy jalapeño bread and avocado aioli–can keep a group together.

Not all the events are the result of long email chains. I brought this carrot and avocado dip to Essie’s impromptu barbecue the other day (the final version included cut-up beets, too, but those stain your thumbs red, and this recipe is all about easy-to-eat finger food). Essie is one of the few high school friends who’s made it to Brooklyn, and I can walk to her apartment, which has a terrace, in 10 minutes. She has a grill, and I have a way with carrots, avocados, and herbs–and a couple Sundays ago this added up to yet another beautiful day spent over food with people I’ve been eating with since I wore pastel bell bottoms in 7th grade. Yes.

Rhubarb Cheesecake Pots

Posted by on Thursday Jun 19th, 2014

Natalie of Good Girl Style is back today with cheesecakes. And not just your standard cheesecakes. These individual pots of rich goodness are topped with tangy rhubarb, still one of the main local fruits we’re seeing, as strawberries try their best to ripen (more soon, please!). Natalie joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just good old-fashioned butter, sugar, chocolate, cream, and almonds. Don’t miss her most recent posts, about Lemon Bars and Coffee Granita.

Being a midwestern girl at heart, I love rhubarb in most any form, except perhaps straight out of the garden like some hardy Minnesotans. But add some sugar and some creamy cheesecake and “yah sure, you betcha,” it’s one of my favorites. This rhubarb sauce is so versatile, my Minnesotan grandfather always had a bowl of it in the fridge to eat on top of yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese, or just plain with a spoon. Here it pairs deliciously well with a cool, sweet, creamy cheesecake filling.

Pick thin rhubarb stalks with plenty of red for the most delicious (and colorful!) sauce. Just remember not to include the leaves as they are poisonous to ingest! This no-bake dessert is the perfect ending to a grilled dinner. If you use little jars with lids and don’t fill them all of the way, the cheesecakes travel well in a cooler.

It’s hard to say why this has become a thing for me seeing as most of my clothing is solid, striped, or plaid, but I’m dying for a pair of leggings with photographs of hamburgers printed all over them. Have you seen those? If I can stay sane, I’ll probably never own them. But that doesn’t mean I can’t customize other things with photographs of food.

Like, for example, melamine plates that don’t break and are perfectly light and transportable for nights when dinner is replaced by a picnic in the park. Thanks, Zazzle. (Here’s where you can make our own plates–they’re a perfect gift for yourself or for others.)

In addition to celebrating the fact that you can print food on plates from Zazzle (!), this post also contains the recipe for the second five-ingredient sandwich invented for that brand new/eponymous series. Though I intended the sandwich posts to be about merely making yourself something decent from what’s in the fridge, there’s no reason that simple sandwich supper or lunch can’t be shared. On custom melamine plates. In the park.

I’ve spent the spring deeply devoted to radishes. For dinner parties, I’ve been sautéing them, and when I find radishes with their greens in good shape, I make sure to use those too. (Wash and dry the greens right after arriving back at home. They go bad so quickly.) In this number, I turned those greens into a simple pesto, which is the second layer (after butter) on these tea sandwich-like concoctions. Atop the pesto and below the avocado, you’ll find radish rounds arranged in a flower–pretty enough for a picture on a plate.

It starts and ends with the bread. The burger, I mean. The bun surrounding your juicy meats and creative toppings hits the mouth first (top bun) and last (bottom bun). And for good reason. Yes, the meat would seem to be everything, but the way it soaks into a mayo-smeared piece of bread before dripping off the bread and onto your fingers…Well, that is the experience I crave when I think about summer grilling burgers.

I plan on having two summer classics hog my repertoire this year: burgers (bet you could have guessed) and tacos. Both are well-suited to having company or cooking for two. And though we like to imagine we’re all spending summer evenings in front of the grill, sometimes we get stuck in the city with the same stove we’ve cooked on all winter. Both tacos and burgers are also good seasonal indoor food, if we really have to talk about that.

So, summer 2014 will be the season of the Torta Burger around here. A torta is a sandwich that contains many of the Mexican-style fixings you’d find on a taco–only now, they’re between the bun. Add in a burger, and you’ve got a glorious dinner for the season.

Here’s how I meshed the two dinners, tortas and burgers: I split open a Kaiser roll and toasted it quickly, just to get a nice golden-brown color in the inside. Then I started piling the extras onto the bottom: a spread of mayo, a spoonful of refried black beans.

Earlier in the day, I pickled a few sliced jalapeños. Pickling mellows the peppers and gives them the best spicy-sweet flavor and tender texture for burgers and sandwiches.

And then, I cooked burgers–cheeseburgers.

New York City’s {Greek} Emporium: Titan Foods

Posted by on Wednesday Jun 11th, 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, Italian, and Greek 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 first: Titan Foods, the Greek Emporium of New York City, located in Astoria Queens. Here’s Lauren:

Queens is a food mecca. Though to most people, New York City’s largest borough simply holds the distinction of being one of the most diverse geographic areas on earth–nearly 50 percent of its occupants were born abroad–to me, that means you’ll find Chinese grocery stores hawking pristine bok choy just a stone’s throw from Pakistani shops filled with fragrant spices and, a couple of blocks away, Puerto Rican bodegas serving up soupy rice and beans and crisp-fried tostones. As a Brooklynite, I don’t get to spend much time in Queens, but when I do make it there, I’m taken aback by the abundance.

Titan's Greek signage is the first indication of the traditional ingredients to be found inside.

When I’m looking for Greek ingredients, I head to Astoria. This neighborhood, known for its handsome Tudor-style row houses, was the destination for immigrants arriving from Greece and Cyprus in the 1960s and ‘70s, and the Mediterranean population left its mark in the form of countless restaurants, casual tavernas and bakeries, and a number of well-stocked grocery stores that are a dream for the home cook. (See all of BGSK’s Greek recipes here.)

My Greek supermarket of choice is Titan Foods, a large but not overwhelming full-service grocery that stocks an amazing selection of all the Greek ingredients you’d ever need, from aromatic dried oregano to milky fetas to countless varieties of olives—and much more. Need phyllo for homemade baklava? It’s here, in about nine varieties. Prefer to pick up a prepared spinach pie? In the freezer section. Titan has three grinds of bulgur, from fine to coarse; dried fava beans, both split and whole; and a wealth of dried fruits and jams in flavors like sour cherry, fig and bitter orange.