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Showing posts with label pasta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pasta. Show all posts

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Turnip Green Pasta

If you must blink, do it now:

Yes, you saw that: bright green pasta. No, there were no dyes in this recipe, only the natural color of the turnip greens. What sorcery is this? Before I get INTO this recipe, allow me a brief introduction of my dear friends and our sponsors of this post, KC Farm School at Gibbs Road

This is one of my favorite places in the city. This humble farm is the epicenter of education, permaculture, and diversity in the middle of Wyandotte County, my Home Sweet Home. I've been working with this organization for years, and it's always a pleasure. Some of my absolute favorite programs to participate in are CSA programs, and "Let's Grow, Wyandotte!" which is a gardening initiative in which participants get free plants to start a garden, all in an attempt to help reconnect citizens to their food, their land, and our connection with the earth. Are you ready to hear what all of this has to do with turnip greens? 

The items for this week's CSA box from KC Farm School at Gibbs Road consist of broccoli rabe, fresh herbs, and - you guessed it - turnip greens! These are incredibly high in calcium, iron, and - shockingly - folic acid! This is great because I currently need a good amount of that, but that's another blog post. Could I simply take these greens and braise them with chopped bacon, onions, jalapenos, and chicken stock? Absolutely. Could I chop them up and bake them in a big casserole of macaroni and cheese? Of course! But why would I do that when I know for a fact that so many more people have become that much more adventurous with cooking since the Quarantine last year? Don't you remember how everyone was baking homemade bread? Compared to that, homemade pasta is an absolute breeze! So let's get right to it.

Turnip Green Pasta

  • 10 oz all-purpose flour (or 2 cups)
  • 7.5 oz semolina (or an over-full cup)
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 5 oz turnip greens, washed and chopped(that's about 2 cups)
  • 1/3 c water
Combine the flour and semolina in the bowl of a standing mixer, or on a clean countertop. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and get ready for the liquid stuff. Combine the greens, water, eggs, and yolk in the pitcher of a blender and turn it on. Make sure you use the plunger that usually comes with the blender, or stop it a few times here and there to scrape down the sides. Begin at a low speed, and slowly increase speed. You're ultimately going to want to blend all of this until it's entirely liquid, which will end with your blender in the highest speed it can possibly go to, being on for at least 30 seconds during this stage. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that you want to make sure that this is as smooth a liquid as possible, and that it will take at least 2 minutes with the blender on for this to happen. When it's all done, it'll be bright green and ready for you to pour into the middle of your well. 

Fit your mixer with a dough hook and stir all of this together until it is just combined. If you are doing this by hand, simply take a fork and slowly mix it all together, from the inside out, until it's all just combined. Either way, cover your dough and let it rest for 10 minutes at room temperature. When that time has passed, turn on your mixer to low and let it knead for 20 minutes. Yes, you read that right - I want you to let this knead for a solid 20 minutes straight. Set a timer and come back when it's all done, wrap it and let it rest for another 20 minutes before continuing. Are you mixing it by hand? Don't fret! Here's what you do:

Flour your hands lightly, take the dough and fold it in half over itself. Do that again. Then, do it again. The kneading process for this is honesty best if you simply knead by folding it over and over and over and over again, and you'll do that for five minutes. Then, you'll wrap it and let it rest for five minutes. Then, you'll knead it by way of folding for another five minutes, then let it rest for another five. You're going to do this knead-rest-knead process about four times. Think of it as the day you can skip the gym. Once you've kneaded it four times, you can let it rest for the full 20 minutes and go give yourself a break.

After you, and your dough, have rested, the fun part is going to now begin. If you have a pasta maker, this is where you're going to run the dough through. If you're doing this by hand, you'll feel all the more satisfied by doing it...and I'll tell you how! First thing's first, however: set up your drying rack. The apparatus you choose to dry your pasta can be anything. For example, you can use a lovely beech wood rack you've acquired, or something as simple as few clean coat hangers to hang in your kitchen. No, really! When I was in culinary school, before I had a standing mixer, a pasta machine, or even a real rolling pin, I used an empty wine bottle to roll out my noodles and hung them to dry on coat hangers. As proof of this absolutely ridiculous story, I will now provide you a horribly over-exposed phone photo taken over ten years ago on my Samsung Galaxy at 10:45 at night. 

Hashtag Cursed Image.png

To put this dough into manageable sizes, I cut this into eight portions and floured each one generously before running it through the pasta maker. Generally, I'll fold over the sheets I'm rolling out two or three times to ensure a homogenous texture and roll them through again. I usually repeat this process a few times, just until I feel like I have a texture I'm really happy with. The dough should feel quite firm in your hands, yet still just slightly pliable. No matter what, don't be afraid to use flour. I MEAN that! Your sheets of pasta should be practically floating on a sheet of flour that separates each one. You don't want this dough to stick!

I've got eight sheets of pasta here, all separated with a ridiculous amount of flour between.

I rolled these to the 4 thickness setting on my pasta machine because that is my preference. You can roll it as thick or as thin as you would like it to be because ultimately you'll be the one eating it. I used the fettuccine attachment cutter to make these strips, but you can just as easily roll this to your desired thickness with a rolling pin and cut it with a knife to whatever shapes you desire. No matter what, you'll want it to dry out. 

I realize this makes quite a bit of pasta, so you'll definitely have enough for tonight and a few nights down the road, as this - once dried - stays good for up to 6 months in an airtight container. When cooking it the same day you made it, all you have to do is boil it for 90 seconds before tossing it in the sauce of your choice. While you're cleaning up, let's contemplate flavors!

Turnip greens are, as you can guess, the leafy greens of the turnip root, which is a member of the rose family. Turnips themselves have a very floral quality in taste, so the greens are naturally a hair bitter and astringent while being fragrant in their own right. It is easy for one to conclude that this means that the flavors will translate into the pasta noodle itself, and therefore should be paired appropriately. Bitter is counteracted by sweet and by sour. You can also counteract it with a little bit of fat. So what to do about your dinner tonight? Let's see...

I happen to have some sun-dried tomatoes from last summer, packed in oil. All I've got to do now is sear some chicken thighs in a hot pan, remove and set them aside, then add equal parts of fresh cherry tomatoes and sundried tomatoes in the fond of the pan and cook until the liquid comes out. 

Add in fresh onions, a little garlic, some fresh herbs of your choice, and the chicken back to the pan. Cover and let cook on low heat for 15 minutes while your pasta water reaches a boil. All that's left to do now is to cook your fresh pasta for a whole 90 seconds (or 6 minutes, if it's made it to the dried stage) and quickly toss in the pan sauce. Finish with a little bit of the tomato oil from the jar and you're all ready to eat. 

I hope you've enjoyed this recipe! Remember that my suggested serving of this pasta is only that, a suggestion. It is my true and sincere hope that you take this pasta dough from this green that would otherwise be either used as an afterthought or simply discarded and make something incredible out of it. Cooking nose-to-tail isn't just for animals, you know! If a part of a plant is edible, you owe it to yourself to try eating it. Waste not, want not...right?

Thank you so much for hanging with me for the time it took you to read this. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

In addition to pancakes, I'm addicted to two other things: steak, and macaroni and cheese. My @Instagram is full of all three of those things!

A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

Sorry, vegans - I'm not ACTUALLY one of you, but I do have a severely lactose intolerant husband and I'm both east Asian and Jewish so I really shouldn't be eating much dairy anyhow. It's really easy to cut dairy out of your home cooking entirely, and because of my husband's dietary restrictions I don't even have any in the house. No milk, no cheese, no butter, no sour cream. Because of this, any vegetarian meal at home that we consume is automatically vegan.

Just so everyone is clear: Vegan = no animal products.

Many folks go on to make this synonymous with no animal suffering. I disagree with that, as the ideology - although I'm sure is well-intended - does have some issues. Honey, for example, is considered to be not vegan. Here's the thing, though - harvesting honey from bees doesn't harm them at all, and any beekeeper will tell you that. Furthermore, if you buy local honey it'll help you immensely with your seasonal allergies. Not to mention all the jobs you'll help create by buying honey from your local beekeepers, but more beekeepers often means more bees.


  • If you ever find a wild hive that's come on your property, call your local apiary instead of an exterminator. Eight out of ten, they'll come and harvest that hive for you, free of charge, and will not kill the bees! The other two times, they'll give you the resources and phone numbers you need to call to get those bees off your property without harming the bees.

What is harmful is all of the agave we're consuming. Agave is a plant that grows in Mexico, and the amount that we're harvesting is harming bats, who depend on the nectar to survive. Bats consume a ridiculous amount of insects, including mosquitos which both carry disease and are a plague on this planet. Bats are good! Please, eat honey and skip the agave - save the bats.

As you can see, veganism is a dietary choice and not necessarily a moral compass. There are many reasons to go vegan! And here, we're going to have some vegan macaroni and cheese. It's 100% dairy-free for my lactose-intolerant people, and totally pareve for my observant Kosher Jewish followers. You know what that means? You can have this with meat!

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese
serves 8
  • 1 lb pasta, cooked in salted water for 6 minutes until a hair harder than al dente (you'll be cooking it in the oven again, so it's okay if it's under-cooked)
    • Furthermore, you don't have to only use macaroni. You can use shell pasta, strascinati, penne, fiori, you name it! I do recommend using something that's not totally long and thin, though, as you'll want something sturdy for the oven. 
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter substitute, such as Earth Balance (you can also use coconut oil)
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1 can plain coconut cream (do not use the sweetened version, or this will taste like someone kicked you in the teeth and said "f*ck you")
  • 1/4 c tofu sour cream (Tofutti is the best)
  • 3/4 c vegan cream cheese (miyoko's and Tofutti make my favorite brands)
  • 2 c cheddar-style vegan cheese shreds (VioLife, Trader Joe's make the best cheeses)
This is your base recipe for the sauce. You can add more "cheeses" if you like, or substitute the cheddar-style for mozzerella style or pepperjack style. The beautiful thing about macaroni and cheese is that it's so incredibly versatile and you can add almost anything you like to it. Here is a full list of my favorite things you can stir in to your mac when you're ready to bake:
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  • Roasted brussells sprouts
  • Caramelized onions or leeks
  • Peas, fresh or frozen
  • Roasted squash, such as acorn squash or any kind of pumpkin
  • Braised winter greens (kale, mustard greens, etc)
  • Shaved asparagus
  • Spinach, fresh or cooked
  • Fresh herbs 
    • Dill
    • Savory
    • Tarragon
    • Parsley
Have I stirred other things into mac and cheese? Things like chopped chicken, beef sausage, roasted beets or cauliflower, sun-dried tomatoes from my garden, chopped green beans and more? Absolutely! Those things up in that list, though, are my favorite things, and I encourage you to make this into a full meal by adding whatever you like. 

To make this simple dish, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a casserole dish, either one large one or two medium-sized ones. I love using this recipe because it can feed a large amount of people, but if it's just my husband and I then I will separate them into several dishes so we can cover, refrigerate, and bake off at a later date when I'm feeling a little lazy. 

Melt your butter in a thick-bottomed saucepot on a medium flame. Add in the garlic and cook for about a minute, until just barely soft and brown. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk it together until it's smooth. You'll want to lower your flame just barely until it's all sort of simmering and cook this roux for at least five minutes. Open your can of coconut cream and add, bringing the flame up to medium-high. Bring this to a boil, whisking constantly, and then reduce to a simmer. Add in your cream cheese and stir until incorporated. Sprinkle in your cheddar-style shreds, whisking constantly, a little at a time so as not to allow clumps. You may also add your fresh herbs at this stage, but it's up to you. 

Drain your pasta and toss with a little oil, and return it to your cooking pot. Pour the hot cheese sauce over the pasta and stir to coat. It is now that you will add whichever mix-ins you like. The one in the first post at the top of the page has pumpkin, caramelized onions, and bok choi. Last month, I made one with peas and carrots. Just a few days ago, I made one with plenty of parsley and frazzled leeks. The point is: be creative!

I actually had some dairy-free cheese slices in the fridge so I thought it'd be fun to
add torn pieces of those throughout to get extra 'pockets' of cheesey goodness.

If you like a little extra crunch, you may crumble up some potato chips or crackers from your pantry and sprinkle on top, as well as some vegan parmesan shreds, extra cheese, panko bread crumbs...whatever you like! I don't always have panko bread crumbs in my pantry, but my husband is addicted to potato chips so I like to crush them up and put them on the top. 

You may bake the amount you need and put the rest of the dishes in the fridge to have at a later date. No matter what, you'll bake at 350 for 30 minutes from cold and only 20 minutes if you're baking this dish from hot. Serve hot, straight out of the casserole dish, and share this meal with a friend. While it is a wonderful thing to love one's own company, I am of the mind that it is unhealthy to eat alone. A good meal should be shared, so invite your neighbor over for food and get to know them. Or, you know, just post a picture of the mac and cheese on Facebook and see if any friends want to pop in. 

I hope you get out there and enjoy making mac and cheese. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Spicy Garden Pesto Pasta

I love pasta. I am safely pro-pasta. In fact, if I were to run for President of the United States of America, I'd say "Hello, I am WannaBGourmande, I am pro-pasta, and I am running for president." I'd clearly get elected because there are literally zero qualifications at this point to run the arguably most-powerful country in the world. (I hope I get to look back on this post and laugh.)

I'm an avid gardener, and wannabe homesteader. I sometimes think about changing my name to Wanna B. Homesteader, but that doesn't quite have the fun ring to it as 'gourmande' does. Plus, if my initials ended with "H", I couldn't call myself "Notorious WBG." Ultimately, I don't feel truly right calling myself a homesteader if I'm still living on the grid, but I try every day to live a better, more wholesome life through my food, through the ways I consume products, and the ways I live. I've sort of decided to call myself a lifestyle blogger, without the excessive posts on pinterest and falling into the trope of 'rich girl pinterest'. You know, chia seed smoothies in mason jars with organically-grown kale from the co-op? I want to write about cooking and being a chef and eating well on a tight-ass budget, because that's the truth that I know and have lived. Anyway, on to the eating.

Easy Homemade Pasta

  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • Cool water, as needed

Making your own pasta is rewarding in both the culinary sense and the emotional sense. When making pasta, you can use the dough as a sort of worry stone. You'll have to knead the dough to be quite glutinous(no gluten-free pasta here; sorry, guys) and chewy, so you can use this moment to have your own version of tactile therapy. Go ahead; take the opportunity to imagine strangling your annoying coworker as you work the dough into the counter...because yes, Janet, I'm sure in your day you did just 'deal with it' even though the reality of anxiety and depression is that nobody ever got diagnosed properly, but sure, my generation totally invented mental illness.  But, seriously, there's no Netflix in prison, so just take your frustrations out on the dough and it'll be ready in no time.

You can combine this dough in the bowl of a standing mixer or do it the old-fashioned way, which is what I prefer. Simply pile your flour in the middle of your impeccably clean counter and make a well in the middle. Dump your eggs and oil in the center of the well, and use a fork to sort of break it up and beat it together. Using a dough scraper and your hands, fold the flour over and over each other to mix, then knead. Knead this for a solid five minutes, and remember that it's totally okay that you skipped arm day at the gym because of this.

Wrap your dough and let it rest for about ten minutes. If you have a pasta machine, take the time to set it up now. If you don't, you can easily just use a rolling pin to create long sheets of pasta and cut tagliatelle strips with a knife that you've rubbed with flour. Otherwise, once your resting time is up, roll and use your pasta machine as needed. Don't have these neat beechwood pasta racks? You can use plastic coat hangers(no seriously) or just pile them in 4 oz nests like these for easy portioning. If you don't intend to use them that evening, simply allow them to dry overnight, pop them in plastic bags (with a silica gel pack if you're feeling fancy), and then store them for up to 6 months in your pantry.

Green Garden Pesto
(rough estimates; use what you have!)
  • 2/3 fresh basil
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup nasturtium leaves
  • 8 sprigs parsley
  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • 9 small hot chile peppers, pan-roasted and seeded
  • 1/3 cup raw pistachio nuts, shelled
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
So here's the only bit of cooking that you have to do for this recipe: blister the peppers. I have so many tiny cayenetta peppers from my hanging basket planter, it's not even funny. You can wait until they turn red or use them green(which I like to do for this recipe), but be advised that they are spicy, so use with discretion if you're sensitive to that! I like lots of peppery bite, so I used plenty. This is easy: just take a saute pan, heat it up - without any fat in it, mind you - and blister the skin of the peppers. Just cook them until they're soft inside, and then remove the seeds by popping off the tops and just squeezing the insides out, like you might for a tube of toothpaste. 

This is the easiest pesto ever - just pop everything in a blender and blitz until smooth. You can add more mint, more basil, more parsley, whatever! I like lots of spinach in this because it gives such a nice sweetness and a bright green color to it. The nasturtium is used because I have lots of it, and it has a nice peppery bite to it. I've got more mint than I have basil, so I used that, as well, but not too much as to prevent it from overpowering anything. You can substitute the nasturtium for tarragon, chives, or olive oil instead of coconut/grapeseed. Use what you have; this recipe is meant to be easy!

For this recipe:
  1. Cook your pasta in boiling water. (90 seconds for fresh, 7 minutes for dried)
  2. Drain your pasta.
  3. Toss your pasta in a spoonful of pesto sauce and a dab of butter.
  4. Serve.
Thats. It. 

I served mine tonight with a center-cut pork chop, and some braised swiss chard with corn and leeks. It was a simple meal, and the only thing I really had to buy was the pork chops, which were from a BOGO(buy one, get one free) sale at the Hen House down the street. You don't even need the extra stuff; just a few shaves of parmesan or even a poached egg will do for a light dinner.  This, obviously, can be very easily made vegetarian, and even the most-discerning guests will appreciate something that you grew and made by hand!

A post shared by Kolika of Pistachio Bakehouse (@wannabgourmande) on

In reality, I spent about $5.49 for a nice meal for two people, considering everything else was already available in my home and garden. I know you won't be able to buy a house with that kind of savings, but you can certainly splurge on one more avocado toast at brunch when you're only spending roughly $2.25/per person, per meal, in your own home. The only real investment here made was time, which took - roughly - 40 minutes from start to finish. It might take the average home cook a hair longer, but it's still a simple meal that's economic, has a teeny-tiny carbon footprint in comparison to going out to a restaurant, and is very tasty. 

Oh, and you don't have to have a big garden to grow the herbs in this recipe; a sunny window box with mint, basil, nasturtium, etc., in it will do just fine. You can garden. I believe in you. You can empower yourself and homestead in a tiny apartment, in your own quiet way. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lunch at The Farmhouse

Smoked shortrib lasagna, Parmesan crisp, fresh ricotta
I had my first doctor's appointment in 15 years today. It was at a lovely little office in the River Market area of Kansas City, and it was right next door to the Farmhouse. I had not only gone to the appointment without any help, I had made the appointment all by myself and used my insurance to find myself a new doctor.

Can you say 500G for Adulthood??

Of course you can.

Anyway, it was the first time I'd done blood work and I felt a little peckish afterwards. I normally stand by the very familial notion of "it's unhealthy to eat alone", but my hunger rules me, and I decided to dine solo. Oscar Wilde once said that learning to love one's own company is the beginning of a lifelong romance. I figure that if I can't stand to eat alone, nobody else should have to stand eating with me.

The staff at The Farmhouse were a friendly, young, and eclectic group of people, much like a cast of extras from Portlandia. The entire ambiance was really open and chill, and the art on the wall was gorgeous. There's a big picture of a giant rooster hanging over the bar that, apparently, the Chef painted, according to one of the regulars I met.

The cocktail/wine/drinks menu is given to you on a clipboard of dog-eared paper, and the lunch menu is no different. This is a good thing, because it shows the menu is not only recycled, but changeable. The Farmhouse boasts its seasonality and farm-to-table mentality, so seeing a menu like this is a good sign.

Although the triple-decker grilled cheese caught my fancy, I saw the pasta special on the board(pictured above) and just had to try it. After all, I did blood work at my doctor's appointment--I need some bright red in my diet. (In case you didn't know,  tomatoes especially have a high amount of potassium and vitamin C, so that means that they're good for your heart, like many other naturally-red foods are!)

They had posted on Facebook(apparently) that every person that finished the special would get a big high-five from the staff. I finished mine without fail, and got a high-five, so good on them for being good on their word. The staff was so friendly and fun, and I cannot stress enough at how utterly delicious it was to have coffee that was freshly pressed.

It's National Coffee Day, by the way, on this day of September 29th. Do you know how I received my coffee this morning? Do you? Like this:

That's a genuine French Press with cream and raw sugar. Hell to the yes on that one.

The restaurant is very clean and has a fun vibe. I ended up sitting at the bar next to the artist of several paintings on the wall, and chatting up a storm. The bar manager learned that I was in the industry, too, and we three just had a fine time, gabbing the afternoon away.

Another thing about their menu that I want to stress is that it's truly farm fresh American cuisine. They make everything in-house that they can make in-house and they're doing a good job of it. That dollop of white on my lasagna? Fresh ricotta. The burrata is made with fresh mozzarella, too, and that's a good thing.

The Farmhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoYou might say "Burrata? That's not American!" It might not have American origin, but the thing about American cuisine(and really any cuisine, if you think about it) is that it is able to have fun with what it has. If we, here in Kansas/Missouri have access to all of this gorgeous farmland and these wonderful animals and the products those animals have to offer...why not use them in tried-and-true delicious ways? That being said, a burrata is a fantastic thing to show off on a menu, as it is very difficult to do well and to do well consistently. While I did not have the burrata, I did see it go out to another table, and the smell and look of it was just perfect.

All in all, I really dig The Farmhouse. Friendly staff, awesome location, great food...two thumbs up! I will most-definitely be back for dinner.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Food Comas are a Real Thing

I know that it's all about timing, and that it's all about keeping your metabolism up until you fall asleep...but come on. Carbs are delicious, and they just make you want to curl up and die in your own flub of happiness. I have a total food baby now and thanks to my slowing metabolism, I actually have to pay attention to my habits now. Do you know what this means for me? No sleep until 11:30. No sleep until 11:30 pm, unless I want all of that stuff to just congeal and make me fat.

I know they all say that when you reach a certain age, your metabolism just goes "See you later, homie" but "LATER" NEVER COMES....? It's true. It is 100% true. A couple of years ago, I could eat anything I wanted and not gain a single ounce; now, I have a scoop of chocolate ice cream and my ass jiggles for a week.

Don't get me wrong...actually having an ass is pretty nice, especially when you go 20-something years without one. This has pretty much been the only time I have cursed my Asian genetics, which have otherwise blessed me with gorgeous skin, beautiful almond-shaped eyes, and thick and generous black hair. What good is all of that Pinoy heritage, though, if you don't have a juicy Spanish booty go with it?

Is there a way I can just take all of the excess flub from around my belly button and just skidge it over to my butt? No? Not without surgery? I was more thinking of some kind of yoga move, or reflexology thing I could do at home... I guess not. I guess I'll just have to stick with it, and maintain the fairly descent metabolism I have now by not falling asleep until the 2 hour mark has been reached.

This seems easy enough if you haven't had a giant plate of pasta with sauteed garlic for dinner, all buttery with dried basil(I dried that basil bunch I got from the Overland Park Farmers' Market  by microwaving it on 60% power for 45 seconds) and roasted tomatoes and cracked black pepper. It was so good. I slurped it up with my poached egg, which just added another thickness and ooey-gooeyness to my butter sauce. How can you not want to just curl up in a pile of pasta and fall into your cocoon of indulgence and feigned self-respect?

It's hard. That's why I'm blogging. Only half an hour more to go. Feck.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lidia's Kansas City - Tiny Tables for Two, Big Flavors for All

I had the privilege recently to dine at Lidia's, which is arguably THE nice place to go in town, next to The American. Located in the Midtown/Crossroads area of Kansas City, it's nestled near other great places such as Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop(a new-er kid on the block, in comparison) and Grunauer. This place is a very upscale Italian-style restaurant that does not disappoint. The parking is fairly expansive for the area, and you get a great view of the bridges and the skyscrapers all lit up if you get out of the car just at twilight.

Walking in, the hostess stand is immediately to your right, across from a rack of coats which, I can only assume, belong to the other patrons. To tell you the truth, the idea of checking your coat literally next to the door with no employee directly next to it was a little unnerving, so I opted to keep mine. (Plus I get cold easily.)

We were seated within five minutes of arrival by a gorgeous Black hostess who, I must say, had the most beautiful head of hair I've ever seen. Her perfect red lipstick almost matched the decor. She sat us at a table that was easily the tiniest I've ever seen meant for two people and began to explain the wine choices for the evening. She stopped mid-sentence, though, to ask if we were over 21. I, a healthy 26, and my date, a robust 28, exchanged quizzical looks and promptly laughed as we nodded. "You two do not look over 21!" she exclaimed with a smile.

"Seriously? Look at his beard," I said. B laughed, she laughed, we all laughed.

The bread sticks, foccacia and compound butters and water were quickly brought to the table by our server, who was very well-versed at his job. The butters were vibrant hues of green and purple(one herb and one kalamata olive, if I had to guess) and both were and tasty. The bread wasn't my favorite, to be honest, but the fact that they make it in-house should be commended.

B was feeling a bit adventurous, and I know his appetite is always huge, so we went for a caesar salad and the antipasti plate to start with. The cheeses were served at near-room temperature, for which I was unbelievably thankful. We as Americans know nothing of eating cheese properly! Cheeses should always-always-always be served at room temperature! It's the only way to really appreciate the cheese's flavors and aromas properly. But, anyway, there were olives, salumi, pepperoni...all things that were good. There was this fantastic goat cheese, too, that I just loved. There was even vitello tonnato, an olive oil poached tuna that's left to sort of confit for awhile in that fabulous, flavorful fat. It was a little funky for B, so I happily polished it off. Thumbs up on the antipasti and it is definitely big enough to share! I don't know if B necessarily cared for his caesar, though; he made a comment about how he'd never had a caesar without the 'creamy thick dressing' before; this was more of a transparent-ish-vinaigrette style. It was good, but I can see what he meant. My darling Midwestern man...

See that? That's a big food coma, waiting to happen.
For dinner, he had the osso bucco, which was a dish he'd never had before. The meat was fall-off-the-bone, cut-with-a-fork tender and oh-so-flavorful I wanted to just crawl inside that shank bone and just make a house out of it. Perfectly done, if I do say so myself.

I saw that they had stuffed quail and just couldn't resist. Quail is fantastic little bird and is fucking delicious. I honestly have no idea for the life of me why it's not more of a thing in the US. The very classical Mexican/Spanish dish of Quails with Rose Petal sauce is divine, and you should try it if you ever get the chance. The mushroom-stuffed quail was pretty damn divine, too. The dish is just two perfect little quails, stuffed to the gourds with mushrooms, and served on a bed of roasted butternut squash and winter greens. The mushrooms were roasted well, as was the butternut squash. I loved the braised bed of greens that it was resting on, too. I really am a huge fan of dark, bitter greens, like kale or mustard greens, with game birds. I must say that my desire to be attractive and dainty miraculously kept me from sucking the meat off of those tiny little quail thighs in front of my date, so I made small talk and scraped it all off with a knife and fork like a lady.

It comes with two quails, forever entangled in a tango of flavor...
We were too full for dessert. I'm afraid we'll have to go back for it.

The service at Lidia's was excellent. We never saw the bottoms of our water glasses once; not even close. In fact, there was a point where I would take about three sips and a bus boy would come running with a pitcher of ice water. Our server was also cordial, professional, fastidiously groomed, and very knowledgeable about the menu.

The decor and atmosphere was great. Above us were these fantastic chandaliers of blown glass orbs all woven into, what appeared to be, some kind of industrial chicken wire.The lighting was warm and the colors were welcoming and friendly without being kitsch. In fact, it was very upscale, in my opinion. My only grievance was that the tables were tiny. Like, oh my god, so tiny.

Lidia's Kansas City on Urbanspoon
I understand that you need small tables to fit X amount into a restaurant, but B and I are long, leggy people that were a bit awkwardly cramped while people of a much more rotund nature walked by through the narrow aisles between the other tiny tables. Also, I felt a little low to the ground...but maybe that was because I'm so tall.

All in all, I give Lidia's Kansas City a thumbs up. Great service, expertly prepared food from a chef who clearly knows what he's doing, and a well-versed staff all make for a great meal. The Chef has been there for many years, now, and has clearly gotten his game down pat. I highly recommend Lidia's for a date night. It's romantic, intimate...and the food is to die for. But maybe skip the appetizers and save room for dessert, which is what I plan to do next time.