Author Archives: agalarneau

The last post: Buffalo Buffet is growing up

Nature’s Creation, originally uploaded by deegs.

Nineteen months. Two hundred and nine posts. Buffalo Buffet has had its run, but don’t be sad – it’s not dying, just going through metamorphosis.

The bright new butterfly is One Big Kitchen. The brand new online food magazine will keep its focus on cooking, eating, restaurants and kitchen life, but broaden the cast of writers and subjects.

There are “News Bites,” recommended foodish links, updated frequently. There’s a better subject index, which is only partly complete but still an improvement.

Most importantly, the team effort will mean bigger articles, more often. We’re going to have some fun – and we’re going to make you hungry.

The Buffalo Buffet back catalogue is reproduced at One Big Kitchen. What’s here will stay here, and Buffalo Buffet will no longer be updated.

See you at the new place: onebigkitchen.com, and let us know what you think at editor@onebigkitchen.com.

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Recipe: Halloumi watermelon salad with caramelized pineapple



In a hot pan, halloumi develops a brown crust – “like toasted cheese without the bread.” (PHOTO BY Harris Graber)

When I was a kid, my dad would sometimes sprinkle salt on his watermelon, especially if it wasn’t the best of the season. Feta and watermelon salad is an elaboration of the same sweet-salty pairing, which has become not quite so obscure.

You can take it a step further, I submit, by using halloumi instead, in a controlled setting where you can get the plate to the eaters while the cheese is still warm and the melon remains cool.

Yes, halloumi is expensive, with prices nearing $20 a pound at Wegmans, Premier Gourmet or the Lexington Co-op. But this salad will make it an investment that delivers returns.

Click over to the video section of BuffaloNews.com for my latest Elements video, where I make this recipe:

Recipe: Halloumi watermelon salad with caramelized pineapple

About 6 cups watermelon pieces

1 10-ounce brick halloumi cheese

4 cups fresh pineapple

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup sherry, cider or rice vinegar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce or soy sauce

1/2 cup fresh mint, shredded

1/2 cup sliced scallions

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Whisk together vinegar, sugar, lime juice, fish sauce or soy sauce and mint. Cut up the best watermelon you have and refrigerate.

In a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter. When it stops foaming, add pineapple pieces in a single layer. (You may have to use the other tablespoon of butter and two batches.) After the fruit against the pan browns, about 3 minutes, turn it. After another side browns, remove the pineapple to a large mixing bowl. Add the chilled watermelon.

Slice halloumi a quarter-inch thick and brown in a hot, dry pan, turning slices once. Immediately add to mixing bowl, add watermelon and moisten with minty dressing. Sprinkle with scallions and cilantro, as desired.

If you’re swift enough, the cold, sweet watermelon and the warm, salty cheese make delightful music together.

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John “Jay” Bonfatti, this butt’s for you, or: Sitting shiva, but with pork

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My good friend Jay Bonfatti died last week of a heart attack. He was 52. Jay taught me a few things about barbecue, including Mexican barbecue in banana leaves, but never did give me the recipe for his favorite maple-mustard sauce.

I’ve been cooking pork shoulder for his party-that-isn’t-a-wake later today, thinking about Jay, and the love he showed my family. It’s been like sitting shiva, but with 90 pounds of pork butt.

In the picture above, Jay is standing in a sugar shack in southern Erie County, a lovely place whose owner would rather not be named for all the invitations people might try to cadge. (That’s mist from evaporating sap, not smoke.)

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Jay got us in there, though. He thought the kids would get a kick out of seeing how maple syrup is made over a wood-fired boiler, the old-fashioned way. I agreed immediately, thinking that I had never actually seen it either.

Jay knew when they were bored we would hike to the top of the nearby hill. He insisted that we pose for a picture, and shot until he got a good one. Later, when they abandoned adults for a nearby creekbed, Jay had suggestions for things they could do with sticks.

That day, and his time, was a gift from Jay. There were many others, and if I can remember one thing he proved, it wasn’t a barbecue tip. It was that people are worth investing your time in, working to create a life worth living. That, and he still had time to make barbecue.

There’s going to be some of Jay’s barbecue at his party tomorrow, actually. His family thought it would be funny if friends unearthed a pork butt and turkey breast from the freezer and brought it. Jay would have gotten a kick out of cooking for his own wake. (There will be maple-mustard sauce too, supposedly. Jay gave the recipe to a few people, it turns out, although I could have thought of a few squidzillion happier ways to get it.)

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Jay surveys his friend’s maple sap collection network.

So there’s to be one more chance for barbecue smack talking, a skill that Jay did not take to naturally – he was far too genial by nature. But when occasion arose, and he saw the need, he could lay down the lumber like the Sultan of Smack.

If Jay was standing right here right now, here’s what I’d tell him: “You think people might favor the Bonfatti flavor, you might have the edge because people like you? You goin’ down, you … Drew Bledsoe fan.”

God bless you, Jay.

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Farmers’ market recipes: Tomato tart, corn pudding and plum buckle

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A few caramelized onions, a bit of shaved pecorino pepato, and no one will notice the supermarket pastry in your gorgeous tomato tart.

Here’s three dishes made with classic farmers’ market stuff, but worth a bit of extra effort. I wrote about them in the News, agonizing over how to make the most of my three choices. Making them on one morning for the photographer was a bit of a hustle – but it beats working.

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My try at a plum buckle recipe erupted like Vesuvius, but what was left tasted fantastic.

Russ Parsons’ book “How to Pick a Peach” proved the best match on two of the recipes, a tomato tart built on supermarket puff pastry, and a plum cornmeal buckle. The green chile cheddar corn pudding is based on a standard formula, but mine is crunchy from additional kernels sliced from the cob.

Here’s how to get it done.

Inside: tomato squash tart recipe , green chile cheddar corn pudding recipe and plum buckle recipe, with up-close photos of the dishes.

Continue reading

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Video: Refrigerator pickles recipe

Want to see how to make the pickles in the pictures below?

The video for refrigerator pickles us available for your viewing pleasure here at The Buffalo News.

The article, which presently has garbled text, is here, but should be corrected Monday. Email me at agalarneau@buffnews.com if you’d like the right version. (Sorry.)

Our opus on the joys of refrigerator pickles and the miracle of white vinegar makes 11 videos now. They’re all available at http://buffalonews.com/video, and you can browse them by clicking “Elements” at the bottom of the left-hand column.

The most recent videos bear the stamp of Bill Wippert, a talented News photographer who has taken to cooking videos with a vengeance. We’re always looking for ideas for food videos, so sing right out if you have one.

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Recipe: Refrigerator pickles can even conquer zucchini

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Sweet, crunchy – healthy? Whoa, that can’t be right. But pickles help us eat our veggies.

Zucchini was ruined for me when I was 10. My family, with five children, was just getting by in the wilds of Western New York. We knew a farm family that kindly gave us vegetables they couldn’t sell. Misshapen but sound tomatoes, cantaloupes with a little soft spot, and zucchini the size of traffic cones.

My mother tried, pureeing it into zucchini bread. But her children turned up their noses at zucchini slabs boiled soft in tomato sauce and clamored against zucchini soup. We spent hours that summer combing the black raspberry brambles in the backyard, so there was always dessert.

Now I know how to deal with those scaly green monsters: Cut out their hearts. Dunk chunked squash into a garlicky brine, spiced as you desire. Wait three days.

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Zucchini, green and yellow beans, red and white onions, cucumbers, turnips and chiles – there’s your low-budget, lowfat appetizer spread redefined.

Pickles. Crunchy, sweet-but-not-too-sweet refrigerator pickles. Not just zucchini, either – cucumbers, radishes, green and yellow stringbeans, cauliflower, carrots, onions, sweet and spicy peppers can all do with a proper pickling.

Pickles preserve vegetables, and canning pickles, boiling the jars, can preserve them for years. Refrigerator pickles let you skip the boiling, but they’re not going to last much more than a month. Of course, if you have pickle eaters in your house, they’ll never live that long.

Gather up your vegetables, herbs like thyme and dill, and your pickling spices. Make your brine and wait. The crunchy, tangy results ought to satisfy any sourpuss.

Recipe: Refrigerator Pickles
(Inspired by “Dinosaur Barbecue”)

Pickle brine recipe:

4 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
6 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup or more pickling spice (or mix your own from mustard seeds, bay leaves, allspice, black pepper, dill seed, cloves, coriander and cinnamon)
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped garlic
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh herbs like dill and thyme, chopped or sprigs (optional)

Add the salt and sugar to the vinegar and water in a non-aluminum bowl, and mix to dissolve. Add spices, garlic and herbs, if using. Pour over chopped vegetables in a big jar or bowl that will fit, covered, in your refrigerator. After three days start serving the pickles, and adding new vegetables to the pickle vat.

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Turnips and thyme, or however you write your pickle recipe, there’s room for every taste.

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Filed under appetizers, recipes, vegan, vegetables, video

Souvlaki recipe and tzatziki tips: Know your Greek classics

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This … is … souvlaki.

Here’s one of my most requested recipes, just before the summer runs out. The Buffalo News video of me making it is here.

This recipe is for the Greek classic souvlaki, or kebabs, with tzatziki, yogurt-cucumber sauce flavored with fresh dill and garlic.

You have to drain the yogurt and squeeze the juice out of the shredded cucumber, or it’ll be too watery. But get the tzatziki right, with good whole-milk yogurt, and you’ll see what all the fuss is about.

Tzatziki recipes can be the source of arguments – too much garlic, not minced finely enough, the whole dill-or-no-dill divide.

Souvlaki recipes, on the other hand, varied little in the Greek and Macedonian houses where I’ve enjoyed hospitality. The meat was usually pork, marbled chunks from the shoulder, never loin. Garlic, onion powder, oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon, to taste.

Beef or chicken tenders will work as well.

Greek-style beef kebabs (souvlaki) with dill-yogurt sauce (tzatziki)

Souvlaki recipe:

2 pounds beef sirloin, cut in 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/8 cup dry red wine(optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (optional)

1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

Combine ingredients and mix to coat meat evenly. Thread onto skewers, and leave alone in the fridge overnight, or for at least two hours. Grill over medium high heat to desired level of doneness.

Tzatziki recipe:

2 32-ounce containers plain whole-milk yogurt (or 2 500-gram containers Fage strained yogurt)

2 large cucumbers

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3 to 6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh chopped dill leaves, loosely packed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons cider or white vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

The night before, line a colander with a linen dish towel or several layers of cheesecloth, and pour in the yogurt. Let it drain for 8 hours or overnight, until half its original volume (or use Fage strained yogurt).

Peel, seed and grate the cucumbers. Gather the shreds in a dish towel and wring out to remove moisture.

Add the cucumber and all other ingredients to the strained yogurt and mix well. Taste after an hour and adjust salt-sugar-vinegar-oil as desired. (Resist the temptation to add more garlic until 24 hours have passed and the garlic flavor blooms.)

Serve alongside, or atop, grilled souvlaki, with toasted pita bread and salad.

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Munchie box, Glasgow, Scotland: A wee bite after lagers

Munchie box gold, including tandoori chicken, doner kebab meat, pakora, fries and saladish mulch. (Photo by Flickr user surrealist303.)

As a group, Buffalo eaters don’t flinch from meals that take on aspects of a caloric cage match. Watch four husky fellows pillage a steaming bucket of Duff’s hot wings, and you find yourself making sure to keep hands and loose jewelry out of the way of moving machinery.
In that spirit, on behalf of the greasy-knuckled eaters of Buffalo, New York, I salute you, Glasgow pizza shops. I wish you were here, and I have no more heartfelt compliment.

In the west of Scotland, in the towns and villages surrounding Glasgow, there is a delicacy available in some of the more discerning fast-food outlets. It’s called the Munchy Box (sometimes just Munch Box) and it’s a sight to behold. The one I bought for this article is a regular-sized one, in a 10″ pizza box for about a fiver, but they can come in 12″ or beyond for eight quid and up.

You’ve got doner kebab meat, nan bread, chicken tikka, pakora, onion rings – and fries, or “Glasgow salad.” Plus two different kinds of sauce.

You’ve got a ways to go, Buffalo. Next: chicken wings served with bleu cheese dressing and gravy?

In a related Metafilter thread, el_lupino writes:

Glasgow remains the only place on Earth I have ever been offered a deep-fried frozen pizza. And none of your low-triglycerides polyunstaurated safflower oil deep-fried, either. Some sort of dark brown high viscosity liquid. It may have begun its life as beef tallow, but something horrible had happened to it since then. Due to my aversion to fish as an adolescent, I went for the pizza. (The fish would have been fried in the same manner anyway.)

Even as a zit-faced 15-year old whose frontal lobes were drowning in a sea of hormones, concvinced of my own invincibility and that frying was the only way food could be properly prepared, I knew after eating it that I had done something terribly, terribly wrong.

EDITED TO ADD: Matthew, who took the picture above, checked in to say hello. Here’s his take on the experience. (He reports that he was warned by the deliveryman: “The guy who came to the door was well fat. He said “I hope this is for 2 people – I tried to finish it and couldn’t!”)

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Panaro’s, a Buffalo N.Y. restaurant that gets more than red sauce right

cannoli at panaros restaurant buffalo ny
Even the cannoli was done right, filled with sweetened ricotta only after ordering.

Braciole is a special-occasion dish in Italian-American households, the sort of dinner centerpiece you might see on a birthday or anniversary. That’s partly because of the amount of kitchen labor it requires.

Recipes usually call for pounding out beef round or a similar cut, and using it to roll up savory fillings, including seasoned bread crumbs and cheeses, prosciutto maybe, and even hard-boiled eggs. Then the little packets are tied up, seared in a hot pan and braised in tomato sauce.

It’s one of the dishes I’ve only had in restaurants. I never understood what the fuss was about until I ate at Panaro’s (571 Delaware Ave., 716-884-1033).

braciole panaros restaurant buffalo ny

At this small Italian homestyle lunch specialist near Allen Street, the outer wrapper is pork, and the fillings include ground beef and an egg. It adds up to a savory, rich bundle to take apart on a bed of pasta served with simple, fresh-tasting tomato sauce.

It’s available Wednesdays only, and at $9.50, it’s the most expensive dish on the regular menu. But I’d say it’s worth it.

How satisfying was it? That afternoon, if I happened to be lined up against a wall to wait for a firing squad, I would have declined the cigarette. “I’ve finally had good braciole. Just give me the blindfold.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised. The stuffed peppers that arrived as an appetizer had already distinguished themselves with stuffing that avoided the spackle syndrome afflicting most versions on Buffalo menus.

stuffed peppers panaros restaurant buffalo ny

Here the filling was clearly bread crumbs, cheese and herbs. I tried to remember if I’d ever had a stuffed pepper with a relatively light payload before, and couldn’t think of one.

cappicolla pizza panaros restaurant buffalo ny

Across the table, Kevin Purdy’s “Panaro pizza” was a lovely jumble of grilled cappicolla, roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella. The crust was a tasty shade of brown, thinner than the usual Buffalo swamp. Its quality reminded me that Panaro’s is a bakery that happens to serve lunch, with an array of cakes-to-order and traditional Italian cookies available on the side.

After the place had gotten so many things right, I let down my guard enough to order a cannoli. After waiting in the cannoli line at the Modern Bakery in Boston’s North End, I’ve avoided specimens that are not filled to order. There’s a lot of moisture in the ricotta filling, and the delicate shells lost their crunch in a jiffy.

At Panaro’s, the server said, they fill cannolis after you order them. There were chocolate chips in the filling, but I couldn’t complain too much. I’d finally had my braciole.

bracioles panaros restaurant buffalo ny

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Taste of Buffalo 2008: Finger food fiesta

Tenderloin Slider Fiamma restaurant Taste of BuffaloA bit too much roll, but Fiamma’s Tenderloin Slider with herbed ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula was a great introduction from a first-time server.

Kevin Purdy is an associate editor at Lifehacker and freelance writer.

For 363 days of each year, Buffalo’s street food options–the kind of stuff you can eat while walking, talking, or, for the seriously coordinated, cycling – can be kindly described as limited.

Then the Taste of Buffalo arrives, and thousands upon thousands of Western New Yorkers and their visitors discover anew the experience of never having enough napkins, of licking one’s chops to find the far-flung remnants of zesty sauce, of navigating a busy avenue with only your peripheral vision to better focus on the tasty morsel at hand.

This year’s festival had a few new entrants, seriously warm and bright weather, and a lot of dishes that remind you of how great it is to live in city that has a never-ending infatuation with real food.

The official judges have already had their say – and hurrah for Ms. Goodie’s Junkyard Dog, probably my favorite treat from last year–but here’s a few non-objective impressions of this year’s offerings.

Value propositions: Veterans of the Taste have undoubtedly noticed a trend toward items increasing to a six-to-eight-ticket cost (that’s $3-$4 in non-Taste tender) while staying at sample sizes. Most stands offer a “taste” portion for two or three tickets, but only a few stood out as real bang for the buck:

  • Merritt Estate’s 3 ticket “taste” of its sangria slushie is a small Solo cup filled with the frozen fruit-infused wine. Maybe it was the heat, but more than one female correspondent reported feeling quite content with the hooch-to-cash ratio.
  • KheerThe kheer offered up by Kabab & Curry is surprisingly perfect, given that it’s being dished out in mass quantities. But the texture is silken, the hints of cardamom and saffron are there, and it was chilled just right–all for just two tickets. My modest proposal for next year–bring out the dosas.
  • The Niagara Cafe, whose in-house lunch offerings aren’t that much more expensive than other stands full-size items, offered a two-ticket “taste” of their arroz con pollo with stewed chicken and potatoes over rice that had tender meat, hearty spices laced thorugh a tomato base, and more filling flavor than you’d expect from a take-out sauce container. Their chile relleno,or stuffed pepper, wasn’t all too different in its makeup from other stands’, but it was crisp instead of soggy, and flavored with kick rather than overwhelmed by ricotta:
    Chile Relleno, Stewed Chicken & Rice

Unassuming awesomeness: There was a lot of food that sounded great and was, a good number of plates I couldn’t quite understand winning an award (or meriting a $4 investment), and then there was the Hamlin House’s “Grilled Blue Shrimp Strawberry Salad.” The “blue” came from the cheese, and it was glazed with just the right amount of fresh-mixed balsamic dresing. The grilled shrimp alone was worthy of praise, but it was a reasonably healthy, heartily portioned bit of adventurous flavor-blending. To say the least, it was a nice showing from an American Legion post on Franklin Street:
Strawberry & Shrimp Salad -- Detail

Food Mob Mentality: One thing I’ve noticed about Taste of Buffalo–it turns the most share-friendly, synchronized couples into secretive snack hoarders. Stand in any crowded line, and you’ll hear a husband or wife call back to their significant other something like, “Can I have two of your tickets?” Why do couples planning to walk the entire festival together even divide their tickets? Are we all harboring a latent fear of spotting a Bacon Velveeta Kobe Burger for 6 tickets, asking for some of the communal coin, and finding only rejection and stern reminders about physician appointments? Having said this, my wife and I split our tickets evenly, and only trade up when one is too stuffed to even consider eating more.

Assorted leftovers: I never thought I’d utter this, but the “Lunch Box” from Joe’s Deli needed … more Fritos. When you’re combining bologna, American cheese, kethcup, mustard, and the aforementioned fried corn twists in a gigantic roll, you need significant texture, or it loses its kitsch-conscious fun … Donnie’s Smokehouse wins the prize for best ambassador for the festival. You could smell his slow-cooking goods a full city block back on Delaware Avenue … If The Steer is going to go for high-energy, loud-music cooking, it would help if they pre-loaded the iPod with a few more tracks next time. In one two-hour visit, we heard Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” and a certain not-family-friendly Prince track twice each.

I’ll end this post with a fish taco from Ava Cado’s, an unassuming fresh-Mex joint in the University Plaza on Main Street, Buffalo, which, along with Fiamma, was a welcome newcomer to the Taste. Need more photographic evidence that the Taste is truly come and gone? Check out this Flickr search. May many more inventive cooks persuade their owners to try their hand at en masse cuisine next year, and may we all be there to eat (and shoot) it.

Fish TacoCould’ve used a bit more topping, but I won’t speak too much ill of a fish taco spotted in downtown Buffalo

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