WILTON – When David Burgess travels and eats in great restaurants, his mind is never far away from his own kitchen. Consequently, whenever he leaves a restaurant he has enjoyed, he makes sure to take something home with him.

“I have a menu collection from all over – about 400 of them,” said Burgess, who isn’t alone in his passion.

“The New York Public Library had a great show called ‘New York Eats’ about two years ago, which sprang from one woman’s menu collection.” he noted. According to the New York Public Library’s Web site (www.nypl.com), Miss Frank E. Buttolph collected more than 5,000 menus from American restaurants between 1851 and 1910.

Besides menus, Burgess makes creative use of cookbooks as well as television and online sources. “I also have friends who are great cooks who truly love to talk about cooking,” he said.

Fresh and natural ingredients are important to him, and he’s thrilled that he has a variety of shopping options in his area. “The fine shops in Farmington make great cooking ingredients available: A wonderful natural foods store, Basic’s Natural Food Market and Café, is a fine gourmet shop with an owner who is full of great food advice, our local organic farmer’s market in the summertime and the great variety of produce (for a small town) we have at the local supermarket.”

Although he’s been cooking for many years – “I worked in restaurants when I was a youngster” – there is a great deal Burgess would like to do. “My favorite dishes to make are ones I’ve never made before. I consider everything a challenge and no one should be afraid of experimenting. The best part of cooking is the good surprise, when I come up with something new that is worth making again.”

Burgess and his wife, Martina, live in Wilton. He is employed at Franklin Printing. For enjoyment, Burgess “loves playing music, bicycling and of course traveling and trying new restaurants and foods.”

Coconut-milk seafood chowder
Ingredients
½ to ¾ pound fresh haddock, cut into bite-size pieces

½ to ¾ pound fresh scallops, cut into pieces, if large, and tough muscle discarded

½ to ¾ pound fresh or frozen shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into bite-size pieces

½ green pepper, diced

½ sweet red pepper, diced

½ onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 cups coconut milk

1/3 cup sherry (not cooking sherry)

¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Method

In a 6-quart soup pot, cook sweet potatoes in about 4 cups of the stock on medium high heat until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Remove sweet potatoes with slotted spoon and set aside.

Lower heat to medium, add remaining stock; add haddock, scallops, shrimp and bay leaf to stock, cover and simmer about 10 minutes. While haddock, scallops and shrimp are cooking; saute green pepper, sweet red pepper, onion, celery, and thyme until almost tender. Add sweet potatoes, sauteed vegetables and coconut milk to soup pot. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Mix in sherry and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6.

David’s notes

Pear-buttermilk cornbread goes nicely with this. Chicken or turkey works well with this recipe in place of the seafood; cooked fiddleheads are really good to make this an interesting vegetable soup.

Pear-buttermilk cornbread
Ingredients
¾ cup butter, room temperature

¾ cup sugar

3 large eggs

1½ cups cornmeal

2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoons salt

2 cups buttermilk
1 to 1½ cups diced pears
Method

Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.

Mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt together. Beat butter, sugar and eggs until fluffy and stir into dry ingredients. Add diced pears. Pour into greased 9-by-13-inch pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes.

Blue cheese/ricotta stuffed pears
Ingredients
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

½ stalk celery, finely minced

8 to 10 green olives, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons maple syrup

4 to 5 dates, pitted and coarsely chopped

Pinch of paprika

4 ripe pears
2/3 cup apple cider or apple juice
Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix together everything except the pears and cider. Halve the pears lengthwise and scoop out the cores. Place in ovenproof dish and fill scooped out part of pear with filling. Pour in cider and cover dish with foil. Bake until pears are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and place under broiler for 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Arugula, basil and baby spinach salad
Ingredients for salad
About 3 to 4 ounces each of arugula, fresh basil and baby spinach

1½ cups fresh blueberries

½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup slivered almonds
Ingredients for dressing
1/3 cup olive oil

Juice from ½ lemon

2 tablespoons honey

½ clove garlic, pressed, or more, if desired
Salt and coarse ground pepper, to taste
Method

Mix dressing ingredients together and toss with salad ingredients. Serves 6.

David’s notes

You can get more juice from a lemon if it is at room temperature and you roll it firmly on countertop before squeezing.


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