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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Filed under barbecue, event, pork

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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Filed under beef, grilling, pork, recipes