Big or small, for a twenty-something cook, the kitchen can be hard to navigate. Whether it’s a three-foot-long kitchen in one’s new studio apartment, or a small portion of the refrigerator in an apartment of four roommates – cooking on a budget can be a tricky state. That’s why Cara Eisenpress – the founder of popular blog Big Girls Small Kitchen – consistently offers recipes, tips and roadmaps for cooks with limited resources. Eisenpress uses her own kitchen in Brooklyn as a culinary laboratory, taking readers through her irresistible journeys in food. Eisenpress has cooked with greats like Ina Garten – who also fell in love with the vision behind this blog, writing the foreword for Eisenpress’ book In the Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes from our year of cooking in the Real World. Now, Eisenpress sits down with The New Potato to talk about favorite ingredients, coveted BGSK recipes and the secret to making a small kitchen work…
Describe your ideal food day…
It starts with a grilled cheese sandwich (my favorite food) for breakfast: aged cheddar on rosemary boule, let’s say, and cooked in butter. For lunch, one of those massive make-your-own salads: mixed greens with sundried tomatoes, chickpeas, avocados, walnuts, carrots, and broccoli. For dinner, I think I’d go with steak frites, wood-fired pizza, or homemade pasta. Dessert is ice cream – right now from Ample Hills in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. But sometimes it’s homemade and sometimes it’s smothered in hot fudge.
What’s your drink?
Beer, preferably draft. I love porters and stouts.
What would your last meal be?
Grilled cheese (see above) with French fries.
How do you start your day?
With a cup of drip coffee and a generous pour of milk (but no sugar!). Then I move onto email. On weekends, I’ll go to the farmers’ market before I even have coffee…all the fresh produce is almost enough of a pick me up! Then I make muffins or a loaf of quickbread so my fiancé can wake up to the smell of something baking.
Favorite place to travel for food? Where do you go there?
Portland, Maine (and the surrounding towns). I love all the lobster shacks; Two Lights in Portland and Harraseeket in nearby Freeport are both great. Then there are an abundance of un-missable homemade ice cream stands. Fore Street is a classy restaurant with great food, and for the car ride home, we like to pick up bread and pastries from the Standard Baking Company.
Favorite New York/Brooklyn food spots?
Locanda Vini e Olii was recommended to me by one of the blog’s first readers and it’s become a real favorite – an Italian restaurant that really feels like Italy. My fiancé and I like to go on special occasions and share a multi-course meal, ending with miraculously good brutti ma buoni cookies.
For shopping, I love the fancy extras at Brooklyn Larder – pricey, but worth it. And I’m a sucker these days for a burger from Shake Shack. Once in a while, I make time to head up to Little Italy in the Bronx, which I stock up on ravioli from Borgatti’s and fresh cheese and cured meats from Joe’s Italian Deli.
What ingredient do you consider overrated?
Burrata. It makes pizza soggy, and while I adore fresh mozzarella, I don’t necessarily want my cheese to be…juicy.
What ingredient are you convinced makes everything better?
Besides truffle salt? Really, it’s not so glamorous as that, but cooking up a batch of beans from scratch can really knock your socks off, whether the beans are ultimately destined for hummus or tacos. Of course canned are fine in a pinch, but if you buy good quality beans (try Rancho Gordo) and cook them from dried, it’ll kick your dishes up several notches.