Wednesday, December 31, 2008

5…4…3…2…1… Happy New Year!

May this new year be filled with an abundance of happiness and good health for all people. Thank you for reading and being part of my life. My special thanks to GG for the Mumm.

Happy New Year 2009!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Gift: Christmas Breakfast

What could be inside this beautiful red box? As I unwrap the package a sweet aroma fills my head with childhood memories. It’s Panettone, the most celebrated of all Italian cakes.

For generations, Christmas would be incomplete without this naturally leavened cake, rich in butter and eggs. Made from noble ingredients, this light and soft cake, overflowing with raisins and candied fruit, is one of the triumphs of the Italian bakers art.

I’m transforming this Panettone, a gift from my friend Joanne, into a wonderful Christmas morning breakfast for two.

Panettone French Toast

For the egg mixture: (enough to coat 6 round slices of Panettone (about 1/2 inch thick)

4 eggs
1 tablespoon Amaretto
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of salt

Beat all ingredients in a large bowl. Dip each slice of Panettone in egg mixture, coating both sides. Lightly brown each side and keep warm in a 200 degree oven.

To plate:

Arrange 3 slices of Panettone on a plate and garnish with orange slices and candied fruits. If you want to make this dish really special, lightly whip some cream and embellish with a splash of Amaretto.

This lovely dish is best served with a chilled Prosecco. If you prefer to continue with a fruit theme try:

Campari orange cocktail:

Fill a tall on the rocks glass with ice and add:
1 part Campari
3 parts orange juice
garnish with a slice of orange.

Buon Appetito!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gruyere Cheese: The Crowning Glory Of La Gougere

Cheese--glorious cheese. What is not to like about cheese? I have no answer to that question. I adore cheese, so much so, that whether I follow a published recipe, or use an original recipe of my own, I find myself looking for ways to showcase a particular cheese.

With this in mind, I would like to share one of my favorite cheese recipes with you. La Gougere is a cheese pastry ring made with Gruyere cheese. The recipe is adapted from Elizabeth David’s book, French Provincial Cooking. The recipe in her book can be somewhat intimidating when trying it for the first time. Having prepared this incredibly delicious creation many times, I have been able to simplify the recipe, while honoring the integrity of Elizabeth David’s recipe.

Before starting, read the recipe a few times, just to get your rhythm going, then gather the ingredients and equipment needed, this will ensure that things will flow smoothly. Once you begin, this recipe comes together quickly, it only takes a few minutes. To make one 8 inch ring you will need:

1 1/4 cups whole milk
4 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 cup flour, sifted
4 eggs
3/4 cup finely diced Gruyere cheese (3 oz.)

1 sauce pan
1 wooden spoon
1 sheet pan (or cookie sheet) lightly buttered or lined with parchment paper ( I used a silpat )

Preheat the oven to 375 F. and lightly butter the sheet pan.

In the sauce pan, heat the milk, butter, salt and pepper until the butter is melted and the mixture comes to a full boil.
Add the entire cup of flour at once, using the wooden spoon to stir briskly for a minute or two, just until the flour is combined and the mixture forms a ball of dough. Remove the sauce pan from the heat.

Add one egg and stir briskly to completely incorporate the egg (at first it will appear to be separating, just keep stirring for a few seconds and the dough will become smooth). Continue this procedure with the next three eggs, adding one egg at a time. Stir briskly to incorporate each egg before adding the next one.

After the forth egg is incorporated and the dough is smooth, stir in the diced Gruyere cheese.
Place spoonfuls of the dough on the sheet pan, creating an 8 inch ring. When you complete the first layer, use the remaining dough to build the next layer on top of the first layer, until you have created a wall. Continue creating layers until you have used all of the dough.

Brush the completed ring with milk. This will give the finished Gougere a beautiful sheen, as well as a crisp exterior.

Bake in a preheated 375 F oven for 45 minutes. Although the Gougere begins to smell cooked after 20 minutes, do not be taken in; it will have puffed up and turned golden brown, but it is not ready. You must resist, do not open the oven door for you risk collapsing the Gougere, resulting in a very delicious, but very flat pancake. Essentially what you are looking to create is a savory choux pastry, similar to that of an eclair. After 45 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes.

If you were able to contain yourself, your reward will be a magnificently puffed, golden brown crown, with a crisp exterior and a light, airy interior with the wonderfully nutty flavor from the Gruyere cheese. There are many ways to serve the Gougere, the most obvious being to slice a wedge and enjoy it with a cold beer, or a glass of champagne. It is delicious served warm or at room temperature. Prefect to pass around at a cocktail party, or to bring to a pot luck party, or to give as a hostess gift.

For an incredibly luscious treat, use the Gougere in place of bread when making a chicken salad sandwich. A great way to dress up a salad is to plate the perfectly dressed greens, then crisscross two thin slices of Gougere on the top. As a first course I have sauteed mushrooms with garlic and onions then deglazed the pan with sherry,I then cut a slit into a wedge of Gougere and filled it with the warm mushroom mixture. A beautiful presentation. I have used the same technique with sauteed shellfish, julienne vegetables and pernod to create a spectacular entree. For an after meal treat, try a slice a Gougere served with fresh fruit and a glass of port. What a relaxing way to end an evening.

This may at first glance appear to be a bit daunting, it really is not. Although I like to cook, I am occasionally apprehensive about baking. Even I can easily prepare Gougere to perfection. This recipe is quite easy if you are organized from the start, and use a little elbow grease to incorporate the eggs.

After just one taste, you will be making your second Gougere immediately after you devour the first one. Then you too will be a pro.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Artists In Buffalo

Artists in Buffalo Inc. presents Holiday Open Studio and Galleries. Take part in this unique opportunity to visit talented local artists and artisans in their studios and in small gallery settings.

The 3 day event hours are:
Friday December 5th from 5pm-9pm
Saturday & Sunday December 6th &7th from 11am-6pm

For more information and a printable map of the studios and galleries visit

Participating this year for the first time is ART MARKET gallery at 464 Amherst Street between Elmwood Avenue and Grant Street (next door to Artsphere). This intimate space exhibits works from some of Buffalo’s most exciting and talented artists. The opening reception is Saturday November 29, 2008 from 6pm-9pm.

The exhibit will run from November 28th-December 28th 2008 with hours:
Tuesday-Friday 11am-7pm
Saturday 10am-6pm
Sunday 11am-5pm

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet our talented local artists and view their fine art works.

Painting By Paul Rybarczyk

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sample Restaurant

Known for their amuse-bouche dinning concept, Sample restaurant has developed an innovative menu that delights diners with small bites of food that are packed with big flavors.

Jennifer and Adam Goetz have reinvented the restaurant experience by creating an environment which embraces the cocktail party, allowing each diner to create their own party at their table.

On a recent visit as part of the Sunday Supper Club, Sample restaurant hosted a Beer Dinner consisting of five outstanding courses, each perfectly paired with a carefully chosen beer selection. Here is that evening's line-up.

Complements of the kitchen, and to open your appetite, was an amuse of wild mushroom and parmigiano custard on a crispy potato crust.

The custard was silky smooth with a wonderful crispness from the potato crust.

First course: Pumpkin Soup
Creamy pumpkin soup was served with light as air herbed dumplings and toasted pumpkin seeds.

In leu of cream, this soup’s deep pumpkin flavor was achieved by a simple puree of pumpkin and vegetable broth.

Beer: Rochefort Trappist Ale “6”

Second course: Rabbit Tenderloin
This was wrapped in bacon and served with butter braised savoy cabbage served on top of creamy aged goat cheese polenta.

The sweet morsels of rabbit tenderloin surrounded by crispy bacon were nicely set off by the creamy goat cheese polenta, and drizzled with a reduced rabbit jus. This was a beautiful dish.

Beer: Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider (USDA organic)

Third course: House Made Sausage
Beer braised, served on a caramelized onion and potato pancake with a warm sour cream and apple foam.

Moist slices of house made sausage covered a sweet onion and crisp potato pancake and was topped with a haystack of matchstick apples with sour cream and apple foam. This dish is comfort food raised to a new level.

Beer: Ayinger Brau-Weisse

Roasted Beet Ice

The only thing you could taste was beets, pure and simple. Very refreshing.

Forth course: Veal Schnitzel Roulade
Stuffed with braised veal, served with parsnip spaetzle and brussels sprouts.

Thin slices of tender succulent veal stuffed with moist braised veal were incased in a light crispy bread coating and served with parsnip spaetzle and roasted brussels sprouts. An amazingly flavorful dish.

Beer: Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter

Fifth course: Butter Crusted Pear
House made blue cheese streusel and hibiscus scented creme anglaise gelato.

This deconstructed pie al a mode was a warm buttery pastry cage which held slices of caramelized pears along side crunchy blue cheese streusel with a lovely hibiscus scented creme anglaise gelato. Jennifer shows off some of her talents with this fabulous dessert.

Beer: Lindeman’s Pomme Lambic

Each course was carefully prepared, perfectly seasoned and incredibly delicious. The beers were paired to complement the food and truly enhanced the meal.

Thanks to Christy Gibney of Try-It Distributing Co. Inc. and John Staunton of Merchant du Vin for discussing the nuances of each beer and why they were paired with each course.

And a special thank you to Jennifer and Adam Goetz for all the hard work they both put into making that extraordinary evening happen.

242 Allen Street
Buffalo, NY 14201

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Keep Your Eye On The Pies

If you have ever tasted a Concord grape pie, you can attest to the fact that the flavor lives on in your memory, long after you have wiped the last crumb from your lips.

My first memory of pie made with grapes dates back more than 20 years. I was on a wine tour in the New York State Finger Lakes region. And, as I was driving through the country side, I was surprised to see that the roads were dotted with various sizes of roadside stands, orchards, vineyards and farmers, each displaying their prized offerings. One of the stands I passed posted a sign that read, “Homemade Concord Grape Pies”. I thought, “Grape pie, what would that taste like?” So I turned around and drove back to the stand and bought a pie. Needless to say, I have been hooked ever since.

The recipe for a grape pie requires patience. You must process the grapes to ensure a seedless and skinless filling, and it is arduous to say the least. This process has always been a major deterrent to making this sumptuous treat at home. But this is no longer the case. Instead, Blackman Homestead Farm has done the tedious work for me.

Last winter while shopping at the Wintermarket on Elmwood , I was introduced to the people at the Blackman Homestead Farm stand. I read in their literature that since 1852, Blackman Homestead Farm has been owned and operated by six generations of the Blackman family. The farm is located in Western New York on the picturesque Niagara Escarpment, a region known for its unique fruit growing characteristics. Blackman Homestead Farm offers several fruit butters that would be great on toast, or paired with cheeses. They also make apple sauces blended with other fruits for use along side meats, or served with pancakes for breakfast.

As I looked over their many nicely packaged items I was surprised to find a 32oz. jar of Concord Grape Pie Filling & Topping. I purchased it immediately with the intention of using it in a number of ways. I could use it as a topping for cheesecake, or served with pancakes or waffles, or to fill the center of a peanut butter thumb print cookie. Certainly I could pour it into a pie shell for a wonderful grape pie, or do as I did, spoon it into ramekins and sprinkle with a crumb topping for a rich and simple dessert. The ingredients are as simple as could be, they are listed on the jar as: Concord grapes, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice.

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, we look forward to the deserts that follow our home cooked meals. A Concord grape pie is the perfect addition to the traditional holiday baked goods we expect to find.

And it makes a great hostess gift!

Blackman Homestead Farm
4472 Thrall Road
Lockport,New York 14094
Phone/fax 716.434.7116

Thursday, October 23, 2008

And The BEET Goes On

Beets enter farmers’ markets in early to mid summer and then again in the fall and early winter. Growers in very warm climates can supply organic beets to the markets year round through successive sowings and storage of the roots during the winter and spring months.

With a deep purplish red color and an earthy sweet flavor, beets are packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients. One cup of beets contain folate, antioxidants, manganese, potassium, dietary fiber, vitamins A, B and C, magnesium, tryptophan, iron, copper, phosphorus and only 74 calories. Not only are they good for you, beets are delicious and easy to prepare. Roasting is one of the easiest ways to cook them.

Roasted Beets:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Wipe the beets clean and place them all on one large sheet of foil, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and wrap them tightly in the foil. Place the foil packet in the oven and roast until they are tender when pierced with a knife, approximately 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, slip the skin off with your fingers or use a paring knife. The beets are ready to eat or can be used in your favorite recipe. This simple and elegant salad is one of my favorites.

Roasted Beet Salad With Goat Cheese, Toasted Walnuts And Sherry Walnut Vinaigrette

For the roasted beet salad:

2 cups roasted beets quartered
2 ounces goat cheese crumbled
1/2 cup toasted walnuts

For the sherry walnut vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon shallots minced
1/2 teaspoon garlic finely minced
1/4 cup walnut oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a glass bowl mix the dry sherry, sherry vinegar, dijon mustard, sugar, shallots, garlic, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the walnut oil until emulsified.

To plate:

Toss the beets with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette and mound them in the center of a serving plater. Crumble the goat cheese over the beets and sprinkle with the toasted walnuts. Drizzle the plater with a little of the vinaigrette. Serves 2.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Visit To Three Of Our Local Farmers Markets

We Western New Yorkers are fortunate to have many farmers that are eager to bring us their bounties to local markets each week. Farmers and artisans from Erie and surrounding counties congregate in parks, parking lots, and (in winter months) church basements offering their fresh grown, raised and homemade foods.

We can expect to find organic honey, pasture raised meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, artisan breads, maple syrup, wines and ciders, jams and fruit butters, desserts, heritage vegetables, fresh herbs, homemade pasta, artisanal yogurt and many other fine food products.

This week I set out to shop at three farmers markets. I had a great time shopping and enjoyed running into friends as well as making some new ones.

In East Aurora the farmers market in the Tops Plaza parking lot is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7am-1pm from April to Thanksgiving. On my visit I meet Audrey (left) and Debbie (right) from Schwab Farms. Thanks for the nice smiles ladies.
New this year is the Hertel farmers market, located in the Holy Sprit Church parking lot on Hertel Avenue at Delaware Avenue. The Hertel farmers market is sponsored by Holy Sprit Church, Chateau Buffalo, Pride of New York and Buffalo Indie Market. Hours are Wednesdays 3pm-6:30pm, July to October. Anyone interested in becoming a member or volunteer can contact for more information.

The Bidwell farmers market has become a destination onto itself - thanks to the combined efforts of Christa Glennie Seychew of Feed Your Soul Buffalo, Sandy Starks of Slow Food Buffalo, David Setzer of Artful Table and the creativity of some of our leading local chefs.

Each week at the Slow Food Buffalo tent, Christa and Slow Food Buffalo team up with one of our leading chefs to shop the market. Using ingredients purchased from the market venders, the guest chef prepares a dish for shoppers to sample. This week's dish was a creamy Pumpkin Soup with tender Herbed Potato Gnocchi, prepared by the amazing Adam Goetz of Sample Restaurant on Allen Street. Perfect for a beautiful fall day.

Check out the team at work.
Located on Bidwell Parkway between Elmwood Avenue and Colonial Circle at Richmond Avenue, the Bidwell farmers market is open Saturdays from 8am-1pm May until Christmas.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Taking The Bitter With The Sweet


I am, for all intent and purposes, a wine guy. It’s what I enjoy drinking most. Big luscious reds, crisp dry whites and effervescent sparkling wines have taken their place among the cocktail crowd. At the dining table, when properly paired, wine can elevate a meal to a whole new level of pleasure and add a heightened element of sophistication to the occasion. Beer has also taken a place of honor at the dining table, adding its own distinctive flavor profile, enhancing the meal.

That is not to say that cocktails have taken a back seat. Designer liquors have given rise to endless choices on martini bar menus, and everyone has their favorite drink. My choice - the classic Negroni.


Fill a rock glass with plenty of ice, then add;
1 part gin
1 part red vermouth
1 part Campari
garnish with an orange twist

Campari, a type of bitters, is an aperitif made from a blend of alcohol and distilled water that have been infused with bitter and aromatic herbs, plants and fruits. The result is a liquor with an addictive flavor that is slightly bitter.

To complement this refreshing cocktail I serve these spiced nuts which have a slight hint of sweetness, creating the perfect balance of flavors. (adapted from Nigella Lawson)


2 1/2 cups assorted unsalted nuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts on a sheet pan and roast until lightly golden brown, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients.
Add the warm nuts and lightly toss to coat.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

By the way, these nuts are also addictive.

Cin cin!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gemelli Pasta With Tomato Sauce And Roasted Eggplant

The reward of growing tomatoes in your garden is that everyday there is a new harvest, another crop of sun ripened beauties just waiting to be picked and turned into a savory tomato sauce. This recipe pairs garden fresh heirloom tomatoes with tender eggplant from the farmers market.

Gemelli Pasta With Tomato Sauce And Roasted Eggplant

For the eggplant:
3 cups eggplant pealed and cubed
1 cup onions sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a sheet pan add the eggplant with the onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat and roast for 30 minutes, until golden brown.

For the tomato sauce:
4 cups fresh tomatoes diced
1 tablespoon garlic finely minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup basil leaves torn
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a saucepan gently heat the olive oil and garlic until it sizzles but does not brown. Stir in the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes on low heat stirring a few times.

For the pasta:
To a large pot of salted boiling water add 1 pound of gemelli pasta, stir and cook until desired doneness. Please do not over cook the pasta.

To plate:
Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with the tomato sauce and the roasted eggplant. If more liquid is needed use the reserved cooking water. Taste for seasoning and sprinkle with freshly grated pecorino romano cheese and the torn basil leaves. Serves 4-6.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Seared Salmon With Sauteed Corn and Smokey Tomato Relish

As we begin to see the last of the summer's local produce at the city's farmers markets, I find that each week I cannot resist gathering the remnants from the end of the season's harvest. With this in mind, I created this easy and flavorful salmon recipe that takes advantage of wonderful local sweet corn from Eden and ripe heirloom tomatoes from my garden.

Seared Salmon With Sauteed Corn and Smokey Tomato Relish

For the tomato relish:
2 cups fresh tomatoes diced
1 garlic clove finely minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and set aside. 

For the corn:
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3-4 ears)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a hot saute pan. Add the corn and season with the sugar, salt and pepper. Saute the corn over high heat until lightly brown, about 4-5 minutes. Set aside.

For the salmon:
4 salmon filets 6 oz. each
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 

Heat a non stick saute pan until hot but not smoking. Brush both sides of the salmon filets with olive oil and season each side with salt and pepper. Add the salmon to the hot saute pan and sear them on both sides, until each side develops a dark brown crust, about 3-5 minutes per side. 

To plate:
Spoon a mound the corn in the center of each of 4 plates. Place a salmon filet on each mound of corn and top each salmon filet with the tomato relish. Drizzle the collected tomato juices around the plate and over the salmon. Serves 4.

The components of this dish play off of each other beautifully. The crisp, sweet corn and smokey tomatoes are a wonderful balance to the richness of the salmon. Serve this dish with a simple salad and a chilled white wine, and you have an elegant meal.

As luck would have it there are still venders who bring fresh produce to our local farmers markets each week, so there is still time to gather these ingredients and prepare this quick, delicious and healthy recipe. 


Monday, September 15, 2008

Reading (and Eating) Ruhlman

Many years ago, my best friend Paul gave me a book that would open a new page for me culinarily. It was written by Michael Ruhlman, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. Ruhlman wrote a trio of books, each an account of his experiences at the CIA and of the people he met during his two year study. 

With the first book, The Making of a Chef, Ruhlman invites readers inside the CIA, introducing the instructors and students in addition to describing the day to day regimen in the classroom and kitchen. This book inspired me to visit the CIA for a personal exploration of the campus and restaurants. Savoring the innovative menus at the student-run restaurants along the way, I returned two more times for kitchen equipment, supplies, and authentic chef duds.

In Part One of the second book, The Soul of a Chef, Ruhlman explores the Certified Master Chef Exam, in which chefs attempt to earn the title of Certified Master Chef. This is no easy feat. It involves a ten day competitive examination from which few chefs ever emerge victorious. Part Two tells the story of one of Cleveland's most beloved restaurants, Lola, and the equally reputable chef/owner Michael Symon, who is most commonly known as Iron Chef Symon. 

In the third book, The Reach of a Chef, Ruhlman takes the reader into the kitchens and everyday lives of professional chefs, giving his audience an in-depth profile of the phenomena surrounding todays celebrity chefs. Ruhlman's style is clever, humorous and down to earth, making these books a must read for every food lover.

Since reading his books, Ruhlman has become one of my favorite writers not only for his food writing and cookbooks (like The French Laundry Cookbook, Charcuterie and A Return to Cooking, which he co-authored with other chefs), but also for his nonfiction work. My favorite, House: A Memoir, is a charming tale of the author's quest for a house for his family, a story that resonated with me personally. 

Ruhlman's most resent book, The Elements of Cooking, demystifies the professional jargon of the kitchen for the everyday cook. It is a thesaurus for food and cooking terms that also gives definitions of both culinary techniques and ingredients. Helping to answer the quandaries related to the culinary arts, this easy read assists the home chef in obtaining a better understanding of food and cooking.

On August 9, 2008 Michael's father, Richard Morgan Ruhlman (Rip), passed away in Michael's home. On August 11, 2008 Michael fulfilled his commitment to the Chautauqua Institution by appearing in front of 3000 people to give a lecture on sustainable food. Along with him in attendance was his wife Donna, their two children and his mother. Here is a man who, in the troughs of grief, set an example for his children, by teaching them how to be strong and courageous. Rip would be very proud indeed. 

At a book signing later that day, I had the great pleasure to meet Michael. He was very gracious and signed two of my books, one of them House: A Memoir. Although I felt that I was in the presence of greatness, Michael is disarming with his very humble nature. I found that to be endearing. 

Thank you, Michael for the value that you put into your work. It makes the world a much better place. Please know that I share the grief of you and your family, and that I wish you peace.


Holy flame
By any name-
Creator, Terminator,

Receive this praise,
The due of days
Of hobbled terror, healing:

Your muffled light,
Its comrade night
Swept outward, forward, farther 
                                                                    Reynolds Price