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.

Rainbow Chip Sheet Cake

Posted by on Monday Jun 9th, 2014

The rain is coming down this Monday morning. This recipe for Rainbow Chip Sheet Cake was already on the docket, but now that I’ve looked out the window, I hope the bright cake will bode as well for the weather later (a rainbow, followed by sunshine?!?!) as it will for all the future birthdays at which sugar coma-inducing slices will delight partygoers and party-givers alike.

This cake is part of neither my sweets-eating nor sweets-baking history, but I’d venture a guess that some of you grew up with rainbow chip cake and icing (that or Funfetti). Rainbow chip cake mix prevails, but the frosting got axed last year, to great sadness among the rainbow chip-loving set, which includes my friend Kenny–at whose 2013 party I first witnessed true love for rainbow chips, but whose 2014 Prospect Park birthday picnic was threatening to be disastrous, thanks to the discontinuation of the sprinkle-spangled icing from a can.

Anika (Kenny’s girlfriend) to the rescue. She found a source of rainbow chips, and I volunteered to make the cake. I used my trusty yellow cake recipe, which is flavored with lemon zest, and baked the batter in a sheet pan. (I find sheet cakes particularly accessible, and they save time. Plus, when you cut squares, you end up with cupcake-like proportions of icing to cake, which I love.)

I stirred together a classic cream cheese icing, adding extra sweetener to mock the stuff that comes in a can, then poured in the rainbow chips. I piled the icing on top, then set the whole cake on my slate board and carried it (biceps burning) to the park. When we’d eaten all of Anika’s grilled green chili turkey burgers and tasty guacamole, we finally brought out the cake. As the birthday guys blew out the candles, I was suddenly kind of worried. Would the cake meet Kenny’s expectations?

Fortunately, all the guests ate plenty of cake. Kenny led the way in doling out extra icing from a container I’d brought when the whole bowl I’d mixed up didn’t fit on top of the cake. This was success. Sweet success.

Mocha Choco Loco

Posted by on Wednesday Jun 4th, 2014

I’m going to trust you with this recipe, goofy title and all. Do you have sisters? I have two, and when all three of us put our heads (and cravings) together, amazing recipes emerge. This is one.

Of course, I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started, but it was a long time ago. I definitely remember a sunny Saturday in high school. Katie, my younger sister, and I were reading on the deck, and we experienced that late-afternoon desire that comes from neither hunger nor tiredness nor thirst alone, but a combination of all three. Those, and the call of our sweet teeth. We set down our books and raced into the kitchen.

Was that the first Mocha Choco Loco of all time? I can’t say. The evolution from plain chocolate milk to Mocha Choco is subtle indeed–but crucial. The update comes in the form of espresso powder, an ingredient we always had on hand for making mom’s famous chocolate cake but never used for actual drinking coffee. That day, and many after, we dissolved cocoa, espresso powder, and sugar in hot water in our glasses, then poured in cups of milk, added ice cubes, drank up. This miniature cooking session was followed by us running around the house for the rest of the day yelling about Mocha Choco Locos.

You, on the other hand, might be wise to think of this as a simple, not-too-sweet, homemade version of the Frappucino. That makes a lot more sense than the internal sister name.

There’s such a premium on creative output these days, with an atmosphere of obsession over the new, the better, and the surprising. Sometimes, after all the pushing to come up with ideas, I stop being able to think of any more, and sometimes, when it comes to dinner, that means the usual.

10 Meals to Stretch the Meat

Posted by on Thursday May 29th, 2014

Meat-lite is my mantra. I don’t eat steak at every meal, and chicken graces our pot no more than once every 10 days. I’m hardly a vegetarian though, and my favorite cooking quiz show (in my head) is to see how little meat I can get away with in what’s otherwise a non-vegetarian meal. Buying meat in smaller quantity keeps your wallet full, while adding a bit of bacon, sausage, or brisket to your healthful, inexpensive meal helps the vegetables go down.

1. Quinoa, Avocado & Apple Salad with Crispy Bacon & Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette. Bacon is the cherry on top of an otherwise virtuous, vegan salad.

2. Chicken Soba Soup with Miso & Spinach.A skimpy piece of chicken to feed two or more? Unheard of, til you bulk out the poultry with vegetables, broth, and noodles.

3. Homemade Baked Beans on Toast. The Brits figured out how to make a meal of beans taste amazing: add bacon!