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What The Summer Brings You

Rabbit Couscous Paella (photo by Jill Greenberg)

Local chefs talk about their favorite locally sourced summer ingredients

In July and August, backyard gardens and farm fields begin to yield summer’s rich bounty. We asked eight celebrated local chefs to choose a favorite local, seasonal ingredient and tell us a little about where they purchase it and how they like to cook it.

Hippity Hoppity

Chef: Mike Andrzejewski, SeaBar

Ingredient: Rabbit, Painted Meadow

After spending nearly three decades behind the line, there is little that Mike Andrzejewski has not put in the oven, cooked on the stove or put on a plate.

One of area’s most acclaimed chefs and proprietor of one of the finest sushi bars in Buffalo, Andrzejewski (Mike A. for short) enjoys cooking rabbit. Go figure.

Owner and chef of Sea Bar (475 Ellicott Street), he has been busy slicing sashimi and cooking fresh, local rabbit. “Rabbit is unusual, it is unique, and I just like to try to be different,” he says. He uses it “mostly because it tastes good,” he says.

His current, favorite local source is Painted Meadow Farms in Franklinville. Along with rabbit, Painted Meadows also offers fresh turkey, duck, and duck eggs. They sell their farm-fresh proteins at the Elmwood/Bidwell market every Saturday morning.

In addition to creating wonderful rabbit dishes, Andrzejewski spends time working with Flavor Farms in Lockport. He extols the virtues of their freshly picked peppers and micro-greens.

Other than his regular rabbit specials, he enjoys using the product in a variety of different ways. From braising to creating velvety stock, rabbit will continue to reappear on Sea Bar’s evening specials. “It’s definitely worth a trip to the market and a few extra bucks for the quality you’re going to get,” he says.

Rabbit Couscous Paella

1 large rabbit (whole)
celery, onion, carrot, diced for stock
3-4 garlic cloves
olive oil
1⁄4 cup fine diced onion
1⁄2 cup diced fresh zucchini or squash
1⁄2 cup peeled, seeded, chopped tomato
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme, or pinch-dried thyme
1 cup Israeli couscous (larger size balls of couscous)
rabbit stock
reserved cooked rabbit meat
salt, pepper
reserved raw rabbit loins
salt and pepper

To begin, Remove front legs of rabbit. Remove back legs and cut out the large piece of thigh meat and reserve meat. Remove back loins from rib cage and trim off any tendons and reserve loins with thigh meat.

Cut body into smaller pieces to fit in a pot for stock with remaining bones from legs and celery carrots, onions, and garlic. Lightly salt and cover with water completely. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for about 1 to 1 1⁄2 hours or until rabbit meat falls of the bone. Remove from heat, strain and remove any meat from the bones that is usable. Skim any excess fat from stock.

To prepare final dish:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Using a thick-bottomed 9 or 10-inch sauté pan, sauté onions in a little olive oil until golden. And zucchini stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Add tomato, cook for 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Then add wine and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add couscous, thyme, and season lightly. Add enough rabbit stock to cover approximately 1⁄2 inch over ingredients. Cover with foil or another pan and bake for about 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender.

While couscous is baking, season raw meat and pan-fry in olive oil until gently cooked through. Slice and place on top of finished rabbit couscous and serve family-style from the pan.

All Ears

Chef: Tony Vitello, Protocol

Ingredient: Corn, Eden Valley Farm

It’s the easy answer. It’s summer, it’s corn, and it generally calls for butter and salt. Who can pass up one of the season’s most amazing vegetables?

Tony Vitello, executive chef of Protocol Restaurant and Bar (6766 Transit Road), has spent many years sweating it out in the kitchen. Previously of Mode and Duo, two long-gone eateries, Vitello was trained in the school of hard knocks. “I had strictly street training,” says Vitello. “It’s the best kind.” While the hard work and sweat could leave even the youngest chef feeling scalded, Vitello manages to keep it fresh.

Eden Valley Farm’s corn is second to none, according to Vitello. In addition to the husked wonder, he makes regular use of fennel, basil, lettuces, and hot peppers from Eden Valley.

While corn tops his list now, he admits that it is a fleeting romance. “I only chose corn because we are in Buffalo in mid-July,” he says. Ask him next month and his answer may differ. “People just don’t realize what we have here in Buffalo,” he says.

In addition to on-the-cob, he enjoys using the kernels for fritters, chowder, and his signature corn-crusted fish.

“In summer, almost everything is in full swing and we have to take advantage of it while it’s here,” he says.

Corn-Crusted Scarlet Snapper

4 6-oz. filets scarlet snapper
1 can chipotle pepper, pureed
6 large ears of Eden Valley corn
1 jalapeño, minced
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
4 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
8 tbsp. Canola oil
3 eggs, beaten
flour for dredging
salt and pepper to taste

Roast corn kernels on lightly sprayed baking sheet, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle corn with salt and pepper.

Heat sauté pan on medium-high, add 3 tablespoons of Canola oil. Add roasted corn, garlic, and jalapeno; sauté for approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and place in a bowl.

Dust the fish with flour and dip into beaten egg, coat the fish with the corn mixture.

Add 5 tablespoons Canola oil to sauté pan, heat oil, sauté filets for two minutes on each side.

Garnish with cilantro.

Chicken Little

Chef: Chris Scrivano, Oliver’s

Ingredient: Chicken, Wendel’s Farm

The skies will not by falling on Wendel’s Farm in East Concord; the roosters will make sure of that.

Farmers have awoken at the crack of dawn to tend to their flocks and gardens at Wendel’s Farm for more than 60 years. Chicken is their niche, although turkeys trot by.

Chef Chris Scrivano appreciates the farmers’ dedication. He relies on it. Scrivano, currently showcasing his talents at the venerable Oliver’s Restaurant (2095 Delaware Avenue), was previously sautéing at the famed Breakers in Palm Beach. After receiving his culinary training at Niagara County Community College, he was ready to jump in with two feet and a pot of red sauce. “Growing up in an Italian family, I realized the importance of giving people the opportunity to sit down to dinner together,” he says.

Scrivano swoons over local strawberries, cherries, and Concord grapes. But for us, he’s chosen locally raised chicken as his favorite ingedient. “Chicken is one ingredient that is universal, you can find it in nearly every cuisine,” he says.

Grilled, fried or braised, chicken is as versatile as Scrivano.

Chipotle Stuffed Chicken

Makes 6 servings
6 6-oz. boneless, skin-on chicken breasts
4 oz. cream cheese
1 chipotle, minced with seeds removed
1 cup fresh corn
1 cup smoked Gouda, grated
1⁄4 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Panko bread crumbs (see procedure)

Place cream cheese in a bowl, add chipotle, and mix with a paddle attachment on low speed until smooth. Use a rubber spatula if you do not have a mixer. Once the cream cheese is smooth, add corn, Gouda and cilantro. Continue to mix until all ingredients are blended. Occasionally stop the mixer and wipe down the sides to insure all stuffing is evenly mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Check for firmness. Add Panko until the stuffing is barely able to hold its shape. Place stuffing in cooler for 30 minutes. Scoop stuffing out into 2-oz., football-shaped balls and place under the skin of the chicken.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season chicken with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Place chicken on a greased sheet tray. Cook for approximately 12-15 minutes. Serve immediately with one of your favorite side dishes.

Love Apples

Chef: Brian Mietus, Bacchus

Ingrediant: Tomatoes, Tom Towers Farm

It really is summer’s perfect vegetable…or fruit: The discussion goes on. Tomatoes are perfect regardless how you slice them. And Brian Mietus, executive chef and managing partner of Bacchus (56 West Chippewa Street), knows exactly how to carve them up.

The Buffalo native, trained professionally at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, traveled far and wide until he landed back here at home. His skills graced the kitchens of Tempo and Oliver’s before he landed at Bacchus.

Tom Towers Farm in Youngstown is renowned for their tomatoes. According to Mietus, “Tomatoes are, seasonally, a significant food,” he said. From the Bidwell Market to the Lexington Co-Op, Tom’s tomatoes reign supreme.

For Mietus, it’s not just about that ripe, perfect fruit. Buying locally reduces our carbon footprint and builds relationships with farmers. He also uses local brussel sprouts and rutabaga. “I’ll take anything he has on his shelf,” he says of Tom Tower’s Farm.

Summer Heirloom Tomato “Lasagna”

3-4 lbs. local heirloom tomatoes
1 lb. fresh farmers cheese
8 oz. goat cheese
1/4 lb. arugula
1 pint grape tomatoes
3⁄4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
3oz. capers
2 oz. shallot
1 oz. chopped garlic
2 oz. aged red wine vinegar
6 oz. extra virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup. chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste
3 feet of cheese cloth
8”/11” lasagna pan

Line the lasagna pan with the cheesecloth; leave enough to cover the top.

Slice heirloom tomatoes thin and season them with salt and pepper. Line the bottom of the pan with the fresh tomatoes. Roughly chop the arugula and lay it over the tomatoes. Now add some farmers cheese. Repeat this process until the layers come just over the top of the pan.

Cover the top with the cheese cloth. Put another 8”/11” pan on top and push down hard enough to compact the layers. Refrigerate with some weight on top for an hour.

Cut the grape tomatoes and the olives in half and combine with the other ingredients to make the sauce, simmer.

To get the “lasagna” out simply turn it over onto a baking sheet. Let it come up to room temperature and cut with a sharp knife.

Makin’ Bacon

Chef: Steve Gedra, Bistro Europa

Ingredient: Pork, T-Meadows Farm

He can’t escape their sizzle. Owner and chef of one of the best locally sourced eateries in town, Bistro Europa (484 Elmwood Avenue), Steve Gedra loves his pigs from T-Meadows in Lockport.

The pasture-raised, heritage pigs from the Tilyou family hold a place near and dear to his bacon-loving heart. “The Tilyou family is very dedicated and knowledgeable about their trade,” he says. “The pigs are gorgeous animals. You can taste the love, care, and terroir in each of the animals.”

With more than 20 years in the kitchen, Gedra knows how to make the most of what he has around him. He develops bonds with his purveyors. “We buy their goods, they support our restaurant,” he says. “[Working with the farmers] you get to learn the nuts and bolts of what goes into what they do and that perspective enables you to appreciate the product in a broader sense of its significance. It’s about putting a face back on our food and reclaiming our food systems as opposed to current factory farming methods.”

According to Gedra, T-Meadows produces the best pig you will ever eat. At Bistro Europa, no part of the swine goes unused: bellies for bacon, hams for prosciutto, ground pork for his famous golabki.

T-Meadow Farm pork loin chop with apple/rosemary puree, crisp smashed potatoes, herb roasted kohlrabi, natural jus

1. Get your tuckus out of bed on Saturday and go see Rich Tilyou from T-Meadow at the Williamsville farmer’s market and get yourself a few fatty loin chops; bone-in, please.

2. Make brine:

1 cup kosher or coarse sea salt (do not used iodized salt)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon mustard powder
2 cups cider vinegar, heated until steaming
1 pound ice cubes, about 4 cups

In a 1- or 2-gallon plastic covered container or heavy zip-top plastic bag, place the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, and mustard powder. Do not use prepared mustard. Pour in hot vinegar and swirl or stir with a slotted spoon to dissolve the sugar and salt completely. Allow the mixture to stand for 20 minutes at room temperature to develop flavor. Add the ice cubes and stir to melt most of the ice.

Put the pork chops into the container or bag, making certain that the meat is completely covered with the brine. (If using plastic bag, squeeze out all air.) Cover and refrigerate for two hours. Remove after two hours and keep chilled until cooking. Discard brine.

Rinse the pork chops and pat dry.

3. Apple-rosemary puree: Granny Smiths or another non-sweet variety works best. We use Dan Tower’s apples. His stand is at the Elmwood/Bidwell market on Saturday. We use rosemary from Native Offerings, also at the Elmwood/Bidwell market.

6 granny smith apples or other non sweet variety, peeled and cut from the core into uniform pieces, any size
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 bunch fresh rosemary
1⁄4 pound cold unsalted butter
2 pods star anise, toasted
1 Ceylon cinnamon stick

Use a large heavy bottomed sauté pan hot and add the butter, being sure to turn off the flame immediately after adding the butter to prevent a flareup. (Flareups are anti-bueno; they make whatever’s in the pan taste like butane. If we flame a pan at the bistro, we chuck whatever is in that pan and start over, no hesitation. No one likes the taste of butane, so this is very important.) Kick the flame back on medium-high heat after most of the bubbling from the butter stops and add the whole bunch of rosemary. Swirl the pan constantly until the butter turns brown. Strain through a sieve, being careful to scrape the brown bits off of the bottom of the pan because that’s tastiness. Set aside.

Put the peeled apples into a saucepot with the wine, sugar, cinnamon, and star anise. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently until it is dry. Discard the cinnamon and anise. Blend the apples with the brown butter.

4. Roast kohlrabi: We like Ole’s or Weiss farms. Any color will do, medium size.

Cut the kohlrabi into wedges. Roast in a pan with grapeseed oil, salt, sage, and thyme, turning when one side is brown, and finish in a 350-degree oven until soft and golden.

5. Season the chops aggressively with coarse gray sea salt (we use Penzey’s on Elmwood) and fresh ground Tellicherry pepper that has been toasted whole in a pan until fragrant and cooled, then put into a pepper mill.

6. Heat a large, cast-iron skillet on medium high heat. Add grapeseed oil and place the chops gently in the pan, being careful to lay them down facing away from you so you don’t have burn marks all over your arms like I do. Sear both sides of the chops until golden and take them out of the pan and place them onto a cookie sheet. Put the chops in to a preheated 300-degree oven for 10 or so minutes. Pork likes slow and low cooking; keep the temp down and be patient. It’s worth it. the chops should read 140 degrees on a temperature probe. Take them out of the oven and put them in a warm place to rest for 10 minutes.

7. Pan sauce: We make pork stock from the pig and reduce it. Low sodium chicken stock from a mega supermarket will suffice. Discard the majority of the oil from the pork chop pan. Add sliced garlic and shallot and sauté until soft. Add chopped fresh thyme and fresh sage and toast for a minute. Add 1⁄4 cup dry white wine off heat and reduce until dry. Add two cups of the stock and reduce quickly. Plate, sauce, and serve!

Grab The Peeler

Chef: James Gehrke, Sample

Ingredient: Potatoes, Ole’s Family Farm

While he has never actually plowed a field, James Gehrke, chef at Sample restaurant (242 Allen Street) grew up in the rural farm town of Boston, New York. So he appreciates the hard-working men and women who grow our food. “I grew up next to farmers and I think it’s crucial to know where your food comes from,” say Gehrke. According to him local means cheaper, fresher, healthier, and most certainly better food.

While manning the stove at Sample, he loves to work with Swiss chard, eggplant, and watermelon, but his favorite ingredient to use is potatoes. “Maybe it’s the Irish in me,” he says “but I could eat potatoes everyday and never get tired of them.”

He prefers potatoes from Ole’s Family Farm in Alden. From frying to mashing, he says that Ole’s potatoes make a great vessel to incorporate other flavors.

His passion for local produce is only matched by his passion for cooking. He loves being a chef and making people happy with his food. “Ultimately chefs are entertainers, and if you can give someone a meal that they will remember, whether it be the tastiest or most playful or both, that is the true reward for me,” he says.


4 large Yukon gold potatoes, sliced into fries
Gravy (homemade or canned)
Cheese (mozzarella or Colby)
Truffle oil (optional)
Grated Parmesan
Salt to taste

Soak fries in cold water for approximately 10 minutes. Blanch the fries at 275 degrees for approximately five minutes.

Turn up the heat on the fryer to 350 degrees and fry for approximately five minutes. Transfer fries to a paper towel to drain, sprinkle with salt

In a sauce pan, heat gravy.

Generously pack fries in a bowl and top with hot gravy (not swimming in gravy, just enough to cover fries).

Shred cheese over the fries and gravy.

Place bowl on a cookie sheet and toss into the oven until the cheese is nicely melted, approximately four minutes.

To chef it up a bit, drizzle truffle oil over top with a little grated parmesan and enjoy!

Pork On A Fork

Chef: Keith Dulak, Trattoria Aroma

Ingredient: Pork, Blossom Hill Farm

Keith Dulak, Head Chef at Trattoria Aroma (307 Bryant Street), is a Buffalo native who grew up on the West Side. He earned his culinary arts degree at Paul Smith College in the Adirondacks. He honed his kitchen skills in Lake Placid and California before he returned to Buffalo. Having been in the restaurant business for nearly 20 years, 10 of them at Aroma, Dulak enjoys the camaraderie of the kitchen. He doesn’t mind the heat either. What he really likes is working with Buffalo’s abundance of local produce and protein.

He also likes pigs. To be specific, he likes the pigs that are raised at Blossom Hill Farm. Located in Gowanda, Blossom Hill specializes in pasture-raised heritage meats. They also offer beef, chicken, and eggs. Dulak enjoys working with the local farm. “It helps the community and their products are far superior than anything you can get from 5,00 miles away,” Dulak says.

Dulak takes care that no part of the pig goes to waste. He uses pork belly for bacon and the jowls to make guanciale, which he uses in the restaurant’s risotto. His pièce de résistance is the pork chop. “I just love pork,” he says. Who doesn’t?

Cracked green peppercorn grilled pork chop withbraised Ole’s Farm Swiss chard, rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes, and grilled peach agro dolce with Ole’s Farm parsley pesto oil

1 Blossom Hill pork chop
1 bunch (5-7) pieces Oles Farm Swiss chard
6 oz. fingerling potatoes (approximately 3-5), roasted with rosemary, cooled, then sliced lengthwise
1 peach cut in half and pitted
1 bunch parsley roughly chopped
Grated parmesan cheese to taste
Pine nuts to taste, crushed
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
1⁄4 cup honey
1⁄4 cup EVOO
Salt and pepper to taste
Cracked green peppercorns, enough to dust chop

1. Preheat grill to medium high.

2. Season chop with salt and peppercorns, let stand 15 minutes.

3. Mix together balsamic vinegar and honey, add potatoes with rosemary and peach. Set aside.

4. Mix parsley, parmesan, and pine nuts with EVOO and season. Set aside.

5. Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat and coat with EVOO. Add Swiss chard, season and sear 1 minute, mixing well.

6. Add chicken broth to sauté and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

7.Grill pork chop 2-3 minutes per side or until desired temperature is reached.

8. Grill potatoes and peaches until charred, adding marinade as needed.

9. Arrange potatoes and peach on place, place Swiss chard over and top with pork chop. Drizzle with pesto oil and serve. Enjoy summer.

Milking It

Chef: Jennifer Boye, The Mansion

Ingedient: Yogurt, White Cow Dairy

It doesn’t get more local than growing your own herbs and vegetables, and that is exactly what Jennifer Boye, executive chef at the Mansion on Delaware (414 Delaware Avenue), does. On the small spit of city land that is the site of Buffalo’s most luxurious hotel, Boye has carved out a garden to rival those found in suburban backyards.

Boye has spent 15 years perfecting her culinary skills, the last six in the Mansion’s kitchen. She attended Erie County Community College, where she earned her degree in hospitality and culinary arts.

While her garden contains over a dozen herbs and plenty of fresh veggies, the one thing she doesn’t have space for is a cow. Her local ingredient of choice is yogurt, and her farm of choice is White Cow Dairy located in East Otto in Cattaraugus County. She uses it in both sweet and savory dishes on the Mansion’s menu. “Yogurt is like a blank canvas,” she says.

In their respective seasons, she also searches out the area’s freshest peaches, heirloom tomatoes, and baby cucumbers. “I like being able to take nice quality raw ingredients and turn them into enjoyable dishes the make people smile,” Boye says.

Cucumber and Heirloom Tomato Raita

3⁄4 cup seedless cucumber, small dice
1⁄4 cup heirloom tomato (such as brandy wine or tiger strip), small dice
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 cup White Cow Dairy plain yogurt
pinch of cumin
dash of sriracha or sambal
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and chill. Serve on top of chicken, fish, or veggie kabobs, or use as a dip for naan or fresh pita.

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