Big Girls Small Kitchen, where friends Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine chronicle their kitchen adventures. As a fellow city-dweller with a minuscule kitchen, the make-it-work ethos of the site is dear to my heart. But even if you have a vast, suburban kitchen it's a friendly, useful resource for recipes and dinner party inspiration. This week, Cara and Phoebe are set to release their first book In The Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes From Our Year of Cooking in the Real World. Check back here later this week for a book giveaway!
1. Name, occupation, and city
Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine, founders of Big Girls Small Kitchen and authors of In the Small Kitchen, Brooklyn and Manhattan (respectively).
2. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?
Cara: I helped my mom throw a dinner party recently. She had invited some of our good family friends, as well as some newer friends. I made a fish dish that was great, and had a great timeline for a dinner party. First, you roast the potatoes. Then, just when everyone's finishing up drinks and appetizers, you douse the potatoes with a pungent tomato sauce and add filets of cod. By the time it's done, the flavors meld and the fish is lush. We also made sauteed broccoli rabe.
Phoebe: My boyfriend just moved into a new apartment in Carroll Gardens. It's beautiful, but has a very small kitchen with no dishwasher and, as I discovered throughout the cooking and serving process, also no oven mitts, mixing bowls, baking dishes, and cutting boards (among others). Needless to say, dinner was a little bit of a stressful experience. But it didn't end up too disastrous. The menu, which was probably too ambitious given the constraints, was: Shrimp Crostini with Radish Leaf Pesto, Baked Chicken Legs with Preserved Lemons and Green Olives, Warm Asparagus and Ramp Salad, and Herbed Couscous.
3. What is the best menu you've ever made for company?
Cara: A salad full of dried fruit and nuts to start; beef stew that was really an umami bomb (ingredients include anchovies!) with orzo; and a lemon cream tart (see below) for dessert. You can find the full menu here.
4. What's your preference: wine, beer, cocktails?
Cara: I love drinking beer, and I think it's great to serve, too. It's totally unpretentious, and it's fun to buy a couple of interesting six-packs and share.
Phoebe: Wine. I always have a bottle of white and red opened for cooking, so it's just that much easier to integrate into my dining experience!
5. What's your favorite dinner party soundtrack?
Cara: I'm fond of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Phoebe: A friend turned me onto the Paul Simon station on Pandora, and it is just so upbeat, old-school, and amazing.
6. Some friends are coming over for a last-minute dinner. What do you make?
Cara: A huge bowl of BGSK Peanut Noodles topped with all the spring veggies--from asparagus to radishes--in my fridge, and perhaps some shredded poached chicken.
Phoebe: Pesto-Fontina Grilled Cheese. It's one big melty ciabatta that you can cut into individual sandwiches and serve alongside a simple salad, or a quick pantry tomato soup.
7. Do you usually cook everything yourself, or do you have help?
Cara: I cook everything myself. Instructing "helpers" tends to stress me out. I'm not bad at cooking with someone, but if I've got a co-chef (usually Phoebe, my boyfriend, or my mom), I like to divide up tasks at the beginning, then conquer our individual projects side by side.
Phoebe: I am a notoriously bad delegator. But I have come up with a short list of menial tasks (de-leafing herbs, slicing bread, snapping green beans) that I hate doing, and can be easily executed by whoever is sitting across from the kitchen counter on a bar stool sipping wine with me.
8. Do you ever buy store-bought food, or is everything on your table made from scratch?
Cara: I usually limit the store-bought food to bread--Joyce Bakery, across the street from me, sells great fresh baguettes on the weekend. I do also like serving sausages, since they have so much flavor you don't have to chop as many onions or garlic as usual.
Phoebe: I'm not a big baker (that's Cara), so if I haven't asked one of my guests to bring dessert, I'll usually pick up some ice cream and serve it alongside cookies or brownies.
9. What do you like to serve for dessert?
Cara: I love baking, so dessert is a priority. I love French-style tarts: I've been known to fill my favorite shortbread crust with sweetened ricotta, lemon curd and cream, and minted white chocolate ganache with blackberries.
Phoebe: (see above). Cookies!!!
10. If you could invite anyone over for dinner (living or dead), who would it be?
Cara: Honestly, President Obama, I'd like to hear what he's got to say, straight up, no mediation.
Phoebe: My Grandma Lillian. She passed away when I was little, and it would be a treat to share a meal (though from what I hear about her canned green bean casserole, it's a good thing I would be hosting!).
[Photo: Allison Badea]