Monday, December 28, 2009

The Sides Review

So The Pedant blogged all about meats, which I don't eat so here are the sides review. I won't tell you too much about the places because 1) TP already did and 2) I don't feel like it.

Buz N' Eds

As TP already said, it was very tasty. The sides we got (mostly, throughout the trip my parents, TP and I all shared various sides) were:

Mac and cheese
BBQ Baked Beans
Cole Slaw
Hush Puppies

The best was by far the beans. Smokey, definitely made with pork, and perfect. The mac and cheese was fantastic - creamy, gooey and the like. (I was going to rate the best mac and cheese but it's hard to - they were all really about the same level at all the places.) The coleslaw was good and had a kick to it. The collards were a bit on the greasy side but pretty tasty. The hush puppies were perhaps the best puppies we had that day - fried to perfection but not too dense.

Q Shack

For dinner in Durham we went to Q Shack which was recommended by several people. It was worth it. They had a cobb salad with meats (I got it without and therefore actually ate a meal) avocado (how could you go wrong??!), crumbled egg, tomatoes (meh) and lettuce. It came with a chipotle blue cheese dressing that was fair. It had the potential to being better, but was kind of thin. I really like my blue cheese to be on the thick and creamy side. The sides we got were:

Cole Slaw
Mac and Cheese
Creamed Spinach with Jack Cheese
Onion Rings
Hush Puppied
Fried Okra
Baked Beans

Again, very good mac and cheese. The onion rings were what I wanted to order - I saw someone with them when we walked in and thought they looked amazing. They were by no means as good as the onion rings we had in Iceland, but very good. The beans were not nearly as good as the ones we had for lunch, but the Creamed Spinach made up for that (it was the best of the sides) - really tasty and cheesy. The slaw was fine and the hush puppies were good but a bit on the heavy side.

The Pit

For lunch yesterday we went to The Pit in Raleigh which not only was recommended but also had BBQ Tofu. The place itself was a bit more upscale - sit down restaurant with waiters - and the food really good. I got the Tofu which was fantastic. Smokey and in a the molasses sauce. It came with grilled vegetables, but I did, for good measure, try all the sides:

Baked Beans
Mac and Cheese
Sweet Potato Fries
Green Beans
Fried Okra
Cole Slaw
Hush Puppies

(All the other meals came with hush puppies, a biscuit and 2 sides. Mine was the grilled vegetables - asparagus, onion, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. The vegetables were all amazing.)

The mac and cheese was once again really good. Maybe the best but only by a little since it was probably made with a roux. The sweet potato fries were perfect and the best - not quite shoe string but really great. I actually never tried the slaw because by the time I wanted to my mom finished it, which is a good sign. She said it was good. The beans were interesting - a mix of beans and nice and smokey. The okra wasn't too heavy and the green beans not too greasy. the hush puppies were also really good - round and not heavy at all. The biscuits were also to die for.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Going to Carolina With My Stomach

The Sherbs and I have followed my father-in-law down to North Carolina for his barbecue tour of the Research Triangle area, where we have tried our darnedest to eat Carolina barbecue at every meal, save for the complementary breakfast at our hotel, which includes a pitiful mockery of bagels as well as worse-than-McDonald's® chicken biscuits, which even after a healthy microwaving tasted like a chicken nugget on butter-flavored sponge.

Anyway, to the barbecue reviews. As the Sherbs and I agreed, I'll review the meats, which I eat, while the Sherbs will comment on the various tasty side dishes, which she had more opportunity to sample.

One of the great pleasures of Carolina barbecue is that at least two hush puppies come with every meat product. The number of sides may vary, the presence of a biscuit is not guaranteed, but a somewhat corn flour-based fried object is a sweet crispy addition to every meal. And it's always good, although each place does it differently.

To the places:
As is usual for I-95, we ran into traffic between Fort Belvoir and Fredericksburg, so we couldn't quite get to North Carolina for lunch yesterday. Still, we made it to Richmond by lunchtime, so we went to Buz & Ned's, the place that beat Bobby Flay at a "throwdown" regarding ribs.

Best Food: surprisingly, I liked the pulled chicken sandwich the best. It was moist and flavorful in its sweet and spicy sauce.
Second Best Food: the ribs. I can see why Bobby Flay lost to these guys. They make a meaty, sweet, and very edible rib.

Q SHACK - Durham, NC
After touring some of downtown Durham, which is not quite as Blue Devil-themed as one would expect, we went to the Q Shack, a homey restaurant with a no-nonsense ordering system and rapid delivery of orders (as opposed to the passive-aggressive note for "piggies to cool your jets" at Buz & Ned's). I did miss a chance at the fried bologna sandwich, which seems like it would be incredible, but of everything else -

Best Food: The pulled pork. Comes in its own sweet sauce, and is basically able to be eaten alone on a fork.
Second Best Food: a tie. The smoked beef sausage is pretty darned incredible; I'm a sucker for kielbasa-style sausage, and the addition of smoky flavor makes it irresistible to me. Also very tasty were the ribs, which appeared to be flavored with something like cumin, which really was quite tasty, although definitely a particular taste; those expecting regular St. Louis or Carolina ribs will be disappointed.
Surprisingly Better Than Expected: the smoked turkey. It's moist and tasty, although it is still turkey, which is not a particularly interesting bird, so not my first choice.

THE PIT - Raleigh, NC
After traipsing around Raleigh on the city's visitor center's self-guided walking tour, which had one of the most misleadingly marked maps I have ever toured from (the little red dots were placed approximately where the site was, which was not helpful to determining which corner a particular building was on), we went to The Pit, which was well recommended, and not just for the barbecued tofu, which the Sherbs will tell us about. Unlike the previous two establishments, this is a sit-down restaurant with table service. Be aware that the two barbecue sauces both have different pour rates; the molasses sauce is slow as molasses, but the vinegar sauce is really fast-pouring; be careful. Also - the fried okra is better here than at the Q Shack; the Q's is a little overdone.

Best Food: The ribs. My in-laws liked Buz & Ned's better, but I found these the best kind of ribs in terms of traditional ribs, as they were both dry, not soaked in sticky sauce to make it tasty, and full of a complex smoke flavor which was much stronger and more interesting to the palate than any heretofore tasted.
Second Best Food: Chopped barbecue pork. It is vinegary and spicy, although those who like barbecue better with a tinge of sweet should add the molasses sauce. It is good both alone and on starch products.

There's at least one more bar-b-meal in this trip, and I'll review that when it happens.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Because This Blog Is Named That Way

The "no-knead" bread last night, with a substitution of one cup whole wheat flour for all-purpose, was very tasty, especially with a reheat of the vegetable soup from Sunday with the addition of a cup of water and 4 oz. Barilla Piccolinni® tiny pastas.

But today I want to make my own tonic water, because the Washington Post tells me I can. The only challenge? The Sherbs prefers diet tonic water.

So, the next question is, will Splenda® work? It needs to become a syrup. McNeil Nutritionals, the makers of Splenda® and possibly the sibling company of a pharmaceutical firm I used to sue all the time (nothing you need to worry about), says that it works in caramel sauces, but it dissolves and browns quickly.

Am I up to the challenge? I think so.

Now I just need gin. Or the Post's suggestion, homemade spiced rum.

Oh, also, while I'm also blathering about bread, cooking a fried egg in between pieces of sage bread (couldn't cut a hole in it) in a pan filled with cooking spray and paprika, with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and sea salt, tastes awesome.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sage Bread Success!

The sage bread came out of the oven this morning. I don't know what shape it was supposed to have, but it ended up with a large round loaf with a pretty good crust.

It's tasty, but hard to find condiments for as sage doesn't really mesh with not-butter, peanut butter, or mustard (I didn't even try jam). The bread was still so delicious that I had to put the rest in the freezer to keep from eating the loaf.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Staves of Life

As we speak, the Le Creuset Dutch oven is heating up for more of Cook's modified "no knead" recipe - the one that one actually has to knead, but not much. In storage are several finished loaves of black bread from Bittman's green bible, although one of them is denser than the other despite using the same ingredients contemporaneously. Waiting to rise is a Pueblo Indian sage-flavored bread made with cottage cheese, a recipe from my new ethnic food cookbook; a gift from my sister.

Why so much bread? Because 2 lbs. of yeast at Costco is the same as three packets at the Teet. So now I have a block of yeast in my fridge, of which I've used four tablespoons.

Back to the ethnic cookbook. Earlier tonight, I made the Pueblo Indian "Pojoaque cream soup" recipe, which is pinto beans, evaporated milk, garlic, and chili powder (I used ancho for some Bobby Flay big bold flavor). It goes in a blender and then on the stove to heat up.

I thought it would be spicier, but it's really tasty regardless. Pinto beans give it a mellow flavor, but a rich one.

While eventually I'll try the non-Indian recipes in this book, there is a Souix recipe for pumpkin stuffed with beef and wild rice on pg. 255. I have to make it.

A bread for all seasons...

I had my first encounter with baking bread this weekend. The Pedant has already baked several loves, and I didn't do the work all myself (hooray teamwork!) but I did more work than just pre-heating the oven and eat the finished product (although there was much of that last night and this morning).

We had a bottle of beer still from the last time we made bread (the America's Test Kitchen Almost No Kneed Bread calls for 3 oz. of beer which helps in the cooking process). I'm not a beer drinker and TP seldom drinks beer that's not "fancy" so we often have a random bottle of beer in the fridge from some cooking project we never made or a 6-pack we bought several months ago for the cooking project. And, since bitten by the bread making bug, I suggested we make Bittman's Brown Bread again.

We made the Brown Bread Saturday evening (after the ravioli debacle) and let it rise overnight. It came out really well. We doubled the recipe to freeze some. One batch (we made two smaller loaves) was a bit wetter than the other and came out nicer, but both were amazing. Bittman suggests spreading whole grain mustard on the bread. And boy, does that taste good! Especially when it's still warm. I had it this morning with some peanut butter which wasn't perfect but still tasty.

We also set the Almost No Kneed Bread last night and used most of the beer to make Bittman's Beer Glazed Black Beans. I'd say we do that much of the time we're making bread (and vice versa) since the black beans call for a cup of beer and the bread calls for 3 oz. Plus, the black beans are just too delicious.

Tonight, TP is making dinner from his new cookbook and I'm making my famous butterscotch brownies for a work party tomorrow. Hooray!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Vegetarian Times Recipe Review

Ah blogging...something I haven't had time to do lately...Or do much cooking for that matter. Working and being in school (with finals!) has sucked up my time! But I did get to make some things from this month's Vegetarian Times and 2 out of 3 recipes came out really well.

1) Samosa Casserole (Excellent)
It was from their "healthy casserole" section that is also meant to be great foods for freezing. And it was very tasty. It was mostly easy too - not a weeknight meal since it took about 30 minutes to prep and 45+ minutes to cook, but not difficult at all. You make a crust out of whole wheat pastry flour (which I didn't have, so substituted regular whole wheat flour) and all-propose flour. Then you cook potatoes and roughly mash them. You also saute some diced carrots, onions and frozen peas with Indian spices and mix it in to the potatoes with vegetable stock to resemble samosa filling. You put that in a pie plate and put the dough on top. Then bake.
It came out really well. The dough wasn't super flaky - because I didn't use pastry flour - but it was truly delicious. I think it is an excellent addition to our Indian curry repertoire and we can pull it out for an Indian feast!

2) Sicilian Green Beans with Balsamic Glaze (Very Good)
This was in their "best of" section for best side dish. It was very good. Pretty easy to make too. Just put some EVOO on green beans and a red pepper and put them in a hot oven for about 30 minutes. Then you make a sauce with orange juice, orange zest and balsamic vinegar that you let boil to a syrup. We were supposed to mix the green beans with the glaze, then transfer to a serving platter. I'm incredibly lazy and didn't do it (one more dish to clean? No thank you!) but it might have made it better, since there was plenty of sauce. It was still really, really tasty. We made it with a simple pasta dish (whole wheat noodles, a can of roasted tomatoes, garlic, seasoning).

3) Ricotta Ravioli with Sweet Potato Sauce (Meh)
This recipe had great potential: ravioli made with won-ton wrappers and a sweet potato sauce. What could be bad!? I love ravioli, I love sweet potatoes! Plus, this was a great way to make homemade ravioli since I don't have a pasta machine or the counter space to do it. The recipe says to make the raviolis and then freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet. This way, they will stick together and the filling won't fall out when cooking. Brilliant! I didn't mind the patckah-ing since I was up earlier than The Pedant Saturday morning (and procrastinating studying for a final). It worked really well. I did run out of filling, which I thought was odd. And, I totally didn't have space in my freezer for 2 (!!!) baking sheets with raviolis, so I put them in a deep container and put parchment paper between the layers.
We went to go make the sauce for dinner (which called for 1 cup cooked, pureed sweet potato, a shallot, garlic, some sherry and EVOO) and cooked up and mashed a sweet potato. Because that's the same as pureeing, right?! Wrong. Well, maybe not. Plus, we used a whole sweet potato and it was more than a cup, but it was just THICK. So we added some white wine which made it really tasty.
Then we went to go make the ravioli. We boiled the water. Great. I went to take them off the parchment paper - not so great. They stuck more than I expected. But it was fine. Then we drop them in the water. Fine. (Confession: I might not have used enough water. But it was 8:30 and I was getting ready to eat.) We stir them oh so very gently. And then TP is afraid they aren't cooked through. So we wait a bit. And then they get mushy and fall apart. And we waited, maybe 4 minutes to take them out (not the requisite 2). And they taste like won-ton wrappers with ricotta cheese. Not like delicious raviolis. We are bummed. It was not easy.
Lesson: Make ravioli with real pasta. Make won-tons with won-ton wrappers. Or buy pre-made raviolis. Or just eat it at a restaurant and do zero work.

I did make a pretty awesome vegetable soup to go with the ravioli. That came out perfectly.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Foods I Made Recently

1) Beef stew. I took beef from Shopper's Food Warehouse, kosher chicken stock from the Teet, turnips, onions, carrots, parsnip, garlic, bay leaf, paprika, and dill, and cooked it for various times in a pot. I got impatient before putting it in containers for lunches, so it's a little more liquid than one might expect for "stew," but it's very tasty.

2) Mushroom and egg thing. I heated up oil with taco seasoning in it, then sauteed mushrooms in the taco seasoned oil. Then I poured the remainder of some Egg Beaters Southwestern into the pan, and finished it off with a sprinkle of cheese. Tasty.

3) Super-deluxe Fiber One® muffins. As you know, I am loath to just use Fiber One® apple and cinnamon muffin mix without adding more apples and cinnamon. This time, however, I also added golden raisins and black walnuts. It was fabulous. Black walnuts change the whole character of the muffin from "OK but box-tasting" to "hey, this is pretty complex and interesting!"