Appetizer Meatballs

Meatballs | Big Girls Small Ktichen

The dishes that welcome meatballs are numerous. Spaghetti, all covered with cheese, is one. Subs are another. Rice and rice noodles clock in third and fourth. We’ve got skewers that hold meatball-like kebabs, and we’ve got soup: Italian wedding. This list  eventually goes on and on, but today I’d like to add a too often overlooked seventh entry, which is the appetizer spread.

Meatballs | Big Girls Small KitchenA long time ago, using what I think was an Arthur Schwartz recipe that now I can’t find and an impulse I don’t completely remember, my family served appetizer meatballs at some event. Their ingredient list was short. They were baked. I think we put a dipping sauce in a bowl next to the plate on which we arranged the meatballs once they were out of the oven. They went fast.

Meatballs | Big Girls Small KitchenMeatballs | Big Girls Small KitchenMeatballs | Big Girls Small Ktichen

Here are the perks of an appetizer meatball for you: you can make the meatball mix and form balls ahead of time, and no matter how rudimentary your arranging skills, appetizer meatballs will look good on a plate. For your guests, these are great because they’re filling but not actually indulgent, a bite that lands happily in the middle of the crudité and the coconut shrimp. All of this is to say that you should overlook appetizer meatballs no more.

Whole Grain Oat & Millet Pancakes with Shaved Apples

Whole Grain Oat Pancakes with Shaved Apples

I have this thing with pancakes. I love the idea of a Saturday morning spent with a short stack, but regular flapjacks leave me feeling heavy in the gut and light in the head.

So I’ve long wanted a recipe for whole grain pancakes that didn’t drain me of all my Saturday energy. This one came close. This recipe looks good, even if it’s intended for kids. And when I saw that My New Roots had put a recipe for soaked grain pancakes that didn’t require any ingredients besides soaked grains, I knew I had to get out the griddle.

Whole Grain Pancakes with Shaved Apples | Big GIrls Small KitchenTotally Whole Grain Pancakes | Big Girls Small KitchenI’m a big fan of soaking farro, oats, and rice before I cook them. Water (and often some acid, like vinegar or yogurt) helps break down the hard-to-digest elements in the grain, making them quicker to cook, plus easier to stomach and more filling. Those last two qualities were just what I needed in my pancakes! To make the whole grain batter, you blend the soaked oats (for example) with fresh water until they reach the consistency of pancake batter, instead of cooking them up into a pot of porridge. Though the cakes that result aren’t fluffy like a typical diner griddle cake, the pancakes tasted far more like pancakes than like oatmeal disguised in pancake form.

Totally Whole Grain Pancakes | Big Girls Small KitchenTotally Whole Grain Pancakes | Big Girls Small KitchenTotally Whole Grain Pancakes | Big Girls Small KitchenThough you don’t need anything but the grains, blended, I did add a few things: an egg, which helps make these pancake-y, as well as tiny bits of sugar and salt. In future renditions, I may flavor the pancakes with fruit, nut butters, cinnamon, shredded coconut, or lemon zest, and also try replacing some of the water with coconut milk or whole milk, for a richer breakfast.


Dal | Big Girls Small Kitchen

I have a few new and new-to-me cookbooks I’m aching to cook from as soon as the weather cools and spending the weekend in the kitchen, on projects, appeals to me again. One is called Food of Life and is filled with recipes for Persian/Iranian cooking. Pages with kebabs and tahdigs and pomegranate stews are bookmarked with my pink stickies. There’s a Cook’s Illustrated DIY cookbook that’s forced me to formulate plans to brew apple butter, onion jam, and duck confit. Meanwhile, there’s still a slew of Pok Pok dishes I still need to try. I’m hoping to make many of these all-day kitchen extravaganzas.

Dal | Big Girls Small Kitchen

With big goals like that, it’s welcome, in the meantime, to experiment with a dish that has fewer steps and ingredients: dal. It’s easy to start making dal, the Indian lentil soup in which the lentils dissipate into a thick broth as they cook. I know less about mastery of the dish, how to put my own spin on it, to know exactly how to soften the onions without letting them brown, or how hard a simmer the soup should cook at.

But I like foods and activities like these, where starting is easy, even though winning the championship is hard. For dal, all you need are any kind of lentil or split bean, plus water and onions. Dal | Big Girls Small Kitchen

Right now, there’s a container of very plain mung bean dal in the fridge. Yesterday, I heated it up and ladled it over quinoa, then finished with a tadka, a sizzle of cumin, coriander, fennel, and mustard seeds, and just-golden minced garlic. And a spoonful of plain yogurt. Tomorrow, we might supplement a light dinner with small bowls to start. By the weekend, if the fridge is empty, I know we’ll be happy for any dal that remains.

Eating Mussels in Belgium

photo by Carly Diaz

It was the height of summer and I was standing on the main square in Ypres, Belgium with an American film crew working on a World War I documentary. A fresh graduate from the University of Amsterdam, I was putting my MA degree to good use carrying camera equipment across vast fields and setting up lights and tripods in dark, damp spaces for the B-camera team. The physicality of the work surprised me, a far remove from the comfort of analyzing photographs and film clips at the desks of academia.

When the field producer called it a day, the other local assistants and I would drag our weary bodies to the Grote Markt (Great Market Square) and search out a restaurant to determine how we would spend our per diem. The multitude of restaurants lining the square boasted A-frame sandwich boards along the sidewalk, most frequently advertising moules et frites, the Belgian national dish of mussels and fries that was perfect for sharing with a bottle of white wine. We relaxed our aching muscles and traded stories about the day.


The film crew from Los Angeles had all previously worked together, but the two other assistants and I became fast friends. We were on assignment for a month together and spent nearly every waking moment together. They were both native Belgians from Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium. Ypres was our home base during our shoot, in the heart of Flanders, the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium. I was fascinated with the sounds of Flemish, a dialect with a sound and vocabulary distinct from the Dutch I had learned over the past two years in Amsterdam. I was just starting to hear the difference in the dialects, learning that ‘Holland’ and ‘the Netherlands’ could not be used interchangeably, and generally undergoing an education in the minutiae of northern Europe’s historically intertwined cultures. But the complications and details faded when a pile of mussels were placed at the center of the table.


We spent nearly a week in Ypres, the starting point for the filming that would take us all over Benelux and northern France, and ate an incredible amount of mussels in that span. Before then, I had only eaten mussels a handful of times and certainly never imagined they would be something I would bring into my own kitchen. Yet, as the best foods often are, the simplicity of good mussels is deceptive.


This interpretation puts the emphasis on the broth with a dash of spice that is perfect for dipping chunks of bread in, summer or winter. Bought fresh, mussels are still alive and so the key is to keep the shellfish cool as you prepare them. The general rule is that open shells should close when cooled or tapped firmly and open when cooked. Although there is some debate that challenges the idea that unopened shells shouldn’t be eaten, err on the side of safety and discard them.

There’s nothing like travel to get the appetite ready for new tastes and cooking methods, and I’m happy to have Carly Diaz here once again, showing how seeing the world inspires us in the kitchen. Don’t miss her last gorgeous post about Avocado-Banana Smoothies

I Grew All This

Lemon Cukes and Notes from the Summer

Hello! As you read this, I’m driving south along the Pacific. We started in Seattle on Thursday, and we’ll make it to San Francisco before the week’s out. If you have recommendations for stops in Portland or along the Oregon or California coast, please share.

While back-to-school season always makes me wish I were a student again, the pleasure of a being able to take a vacation after Labor Day can’t be overstated. The summer’s just longer this way.

While I’m on the road, away from the kitchen, a little recap of what the season has brought to this small kitchen:

Growing in the garden:

CarrotsAfter planting our first few radishes in April, both our vegetables and the number of containers holding them multiplied. Gardening is addictive.

Here’s what we ended up growing: two kinds of little tomatoes (sun gold, red pear), two kinds of radishes, lemon cucumbers, green leaf lettuce, kale, habaneros, carrots and a bunch of herbs (tarragon, sage, dill, basil, Thai basil, and mint). We planted string beans but they petered out early. I also threw in some marigold seeds and some nasturtiums.

Kitchen Stuff: The Liquid Measuring Cup

Kitchen Stuff Liquid Measure

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 equipment, 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.

Want to make pizza, perfect rice, and baked goods that turn out right every time? In order to do so, you’re going to want to bulk up your measuring kit with a liquid measure in addition to dry measures (those metal cups with handles you use to spoon out flour and sugar). Why?

Dry measures are simply designed for dry ingredients. It’s hard to pour out maple syrup or water and get it right to the top, but not over. Even harder is picking up that measure without spilling a drop–therefore screwing with your proportions. A liquid measure allows you to match your liquid to a horizontal line denoting that you’ve got the right amount, and to pour your water or wine out neatly, through a spout. I have a few measuring cups, but the one to start with is this Pyrex 2-cup glass measure, which is microwave safe, stackable, and easy to clean.

Here’s what deliciousness you’ll get when you measure water, stock, and vodka in your liquid measuring cup: