Cara and Phoebe's popular cooking blog, Big Girls Small Kitchen, has garnered acclaim and popularity from a variety of readers and established chefs. Their approach, explaining the basics of home cooking, to fellow "quarter-lifers" is as witty and fun as it is honest and approachable. These two ladies graduated from college, moved into the work force and tackled entertaining and food with gusto. Through their blog and their book, they teach us that no coffee table is too small or studio space too humble to throw a little party for friends in, dining room not necessary! I find this voice and easy recipes very inspiring, as I too live in a small space and struggle with conceptualizing parties in my tiny abode. Cara and Phoebe not only show us the way, they demand and encourage us all to joyfully feed each other and nourish ourselves.
This book is chock-full of easy-to-follow recipes, bursting with fresh flavors and produce. It's also organized in a unique fashion, according to life event, not type of meal. For example, the book has a section on entertaining on a budget, cooking for when your boss comes over, and how to host a brunch (and sleep 'til noon). The categories are lighthearted, but the food is full-bodied and delicious. These girls tested recipes endlessly via their blog and followers and honed in on classics with a twist. Ina Garten writes a fabulous introduction, encouraging cooks of all ages to become inspired by this cookbook's unique point of view. I particularly enjoyed the Sexy-Ugly Onion Tart, for all it's rich, custard filling and savory, tender onion topping. When served with a small salad, it hits the spot any time of day.
Sexy-Ugly Onion Tart
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 onions, halved and sliced into thin half moons
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, (plus a little extra for garnish)
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
1 egg yolk
pie dough for 1 pie crust (recipe follows)
In a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, melt the butter over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, until caramelized. The onions should be deep brown and sweet. Add the fresh thyme and the salt, and let cool off the heat. Whisk the ricotta and the egg yolk together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Make sure your work surface is clean and cool. Lightly flour the surface and roll out the dough until it is large enough to cover a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll up the dough on your rolling pin and slowly unroll on top of the tart. Use your fingers to press the dough into the tart and a paring knife to trim off any excess. If the dough breaks, don't worry—just pull it together and patch it. Try to make the walls a bit thicker than the bottom. Chill the tart shell in the fridge for 10 minutes so that the dough remains cold. Clump together any excess dough and store in plastic wrap for another use.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°.
Remove the tart from the fridge, and use a spatula to spread the ricotta mixture evenly across the surface with a spatula. Arrange the onions on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the ricotta filling is firm and the crust is beautifully golden. Let the tart cool in the pan. Garnish it with thyme leaves. Slice the tart into 8 pieces (if you're potlucking, wrap the tart in the pan and bring it with you to slice on site).
2 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 sticks cold butter
1 egg yolk
4-5 tablespoons cold water
In a food processor, combine the flour and salt. Cut the butter into roughly tablespoon-sized pieces and add, then pulse until the butter is the size of peas, about 20 pulses. Put in the egg yolk and about 3 tablespoons of the cold water, then run the processor until the dough starts to come together. It should clump into a big ball; if it doesn't, drizzle in another tablespoon of the water. You want to add as little liquid as possible.
Form the dough into a 7-inch disk on a lightly floured surface. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 1-2 hours. (You can store it for up to 4 days.) Let the dough sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before trying to roll it out. Proceed with Sexy-Ugly Onion Tart Recipe.
• Visit Phoebe and Cara's Blog: Big Girls Small Kitchen
• Check out the Big Girls Small Kitchen Cookbook: In the Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes From Our Year of Cooking in the Real World
(Images and Recipe: Reprinted with permission of Harper Collins/Willam-Morrow)