Who's Cooking: Donna Gruber
Gruber is owner of Ruby's Cove Bed & Breakfast in Greenport. Always an avid cook, she says owning a bed-and-breakfast on the North Fork feeds her passion for using in-season ingredients.
What inspires you to cook? I love the idea of experimenting, combining tastes and then sharing what I cook. I love looking at cookbooks to get ideas and then switching things around. For example, this morning I made green eggs and ham using spinach, fresh basil and avocados.
What are some of your favorite ingredients? I like all in-season ingredients and cooking with garlic. My favorite thing now is fresh fruit in savory dishes. I play a game with dinner guests where I tell them whoever can name all the ingredients in a dish gets to take home the leftovers.
What is your cooking style? I cook what looks good that day. I go to the farm stand to see what is in season. If I see something unusual, I'll pick it up.
Do you have to do a lot of adapting for your guests at the B & B? I'm known for cooking a lot of vegan and vegetarian dishes. I also enjoy the challenge of cooking something tasty for someone with special dietary needs. I experimented and made oatmeal pancakes this morning for someone with gluten issues.
How would you encourage people to use more fresh ingredients? Start with something simple like mint and basil. Meet the farmers at the farm stand or farmers market and ask them what is good that day and how they'd use it. Also, have a calendar in your kitchen that tells you what is in season each month. Then you can look up a recipe before you go to the farmers market.
Red Rumrunner French toast
1 large, firm loaf unsliced bread with nuts, raisins or cranberries
4 cups whole milk
1 cup buttermilk
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon, more for garnish
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup rum (divided in half)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
3 cups maple syrup
4 cups fresh fruit (berries, banana, apple, mango, grapes or peaches)
Whipped cream, red sugar crystals and chocolate chips, optional
1. A day ahead, cut bread into 2-inch slices and leave out to dry.
2. The night before, combine milk, buttermilk, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla and 1/4 cup rum and mix well.
3. Line a rectangular baking dish with bread slices in one layer and pour mixture over them. After a few minutes, flip the bread over and store covered in the fridge overnight. Flip bread once more.
4. In the morning, preheat griddle to medium, lightly coat with butter. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top of the bread slices and cook slowly on low to medium. Done properly, toast will be crisp on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. Cooking time is about 15 minutes on each side.
6. In a saucepan heat the maple syrup, the rest of the butter and the other 1/4 cup (or to taste) of rum. Simmer to warm, longer if you want to burn off some of the alcohol.
7. Place syrup in a deep dish and dip the cooked French toast in it and flip over once to coat. Place dipped toast on a serving plate, top with fresh fruit, whipped cream, the sugar crystals and chocolate chips. Makes 4 servings.