Sunday, January 25, 2009


Pizza is wonderful and versatile stuff. Pizzeria pizza is one thing, but homemade is a totally different beast. You can top it with virtually anything, it's fairly quick and extremely easy, and it's also delicious. Tonight I made pizza courtesy of Farmgirl Fare's pizza-dough recipe. The dough is simple - flour, water, salt, and yeast. Mine barely rose in two hours, but it did rise after splitting it into pieces, and quite a bit more in the oven.

The topping: caramelized onions, grated Parmigiano, and olive oil. I cheated on the onions and pulsed them in a food processor instead of slicing or grating. I processed the first one too much and ended up with puréed onion, but the next three were a lot better - I ended up with coarsely grated onion. 40 minutes or so in the frying pan, and they were brown and getting crispy. I pulled the dough (mostly using gravity) into a nice oblong pizza shape, added plenty of onions, added some cheese and olive oil, and put my pizza into a 500-degree oven for about 13 minutes. I got lucky - I caught it seconds before the onions would have been charred. I somehow got a fantastic crust on the bottom, which I didn't expect - considering that I used a roasting pan and parchment paper, not a baking stone.

Time to make dough: 10 minutes
Time to rise: 2 hours (making the onions goes in here)
Time to proof: 10 minutes
Time to bake: 10 minutes

I started at about 4:45 and was eating at 8. The best part is that I have a partially-baked one that I'll finish baking for dinner tomorrow night, and two more rounds of dough in the freezer. Now I just need more toppings...

Fractured Prune

Recently, my housemates and I found out that our local branch of the Fractured Prune, a Maryland doughnut chain, was going out of business! So, like the true college students we are, my entire house (plus my roommate's boyfriend) got up at 9:45 this morning, piled into the car, and headed out for a doughnut our pajamas.

Fractured Prune is mostly based in Maryland, but also has other locations in Delaware, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. They make specialty doughnuts in lots of interesting flavors. Most of us got a kid's meal, because you got two doughnuts and that was mostly what each of us wanted (my roommate got a dozen so we would have some left over for the next few days). I got a Chocolate Covered Cherry doughnut (with cherry glaze and mini chocolate chips), and a French Toast doughnut (with a maple syrup glaze and cinnamon sugar). My favorite, despite the awesome chocolate-y flavor of the Cherry doughnut, was the French Toast one. Cinnamon sugar on doughnuts brings warm fuzzy feelings into my heart.

My roommate's boyfriend took a couple of pictures on his phone, so they may be posted on here later. Meanwhile, a fond farewell to the Lusby branch of the Fractured Prune...

Friday, January 23, 2009

dirty dishes


A person's desk can say a lot about them. Unique insights about a person's personality, interests, and organizational skill can easily be gleaned from taking a look at their desk. I chose to take this picture at one of the times when my desk was at its most disorganized--right after I had finished unpacking after coming back to school. Since I hadn't had time to organize my desk yet, my stuff got to lie out in all its glory.

"So, what does this have to do with food?" you say. Well, apart from gathering useful information about my love of Audrey Hepburn movies (that's an Audrey Hepburn dvd collection in the back behind the books) and Scrabble (beside the movies you'll see the travel Scrabble set) and the propensity of my best friend to give me unicorn-themed gag gifts (in the back right corner of the shelf, behind the chocolate-themed tear-away calendar), my desk inevitably becomes the what's what of What I've Eaten Recently based on the collection of dirty dishes. Since I frequently eat in my room, and am responsible for doing my own dishes, I usually get scatterbrained and let them pile up on my desk for a few days. Because of that, you get dishes which used to contain(left to right):
-a plate of chocolate biscotti (black plate in the front left);
-a bowl of seeded grapes;
-leftover lamb saag (top of pile);
-a pancake (bottom of pile);
-a glass of milk (purple cup);
-the excess from when my roommate opened a bottle of beer and it overflowed (cup behind the purple cup);
-some kind of dessert-y fluff my roommate made (flowery container).

As a final note, underneath all the plates is an oven mitt with penguins on it, a belated Christmas gift. That is all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pictures from Sunday: ropa vieja

This wonderful-looking steak is a big slab of skirt - usually used for fajitas. I used it for ropa vieja. The recipe I used called for simmering the steak until it was just about falling apart. I didn't go that far (though maybe I should have), but it was still delicious. I got to shred it with my fingers! Pulling it into little pieces is lots of fun. Plus the steak is locally-grown and bought (Pisciotta Farms), always a plus.

Stocks and broths are pretty amazing. Two or three hours previous to this picture, this was just water. Plain old tap water. That skirt steak above, combined with a couple onions, some cracked pepper, and a touch of salt, made this delicious beef broth.

I was thinking "beans" - but I got distracted at Wild Oats by these black-eyed peas. Definitely not beans (hence the name - I didn't realize they actually were peas until I tasted a raw one), but still excellent. The rice is brown rice from the Chinatown Food Market.

Obviously I need to fool around with my camera settings - or maybe get a tripod so I don't have to use the flash - but this is the shredded skirt steak simmering away with some onion, garlic, and the broth that it created from its cooking. I had a pretty busy Sunday - this was about 3.5 hours from start to finish.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bollywood Masala!

Well, it's my second day back at school, which means that I haven't had time to go grocery shopping. So, as a celebration of the new semester (and a way of compensating for the fact that we have no food that's not chocolate, Jello, or expired), my housemates and I went out for dinner tonight!

The place we chose was a pretty new Indian place, Bollywood Masala. Asriel and I went there with my sister back in October, right after it opened, and we were really blown away by the food. This time was just as good. I got lamb saag, which is a lamb dish with spinach and spices. Of course I have no real memory of what everybody else at the table got. If I want to be a total blogger I'll have to start taking notes. And pictures. But the saag was amazing--nice big chunks of meat, and tons of spinach. It also had a nice lingering spicy flavor. We started the night with garlic naan, and ended with another kind of naan that I don't remember the name of, but it had cherries on it. And of course, they give you plenty of food, so I have enough for leftovers for tomorrow's lunch!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I have discovered why my mapo tofu wasn't as good as it should have been! I didn't use chili bean paste (otherwise known as doubanjiang) - I used chili black bean sauce. NOT the same thing. Next week at the market: resuming the search for doubanjiang. I will succeed yet!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Barbecue in KC

Barbecue in Kansas City is a Big Thing. This is the first place I've lived that has BBQ as a cooking tradition, so I am definitely not qualified to compare different styles of 'cue, but I've been to a number of BBQ places around the city - I think I'm qualified to compare those, at least.

There are several categories going into this review/comparison: price; crowded-ness; quality of the meat, sauce, fries, and beans; and general ambience. "Meat" here isn't going to include ribs, since I haven't tried them at all four shops I'm reviewing yet. First up is Jack Stack!

Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue
This is the most (well, only) upscale of the four restaurants I'm looking at. It's also the only one that's a sit-down, order-at-the-table restaurant. As you would expect, it's also the most expensive. Ultimately, the sit-down experience wasn't worth it. The sauce was excellent - not too sweet or salty, but very flavorful and a bit spicy. The beans were probably the best I've had - very obviously homemade, with slivers of meat floating in them. They had a very smoky flavor, and the beans had great texture and flavor. However, the meat was not great. At the time I thought the burnt ends were excellent, but later discovered (see below) that they were not - they're too tough and not "burnt" enough. I have a feeling they weren't real burnt ends.

The saving grace of Jack Stack is the take-out shop next door. Meat and side dishes by the pound (or other measurements) are available, as well as sandwiches. This is where I (well, gingerrose) discovered their pulled pork, which is excellent - far beyond any of their other meats I've tried. It has the right texture - much like ropa vieja in a good Cuban restaurant. It's tender, stringy, and just has that great pulled-pork mouthfeel. They also sell their excellent beans by the pint, quart, or whatever you want - that's probably all I would go back for.

Arthur Bryant's BBQ
Now we're bringing out the big guns. Arthur Bryant's is one of the two original BBQ shops in KC - Wikipedia says it's the oldest one. The decor is sort of 50s-diner-meets-sports-bar - Formica tables, with a TV (usually showing the Chiefs) in the corner, and paper towels and barbecue sauce on the tables. It seems a bit pricey at first, but only until you realize that one sandwich (about $11 including fries) comfortably feeds two people. At least, two people with the size and appetite of me and gingerrose.

Onto the food! The only thing to get here, as far as I'm concerned, is the burnt ends. They are just amazing - one of the two best meals I've had in Kansas City (the other being a bowl of pho from Hien Vuong). The burnt ends are perfectly cooked - very well done but not dry (because of all the sauce), a bit chewy from the caramelized outside, stringy and fork-tender, and utterly delicious. Their sauce - a bit salty for me, but not sweet and quite spicy - adds to the flavor. The fries are very good - a little oily, but hand-cut, crisp, and tasty. The only thing not to get is the beans - I don't know if they're from a can, but they sure taste like it - sweet and uninteresting.

Oklahoma Joe's
Oklahoma Joe's is located in a gas station. Don't let this stop you from going there! Most people I've met here tell me this place is the best in KC. The lines attest to it - gingerrose and I went here for dinner last Friday at about 7pm, and waited 20 minutes or so to order (and it looked like it was going to be worse). The prices are certainly right - about $5 for a good-sized sandwich, and another $2.50 or so for a big bag of fries or a side of beans. The listed specialty is pulled pork, although the ribs look phenomenal (and everybody seems to have them at dinnertime), so I'm going to give them a shot next time I'm there.

I can't really put OK Joe's above Arthur Bryant's in meat or sauce. The pulled pork is good, although they don't sauce it much on a normal sandwich - they seem to have a variant including more sauce and slaw, which I'm going to try soon. Their sauces are too sweet for me, but they have a nice level of spice. The fries, though - fantastic. I'm not sure if they're hand-cut, but they're crispy and not greasy, and they have a great spice mixture (probably salt, paprika, and something else) that's sprinkled on. Plus they're served in a paper bag. What's not to love? The beans are also very good - definitely homemade, with chunks of meat and I think vegetables floating around. If you like good value, ridiculous decor, and killer fries, this is the place for you.

Gates Bar B. Q.
This is the other "original" KC barbecue joint. It's my favorite for a quick lunch or dinner, as it's the closest to home and school, and one sandwich (again burnt ends, about $7) is about two meals for me. The decor is something resembling a trolley car - it almost looks like they took an old one and built it into the building. It's not quite as grimy as Arthur Bryant's, but this seems like a very "local" place in comparison - you're expected to know what you want as soon as you walk in the door.

I can't give the food a full review because I haven't tried their beans or fries, but the meat and sauce are both fantastic. I usually eat the sandwich with a knife and fork, just cutting pieces off (bread and all) and munching on them. The sauce goes really well with the meat - not very sweet, but very flavorful - and the sandwich is well-sauced. The second half is even better the next day, when the sauce soaks into the bread a bit. The meat is not quite as amazing as at Arthur Bryant's, but is still very, very good, and the added convenience means I go here more often - it's walkable from school, which no other BBQ shop is.


Ultimately, Arthur Bryant's is my favorite, just because of the transcendent quality of their burnt ends. Their only problem is that they give you a ridiculous amount of food - next time I'll probably take it out and eat some at home, then save the rest for the next day.

Best meat: Arthur Bryant's
Best sauce: Arthur Bryant's (but Gates gives them a close run)
Best fries: Oklahoma Joe's (AB in a close second)
Best beans: Jack Stack (OK Joe's in a close second)
Best value: Gates BBQ
Best location: Gates for convenience, OK Joe's for silliness

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

PBJ pictures

A container of homemade peanut butter, looking startlingly like store-bought peanut butter.

Two halves of a delicious sandwich - my typical lunch around here.

Half of gingerrose's sandwich.

Lunch: peanut butter, jam, bread (sadly not homemade), and sweet potato fries (coming soon!).

comfort food?

As a follow-up to the peanut butter post...

I was having a conversation about comfort food with my co-writer of this blog as we were having lunch yesterday. The reason we were discussing this is because we were having what I consider to be a particularly good comfort-food meal: a PB&J with peanut butter we made ourselves and blackberry jam we bought from a farmer's market, with homemade sweet-potato fries on the side. (Delicious photos are on the way!) I was commenting on how I once had a discussion about comfort food with my friend Paul, who tends to go the ice-cream route when he's feeling down. While I have certainly been known to curl up with a carton of ice cream when stressed (my most recent acquisition last semester was Ben & Jerry's Fossil Fuel--the little dinosaurs were so cute I couldn't resist!), I prefer hot foods for comfort. Thick vegetable soups, french fries, grilled cheese with pesto (that I came up with when I was trying to use up a giant jar of pesto I got for cheap at a community market) and pasta pasta pasta (in fact, I have a nice bowl of pasta leftovers keeping me company as I write this entry...) are definitely the way to go in my book. I also tend to gravitate even more towards vegetables when I'm in need of comfort...but then again, I'm a big fan of vegetables.

Do you have any particular comfort food preferences? Leave 'em in the comments--I might just get inspired!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Peanut butter, homemade in five minutes

Barbecue review/comparison still upcoming! I made another batch of peanut butter this morning and had some for lunch, and then I realized I had to write about it.

Most people like peanut butter - at least, those who don't have deadly peanut allergies. But most of the peanut butter I see in the grocery store has all kinds of funky stabilizers and emulsifiers to hold it together, as well as sugar and other stuff that definitely does not belong. There's at least one brand of natural peanut butter in major supermarkets (Smuckers), but it's usually expensive. It's not bad here, but I know it costs quite a bit more back in New York. But I like my peanut butter - and my food in general - with the fewest possible ingredients, so I buy natural peanut butter.

A couple months ago, one of my friends at the library mentioned that her boyfriend makes her
homemade peanut butter, and that she loves it. I was pretty interested. She told me I'd have to get specific instructions from him, but the ingredients were basically peanuts, oil, and salt (as well as whatever else you want to throw in). I immediately ran out to the store, bought some peanuts, and gave it a whirl. It's delicious - there's much more peanut flavor than in any store-bought peanut butters, and it's also much stickier. For some reason it's also more stable than store-bought natural peanut butters - the oil doesn't tend to separate from the peanuts. The consistency is somewhere in-between what's usually sold as "creamy" and "crunchy" - there are tiny bits of peanut everywhere because the food processor can't grind them quite fine enough to really be creamy. A mortar-and-pestle might be able to get better results, but it would also take a long time.

Peanuts - raw or roasted (your choice), but should be unsalted
Neutral oil - not olive oil (although this may be worth a try for a different flavor)

Plug in your food processor. Add a quantity of peanuts to the bowl - just not so many that it'll overflow. Process until the ground peanuts start to clump together unevenly. Drizzle in oil while the processor is running until it's the consistency you want. Add salt to taste, and make a sandwich!

I did have a sandwich with this homemade peanut butter and some blackberry jam from the farmer's market, but it got eaten before I was reminded to take a picture. Next time! (That'll probably be tomorrow, never fear.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

First post!

A new foray into the world of food blogs! This one gets to combine two worlds, because we're both musicians as well as avid cooks and bakers and eaters.

Forthcoming: a review of Kansas City barbecue spots!