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“Cara and Phoebe have figured what takes some of us a tad longer to realize. We can cook anywhere, anytime, with anything on any budget.”—Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of Public Radio’s The Splendid Table® from American Public Media
Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine, creators of the popular food blog biggirlssmallkitchen.com, share their kitchen prowess and tasty tips with In the Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes from Our Year of Cooking in the Real World. Filled with delicious and resourceful recipes for daily cooking and entertaining on a budget, In the Small Kitchen is required reading for anyone who wants to put an appetizing meal on the table. More than just a guide to quarter-life cooking, this cookbook is also a wonderful ode to the people we cook and eat with, who stick with us through breakups, birthdays, and myriad kitchen disasters.
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About the Author
Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine met in seventh grade at the Fieldston School in the Bronx, where they bonded over oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They have been cooking together ever since. In 2008, they founded the website Big Girls, Small Kitchen.
Read an Excerpt
In the Small Kitchen100 Recipes from Our Year of Cooking in the Real World
By Cara Eisenpress, Phoebe Lapine
William Morrow CookbooksCopyright © 2011 Cara Eisenpress, Phoebe Lapine
All right reserved.
Let's start with the basics: how to stock your cabinets, pantry, and fridge with useful
equipment, utensils, and ingredients, even when space and money are scarce resources. City life is hectic and expensive and, worst of all, requires us to carry all our groceries all of the blocks home. Follow our tips for creating a well- stocked pantry, and over shopping will no longer take its toll on your biceps or your wallet. Understanding some principles about seasoning your food will help you make the most of the tools available, what ever that well stocked pantry has to offer.
The ladle and other avoidable equipment
Our kitchen tool sets were born out of a series of haphazard hand- me- downs, determined bargain shopping at thrift stores and web ware houses, and equally determined improvisation. For the first year in her apartment, Cara had no baking dish and was forced to chisel slices of cornbread from the grooves of her cast iron grill pan, resulting in crimped delicacies and delicious crumbs. Phoebe cooked most of her early meals entirely out of a 5- quart Dutch oven everything from frittatas to pan- fried fish to brownies and she made them all without the help of measuring spoons until she received a set as a gift from her boss, Stephanie.
As resourceful quarter lifers, we trust you will find cheap ways to procure the essentials
below, and with these tools on hand, you will be able to cook all the recipes in this book.
Where we can, we give suggestions for substitutions and pose provocative questions like,
why buy a rolling pin when you have plenty of wine bottles lying around?
On the stove and in the oven
Medium enameled-cast-iron dutch oven (5- to 7-quart)
When people refer to one-pot-wonders, they are talking about this bad boy: the Dutch oven. Le Creuset makes top- of- the- line versions of these lidded pots that will likely outlive you. (Phoebe uses her grandmother's). Lodge is a good cheaper option. Regardless of price, this item is a worthy investment, as you may otherwise find yourself buying a handful of other dinky pots and pans to compensate for the Dutch oven's many functions it can double as a pasta pot, can be used in the oven in place of a baking dish, and has sufficient surface area for simmering a sauce or sautéing veggies.
Large ovenproof skillet (12- to 15-inch)
Cast iron skillets are our favorite type of ovenproof pan. They are multipurpose and make
for a beautiful, rustic presentation if plopped down in the middle of a table. Use the cast iron ovenproof skillet for items that need to be cooked stovetop and then baked in the oven. Make sure not to use soap when cleaning cast iron, or to go overboard with a Brillo pad you want the pan to stay seasoned and well greased (new cast- iron pans come with seasoning instructions).
Medium nonstick skillet (8- inch)
If you're using the Dutch oven for boiling pasta or simmering a stew, it's not a bad idea to have a shallow pan on hand. This nonstick skillet is also a great item to have when cooking for one. It is perfectly sized for single- serving eggs (like those found on page 28) and for quick sautés and sauces.
This is the pan for both sweet and savory items (chocolate chip cookies, page 180; roasted veggies, pages 59, 102). It can also be a great item to help in the ever tiresome small kitchen balancing act: most sheets will sit comfortably across your sink or on top of other pots and pans for use as an extra surface for prepped food. Keep a roll of parchment paper on hand to cover the sheet and cleanup will be easy. Be sure to measure the interior of your oven before you buy; we've owned cookie sheets that were tragically too large for our ovens. Two sheets would be ideal even if you only have one oven rack, so one sheet of cookies can be cooling while the other is baking.
9 × 13- inch baking pan
If you're not prone to baking blondies or large quantities of mac 'n cheese, you can get away with just using a cookie sheet for most of your baked meals. Otherwise, you'll want a metal or ceramic version of this pan. You can also use this as a vehicle for roasting meats or veggies. Pyrex is great too, but be careful when adding cool liquid to a hot Pyrex; it can cause the glass to shatter.
For the counter
Make sure you get a large, sturdy cutting board. Store it vertically to save the most space,
and balance it across your sink to gain more surface area. Don't buy floppy, soft cutting
boards; these are an accident waiting to happen and will only add to your mess. A thick
plastic or wooden board, and perhaps an extra small one for menial tasks that you can dole out to your roommates and/or guests, is all you need. Wood makes for a beautiful presentation, but it is not good for when handling raw meat.
Cuisinart mini prep
Cara didn't believe Phoebe when she claimed that this $30 food processor was a necessary item for any small kitchen. That is, until she received one for her birthday (courtesy of an "anonymous" tip). Soon she was whipping up homemade butter in the time it takes to toast bread and venturing down Phoebe's path of endless herb dressing creations (see page 237).
Now we both endorse this sucker in place of a blender or any other pureeing device. Trust us: it will change your life.
Large good looking mixing bowl
Medium not- necessarily- so- good- looking mixing bowl
Mixing bowls are incredibly handy. We recommend you get a good set of glass, plastic, or ceramic bowls (metal means no micro wave). At the bare minimum, you want at least one large and one medium, and preferably ones that are attractive enough to present to company (as in, not pink plastic) if you want them to double as salad or fruit bowls. If you don't have any smaller prep bowls, you can always use a mug or measuring cup instead.
Utensils and tools
Chef's knife (around 8 inches)
Invest in a decent knife. Don't go crazy, but we do recommend doing some research before you buy anything super cheap. Dull knives are more likely to slip and cause injury. If you cut yourself badly, you will likely never want to (or, god forbid, be able to) cook again. And can you really put a price on safety? In this case, we say no.
We find that one serrated knife, either small or large, can accomplish a lot. We use our chef 's knife for almost everything, but it really sucks for cutting bread, and when you make as much crostini as Phoebe does, that is a major deal breaker. Serrated edges excel at cutting tomatoes, bread, and chocolate.
This knife is definitely third in line, so if you are investing piece by piece, get the other two first. Paring knives are helpful for smaller tasks such as peeling apples and de-veining shrimp.
Flat metal spatula
One sturdy metal spatula is really all you need for sautéing onions, flipping chicken breasts, and removing brownies from the pan.
Our moms ingrained in us at an early age that plastic + heat = death. We're always wary
of using plastic spatulas for scrambling eggs (news flash: we don't use anything metal in
our non-sticks it ruins the pan and scrapes small pieces of it into the food). It's best to
buy one all- purpose silicone spatula (or spoonula) to take the place of any plastic stirring
utensil that might be used on the stove in a moment of crisis. We sometimes use wooden
spoons, but if you're going minimal, go silicone. Be forewarned: heavily spiced dishes like our Smoky Chipotle Vegetarian Chili (page 200) can cause this utensil to smell like the spice for weeks.
Get a really hard- core peeler that can handle even the pesky tough skins on vegetables like butternut squash. Forking over $7 to $8 for a nicer peeler will be worthwhile the $1 to $2 versions are not worth owning.
This item was a point of debate: Cara has one big, badass box grater, and Phoebe has one
large- holed handheld grater and one small zester. We concluded that if space is not an issue, it's best to invest in a really good box grater that has a zester on one side. If you have no drawers and need to hang your utensils or place them upright in an old pitcher as Phoebe does, get the two smaller items.
A cheap brush makes buttering and greasing a pan as easy as it should be. You can also
use a brush to sweep olive oil across the surface of a piece of eggplant before you hurl it
onto the hot grill (or cast- iron pan). Silicone brushes are nice if you'll be brushing oil onto hot pans.
If you are purchasing one of these, make sure it stands on its own. Some of the collapsible, space saving varieties are very flimsy. Others don't have much of a stand on the bottom and can easily fall, mixing your draining pasta with the gunk in your sink. To prevent this in any case, balance your colander on top of an upside down bowl set on the sink floor.
Oven mitts and dish towels
Don't burn yourself, or burn through your wallet, by buying roll upon roll of Bounty. Oven mitts and dish towels will be your savior.
Can and wine openers
If you don't cook often, these two tools can still allow for a meal of fine wine and canned
beans in front of the television. And if you do, well, more power to you.
Measuring cups and spoons
Besides allowing you to follow our recipes and those of other cooks, measuring cups can
serve a variety of different purposes: prep bowls, serving spoons, and, yes, the 1- cup can
allow you to avoid buying a ladle. Supplement your regular set with a 4- cup liquid
measuring cup as well.
12- cup muffin pan
8 × 8- inch baking pan
9- inch round spring form cake pan
9- inch fluted tart pan with removable
If you love to bake and plan to make cupcakes, quick breads, muffins, tarts, or cakes
frequently, purchase some or all of these pans in nonstick versions all are inexpensive. If you bake only rarely, or space is at a premium, disposable aluminum pans can be picked up at the grocery store along with your confectioners' sugar when the occasion arises.To remove a cooled cake from a spring form pan, run a butter knife around the edge, then loosen the spring and remove the sides. To serve a tart made in a pan with a removable bottom, hold the cooled tart from the bottom with one hand and let the sides drop down your arm.
Handheld electric mixer
If you whip a lot of cream, this will prove to be priceless; it's also pretty awesome to have around when making cookies or cakes, or even for mashing potatoes (the mini prep tends to make them gluey). Cara uses a Sunbeam mixer that cost about $30 and has threatened to fail her only once. We beat with either this or two forks clamped together in one hand like chopsticks. If you've got counter space and a gift certificate to a kitchenware store, by all means get yourself a stand mixer instead. We'll be really jealous.
Though bottles of wine work fine, we'll admit to owning rolling pins (they were gifts!). Get a heavy one, store it out of the way, and take it down when making an onion tart, a blueberry tart, or Christmas cookies.
We're not going to tell you to go out and buy a 10-person dinnerware set to serve your every dinner party need. Quarter lifers can get away with mismatched plates, bowls, and cutlery. We think this shabby chic vibe actually adds to the charm of the meal. Rather, we recommend that you own at least eight large dinner plates if you are having more than eight people over for dinner, our rule is to always use disposable (preferably a sustainable brand; we like VerTerra, which is bamboo). It's also nice to have another eight or so smaller salad plates or bowls, just in case you decide to host a meal with a salad course or dessert. It's great to have one or two large serving or salad spoons on hand as well, and one large platter if you serve a lot of finger food or like to present meals family style at the table. If you have a large cast- iron skillet, this can serve as a nice platter or serving dish. For more tips, see How to Set the Coffee Table (page 192).
Stocking the quarter life pantry
One of the biggest deterrents to getting started in the kitchen has to be the initial stocking
of the pantry. However, keeping cabinets filled with necessities means there's always the
possibility of dinner without having to resort to (a) leaving the apartment, (b) takeout, or
(c) a bowl of cereal with stale rice crackers on the side.
We both go through pantry phases. Cara's cupboards once contained four varieties of
dried beans, Phoebe's five boxes of pasta shapes a killer arts and crafts selection, but not enough of any one type to make a four- person entrée. And there will always be occasions when we've polished off the last can of diced tomatoes and, alas, that ever ready dinner of Saucy Tomato Orecchiette (page 56) is totally unattainable. For days like these, make our Saddest Pantry Pasta (page 57) instead. Otherwise, try to restock at least once a month using the items below as your checklist, and a home- cooked meal will always be there should you wind up in massive gambling debt, locked inside your apartment, or with two hungry friends on your couch in need of nourishment.
Excerpted from In the Small Kitchen by Cara Eisenpress, Phoebe Lapine Copyright © 2011 by Cara Eisenpress, Phoebe Lapine. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow Cookbooks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
"I was as charmed by this brilliant collection of recipes as I was transported by the stories behind them. This is a truly wonderful cookbook." --(Keith McNally, restaurateur and owner of Balthazar)
"Cara and Phoebe have figured out what takes some of us a tad longer to realize. We can cook anywhere, any time, with anything on any budget. Take this book into your kitchen, even if it's a hot plate and a toaster oven on a bookshelf, and feast." --(Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of Public Radio's The Splendid Table from American Public Media )
“I love In the Small Kitchen so much. It’s packed with brilliant advice and delicious recipes for anyone who wants to cook and entertain—no matter what size your kitchen.”
"In the Small Kitchen is a comprehensive and inspiring must-have guide for quarter-life cooks everywhere. Cara and Phoebe infuse their writing, and their appealing recipes, with the humor and wisdom of those with twice their life experience." --(Merrill Stubbs, coauthor of The Food52 Cookbook )
"Just as those who haven't experienced hunger while living on a tight budget rarely develop well-honed palates, the capacity to choose wisely or a profound appreciation of the sublime, those who've never been confined to a tiny kitchen rarely learn to cook smart and joyfully with full awareness of the miracle of dinner. Cara and Phoebe deliver the lessons they've learned with heart, humor, and recipes that work. They make me wistful for the good old days of cooking for twenty in a four-foot-square kitchen. Bravo!" --(Molly O'Neill, author of One Big Table )