Fancy Food, Big City


A couple years ago, a recent college grad named Tia moved to New York City with a dream: to work in food. She loved cooking and writing about cooking, and after some college success doing just that, she had the feeling she could pull this off in real life. Turns out, to make a real go of a career in food, Tia’s going to have to make a deal with a devil of a food critic.

That’s the set up of Jessica Tom’s first novel, Food Whore: A Novel of Dining and Deceitwhich came out last month. In the book, Tia contends with a New York City food world that Jess draws as both glamorous and cutthroat. There are run-ins with celebrity writers, a stint working at an Eleven Madison Park lookalike, a roommate with a secret, nights filled with sumptuous tasting menus, days spent amassing a wardrobe from Bergdorf’s, plus an affair with a handsome chef. There are lies and disguises aplenty, too.

“I wanted to write a page-turning novel,” Jess told me recently over a not-very-glamorous lunch in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. (She had a hummus plate, I had a cheeseburger and fries–hardly the pork and snail dumplings with effervescent chive oil Tia eats twice in the book!)Salade Nicoise | Food Whore

Juicy plot twists and ludicrously fine dining episodes aside, this book intersects beautifully with two BGSK concerns: first, eating; and second, eating while building yourself a career in the big city, particularly a career that coincides with your passions. Tia’s life has a lot more intrigue than mine did when I started this blog (or ever…), but I thought the story of a food up-and-comer would resonate with you guys. I asked Jess a few questions about the book after we’d both polished off our lunches. Read on for what she had to say about food, cooking, New York City, and going after what you love, then pick up a copy of the book to read during cold, long winter nights. 

Lighter Than Leftovers

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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!

11 Simple Dishes for Thanksgiving

A BGSK Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the time of year to make a fuss, to overcomplicate, to bite off more than you’d normally dream of chewing. If you’re an avid cook, that’s welcome news. Time to put away the 30-minute weeknight recipes and the brilliant shortcuts to flavor, time to make pie from scratch and braid a million biscuits. I love that spirit. In fact, I channel Thanksgiving-style complexity on random weekends.

But BGSK is about cooking being accessible to all, even those without the time, space, or wherewithal to make 18 dishes for a feast. Plus, often the simple offerings are best: Turkey, rubbed with garlic and a spice or two and roasted until the skin is crisp. Mashed potatoes with butter and cream–and nothing else. Plain pumpkin pie with plain vanilla ice cream.

Whether you’re hosting a Thanksgiving dinner or contributing to one, here are my recommendations for simple additions to the table. They’re straightforward in technique and in flavor, but they’re no less delicious for not being as challenging as BC Calc…or turkey brining.

Sweet Stuffed Dates, Three Ways

Stuffed Dates | Big Girls Small Kitchen

Stuffed dates may not be on your radar yet this holiday season, but they should be. Easy to make ahead and transport, these tasty morsels are sure to be a hit. In my take, I make cream cheese frosting into three different variations, filling up the fruits with each variation so there’s a stuffed date for every sweet tooth. A tray of these makes a perfect Thanksgiving offering for those looking for just a little sweet something to pop in their mouth after all of the savories.

First there is the basic of all stuffed dates, filled with a smooth, creamy cream cheese frosting that pairs so nicely with the luscious texture. Then we get a little more adventurous with an almond-latte filling that incorporates espresso powder for a coffee flavor. Finally, we make a tasty treat that’s dipped in chocolate and topped with a pistachio. All three are made with one recipe of filling that can make as many as 70 dates–that’s what you’ll buy in a 2-pound package. (Of course you could fill all of the dates with just one filling if you choose.)

Chocolate-Pistachio Dates | Big Girls Small KitchenStuffed Dates | Big Girls Small Kitchen

A note about the dates: you’ll want to find Medjool dates if possible; they are usually in the produce section, as opposed to the dried fruit aisle. Pitting the dates is easy. Simply roll the date around on the cutting board to find where it sits flat (so it stays on your tray!), then slice down the middle on top and slip out the pit. And I won’t blame you if you happen to eat a plain date or two while making this dessert.

Natalie of Good Girl Style joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just stuff like cream cheese and dates. 

Buffalo Cauliflower Gratin

Buffalo Cauliflower | Big Girls Small Kitchen

I have so many ideas for this dish. I wonder if the combination will strike the same creative chord for you. First, here are its elements: 1) Cauliflower, steamed until sweet and tender. 2) Béchamel sauce, flavored with spicy buffalo sauce. 3) Cheddar cheese, melted.

German Yeast Cake with Persimmons

Yeast Cake with Persimmons

When I think of Germany, I think of the bakeries: filled to the brim with rows of pastries and bread loaves all shining, fresh, and delicious.Yeast Cake with Persimmons

I love food, but at the top of the list is anything baked. Butter, flour, sugar – simple ingredients mixed together, placed in the oven, and, a short time later, transformed into something divine. The satisfying perfection of carbs, sugar, and warmth.