Free Range on Food: Midwestern pizza, salt intake, black-owned barbecue joints and more

St. Louis-Style Pizza
Feb 24, 2016

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions. Past Free Range on Food chats

A rainy good afternoon, Free Rangers! I'm already jonesing for all the Midwestern pizza Kristen Hartke made in our Food Lab last week -- the subject of her fun piece today. She's onboard for the chat, as are columnists Jim Shahin and Tamar Haspel, who both turned in such thoughtful work. FYI: Editor Joe's away. Lots to discuss. Lots of questions already in the queue. What's everybody eating as they watch the #Oscars on Sunday? 


We'll have a cookbook or two to give away, as usual, to especially helpful or positively curious chatters. Winners to be announced at the end of the hour.

For Post Points members, today's code is FR9676. You'll want to record and enter it into the Post Points site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to put those numbers in by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday to get credit for participating.


Ready? Let's do it.

I really enjoyed today's article about Midwestern pizza. I love pizza of all kinds and get frustrated with so-called experts who insist that certain types (usually New York or Neopolitan) are the "best" or "only" real pizza. Yes, those pizzas are delicious, but so are Chicago, California, Roman and other styles, and these three look good too. At the risk of becoming a target, I think it's silly to insist that New York is the only place with good pizza. I've had amazing pizza there for sure, but the pizza I ate in Brooklyn Heights a couple months ago was disappointing, and the pizza I eat from Wiseguys in DC is really good. Enough ranting. I want to make the Detroit pizza, but I don't have the right size pan (I do have 9 X 13) and I'm not sure I'll be able to get ahold of the Wisconsin brick cheese unless my Whole Foods carries it. Will using the smaller pan work okay, and if I can't find the cheese, can I use something else? Thanks.


Pizza is definitely not good just because of where it comes from -- it's all about the recipe! As to the Detroit pizza, you can definitely use a traditional 9"x13" metal pan -- it should still give you good results -- and try asking for the Wisconsin brick cheese when you go to the store, because it might be available (you can definitely get it at Bowers Dairy at Eastern Market on Capitol Hill). For a substitute, I'd actually suggest muenster, which has a similar texture and flavor; you can also try white cheddar, but I'd adjust the ratio to mozzarella, maybe 8 ounces mozzarella to 4 ounces white cheddar, instead of 6 ounces of each.

I have been tasked with buying a new nonstick skillet (large size) for my parents vacation home. I am overwhelmed with what's out there and have no idea what to buy. What is the "best" non stick skillet to buy these days?

I'm really happy with my 12-inch Calphalon. They have a fry pan, and also the one I own, which is what they call an omelette pan. It has a lid, but you can get the fry pan with one too. I've found the lid really handy for certain recipes.

A decade ago, I had to cook for a family member who was limited to 100 mg of sodium per day due to liver disease (the average American consumes 3,400 mg per day). It was extraordinarily difficult to do. We had to cook almost everything from scratch, including bread. It's shocking when you look at the sodium content on the labels of anything that comes in a box or can. Today, I still consume very little salt but I can find a lot of low sodium or sodium-free products in the grocery store.

You're absolutely right that the best way to reduce salt is to cook.  About three-quarters of the salt we eat comes from processed and restaurant food, and even careful shopping can't avoid a lot of it.  The other issue is that when consumers see "low sodium" they often think "bland and icky."  That's why I'm a fan of the population-wide (gradual) reduction.  But you've found your own solution, so power to you!

I just copied and pasted FR9676 into the Claim My Points site and got an error msg saying the code "has expired or is invalid."

We're checking on it right now.

I've never been a huge fan of pie crust -- I'd rather eat more of the filling! Instead of sweet pies, I've gone to crisps and crumbles. But quiches, now ... there are a lot of crustless recipes, and also a lot of "crusted" recipes that sound truly excellent and which I'd like to try. Can I simply omit the crusts, or is it more complicated than that? Thanks for this chat!

I don't see why not. Crust-less quiche -- kind of sounds like a fritatta, yeah? I would just grease well whatever you decide to bake it in.

And here's a #Dinner InMinutes along those lines! 

RECIPE Ten-Minute Pan Quiche

At Thanksgiving I made a dessert with browned butter. My husband proudly proclaimed to the family, "She made this with burnt butter!" Funny guy.

So, I am making baked beans in the crock pot today, and I use dried beans. I am comfortable with soaking them. (I use Cooks' Illustrated method of boiling them for 2 minutes then soaking for 8 hours.) However, what does it mean to pick through the beans (before soaking, of course)? What exactly am I picking out? I pick out any stones, but what does a bad dried bean look like?

Tricky things, those old bad beans. They don't look so different from  the good ones. Picking through means looking for bits of debris that might be hiding among the beans, and for dried bits of beans. Chatters, got any tips to share?

Hi! I'm having a dinner party on Saturday and was thinking of making a salad with greens, oranges, red onions... Any go to dressing recipes? Do I dress the salad ahead of time or keep it separate and let people dress their own? Thanks so much!

The orange-pumpkin seed dressing in our recipe for Cabbage Slaw is AWESOME. I've had it on cabbage and kale, but think it'd be good on just about anything.

Another option is a more basic vinaigrette, such as our  Champagne Vinaigrette or Sherry Vinaigrette.

If you're using delicate greens, dress right before serving or let guests dress their own. If you're using sturdier greens like kale, chard, cabbage, etc., then the salad actually benefits from being dressed ahead.

Cabbage Slaw With Orange-Pumpkin Seed Dressing

RECIPE: Cabbage Slaw With Orange-Pumpkin Seed Dressing

RECIPE: Champagne Vinaigrette

RECIPE: Sherry Vinaigrette

A simple oil/vinegar dressing's always nice...maybe with a little honey stirred in. I happen to know Ellie Krieger's got an orange salad coming up for her next Nourish recipe in which she infuses the oil with mint -- very tasty. Check out this dressing in this recipe.

Is there anyone in the MD/VA/DC area that makes a Quad City (Harris Pizza)? or for that matter a Detroit style (Buddy's) or St. Louis (Imo's) style pizza?

If there is anyone in the DMV that makes either of those pizzas, I have not found them yet -- hopefully some local pizza restaurants will be inspired to branch out to something beyond the traditional Neapolitan and deep dish styles.

What fun pizza recipes to try out on the family! Instead of investing in the heavy duty pan for Detroit style pizza, can I stack two half sheet pans instead? And, is there anything I can sub for the malt - just trying to avoid investing in a product that I may use only once.. Thanks!

I think you'll need something deeper than a sheet pan, so I'd opt for a traditional 9"x13" baking pan, the kind of thing you'd bake brownies in. It won't be as heavy, but it should do the trick! Also, you can definitely use sugar instead of malt - the malt helps give a better rise, but sugar will work just fine.


RECIPE Detroit-Style Pizza


I grew up in the St. Louis area and even lived fairly close to a well-known STL-pizza chain for many years. I still think Provel is vile and has no business being on pizza. Which is a shame, because the crust and cut do have things to recommend them.

Provel is definitely an acquired taste -- kind of like Velveeta, which some people love but others hate. One way to make it with a flavor that might be more appealing is to simply substitute a blend of white Cheddar, Swiss, and provolone - you might enjoy that better!

What is the best soy sauce substitute low sat?

You might try coconut aminos. We've seen some with as little as 90 mg sodium per teaspoon (compared to around 300 mg sodium per teaspoon in some soy sauces). You can find coconut aminos at natural food stores or some Whole Foods Markets. 

Recipes on Americas Test Kitchen are frequently calling for pecorino cheese--I think that's the spelling--but I don't see it in the supermarket. Where does one get it? Also the recipe for Mom's vegetable soup calls for a small can of puree which I no longer can find. Is it no longer used? If not, what is a substitute? Tomato paste didn't seem to work nor did tomato sauce.

Most of the time I see it as pecorino-Romano, situated near the Parmigiano-Reggiano. It often comes pre-grated; definitely at Whole Foods and Giant stores, sometimes at Harris Teeter. For tomato puree, you can use a can of plain sauce, but if you can buy Pomi brand (that comes in a box), that's a real nice, thick puree. 

Although it's true that toppings generally go underneath on Detroit pizza, it's interesting that Buddy's, perhaps the biggest name in Detroit pizza, has a pie called "The Detroiter" on which the pepperoni goes on top. And that's the one I always order.

That's true -- Buddy's does do their pepperoni pizza differently from everyone else in the area. I'm sure there's a story in there somewhere, since Buddy's is the true grandaddy of Detroit pizza.

Hey Jim, Loved the article about black owned barbecue places. What a great idea to travel around and see what's out there. You mentioned some places, but I'm sure you visited many others. Do you have any that you liked that didn't make it into the story? By the way,some of the best barbecue places I have been have been run down, shack like places owned mostly by blacks who have always welcomed me and my family. Thanks for showcasing these family owned places.

       Oh, man, I went to a lot of places. There were many that didn't make the cut. Archibald's in Tuscaloosa is a magnificent little beloved shack of a place with phenomenal ribs. The original Dreamland (now a chain), also in Tuscaloosa, is still excellent for big, meaty, sauced ribs. Saw's in Birmingham is ridiculously good across the board. I loved the lemon pie at Bob Sykes, in Bessemer, Alabama, outside of Birmingham. I've always had a thing for the barbecue spaghetti at the Bar-B-Q Shop in Memphis. In Atlanta, I had  some terrific "new 'cue" - one dish that stands out is a slice of smoked brisket on a brisket hash at the Pig and the Pearl in Atlanta. There's more. But that's enough to get started.

This is becoming a recurring problem! What's up with that?

Several folks have asked; the answer is: They are investigating the issue. And the Post Points folks say: "If we don't have a resolution before the chat is finished, you can tell them that we'll post on the PP site, remove the midnight deadline and increase the point value to 30, which is two times the normal amount."  So look under  Earn Points on the Post Points site.

Isn't browned butter called beurre noir (black butter) in French cooking?

Brown butter = beurre noisette, I think, due to its kinda nutty flavor

It appears that more and more stocking is done by individual vendors and not by the grocery store itself and the companies pay the stores for the space. It would be helpful if the Food Section would do some survey and indicate the vendors since they appear to have an area to cover. I know from experience that ice cream and bread are stocked by vendors. It is frustrating because the ice cream vendor at the local stores apparently isn't in to chocolate flavors as they are limited. With vendors covering the stores it also has meant that when one store is out of an item most will be as well until the vendor comes by. In addition, the non-store stockers are usually the people I have stopped for help and get "I don't work here."

Hasn't it been that way for a while? I tend to shop in off hours, and have long seen the vendors stocking shelves. Chatters?

The link still returns old results. Is it really too hard for IT to add an order by date descending? BTW, loved the cod corn chowder recipe. My husband usually isn't a fan of cod, but this he liked - even claimed the leftovers for his lunch the next day.

RECIPE Cod and Corn Chowder Pie

Sorry it's still an issue. Have you tried searching Dinner In Minutes within a range of dates, if you're looking for something specific? Glad you liked the pie -- it was in our Top Recipes of the week. 

I really appreciate the Post running Jim Shahin's article on how blacks and barbecue are so entwined with American culture. Jim, you said you travelled through the South. Are there places you went to that aren't in the story?

     Someone else asked the same question. So, I'll give you a a different one: a family-owned place in Mobile called Saucy Q. It  had something called a knuckle sandwich the was made up of crunch, fried rib tips. Fantastic! One of those dishes where you go, How has this not caught on? 

I loved Jim Shahin's story on traveling through the South to help give credit to a culinary art that has had so much impact on American culture, but is often considered, if considered at all, as just a low form of cuisine. I lived in Birmingham for four years and agree with Jim that black-owned barbecue joints offer a great window on our history and culture. But one question, Jim: why didn't you go to Archibald's?

    I did go to Archibald's, spent a couple of hours there, in fact hanging with the owner and a guy who wrote a scholarly paper on Alabama barbecue and is now teaching a college course on it. The food was great. So was the conversation. Unfortunately, decisions had to be made about what to keep in the piece.

There is a trend that disturbs me in the markets: really big shallots are sold, which begin to take on the pungency of red onions rather than the mild subtlety of small shallots. Is it just me? Am I the only one who feels this way? And is there someone still selling small shallots?

I definitely bought some rather monstrous ones this weekend. I still think they're milder than onions but I can kind of see what you're saying. Anyone seen smaller ones around?

Editor Joe has noticed for a while, which is why he calls for "shallot lobes" in his recipes. We'll check into it as much as we can...let's meet here next week, same Bat time?

I will be making the Post's peppermint marshmallow and cookies in the shape of the Oscar statue. I splurged and bought a can of Wilton's gold spray to jazz things up.


I so understand the need for the right ingredients in certain recipes, but I just found provel cheese on Amazon for $41 for two pounds! Wow! A little more that I want to lay out. Can you suggest a close substitute for provel?

So, we found 5 pounds of Provel on Amazon for about that same cost — and, believe me, that will make a whole lot of St. Louis pizza. First of all, you can go to your local cheesemonger and ask them to get Provel (for instance, Bowers Dairy might look into getting some from their distributor if there's demand). Otherwise, try substituting a blend of Swiss, provolone, and white cheddar -- it won't have the same texture, but the flavor might be a little closer. If you go that route, you might add a couple of drops of Liquid Smoke to the cheese blend, as it should have a little smokiness.

Protected by anonymity I will confess: I don't know how to eat pomegranate seeds. Do I just sort of crush them with my teeth/tongue to experience the pulp/juice, then swallow the goop and the hard center bits whole (in effect making it sort of like a passionfruit experience)? Do I crunch the hard center parts to bits? Do I spit out the centers?

Crunch and eat the whole seed -- there's a nice little burst of juice right in the center! I love to throw them on salads or rice dishes.

What's the take from all of you about this recipe? I've made it once with great success (by heating my pan in the oven and then quickly stretching and dropping into the pan), but subsequent attempts by following the recipe have resulted in unpalatable, sometimes only half-baked pizza (while the top or bottom might be charred). What gives here, and should I abandon this for one of the new variants highlighted today?

I haven't tried this particular recipe, but several factors can contribute to problems with half-baked pizza. One way to handle that problem is to use bread flour, which has a higher protein content and helps to develop the gluten, which makes for an airier dough that will bake better. Letting it cold-ferment helps also in developing that gluten structure. But, hey, you should definitely try the three recipes we shared this week because they are delicious -- in fact, the Quad Cities pizza was a true revelation to me!

I grew up in Ohio, and before I went to college in MA, I had no idea that the thin crust pizza popular in New England was a thing. I was so distressed at not being able to find thick crust pizza ANYWHERE in my small college town! I actually kind of prefer NY-style now, but sometimes, nothing beats what you grew up with.

I grew up with New York and New Haven style pizzas and I'm a total snob about them, but have definitely gone over to the dark side since being introduced to Detroit pizza several years ago. When it's made right, it's pretty amazing. And while I know that St. Louis pizza can be a bit controversial, I know people from STL who are absolutely crazy about it -- a true taste of home.

Every recipe for using dried beans says to pick thru them. It comes from times when food producers were even less careful about hygiene and what else might be in the processing area than they are now. Hard to imagine, right?? Anyhow, I do pick thru to find ones that might be unusable, or if any small stones or such found their way into the bag. Habits die hard.

When we were in Lisbon, Portugal, last fall, we stopped one evening for dinner at a neighborhood café located a ways from our hotel (i.e., a place where the locals eat, NOT a tourist attraction), and ordered their vegetarian pizza as our main course. One of the several toppings on it was cut corn kernels, which startled us no end, although they actually weren't bad. Who knew?!?

So interesting -- that is worth a try! Maybe on a grilled summer pizza.

They won the governor's cup, and four white wines made the 12 best list. I'm a Virginian, but also wondered: is there an article on up and coming Maryland wineries? Thanks

It's winter, so that means lots of braises, stews and other hearty fare. When it gets too hearty, we eat salads. Any suggestions for something different - not vegetarian, my spouse would revolt - that we can add to the rotation? And before you suggest it, my spouse doesn't like fish ( I love it). I'm stumped and bored. Help....

When I'm bored with winter food, I turn to spices and bold flavors.

How about trying one of these on for size?

Beef and Pineapple Red Curry

RECIPE: Beef and Pineapple Red Curry

Cinnamon-Spiced Bulgur With Almonds and Chicken

RECIPE: Cinnamon-Spiced Bulgur With Almonds and Chicken 

Fried Eggplant Rolls With Walnut-Garlic Filling (Badrijani Nigvzit)

RECIPE: Fried Eggplant Rolls With Walnut-Garlic Filling (Badrijani Nigvzit)

Manchego, Dried Apricots, Fennel and Radicchio Salad

RECIPE: Manchego, Dried Apricots, Fennel and Radicchio Salad

Jim Shahin, I just wanted to say thank you for drawing attention to the Taino people's role in the creation of what we call barbecue and for giving recognition to the black-owned businesses that impacted the Civil Rights movement. Your article was informative, honest, and appreciated. Keep doing you my man.

      Thanks. I appreciate the love. The story continues, and I hope it does so for years to come. 

Gotta say, I love that Alabama style white BBQ sauce. Mr. Shahin you gotta recipe for that?

    Bonnie has provided you a recipe. I'll just add that one of the things I found while traveling is that the Alabama white sauce is having a moment. It used to be just in a small area of northern Alabama. Now, it's throughout the state and even into Georgia.

Hi, you've emboldened me many times, and the recipe finder doesn't have what I need: a simple, healthy, preferably savory way to use the leftover dough -- any ideas? Usually, leftover dough gets baked with sliced almonds, or a bit of (lower fat) cheese. Thanks! P.S. the baked brie was awesome.... made easier by buying it in a log, not a round!

I think these Sweet Potato Samosas would do the trick. And these Apple-Ginger Phyllo Turnovers.

Many crust recipes are basically flavorless. Rather than omit the crust, why not up the flavor in the crusts. As an example, an apple pie crust usually calls for butter/shortening, flour and water. That is pretty bland. So I add apple brandy instead of water. I add salt (yes, I know Tamar we should not), I add sugar. I add spices. For something like chicken pot pie, I use chicken broth instead of water. I add salt and spices. Making the crust flavorful is something many recipes ignore.

I agree -- I love to add a little flavor to crusts, whether it's some vanilla bean for an apple pie crust or tarragon into a pot pie dough. I also enjoy playing with different fats for flavor, like coconut oil instead of butter. One of the things that I really enjoyed about researching the Midwestern pizza story was the Quad Cities pizza crust, which is incredibly flavorful from the addition of malt syrup and spices.


RECIPE Quad Cities-Style Pizza

Found a container at the back of the cabinet and would love some ideas for using the Egyptian spice blend. Mine has chunks of dried chickpeas and nuts along with the ground spices. So far I've just sprinkled it over already-roasted vegetables.

Stir it into plain yogurt or olive oil to make a dip! Or rub it into meats or fish before cooking. Here are a few recipes that use the blend as well: 

Oven Eggs With Olive Oil and Dukkah

RECIPE: Oven Eggs With Olive Oil and Dukkah

Roasted Carrot, Green Bean and Coconut Salad

RECIPE: Roasted Carrot, Green Bean and Coconut Salad

Great issue today, I appreciate the inclusion of several healthy recipes. Ellie Krieger's Thai dish sounds good but I've never used coconut milk before. I'm lactose intolerant and I'm not sure if coconut milk has lactose in it. Thanks.

Nope, coconut milk is just made from coconuts and water -- coconut meat is soaked in water and then it's all strained.

Thai Curry Chicken and Vegetables

RECIPE: Thai Curry Chicken and Vegetables

The only ingredients you mention for Provel are cheeses. What makes it "processed" instead of just "blended" and why is "processed" a bad thing? Grateful for the explanation.

A processed cheese, by definition, starts with "real" cheese, but then can have emulsifiers, oil, other flavorings, salt, etc. added to it. So Provel has a base of three actual cheeses -- Swiss, white cheddar, and provolone -- but also has some additional ingredients, like smoke flavor, which make it a processed cheese.

I grow shallots and find that if I harvest them too early they are huge. Better to wait until they clove. The stores, and producers for that matter, charge by the pound and shallots are dear, to they LOVE the bigger ones. I suspect the big ones are early season harvest. They should get smaller as the season progresses? Or buy a bunch and let them sit in the dark. They will clove eventually and you can pull the smaller ones off as the skins dry.

Thanks for the insight!

I tried them as a substitute but it's not the same. They have a sweet, rather than salty taste (at least to my palate). I'm going back to low sodium soy sauce.

Fair enough. Chatters, any other suggestions?

Becky, which Calphalon pan do you have that you like? I really like the Contemporary line and there's also sometimes open-stock pans at stores (not sure what line) that are really great, but I once bought a 12-inch Simply Calphalon pan and really despised it, so I think there's a lot of variation among their products.

I believe the one I have is the Signature 12-inch omelette pan.

... are randomly good in guacamole.

They certainly are (purists, look away). And here's a good recipe that uses them: Rosa Mexicano's Fall Guacamole.

Or is it just cheap frozen pizza?

That is a good question -- actually, St. Louis pizza and Ellio's taste sort of similar to me, but I think it may have more to do with the processed flavor. Ellio's actually got started in New York!

I bought a few bags of "triple-washed" shredded salads on sale. Should I wash them again before eating?

Can't hurt. I do. 

There are lots of posts (on Pinterest) about using vinegar to clean toothbrushes, household surfaces, laundry, etc, and recently a number of posts about using something called "cleaning vinegar," which is supposed to be stronger. I found on the Web that Heinz makes one version that it says is “safe for cooking” (but apparently not for salad) — and kosher! What do you know about this product taste-wise? The only difference I see in the ingredients list is that it's 6% acidity instead of 5% for the other vinegars, including balsamic, at the Heinz site. Also, some other brands aren't edible.

This is a very interesting question. I recently learned, via scholar and author Darra Goldstein (a personal favorite), that Nordic countries use vinegars with a far higher acidity. As in 20 percent acid and higher. These kind of cooking vinegars are not available in the United States, according to Darra.


These vinegars are apparently quite powerful, as you'd imagine. Perhaps cooks or chefs from Sweden, Norway or Denmark can chime in on the subject? (Personally, I'd imagine the strength of these vinegars would turn the average American into a pickle, right on the spot.)


So the kind of "cleaning" vinegars sold by Heinz and other companies (at 6 percent acid) are still far less acidic than the ones in Scandinavia. Why do some companies recommend that you not cook with "cleaning" vinegars? I've read such vinegars are not as refined as cooking vinegars. I don't know the veracity of that.


Perhaps Free Rangers know more?

or expired.

See related answer, above.

Where can I find Thai basil in NW DC? Like Ellie Krieger, I keep tins of red curry and coconut milk on hand to elevate dishes. But Thai basil really makes them soar.

Word. Strangely enough, I've seen it at some Whole Foods and at the Harris Teeter on Kalorama (the Citadel). If you think you'd want it regularly, contact the manager of the store near you and request it. They're usually happy to do so.

No thanks. Besides not liking the burnt taste, there's also too many carcinogens.

Yup, got plenty of comments along both those lines.

The New York Times food section had a wonderful article a few years ago on using nut butter for pie crusts. Almond for apple pie, for instance. Talk about flavor!

Growing up along the Berkeley-Oakland city line in the '50s, my first exposure to pizza was the very thick rectangular slices of cold pizza from the Genova Italian Delicatessen (still in business, although moved around the corner from its original longtime location on Telegraph Avenue and 50th St. in the old Italian-American neighborhood of Temescal in north Oakland). The bready part was delicious, the tomato sauce was painted very thinly on top, it didn't have a lot of cheese -- and it was to be taken home, heated in the oven, then served like a focaccia at mealtime (i.e., more as a bread, rather than as the main course). Although I've since eaten all sorts of different styles of pizza, this one remains my comfort food when I go home to visit.

It sounds wonderful -- and very similar to sfinciuni the Sicilian pizza that Detroit's pizza is based on. It is worth making at home if you are feeling homesick -- the dough is so light and airy, incredibly delicious! 


RECIPE Detroit-Style Pizza

Bragg's liquid aminos. Available at WF and elsewhere. I love it!

Same amount of sodium, though, I think. 

Interesting story on pizza in the paper today. I spent 15 of my first 18 years growing up in NY State, about 6 hours from NYC, the remaining 3 years in Italy. The first time I ever hear the term "pie" used for a pizza was when I was in college my freshman year in Buffalo. A roommate, from Queens, wanted to order a pie. The other roommates looked at each other confused for awhile, wondering why he wanted to order a pie, figuring for apple, cherry, etc. When we asked him what kind he wanted he eventually said "pizza pie", which finally led to a mutual understanding. That being said, "pie" used to describe a pizza still sounds very odd to my ears. I've never really figured out why the term came into usage, assuming that it had been used to describe the shape to Americans unfamiliar with pizza when it wasn't as common as it is now, only a few decades ago.

Could be a regional thing -- kind of like how people in the Midwest call soda "pop" -- which really confused me the first time I went to Detroit!

is 15 minutes from my house and I did not know they had that. My husband is thanking you in advance for tomorrow's lunch, Jim!

     You probably already know this, but their smoked chicken is amazing.

Maybe I'm the only person in DCDelMarVawho doesn't know the answer, but, is the barbecue place the Kevin Spacey character goes to in House of Cards a real place?

    No, it's not. It was created from a gutted store in Baltimore. It does not function as a bbq joint. 

I'm curious: did the study on lower sodium consumption adjust for the possibility that consumers of prepared foods added salt on their own to compensate for lower amounts added by manufacturers.

They didn't simply assume that salt consumption went down -- they did measure it, and people did eat less salt.

Jim, it's getting close to barbecue season. I'm a rookie. How about a quick, five-item must have list? I own a basic Weber kettle grill, inherited from my dad (who grilled, but not barbecued)

      I loved that you only have a basic Weber. There is so much you can do with one of those. Five item must-have? Long-handled tongs. A grate with wings on both ends to easily add charcoal or wood. A nice collection of hardwood chips/chunks. A good cutting board. A good knife. Two more - imagination and patience.

Jim, I'm curious as to your thoughts on BBQ and race today. Do you see it as an art form that's being gentrified and needs to retain its authenticity? Or more as a grand unifier?

     I see it as both. It is undoubtedly gentrifying. There is a lot of experimentation going on, with more than a few classically trained chefs in the biz these days. The high cost of a sandwich and a per-pound order attests the changes happening to what was once a working man's food. That said, there is something, even in that gentrifying, that remains unifying about it. True, you don't see all the classes at the high-end places, a common element of barbecue in the past (new Mercedes parked next to old pickup was practically a cliche), but I think that barbecue retains its connection to its roots. At least it does, so far. Keep in mind, barbecue is ever evolving. The Taino, it's believed, were smoking iguana. I don't see a lot of smoked iguana on menus these days. Meanwhile, the whole pork-beef debate is relatively recent, given that big barbecues of the past often had a wide assortment of whole animals, including oxen. So, there are changes going on, as they always have. That said, clearly, there is also a class division happening. I gotta stop writing now or I will write an entire article on this, which maybe I will do later.

Joe, I love your smoky black bean and sweet potato chili recipe! I've made it several times and tried some variations like using immersion blender on the black beans and tomatoes to thicken it a little. Using chickpeas, etc. Tasty business! But my question is what to do with the rest of the can of chipotle peppers? Any suggestions for other weeknight dinners for one? As much as I love that soup, one pot every other week or so is about all I can eat. Thank you!s.some variations

You can do so many things with the chipotle peppers -- I've made chipotle cream by blending the peppers with yogurt  (seen in an article on Food52), and it's addictive. Or, try one of these recipes from our Recipe Finder:

Green Lentils With Spinach and Chipotle

RECIPE: Green Lentils With Spinach and Chipotle

Honey Baked Black Beans

RECIPE: Honey Baked Black Beans

I loved the idea of Jim Shahin traveling all over the South for BBQ history of Black American owned BBQ joints, but I wonder if he'll travel thru the Midwest at some point since so many blacks moved to areas to find work.

     I would absolutely love to. Budgets being what they are, I don't see that happening anytime soon. I will say, though, that I've done some Midwest barbecue adventuring. There's a place outside the small town of Warren, Ohio, with big, juicy ribs that's quite good. It's called Eli's.

I can enjoy deep-dish pizza IF I don't think about it as "pizza" ("A panna pitz? Sure, looks pretty good"). My three years spent in St. Louis, though, was complete torture (although the free beer at the zoo was some consolation).

St. Louis pizza is a definitely an acquired taste -- and when you eat it, you can tell that it was meant to be accompanied by beer.

I had seen Genepi, but never tasted it before last January (2015), when skiing in Italy at Madesimo. I was staying in Chiavenna, and it was among the complimentary after dinner drinks that was offered when we were paying our bill. I thought it was fascinating and brought home a bottle - wish I could remember the brand, but I haven't seen it in the USA. I still have a little left - you've gotten me thinking that I should go find that bottle again soon... :)

I'd love to hear what brand you got! I've now tried four or five of them and they're all a little different, which makes designing a non-brand-specific cocktail spec tricky. I'd be curious how much the Italian variations differ.


ARTICLE The age-old liqueue that will bring a wintry taste of the Alps to your lips

when the current science indicates that health sensitivity to salt is something that is huge for certain members of the population and close to irrelevant for others. In other words, reducing salt for the entire population isn't necessary. It is more important to figure out how to get people to figure out if they are salt sensitive or not, and, if they are, they need to reduce their sodium intake. I get that this is harder for docs, especially ones that only have 10 minutes per patient. However, in a population study, having a big impact on a small number of people will look statistically like having a small impact on lots of people. As much as we would like to think that population studies are good science, medicine is about one person at a time.

There's no question that some people don't benefit from salt reduction at some level (there is an amount that's too high for anyone, however). The problem is that you can't really do an intervention with just the people most salt-sensitive, because that requires people to decide to change their own behavior. This takes the decision -- and the volition -- out of their hands.  Also, important to note that, although some salt reduction won't help some people, it won't hurt them either.

I recently attempted to cook a dish (Madhur Jaffrey's chicken korma) using cardamom seeds instead of whole cardamom pods (it's what I had), and the result was DISGUSTING. Is there a right and wrong way to use cardamom seeds? The smell and flavor was nothing like what I've come to expect from cardamom.

Interesting. I wouldn't think there'd be too much difference in flavor between using the whole pods and the seeds. I could see it being more potent -- usually with crushed pods, you just kind of infuse the dish with flavors (and then don't eat them). If you threw the seeds straight in, maybe it was just too much cardamom. I love cardamom, but even I grimace when I crunch down on a seed that escaped a pod.

Sorry to divert the conversation again, but yesterday's code failure was followed by a promise of 30 points, but once it was "fixed" it only yielded 15!

We'll pass that along. 

I go to a Chinese grocery/market to get thai basil. They always have it.


Judging from the comments to Mr. Shahin's story, it seems like a lot of people need to take remedial reading. The story didn't say that blacks were the only ones to create American barbecue; in fact, he directly referenced whites, Hispanics, and Native Americans in the article. I've learned a lot over the years from his barbecue writing, and despite what the commenters are saying that the Post is all about racial everything, this is the first piece I can remember that Jim has done on that subject. If anything, it was overdue. Thanks, Jim, from someone who keeps learning about this great institution from your efforts. Ignore the haters. (they probably use gas or electric smokers, anyway)


GREAT piece by Jim Shahin. I really enjoyed learning about the relationship of African Americans to BBQ, and, in turn, the larger culture. Thanks, Jim, and the Post for running a fascinating, informative piece of American history.

    'Preciate it. Now, go have yourself a good chopped pork sandwich.

As I get older, I find I do eat/want less. I'm not obsessed about being thin, I just started packing on the pounds around the dreaded "M". My goal is to learn to create tiny food. My problem, every pan is WAY too big. I found a tiny sauce pan but it has no lid. Same with my tiny crock, which I think is just a soup bowl. Can you recommend a brand that specializes in small?

I have a great 1-quart saucepan with lid from All Clad, which I use all the time when cooking smaller portions.

No question really, but our Japanese high school aged exchanged student put corn and broccolli on her pizza (we had family pizza night when I was growing up) and my toddler likes a mix of broccoli, red peppers, and chicken on her's (with orange and white cheese, thank you very much). I'd look forward to seeing a pita-pizza (aka lazy parents dinner option) later this year.

I think there's no limit when it comes to pizza toppings, and it's a great way to get kids in the kitchen. You might try the St. Louis pizza crust, which mixes up in just a minute or two because it requires no yeast and is basically a flatbread. Then top it with anything you like!

I love the dry rubbed ribs, like they serve at Red, Hot, & Blue. Can you recommend any other places that use that style? Or is there a certain name for that style of bbq joint, i.e. NC-style, Alabama-state, etc, so I can explore myself?

Memphis is probably the most famous area for dry-rub ribs, although the rub can vary from barbecue joint to barbecue joint.


Texas also prefers to smoke its spare ribs without sauce, but its rub is leaner, often just salt and pepper (again, it can vary from pitmaster to pitmaster).


In the DC area, Hill Country, Texas Jack's and DCity Smokehouse all do Texas-style ribs, lean and mean and no sauce. Kangaroo Boxing Club on 11th Street NW serves a style of ribs that I would compare to some I've had in Memphis. Lots of rub on those bones, but no sauce.

    The term originated in Memphis, where ribs were served with or without sauce. If you find a place that calls itself Memphis-style, it generally refers, at least in part, to that. The dry-rib Memphis style tends to be a bit cakey on the spice rub. But, as Tim noted, there are other places that also serve ribs without sauce.

What is vinegar made of? Can you make your own vinegar??

It depends on the vinegar, of course. It can be made from so many things, like rice or wine or fruits. But white vinegar is generally made from grains, like malt or corn.

You can get the 20% (!) vinegar for cleaning and killing weeds.

Tell that to the Scandinavians!

I always get it at Whole Foods. The first time I discovered it was when Whole Foods was offering tastings. I fell in love with it. I think most people use it grated, but I actually like to eat it on a cracker.

For your amusement ... I'm from NYC and my college roommate was (is) from Youngstown, Ohio, where local pizza has devoted fans. One day I made challah dough in our kitchen and he swore that it was just like the pizza dough from his home town!

Okay, that is totally worth a try!!

Hi Jim! I had a quick question about the whole hog style vs. the shoulder, specifically for North Carolina pulled pork. Is that difference cultural, regional, or both? Which do you prefer? Thanks! Loved the new article, learned so much from it. Thank you for shedding light on these people's stories.

     Thanks for the props. The difference is primarily regional. In western North Carolina, they smoke shoulder. In eastern NC, they smoke whole hog. 

How many miles did Jim put on his car doing his Southern BBQ trip? and how many steps on his fit-bit? With all that BBQ he had to do something to work up an appetite.

     Y'know, one of my regrets is that I did not keep a good log of the miles. It was thousands, that I know. I wish I had to work up an appetite. One of my blessings and curses is that I rarely have to work up an appetite to eat. That, plus, there's a strategy involved. (Think: nibbles.) (Usually.) (Well, sometimes.)

Back in December, I submitted a question about a charcuterie-making class in the DMV as a gift for my husband. I'm happy to report in and say that the class at Straw Stick and Brick was a resounding success and Husband was VERY pleased with it (and me, too, who enjoyed the fruits of his labors). Thanks for your help!

    Glad to hear it. Thanks for checking back.

I take it you've read the great Calvin Trillin's Tummy Trilogy, where he explores food all over the place? He has a couple of paeans to Southern barbecue and emphasizes black-owned ones.

     Yep, I know it and I love it.

Well, you've baked us till our cheese is golden brown in spots and bubbling, so you know what that means . . . we're done! Thanks to Kristen and Tamar and Jim and Carrie and to you, dear chatters, for a lively session today.


Cookbook winners: The Shallots Size chatter who answered with insight from growing their own gets a copy of "Good Fats," source of today's Dinner in Minutes recipe. The chatter who asked about what processed cheese is wins a copy of "Eat Your Heart Out" (better than the title sounds!). Send an email to and she'll get those out to you.


Be sure to hang around for Dorie Greenspan's chat right now! At Lots of us are making her beef and beer stew this weekend....till next week, happy cooking and eating!


In This Chat
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, who farms oysters on Cape Cod and writes about food and science, is author of the monthly Unearthed column, winner of a James Beard Award.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Kristen Hartke
Kristen Hartke is a Washington-based food writer and editor. She wrote this week's story about Midwestern pizza.
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