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Squash, Leek & Bacon Pizza with Crispy Sage

Squash, Leek & Bacon Pizza

There are five pizza places on my rotation. Two are slice joints, while three serve pies. Three have hipster in the atmosphere, while two are geared to Park Slopers with families. One almost always has a wait. It makes sense to go out for charcoal-kissed or quintessential New York-style pizza pies when you have a neighborhood checklist of this caliber. And yet, more and more frequently, homemade pizza is appearing on our table.

Squash, Leek & Bacon Pizza with Crispy Sage

Here are the reasons, some of them obvious. It’s fun to make your own crust. It’s fun to not make crust at all and grab a ready-made and perfectly charred Stonefire crust from the freezer (hello, very fast weeknight dinner). Planning, prepping, and matching toppings is an exercise in creativity. Grabbing sage from the upstairs garden makes you feel like a fully realized adult food lover. Actually, I think that those moment when you make a beloved tradition your own is one of those key adult moments, where you look at dinner and think, “this was all me.”

Here, I started out with two traditions: first, pizza baking, and second, eating seasonally (that is, feasting forever on squash with bacon and sage). This time of year, I often crave food counter to what’s traditional–not just mashed potatoes, but also a spicy bowl of ramen. That ends up working out. Though Thursday is a day of supreme traditions, and Friday is a day of leftover traditions, the days around Thanksgiving, including “Thanksgiving Eve,” are wide open for new approaches to seasonal cooking.
Squash Leek & Bacon PizzaSquash, Leek & Bacon Pizza with Crispy Sage

This pizza is one of them. It picks up on fall flavors and ingredients and turns them into a fresh take on my neighborhood favorite–pizza. In my book, this is a very good reason to stay in one of these nights before or after Thanksgiving, and cook up a pizza party that brings squash, bacon, and leeks to the table.

Squash, Leek & Bacon Pizza with Crispy SageSquash, Leek & Bacon Pizza with Crispy SageThis post was sponsored by Stonefire. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that keep Big Girls, Small Kitchen delicious!

Barbecue Chicken & Cheddar Pizza

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Well, now you know. When I’m looking to turn a traditionally vegetable-free meal into a dinner I don’t have to make a side-dish vegetable to serve alongside, I automatically add some kale leaves to the soup or the pasta, or, here, the pizza.

There was an article on the wall in the pizzeria I went to growing up about how you could do worse in a desert island food than pizza. You had the carbs, the vegetable, and the protein. You could eat a pie every day. You could eat a slice at every meal. It was a soft sell–you read the columns once you’d already bought your pizza, after all–but I took that message to heart.

This is why I’ve never once even ventured to label pizza as junk food. It’s just not. Especially when you load up a crust with chicken, kale, caramelized onions, and barbecue sauce.

The possession of a good frozen pizza crust transforms your apartment into the kind of dream desert island where pizza’s on offer all the time. From the starting point of this prized crust, the toppings can be serious, straightforward, and intentional, when pizza for dinner is truly a plan, or they can be a little more hodgepodge, like a mad lib that goes [insert sauce here] and then [insert toppings].

What’s funny and cool about barbecue chicken pizza is that you could plan to have it for dinner in all seriousness–go shopping, buy the right things, eat cole slaw on the side. Or, you could realize that your desert island also lays claim to leftover chicken, a jar of barbecue sauce, an onion in the pantry, and some cheese–and that pizza crust in the freezer–and you could enjoy such a divinely inspired concoction as barbecue pizza with no forethought at all.

Stonefire makes this Italian Artisan Pizza Crust that looks like a delicious flatbread before you put it in the oven. Afterwards, the edges and the bottom crisp up like pizza dough from scratch, and the center firmly holds up the big pile of kale/onion/chicken/bbq sauce/cheddar/jalapeño that you arrange on top.

This post was sponsored by Stonefire. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that keep Big Girls, Small Kitchen delicious!

Toasted Garlic Naan with Tomato Achaar & Raita–in Real Life!

Stonefire Naan

Big news! This toasty piece of delicious toasted Stonefire naan topped with tomato achaar (made and sold by my friend Chitra at Brooklyn Delhi) and homemade raita laced with grated cukes and toasted mustard seeds, is not like the other dishes on this blog, the ones that exist only on your computer screen unless you go through the trouble of cooking them yourself.

This delicious piece of Indian-inspired pizza is yours to eat on April 5th in Williamsburg (at Kent & North 8th; it’s Smorgasburg’s first day outdoors), where I’ll be helping welcome Stonefire’s traveling food truck to the city and sharing bites of the delicacy above with all of you. Come say hi!

Here’s a little more about what we’ll be serving. As you can see, it kind of resembles a pizza. In reality, everything is spiced with Indian flavors, rather than being morphed into an Italian look-alike like this naan meatball pizza. Instead of tomato sauce, we’ve got achaar, a sweet, spicy, and tangy relish that’s traditionally used as a topping for rice, curries, or dal. In place of cheese, there’s a cooling raita, a yogurt sauce often paired with achaar. Lastly, we replaced pizza’s basil or oregano with bright mint and cilantro.

Though you might not normally see this naan prepared in exactly this pizza-like style, you definitely could wind up at an Indian feast with condiments, bread, and herbs on the table and find yourself eating just this combination of achaar, raita, and naan, bite by delicious bite.

And if you’d like one of those delicious bites to be yours, come try the Toasted Garlic Naan with Tomato Achaar & Raita in real life. With me. In Brooklyn. See you on Saturday, April 5th outside Smorgasburg, Kent Ave. & N. 8th St. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

This post was sponsored by Stonefire. Read previous Stonefire posts here and 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!

Paneer Bhurji, or Indian-Spiced Scrambled Paneer with Peas

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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!

Vegetable Korma with Homemade Curry Paste & Warm Naan

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In one of my favorite cookbooks, there’s a chapter entitled “Nice with Rice.” I’ve always loved the idea that we could sort dishes by their chosen starch. Instead of being nice with rice (or in addition to that quality), today’s roughly imagined vegetable curry is in the category “bon with naan.”

That naan comes from Stonefire, maker of traditional naan, roasted in ovens far hotter than ours get at home. While I’ve made paratha, roti, and even samosas, I’ve never tried my hand homemade naan, because I don’t have a tandoori oven. Whereas Stonefire does: their naan, made with an age-old recipe that uses both buttermilk and ghee, gets baked using new technology that mimics the 6,000-year-old method of making naan in a tandoor oven. I keep packages of Stonefire naan in the freezer (there are whole grain, garlic and sweet chili versions in addition to original), then bake them up, brush with butter, and eat them.

And what do I eat them with?

Well. Back in December, I asked what cuisine you might like to see explored more on the blog, and you said Indian. And then in January, I told you my food resolutions, and one was to make Indian (and Thai) curry pastes at home. For today’s bon with naan curry–not exactly a korma, but something like it–I got out my mini food processor, picked up ginger, garlic, cilantro, and serranos, and started making a curry paste.

The method for any curry paste is easy: combine herbs, chilies, nuts, garlic, ginger, aromatics, tomato, onion, oil, or toasted spices in various proportions and grind or pound them into a goop.

The interplay of flavors in the paste contributes a deep seasoning, and sometimes serious spice, to your stews. To make any curry, you simply heat some oil in a pan, toast the paste in it, and add whatever ingredients you’d like, from protein and vegetables to coconut milk, stock, or cream. Both making curry paste and making curry are a lot easier than you’d think, and a lot less risky than opening up a can of paste from an unknown brand and finding your dinner needs about 6 cups of  salt to taste like anything at all.