Monday, April 29, 2013

Crusted Salmon with Wilted Dandelions

Bob harvested a large amount of organic dandelions from the garden yesterday.

This evening I wilted and dished them with a drizzle of butter infused with crushed garlic, shallots, and lemon zest and served them atop crusted salmon.

Dandelion greens are high in calcium, one cup of chopped dandelion greens contain 103 mg, or 10% of the recommended daily amount. They are rich in iron, one cup contains 1.7 mg of iron. These greens are low in calories, one cup of chopped has only 25 calories. The leaves are high in Vitamin A in the form of antioxidant carotenoid (beta-carotene) and vitamin C, which helps facilitate iron absorption. The greens detoxify and cleanse the liver, kidneys, spleen and pancreas. Besides calcium and iron, they are a good source of copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Dandelions have more protein per serving than spinach. The greens themselves are 14% protein and contain all essential amino acids so it’s a complete protein. One chopped cup contains 1.5 grams of protein. Besides vitamin A as beta-carotene  and vitamin C, each cup of chopped dandelion greens are also good sources of vitamins B1,  B2, and B6, vitamin E and K (535%!). The nutrients in dandelion greens may help reduce the risk of cancer, multiple sclerosis, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and stroke. They also contain anti-inflammatory properties which may help those with asthma and other inflammatory diseases.

Vitamin A is important in fighting cancers of epithelial tissue, including mouth and lung. Potassium rich foods, particularly in balance with magnesium, helps keep blood pressure down and reduces risks of strokes. Fiber fights diabetes, lowers cholesterol, reduces cancer and heart disease risks, and assists in weight loss. High fiber vegetables like dandelions take up lots of room, are low in calories, and slow down digestion so the food stays in the stomach longer and you feel full longer. Calcium in high concentrations can build strong bones and can lower blood pressure. B vitamins help reduce stress. Spring greens help rescue your body from the inadequacies of a winter diet. I highly recommend introducing dandelions, ramps, chives, asparagus, broccoli rabe, stinging nettles (steam takes the sting out!), and fava leaves into your Spring diet.

Otto's Restaurant

Otto's Restaurant is located in Cheektowaga, NY, not far from the Walden Galleria Mall. This decades old restaurant shows it's age, and some reviews have not been kind, but I find that long lasting eateries are still in business because they are doing something right. The decor is dated and the service is a bit pokey but it seemed endearing rather than obnoxious.  Whether it's the traditional Italian dishes or family traditions that keep patrons returning I'm not certain, but our visit was rather pleasant.

We ate at 3pm on a Saturday, and there were only a handful of tables in the whole of this sprawling building that were occupied and quite a large number of servers. We were seated immediately on the patio, and our waiter was quick, efficient, and polite.

We ordered beers and golden fried mushrooms, a guilty pleasure of mine. I was expecting the boxed variety of factory dipped button mushrooms but was surprised by the fresh large caps served with Ranch flavored sour cream. They were super hot and very flavorful.

The bar isn't anything to rave about, not much to choose from, but the large product glasses were a nice touch, rather than the expected small beer glasses you might see at an older restaurant.

Bob ordered the Seafood Platter, which featured a large filet of freshly battered cod, fried strip clams, and crisp shrimp. He remarked the clams casino and the German potatoes were tasty. It certainly smelled fresh and tasty.

I ordered the grilled chicken sandwich, which was very juicy. The fries were a bit bland but were served hot and crisp.

It was a nice visit. Family friendly and clean, I wouldn't mind going again with my children in tow.

Otto's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Scottish Shortbread

Shortbread is an oft abused biscuit. People have added milk, eggs, water, extracts, vegetable oils, and other ingredients that should never appear in these crumbly "cookies".

They are made with only four ingredients, each as fresh as possible. Old butter leaves a metallic tang in the mouth, and old or cheap flour tastes mealy.

Only fresh unsalted butter, unbleached pastry flour, sea salt, and fine sugar will do.

3 cups finely sifted pastry flour
1 cup fine cane sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) of fresh unsalted butter
1 tsp sea salt (pink of grey)

Sift the dry ingredients then blend in the butter, 1 tbls pat at a time. The mix should be soft and granular like sand.

Press into two buttered pie pans. Score mid-way and bake at 350* for 30 minutes.

Set out and re-cut score marks with a large sharp knife. Completely cool. Serve with very hot tea, milky Earl Grey is my favorite.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Baby Hedgehog Buns

I looked and looked and looked for the recipe for these precious bunnies and couldn't find anything. I didn't even know they were made from Japanese manju until I found a reference for it in the middle of another blogger's article on why you can't make these outside of a sweetshop. Manju is the reason why these are so perfectly molded.

Manju is a popular traditional Japanese confection. There are many varieties of manju, but most have an outside made from flour, rice powder and buckwheat and a filling, usually a red bean paste made from boiled azuki beans and sugar. They are boiled together again and kneaded.
Manju is a type of mochi, or pounded rice cake, that has existed in China for a thousand years. It was originally called mantou in Chinese, but became known as manju when it came to Japan. In 1341, a Japanese envoy that came back from China brought back manju with him and started to sell it as Nara-manju. Since then, it has been eaten for nearly 700 years by the Japanese people. Now it can be found in many Japanese sweet shops.
You know, I've made a LOT of food in my life. A lot of very good tasting, beautiful to look at food. Someone made an attempt at making these manju bunnies using regular bread dough and....well.... the reality is not all yummy food looks pretty and not all pretty food tastes yummy. My advice, keep trying, even when your food looks like it's ready to devour your soul. I was inspired by the spiky burnt ears in creating hedgehogs using a conditioned triple raised bread dough. The results were fantastic!

1 tbls salt
1 tbls yeast
1 tbls ginger powder
3 cups warm water, 115*

Stir very well in a 2 gallon lidded container and let sit for fifteen minutes. Ginger is a great natural bread dough conditioner, yeast just loves it, eats it right up. Then add 5 1/2 cups of bread or pastry flour, stirring it in 1 cup at a time. The gluten is what controls the fluffiness, helping to create all of those glorious nooks and crannies. 
Most flour does not have enough gluten to make good quality bread. So don't go for the cheap stuff, spend the extra two dollars. Cover it and let sit to rise for three hours. Uncover and gently with a lightly oiled hand, scrape the dough away from the sides of the container, rolling it into a tighter ball. Reset it in the center of the bottom of the bowl, cover and let rise again over 2 hours. Uncover and repeat the previous step. Let sit over night and then repeat the scrapping down step one more time. Roll out the baby bottom soft dough onto a lightly floured surface. 
Separate the dough into 34 pieces. Roll them in your hands and let them sit on a lightly oiled bake sheet, like this stoneware. Let rise for 20 minutes and then begin to make the multiple cuts on the hedgehogs. Using the tips of the cutlery shears dab in eyes and a nose. Use a toothpick to tuck the currants in place.

Spray the hedgies with olive oil. Bake at 400* for 25 to 30 minutes.

Let sit to cool for at least 10 minutes. Feel free to smack grabby or under-appreciative people.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Fish in Korma and Dal

Fish in Korma

1 tbs cumin seeds
1/4 cup tomato puree
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbs dried coconut
1 tbs garam masala
3 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 cup oil
1 can light coconut milk
5 filets of fish

Place the cumin seeds in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes.

Blend the cumin seeds, tomato puree, fresh coriander, garlic, coconut, garam masala, ginger, ground coriander, paprika and turmeric in a blender until coarsely chopped.

Add the oil and blend, scraping down the side of the blender occasionally, until a smooth paste forms.

Add to the coconut milk and blend until smooth. Layer Korma and fish in a baking dish and cover. Bake at 400* for 30 minutes.


1 tbls sesame oil
1 cup finely chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbls finely chopped fresh ginger
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 t. tumeric
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tbls tomato paste

In a medium-sized soup pot, heat the oil over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.

Stir constantly, add the broth, lentils, spices and salt. Bring to a low boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are very tender.

Stir in the tomato paste until well combined. Cook several minutes more. Serve hot.

We ate this with potato and pea samosas with mint chutney, basmati rice, and strained plain yogurt.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Owner Deborah Clark is pretty proud of her elegant shop located on Amherst Street in Buffalo's blossoming Black Rock neighborhood, and deservedly so!

The newer location has allowed what was already a successful business to rocket. Delish! serves Buffalo and it's suburbs well crafted pastries, cupcakes, coffee and espressos, breakfast and lunches, and culinary classes taught by Jennifer.

The store is so iridescent.  Layers upon layer of eye catching pretties

wrapped in crinkly cellophane and curly ribbons. As the seasons pass, the front of the house is decorated in brilliant colors, delicious little bits, colorful fabrics, delightful pieces of crockery and dazzling utensils.

Deb was also proud to share she is now teaching Culinary classes at ECC.

Beginning mid April her deserts will be featured at the new Tops flagship specialty organic store, Orchard Fresh, featuring as many local suppliers as possible. Orchard Fresh will specialize in upscale, healthy, natural, and organic foods.

While I visited the Blackrock gem I had a Hazelnut Latte that featured actually bits of fresh hazelnuts. I also had the macaroni and cheese, which was lightly seasoned and filling. The shop is comfortable, and I encourage you to stop by with a friend, the coffee is quite nice.

Delish Cooking School and Pastry Shop on Urbanspoon

Official Fish Fingers and Custard Day - Dr. Who's 'The Eleventh Hour'

To celebrate the 2nd Anniversary of "The Eleventh Hour" and Matt Smith's famous fish fingers and custard scene, the 3rd of April will now be known as "Official Fish Fingers and Custard Day".

Devin suggested we celebrate and I hemmed and hawed knowing it takes forever to make, totally worth it but time consuming in it's creation. Here he is slurping it down Smith style.

I made chips to go with our fish fingers and custard. I used freshly rendered tallow that I picked up from Plato Dale Farms to fry everything up in. Rough cut potatoes and fry until golden brown, about ten minutes per batch.

I didn't have any cod or grouper, just tilapia, which surprisingly held up well for being roughly battered and fried. I cut the fish into 2x4 inch pieces. The batter was 2 tbls stale beer, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 1/4 cup sour cream (or one egg), 1/2 cup heavy cream or buttermilk. Mix well. It should be a very thick batter.

Dredge in the batter and fry four to five pieces at a time. 3 minutes on one side and then 1 minute on the other side, pull it when it stops steaming. Drain well before serving.

The custard is exhausting. I don't mean "Oh I didn't know it was going to involve stirring." I mean, "I didn't know my arm was going to fall off whisking this much and I'm still no where finished making this?!" No, you can not use a plug in beater for this recipe.

1 cup milk
1/2 cup double or heavy cream
2 tbls powdered sugar (the kind with cornstarch)
1 vanilla pod
3 egg yolks

Split the vanilla pod lengthways and use the end of a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds. Place the pod and the seeds in a small saucepan, along with the cream. Simmer. Whisk the milk into the cream.

While the cream is heating, whisk the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar together in a medium bowl using a large whisk.

Remove the vanilla pod from the hot cream. Then, whisk at high speed the egg mixture, adding it very slowly, into hot cream into the bowl.

When it's all in, bring to a boil, never stop whisking. The moment bubbles appear turn the heat all the way down and keep whisking fast until the custard is thick and smooth. If you do overheat it and it looks grainy, don't worry, just transfer it to a jug or bowl and continue to whisk until it becomes smooth again.

Pour the custard into a jug or bowl, cover the surface with clingfilm and leave to cool. To serve it warm later, remove the clingfilm and sit the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Setzer Burgers with Cuba Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese

Kent Miller of Plato Dale Farms gave me a pack of freshly ground beef the last time I saw him at the Horsefeathers Market, the same day I picked up a container of tallow. I'll be using that to make some Native American scon/fry bread soon. I took Kent's advice, hand formed them and cooked them David Setzer style.

Here I am grating the extra sharp Cuba Cheddar cheese (which I found at Dash's Market on Hertle Avenue in North Buffalo) for the macaroni and cheese.

This time I left out the parmesan cheese and the veggies, going for pure unadulterated mac & cheese.

The giant toasted Al Cohen's bread rolls were layered with slivered purple-red onion, slabs of tomato, ruffle edged romain, and sharp nosed dijon mustard piled a mile high above the patties.

Sometimes we forget the importance of simple comfort foods. Comfort food is not a phrase, it's a way of being. When sad or lonely, oftentimes the best way to be is to share a meal and talk.

So many people were connected with the amazing and incredibly talented David Setzer and were saddened by his death. The benefit that was planned to defray costs is still taking place on April 10th at the CalVary Espiscopal Church's Hughson Hall in Williamsville, NY.  Tickets are still available.

For friends who are asking where to send donations, checks can be mailed to Attorney Sharon Osgood at:

Sharon Osgood c/o Setzer Family
69 Delaware Ave. Ste 702
Buffalo, NY 14202

The Pasta Peddler

Miki Sedia and Eric Amodeo together own and operate The Pasta Peddler out of their new location at the Horsefeathers Market. There they are able to offer all of their products, including fresh pasta, raviolis, pesto, and fresh sauce. They will be producing their pasta and ravioli there once the space is completed. They do not manufacture every day, so if you want to catch them in action, you will need to call ahead.

Their pastas are light and airy, not heavy or gummy. During September 2011's NOFA-NY's Locavore Challenge  I featured a pesto pasta recipe using The Pasta Peddler's Tomato Basil Linguini.  The tomato based sauces are heavy with seasoning and a bit on the sweet side, but I think it's more because of the fruit and not because of any added sweetener

The Basil Pesto is well balanced, being neither too oily nor too garlicky, just the hot Italian summer scent of basil and grated parmesan. I'm looking forward to sampling more of their pastas and sauces soon!

Since I last visited, back in April, all of the equipment was put into place and the shop is now churning out a incredible variety of pastas. It is quite the treat to stop in and see all of the strands of noodles dangling on long wooden dowels, drying, waiting to be packaged.