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Kneadless Effort: Who needs a bread-making class?

Jim Lahey's recipe for no-knead bread- popularized by Mark Bittman - has become a genuine 21st century baking sensation.

The discovery that even novice bakers can turn out crusty, tasty loaves with a minimum of fuss motivated lots of people, in Buffalo and elsewhere, to brave their fear of flour and get busy.

Others need a little nudging and a skilled helper to get started. That's where Kneadless Effort, a "baking school for loafers," might help. The bread-making classes, taught by Lorna Lippes, take up to 15 people at a time and walk them through the basics, from flour and yeast to finished loaves and pizzas.

The next 2-1/2-hour class costs $42 and begins at 10 a.m. on Sat., Feb. 19. They're taught at Artisan Kitchens, 200 Amherst St.

 

How to make a Toasted Cheese Tomato Soup . . . Martini

So cocktails are hot again, and exotic cocktail fixings are even hotter. Makes sense that professional booze pushers would want to design signature cocktails.

If you're clever enough to concoct a drink that faithfully delivers a familiar taste sensation, with intoxicating liquor? So hot it makes the sun's surface seem like an ice fishing weekend.

At Clive's Classic Lounge, in Victoria, British Columbia, an Australian named Shawn Soole pours a drink he calls Cold Night In. It uses rum that's soaked through a buttery, cheesy toasted cheese sandwich, on thick sourdough bread, roasted cherry tomatoes, celery salt and a dash of smoky Glenfiddich whisky. He shared his recipe with T Magazine.

The temptation to drink yourself dinner must be awful.

 

Recipe: Rose Elliot's Leek Souffle

This recipe is from Rose Elliot's "New Complete Vegetarian," featured in today's Buffalo News. Like many of her recipes, Elliot's souffle instructions have made a touchy dish as foolproof and unpretentious as possible. 

Rose Elliot's Leek Souffle

The chunky pieces of leek in this souffle give it a delicate flavor and interesting texture. Try to find really thin leeks if you can, then they can be sliced into nice neat pieces that will stay firm when they're cooked. I think this souffle is best served with just one well-cooked vegetable such as buttered baby carrots, sprouts or peas.

SERVES 4

3-4 thin leeks (weighing 12 ounces (350 g) before you trim them)

3 tbsp (40 g) butter

3 tbsp (40 g) flour

1 1/4 cups (275 ml) milk

4 egg yolks

salt and freshly ground black pepper

a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

6 egg whites


Prepare a 6 cups (1.7 liter) souffle dish by greasing generously.
 
Trim and clean the leeks and cut into 1 in (2.5cm) lengths. Cook in 1/2 in (1 cm) boiling water until they're just tender (about 7-10 minutes). Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan and put in the flour; cook for a few seconds then add the milk. Stir the mixture over a high heat until it first goes lumpy then smooth and very thick.

Transfer the sauce to a large bowl - this cools it slightly ready for adding the egg yolks and is more convenient later when you want to fold in the egg whites. Beat in the egg yolks one by one then gently stir in the leeks. Season the mixture with salt, pepper and nutmeg - be fairly generous because the egg whites will "dilute" the flavor. You can now leave this mixture until just before you want to cook the souffle - I have kept it for several hours in the fridge and it has been perfect.

When you're ready to cook the souffle place a baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Whisk the egg whites until they're thick and standing in soft peaks but don't let them get hard and dry.

Stir a generous heaped tablespoon of egg white into the leek sauce mixture to loosen it, then add all the egg white on top of it and gently fold it in with a metal spoon. When it has pretty well all been incorporated, pour the mixture gently into your prepared dish - it needs to come up almost to the rim, but no higher; if it is lower it will still taste good even though it won't look so impressively high and puffy, but if it is piled above the rim it will overflow.

Put the souffle on the baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes or until it looks firm when you move the dish slightly and a knife or skewer pushed gently down into the souffle comes out clean. If it's done before you're quite ready, turn off the oven and the souffle will keep for 4-5 minutes longer although it won't be quite so puffy.

(From Rose Elliot's "New Complete Vegetarian," Sterling, 400 pages, $30.)

Discover flavors of Burma on Niagara Street

Soups and salads, Burmese style, have been added to Buffalo's culinary buffet. There's coconut milk enriched chicken noodle soup with hard-boiled eggs and crunchy toppings and more at Sun International Foods, 1989 Niagara St. - check out the Cheap Eats review here.


"Burmese style fish noodle soup with banana stem," labeled "Mont Hin Kar," was hidden under "Vietnamese Dishes," along with "Burmese style egg noodle soup with coconut milk," or "Ownno Koksware."

I chose the latter, and was so glad I did. At $4.99 for a "small" (one-person) serving, it's Asian comfort food in the broadest sense, evoking both Thai and Indian flavors in an accessible, warming dish.

Soft egg noodles hide in a turmeric-scented broth, rich with coconut milk. There's tender chicken and quartered hard-boiled eggs, too, rewarding your exploration. It's accented with abundant cilantro and scallion. Adding texture, there are fried shallots and crunchy rice noodles riding on top.

It wasn't spicy at all. I added a dollop of sambal oelek chili paste and a dash of fish sauce and, rudely, begrudged my co-diner his obligatory spoonful.

The other two specifically Burmese dishes are salads, Tea Leaf Salad and Ginger Salad, both $4.99. We tried the former, which combines pickled tea leaf -- much like other Asian pickled greens -- with onion and other herbs, plus crunchy fried lentils, another Indian influence. It was sweet and sour, crunchy and soft, and disappeared in a hurry.

Here's their website.

 

Flavors of Burma, now available in Buffalo

The first dish of Burmese cuisine I've tasted in Buffalo has left me hungry for more.

At Sun International Foods, 1989 Niagara St., there's a few tables in the back of an Asian grocery. The incredibly (overly?) broad menu devotes most of its room to familiar Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese choices, then includes a few Burmese dishes, including "Burmese style egg noodle soup," with a name the menu spells "Ownno Koksware." (This looks like it.)

A small, $4.99, reminded me of a cross between Thai tom kha gai (chicken coconut milk soup with lime) and grandma's Indian broth. (If I had an Indian grandma.)

I got soft egg noodles submerged in a turmeric-scented broth, tender chicken, hardboiled eggs, cilantro, scallion, topped with fried shallots and crunchy rice noodles. Not spicy in the least. I added a dollop of sambal oelek and a dash of fish sauce and ate it all.

Welcome to Buffalo, Burma. Check out my Cheap Eats review of Sun International Foods in this Friday's Gusto.

L.A. Times dining critic unmasked by irate restaurant staffers

Veteran Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbilia walked into the Beverly Hills restaurant Red Medicine the evening of Dec. 21 with three friends. She walked out an hour later with a shadow over her career after an incident that has sparked a nationwide discussion over the anonymity of restaurant critics.

Noah Ellis, a Red Medicine managing partner, learned that Virbilia was among diners waiting for a table. After letting her wait for 45 minutes past their reservation time, he photographed Virbilia.

She asked him to delete the picture, and he declined. Virbilia, who has spent the last 16 years reviewing restaurants for the Times, tries to remain anonymous.

But the next morning, Ellis published the photograph on the restaurant's Tumblr site, explaining that he was doing so to remove any pretense of anonymity.

“Our purpose for posting this is so that all restaurants can have a picture of her and make a decision as to whether or not they would like to serve her. We find that some her reviews can be unnecessarily cruel and irrational," some of the accompanying text stated. "We're writing this to make everyone aware that she was unable to dine here, and as such, any retribution by her or on her behalf via a review cannot be considered to be unbiased." (The posting was subsequently removed.)

Reviews of the Red Medicine staff's actions were mixed, with most online commenters criticizing the restaurant, saying that it only hurt itself. A minority cheered the restaurant's actions, as leveling the playing field against meanspirited, uninformed reviewers.

Whatever the final verdict, Virbilia will continue reviewing restaurants, Times Food Editor Russ Parsons wrote.