Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

May 31, 2010

A Word About Food Marketing

There is marketing and there is shopping. Shopping to me means going around the corner to Gristedes to buy two bananas for tomorrow’s breakfast. Marketing means to take the bus to buy mussels from Citarella for tonight’s dinner. As it happens, I go marketing almost every day. I enjoy doing so because it enables me to select top products and puts me in touch with the people who sell them.
My lineup is as follows:

Stores: East side

Agata & Valentina (212) 452-0690
First Ave. & 79th St.
Bread, vegetables, fruit, cheese, fish, olive oil, smoked salmon, pasta

Ottomanelli Bros. (212) 772-7900
Meat, poultry, eggs, pulled pork, meat lasagna, manicotti, tunafish salad
York Ave. & 82nd St.

Schaller & Weber (212) 879-3047
Cold cuts, German potato salad, cucumber salad, pumpernickel,
pickles, goose fat, frozen chicken broth, chocolate
Second Ave. & 86 St.

Citarella (212) 874-0383
Mussels, fish
Third Ave & 75 St.

Yorkville Meat Emporium (212) 517-4635
Cherry soup, Veal Goulash stew
Second Ave. & 81st St.

Stores: West side

Zabar’s (212) 787-2000
Cheese, butter, cheese blintzes, herring in sour cream, condiments
Bway bet. 80th & 81st Sts.

Whole Foods Market (212) 823-9600
10 Columbus Circle
If I would live closer to Whole Foods on Columbus Circle, I would undoubtedly become familiar with the store. But, since I visit the market only once in a while, I feel overwhelmed by those acres of uncharted territory, not to mention the endless checkout lines that have their own rules and regulations. Except for the occasional Harvé Mons Camembert, I don’t bother with Whole Foods. But I’d gladly stand corrected and wecome advice from Whole Foods aficionados.

Take out

Beyoglu (212) 650-0850
Third Ave. & 81 St.
Turkish meze

Sandys (212) 348-8654
Second Ave. & 116 St.
Rotisserie chicken, rice & beans

Saigon Grill (212) 875-9072
Amsterdam Ave & 90 St.
Royal Bouillabaisse

Katageri (212) 755-3566
224 E. 59th St.
Sushi/sashimi, Japanese products

Occasionally, I venture to Chinatown for dim sums at Jing Fong (20 Elizabeth St.) with a detour to Di Palo’s (200 Grand St.) for Italian products.

Union Square Market
George and I used to come down here with the car, so there was never a schlepping problem. Now I buy only as much as I can carry, mostly herbs and plants. Can't wait for the Farmer's Market on 82nd Street between York and First Avenue to open again Saturdays, starting in July.

Fresh Direct (order on line)
Ethiopian coffee, imported frozen tortellini, frozen shrimp, ice cream, Roquefort, soft drinks, household items.
Ordering from Fresh Direct is George’s domain. Their Roquefort is George’s favorite. If one is not up to par, they will immediately replace it.

In addition, I keep my eyes open for new specialty stores and markets, ready to pounce on them

May 27, 2010

White Asparagus

When the New York Times announced that white asparagus from France and The Netherlands had arrived in several stores, I dashed to Dean & DeLuca to buy some. Six asparagus, tied together weighted 1 ½ pounds and no wonder: each stalk was one inch thick, if not more. The price came to $12. In other words: $2. per stalk.

I have a special fondness for asparagus since I come from a region in Germany where white asparagus was an important crop. Banners were flying from restaurants, taverns, and inns, signaling that asparagus were on the menu. At home, we ate asparagus every day. And then, on June 21, the season ended, and it was over.


White asparagus
Veal Goulash Stew*
Wine: Willm Pinot Gris, 2008

To prepare the asparagus, I trimmed 2 inches from the bottom, and peeled the skin with a vegetable peeler. I then put the stalks in rapidly boiling water, reduced the heat, and let simmer for 20 minutes. As advised, I drained the cooked asparagus and placed them on a towel to dry and keep them warm. When ready to serve, I melted 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan and added 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs to brown. I transferred the asparagus on serving plates and poured the sauce over them and served it as a first course.

The asparagus was perfectly cooked. Alas, it lacked flavor. We were disappointed but not surprised. White asparagus is cherished for its subtle flavor. Apparently, that flavor does not withstand big journeys. In a way, I’m glad. There’s something to be said about enjoying food at the right time, in the right place.

To keep the asparagus company, I had bought a ready-made veal stew from the Hungarian Meat Market, the last remaining store in the former predominantly Hungarian and Czech neighborhood. The veal was nicely cooked. I added a bit of red wine and, to further spice it, a pinch of pimentón de la Vera, the Spanish smoked version of Hungarian paprika.

I’ll definitely buy the stew again. Next time, I might add some turnips and pearl onions.

*Yorkville Meat Emporium (212) 517-4635
1560 2nd Ave. & 81 St.

Turkish Meze

The other day was my birthday. I fondly recalled the one when we lived in Antibes. We drove to St. Paul de Vence to have dinner at La Colombe d’Or, the restaurant we liked so much, it became the model for our subsequent Provençal restaurant in New York. As usual, we ordered their hors d’oeuvre--an opulent spread of small dishes, served on ceramics from nearby Valloris, the town put on the map by Picasso.

I decided to celebrate this birthday serving small entrées at home. Instead of French hors-d’oeuvre, I opted for a Turkish meze from nearby Beyoglu restaurant.*


Patlican Domates Soslu
Pan-fried cubes of eggplant topped with sautéed fresh tomato
Thick homemade yogurt with cucumber and garlic
Arnavut Cigeri
Pan fried calf’s liver
Sucuk Izgara
Cumin and garlic spiced cured beef
Wine: Willm Pinot Gris 2008

To copy La Colombe d’Or’s presentation, I put the various dishes on small, white china bought in Chinatown.

The eggplant dish tasted like a top ratatouille; the yogurt dish was thick and creamy, and most refreshing; as requested, the calf’s liver was cooked medium rare and delicately spiced. The cured beef turned out to be a grilled, thickly sliced, spicy sausage. Not quite what we had expected. Obviously an acquired taste which we hadn't as yet acquired.

Of course, I had bought way too much. The Alsatian Pinot Gris went well with the food.
All told, it was a lovely meal.

*Beyoglu, (212) 650-0850
Third Ave. & 81st Street

May 19, 2010

Roasted Halibut with Lemon and Rosemary

This dinner was inspired by Melissa Clark who writes frequently for the food section of the NY Times.


Roasted Halibut
Lima Bean Purée
Wine: Babich Sauvignon Blanc
Dessert: Fresh Pineapple
Pain d’Epices


10-ounces halibut fillet, about 1-inch thick
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and white pepper
Fresh or dried rosemary leaves
1 lemon, sliced very thin

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Place fish in a baking dish, brush fillet with olive oil and season with salt and white pepper. Sprinkle fillet with rosemary leaves and cover with lemon slices. Drizzle remaining oil over the lemon slices. Bake in preheated oven till opaque, about ten minutes.

The halibut was utterly delicious. At $26. a pound, it was also incredibly expensive. Fortunately I had bought a whole roasted chicken, rice and beans for $12.50 from Sandy’s two days before. So, it evenened itself out.

Pain d’Epices are aromatic, spiced cookies in the shape of breadsticks that we had discovered in a bakery in Marseille. We had become so addicted to them, we bought a full box and took it back to New York. I had forgotten all about the cookies and rediscovered them, hidden under a box of biscotti, and a tin with home-made croutons. The pain d’Epices were not the worse for waiting. They had kept their crunchy texture, perfumed aroma, and mysteriously spicy taste that had delighted us three years ago.

May 15, 2010

Dried Chinese Mushsrooms with Chicken Breasts

Jane, my Chinese sister-in-law, recently returned from Shanghai and brought me three presents: a silk scarf, ten small bags of miniature salted nuts, and a bag of dried mushrooms. Jane only knew the Chinese name for the mushrooms and we left it at that. She said these mushrooms were very flavorful and explained how to cook them. Not to upstage the mushrooms, I decided to serve them with a simple chicken dish.


Chinese Mushrooms
Sautéd Chicken Breasts
Wine: Perada, 5 Fincas Reserva 2005
Cherry Garcia Ice Cream


Dried Chinese Mushrooms (about 1 cup)
Chicken broth to cover
2 teaspoons butter
1 whole chicken breast with skin and bone, split in half and flattened
Dijon mustard to coat
Dried rosemary leaves
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Chopped parsley for garnish

Following Jane’s instructions, I soaked the mushrooms in warm water for 15 minutes, strained them and discarded the water. Next, I covered the mushrooms with the chicken broth, brought it to a boil, reduced the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. I drained the mushroom, reserved the broth for future use, and patted the mushrooms to dry. I then sautéd them briefly in butter.

As usual, I had brined the chicken breasts. After patting them dry, I coated the inside of the chicken breasts with Dijon mustard and sprinkled both sides with dried rosemary leaves. In a sauté pan, I browned the skinless chicken breasts in butter for about 7 minutes and did the same for the skin side breasts. I next baked the chicken breasts-- skin-side up-- in the preheated 375 degree taoster oven for 5 minutes, removed the chicken and let rest for 10 minutes. Timing depends stricly on the thickness of the chicken breasts.

I sliced the chicken breasts against the grain and placed the slices on one side of the plate, poured the pan juices over the chicken, and garnished them with chopped parsley. I mounded the mushrooms onto the plate, wiped it clean and served.

The red wine, from the Catalonia region of Spain, was a mystery to me. I figured it might pair well with the equally unknown Chinese mushrooms, and I was right. The flavor of the mushrooms was intense; the wine was equally powerful; the chicken held its own.

May 11, 2010

Steak Tartar

The Raw & Delicious

I have always loved tartar steak. When I was a child, we had it every Friday evening for supper. Friday was also the day when my hair was washed with rain water, a procedure thought so delicate, that I was allowed to have supper in bed. I don’t know what I liked more: the taste of the tartar steak, the dark, chewy peasant bread and dill pickle, or being allowed to read while eating and listening to music.

Another impressive steak tartar recalls the time George and I were house sitting of friend’s country place in St. Rémy-de-Provence. One day, we bought freshly ground horse meat from the local Chevaline. The meat had such a terrific taste, we only added was some salt and pepper. As usual, we took lunch on the terrace in back of the house, overlooking the garden. We savored the steak tartar, sipped Mas de la Dame and felt extremely happy.

Once more, the warm weather has put me in the mood for steak tartar, one of my favorite summer dishes. There is nothing scary about eating raw meat as long as you know from whom to buy it.*


Steak Tartar (sometimes spelled steak tartare)
Cole Slaw
Dill pickle
Watercress & Cherry Tomato Salad
Wine: Château d’Oupia, Minervois, 2007


½ lb top sirloin, ground
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon goose fat**
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers
1 dash Tabasco Sauce
Salt & pepper

I mix everything together, wrap it in foil and let rest in the refrigerator while I get the rest of the meal ready. We both agreed the dinner was terrific.

*I trust the butchers at Ottomanelli on York Ave. & 82nd Street to grind the cut of meat I ask for and have never been disappointed.

**Available from Schaller& Weber at Second Ave & 86 St.
(212) 879-3047

May 5, 2010

Once More with Cheese

We struck gold: Whole Foods had just received a shipment of Hervé Mons, a French camembert which, although pasteurized, is as close to genuine French camembert as one can get in the U.S. George, always on the lookout for such news, read an article by Harold McGee, heralding the arrival of “A Camembert That Pasteur Would Have Loved.” The camembert in question resembles a raw-milk one. It has a fairly thin, edible rind, a golden, soft interior, earthy, and strong flavor. Made by Hervé Mons, a French affineur, it is exclusively available at Whole Foods Market throughout the US.

George called the cheese department at Whole Foods on Columbus Circle to inquire and asked them to put one camembert aside for us. I went, I bought, and we savored the cheese after a ridiculous first course of grilled cheese sandwiches, based on a recipe by the famous Swiss chef Fredy Giradet. The recipe called for thinly sliced Swiss cheese to be baked in a 400 degree oven until browned, but still soft in the center for about 5 minutes; thick slices of country bread brushed with softened butter and sprinkled with a few drops of white wine; to put the cheese slices on top of the bread, return to the oven until the cheese bubbles and melts for about another 5 minutes.

Reading the recipe I should have known better. The baked Swiss cheese stuck together like glue. I scooped it up and transferred the cheese onto the bread and hoped for the best. The best was that we ignored the globs of cheese, rescued the butter/wine treated bread, and indulged in Monsieur Mons’ camembert, accompanied by a Côtes du Rhône Saint-Esprit.

George found the camembert too creamy. Truth be told, I barely remembered what genuine camembert tastes like. But we had fun.

Whole Foods Market
10 Columbus Circle
(212) 823-9600

May 3, 2010

A Word About Wine

I don’t know which I like more: food or wine. Since one compliments the other, it’s a winning situation of which I take full advantage. With rare exceptions, we always have wine with dinner. My choice may not be perfect, but I’m not a purist and don’t fret over it.

If I like a certain wine, I remain faithful to it for a long time, giving one criterion: none costs more than $13. a bottle, including tax. That applies particularly to our house wines: Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza 2005, Côtes du Rhône, Saint-Esprit, 2007, Delas, and Bogle Vineyards, Petite Syrah, 2007. The Rioja is excellent with meat dishes. The Rhône Saint-Esprit is lighter in style and good with chicken and pasta. The Bogle is straight forward and straddles everything.

Our present white house wines are Babich Sauvignon Blanc 2009, and Côtes du Rhône, Guigal Blanc 2007. The Sauvignon Blanc is a wine lover’s dream and deserves a medal for being reliable and utterly delicious. Although there is a lot of good Sauvignon Blanc available, I favor the one from New Zealand.

Beyond that, we have favorites: George likes Sangiovese, the primary wine from Tuscany. I love Riesling, especially the one from the Mosel region. Alas, it’s hard to find. Ever so often Eric Asimov, the wine critic for the NY Times, conducts a Riesling tasting and gives a glowing report. Wine Spectator, which I read avidly, does the same. But try and find their recommendations! It’s totally academic. Fortunately Alsace produces benchmark Rieslings, and I’m happy with them.

Occasionally I will buy a wine to pair with a particular dish. A Muscadet to pair with salad; a dry Vouvray for a salmon preparation; even a Beaujolais-- not my favorite wine—to accompany a simple chicken dish.

When we used to go out for dinner, I liked to have a glass of champagne before we decided on our order. Aside from that, I don’t think champagne pairs well with food. We’ll drink it on New Years’ Eve, to be sure, and maybe to celebrate a birthday. We like Pol Roger and Veuve Clicquot. Prosecco can be fun.

French Bordeaux and Burgundy used to be our favorite wines. Now their prices are out of sight. Maybe that is just as well. Recently a well meaning friend brought us a bottle of Chateau La Mission, Haut Brion 2001.Checking it out in Hugh Johnson’s “Pocket Wine Book”, I read that it is a grand scale, full-bodied, long maturing wine with fine tannins. Other sources exalted the wine for its fantastic richness, silky texture and extraordinary balance. All call it irresistible. Now I wonder what meal would be worthy of such a treasure. I still haven’t figured it out.

I deal with three wine stores: Yorkshire Wines & Spirits, Sherry-Lehmann, and Mr. Wright Fine Wines & Spirits. Yorkshire Wines is located one block from us. They have a good selection of wines, are competitively well priced, and give a 10% discount on 12 bottles. It took me a while to realize that Sherry-Lehmann is anything but an expensive store. Their selection is fabulous and their prices are fair. Marty, one of their salesmen, knows my preferences and advises me accordingly. Comes the summer, Mr. Wright, another neighborhood store, has the most comprehensive selection of Roses. Their mark-up is slightly higher than the previous two stores, but I can depend on Joe, one of their sales people, for needed suggestions.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Yorkshire Wines ((212) 717-5100
Sherry-Lehmann, (212) 838-7500
Mr. Wright (212) 722-4564