Make the Best Burger Ever

Posted by on Wednesday Mar 19th, 2014

There’s such a victory in making something at home that you always only eat out. For some reason, I’d long relegated the burger to a meal I enjoyed only at restaurants, with favorites around the city, from Shake Shack to Anchored Inn and Five Napkin to our neighborhood’s James. But the classic burger is really easy to make at home–and to make at home really, really well.

With help from burger experts, I put together The Complete Guide to Making Burgers at Home for First We Feast. Find the step-by-step photos and discover what burger principles must be upheld and what elements are yours to play around with over on First We Feast.

Not all parts of Brooklyn are the same, despite the worldwide branding, etc. For a while last year, my office was in East Williamsburg, and I rode through a cross-section of the borough on my way from once-dowdy and now maybe a little too hip Prospect Heights to industrial-chic East Williamsburg. Anyway, given those nuances, my favorite place for non-brown-bag-lunch days near work was Newtown, a tiny Middle Eastern vegetarian joint whose nuance clearly designated it ‘Burg-ian, not Heights-ish, but anyway, on indulgent days there, I ordered the most amazing halloumi sandwich (homemade focaccia, herbed cream cheese, mushrooms, eggplant, greens, tomato, and fried halloumi). On regular days, the sabich platter was mine.

Sabich refers to the combo of hummus, eggplant, and hard-boiled egg (I posted about a sabich sandwich once), and a bite of that on fresh pita topped with harissa? That’s one of my top foods.

But lunch out is a treat for me. And so this post is about making sabich-like hummus platters at home–with the same kind of make-ahead approach as the Brisket Burrito Bowls from the other week. The components come together with just a little work on Sunday, then become a daily dose of beautiful, healthful, enviable lunch sustenance.

Because of the season, I nixed eggplant and chose beets and fennel as my vegetables instead. I made hummus using beans from a can, because I didn’t have dried chickpeas to cook and Sunday afternoon was busy. I added a little extra green, and spice, with a simple harissa-like herb mixture used for garnish. Then I kept the protein level high with the sabich-like addition of an egg, medium-boiled and sliced each day.

If there are those among you who prefer the sandwich format over the platter, these very same ingredients will deliver you an excellent veggie and hummus sandwich–just spread on the hummus and green harissa, then pile up sliced eggs, roasted beets, and fennel. Read on below for recipes and guidelines for putting together your very own lunchtime hummus platters, all based on the lunch I ate each day last week.

**How to Make Hummus Platters for the Week**

I’ve shared about a million different iterations of hummus that might inspire you: classic creamy hummus, herby avocado hummus, lentil hummus. This particular batch was made with two cans of chickpeas, 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup tahini, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 cloves of garlic, and the juice of 2 lemons–all blended together in the food processor, enough for about 8 hummus bowls. You can almost always find some ingredients for hummus at home–here’s how to work with what you have.

Roasted Beets
Roasted beets are really easy to make. Place a couple of (unpeeled) beets on a baking sheet and toss with a tiny bit of olive oil. Bake at 425°F for about 1 hour, until a knife slides in with no resistance. Remove from the oven and let cool. Remove the skin with the help of a paring knife, then cut the beets into slices or cubes. If you don’t like staining your cutting boards red, pick up yellow beets. For 8 servings, roast 8 small or 4 large beets.

Toasted Oatmeal & Apple Breakfast Bars

Posted by on Thursday Mar 13th, 2014

When I first learned that people skipped breakfast, I couldn’t wrap my head around that idea. What is better than a delicious meal early in the day, while the the action of the future 16 hours hovers quietly ahead, as though time is on pause? I used to read cookbooks over breakfast. These days, I’m more likely to be writing a blog post or catching up on emails (or, shamefully, washing last night’s dishes while I spoon cereal into my mouth).

Last year, though, I made a concessions to those of you who think of breakfast as a necessary evil, with these Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Cookie Bars. I’d prefer to think that they were popular because they were an easy, make-ahead, on-the-go breakfast option–and not because they had the words “chocolate” and “cookie” in the title.

Since publishing those, I’ve had it in my head to develop a second version with a different set of flavors and add-ins. By the time I got around to baking them, I was deep into the creation of my eCookbook and had already decided that in addition to the baker’s dozen dairy-free desserts, I’d be including two yummy, butter-free breakfast treats. And so, into the book went Toasted Oatmeal & Apple Breakfast bars, a recipe I adore because of the fragrant nutty oats, rich sunflower butter, minced pieces of sweet apple, and aromatic cinnamon.

But I felt like I couldn’t deprive the blog of these bars either, and so, silly as it may be to share something free that I really (really, really, really) hope you’ll invest in, the recipe is yours today. If you like it, I hope you’ll check out A Baker’s Dairy-Free Dozen too!

I’m so excited to be working with Skinnygirl Daily this month, to tell you about–and participate in–the Skinnygirl Healthy Habits Challenge (which you can enter here!). The challenge is about making better decisions for the mind, body, or soul, and you can chime in or follow along using the hashtag #SkinnygirlHH.

Anyway, though we don’t talk a ton about health here (I think it’s implied when you discuss home cooking), as winter winds down, and we finally approach spring, I bet I’m not the only one who feels a little, well, soft. I can’t wait to get back on my bike, to run around in the park, and to eat summer vegetables adorned with nothing but grill marks.

But one step at a time. While we wait for the days to turn warm and long, I wanted to tell you about a healthy habit I’ve adopted for the challenge that you could pick up right this second. Here it is: eat chocolate for dessert.

I’ve always loved sugar. I’ve loved it since I led my sister and neighbor on campaigns to steal marshmallows when our parents weren’t looking. But here’s the thing about sugar: it is often delivered with a lot of other food, enough sustenance to count as lunch–except that slice of cake never feels like lunch. When the fact sank in that sweets really were a treat, I delighted in applying the stomach space saved on sweets to foods that nourished me better.

That said, what’s a girl to eat for dessert? Here’s my answer: dark chocolate. It’s delicious, it’s easy, and it’s gloriously itself, meaning you don’t need tons of carbs or copious amounts of butter to make it delicious. I opt to keep an open bag of chocolate chips in the fridge, but you could indulge in a fancy chocolate bar, if that’s more your style.

What are your healthy habits? If you don’t have any, you’ll find great ones in the daily Healthy Habits Challenge emails – join here!

This post was sponsored by Skinnygirl. You can join the Healthy Habits Challenge (and enter to win a trip to NYC) here, and you should also check out Skinnygirl’s Tasty Nutrition Bar (pictured above)–they’re tasty yet healthy and include my dessert favorite, dark chocolate. They’re less than 170 calories and come in Chocolate Pretzel, Banana Oatmeal and Peanut Butter with Sea Salt flavors. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that keep Big Girls, Small Kitchen delicious!

Oh man, the quiet of vacation fades really fast into the clamor of New York City. Last week, we were floating down Belize’s Rio Grande to the Caribbean, climbing the pyramids at Tikal, and reading books in hammocks, internet in the lobby so intermittent it took a day to download a draft of the eCookbook when I needed to proof it. And then you know what it’s like this week, to come back to a city with the snow still unmelted, and work, and life, and everything. So while I catch up, I wanted to share with you an old favorite recipe–a vegetarian superstar that resembles nothing so much as mashed potatoes but delivers a lot more protein and flavor than that. 

The saucer of spices above reminded me to tell you that we stayed in Belize on a working farm, and I saw turmeric–that yellow powder in the upper left–growing fresh as we walked through the garden one afternoon. Down there, they call turmeric yellow ginger. I’m holding a little slice on the left below, which is vividly orange compared to the knob of ginger Alex has. My piece stained my thumb gold for the afternoon.

This is the rest of the garden where those two roots grew, beside squash and cilantro, culantro and massive leaves of tropical thyme.

And then, to give you one more, this is the river in the jungle we glided down by boat:

The potato pea masala is a recipe from BGSK’s first-ever post, like my peanut sauce. In addition to potatoes, there are raisins, chickpeas, and coconut, plus a cilantro chutney that makes a bowl of potatoes seem more rarified.

The masala could be served as part of a bigger indian buffet, beside korma, chicken tikka masala, or paneer bhurji, or as its own vegetarian main dish. If you’ve got leftovers, smash up the potatoes, form little cakes, and fry them in a little oil.

Are you ready to hold in your virtual hands a brand shiny new eCookbook, one that delivers both instant gratification and dairy-free sweets? Have you ever visited this old, dreary dairy-free desserts page as Passover approached or thought disastrously about substituting olive oil in for butter in brownies when hosting your newly dairy-free friend?

Then A Baker’s Dairy-Free Dozen: Desserts for Every Sweet Day of the Year is for you!


In its pages, you’ll find inspiration for simple, natural, and tasty dairy-free sweets that work every time. Beyond its pages, you’ll receive a free signed postcard for every eCookbook you buy, so you’ll have something to hold in your real hands (besides dozens of Crackly Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies) after all.

I’m so happy to share a couple of the layouts from the book below. There’s much more goodness inside, and I really hope you like it!

If you squint at the Table of Contents, you’ll make out recipes like Chocolate Mousse and Summer Pudding, Iced Carrot Cake and Glazed Orange Marmalade Muffins, plus essential resources about baking and dairy-free ingredients. (The actual book is high-res and zoomable and perfectly suited to swiping through on your iPad.) You can find out more about the recipes and the eCookbook format by visiting the new A Baker’s Dairy-Free Dozen page.

There’s an early-bird 15 percent discount from now ’til the stroke of midnight on Saturday. If you’re craving delicious, dairy-free sweets, you should give in right now by clicking here. If you like butter but your friends, cousins, or colleagues are lactose-intolerant or kosher, I’d love if you pass on the eCookbook news to them.

Thanks for your support, and happy baking!

We fell in love with Indian food when I was in seventh grade. By we, I somehow mean my entire world at once. Friends and family converged at this one Upper West Side restaurant, all of us craving potato samosas, saag paneer, and chicken tikka masala at the same time, and often. It was 1997, and I guess we’d been busy eating the cuisine of the 90s, whatever that was, and when it came to light that there were delicious and deeply flavorful stews and rice pilafs, not to mention naan and poori, that we’d been missing all this time, we decided to eat our fill. We also all loved vegetarian main dishes, and Indian cuisine has got those aplenty.

Ever since those dinners, starting in middle school, I’ve loved Indian food–I’ve taken cooking classes, explored neighborhood restaurants, and tried my hand at curry pastes at home. Despite this, I haven’t branched out that much, menu-wise, in what I order at restaurants.

Then one cold night in January, I met my friend Anika for Indian food at a local place she’d found, and she–daughter of an excellent Indian home cook–told me that there was a new dish she’d never had til recently. She introduced me to paneer bhurji that night, and in a way it made me fall in love with Indian food all over again, the vast array of sub-cuisines and whole undiscovered dishes (which makes sense, since India is enormous and diverse!). Thanks to this paneer preparation, I jumped back into my at-home Indian cooking journey and decided I’d figure out how to make paneer bhurji at home. Like vegetable korma, paneer bhurji is a meatless dish that pairs beautifully with warm naan.

Paneer bhurji uses paneer, the blank slate that many Indian vegetarian meals center around. I’m sure you’ve eaten your fill of saag paneer, but maybe not tried paneer in other ways. I hadn’t either. But here, instead of being fried in whole cubes, the paneer gets crumbled and scrambled, and the result is totally different. The flavor given to the blank slate derives from cumin, toasted in oil at the beginning, pinches of a couple other spices in the vein of garam masala, then lemon to balance the flavors. Essentially, this is a simple dish, something you might eat for weekend lunch instead of scrambled eggs. In the summer, you could throw in seasonal vegetables and nix the peas.

Unlike paneer dishes, naan is hard to make at home, and that’s where Stonefire comes in. The company makes traditional naan in its high-tech ovens, which mimic the intense heat of an actual ancient tandoor oven, a heat that can’t be replicated in a home kitchen. I like to keep the naan in the freezer (it comes in four flavors), then warm in my oven and brush butter before serving. Stonefire’s recipe uses both buttermilk and ghee and gets its teardrop shape from being hand stretched. Also, naan can be a great last-minute crust for pizza!

This post was sponsored by Stonefire. Figure out where to get your own naan on Stonefire’s store finder. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that keep Big Girls, Small Kitchen delicious!