Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

July 29, 2010

My Summer Wines

In general, I prefer red wine to white. But during the summer, I lean toward the whites-- with a nod to Rosé--because white wines, served chilled, pair well with our summer dishes. In addition I look for wines with relatively low alcohol content because they are lighter in style and easier on the head.

The following wines are our current staples. All are under $20. I frequently try a newly recommended wine and make changes. Since we don’t have a wine refrigerator, I re-order frequently.

I am not a wine expert and my selections are based on “like a lot”, “like”, “don’t like.” I’ve starred our list accordingly.

White Wines

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Alsatian Riesling are my favorite white wines. Alsatian Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire run a close second. Lately, I have become enamored with Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s major grape variety. Good Grüner is dry and crisp, with a slight kick. Apremont from the Savoie region of France is another winner. Made with the 100% local Jacquère grape, it is dry and a bit flowery. The wine contains only 11.5% alcohol, but has enough backbone to stand up to food.

***Babich Sauvignon Blanc 2009

**Petit Bourgeois, 2009
Sauvignon Blanc
Vin de Pays du Val de Loire
Henri Bourgeois

***Willm, Riesling Reserve 2008

***Willm, Pinot Gris, 2008

**Pierre Boniface, Apremont, 2009
Vin de Savoie, French Alps

Rosé Wines

I always hesitate before I approach Rosés. Having tasted a lot of different Rosés in the last two months, the following three have made the grade.

Cherry red and mature, Giugal’s Tavel is a Rosé with muscle. Griffin’s Sangiovese Rosé comes from the heart of Washington State. Bright and burthing with flavor, it does Sangiovese proud. I confess, the peach colored, Couer D’Estélles Rosé, made it for sentimental reason: it reminds us of the year we lived with the children in the Provençe.

***E. Giugal , 2007

***Barnard Griffin
Sangiovese Rosé, 2009
Columbia Valley

**Coeur Estérellelle, 2009
Côtes de Provence

Red Wines

I discovered the ItalianMontepulciano d’Abruzzo only recently. It is an excellent, well balanced wine that I like to serve with pasta dishes. The Spanish Rioja has been a favorite for quite some time. No reason to change it.

***Cantina Zaccagnini, 2007
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

**Marqués de Caceres Rioja, Crianza 2005

In addition, I always have a bottle of Prosecco Zartdetto Brut in the refrigerator, in case we are in celebratory mood.

July 25, 2010

Escabèche to the Rescue

It’s boiling hot. Still, I feel like eating something that is different and piquant. Chicken Escabèche to the rescue. I found the recipe in my Chicken for Every Occasion Cookbook, published in 1988. The recipe
is basically an assembly job that takes longer in telling that in doing. What’s even better, the dish is best
when cooked a day ahead.


Chicken Escabèche
Mixed salad of arugula, corn kernel, sweet peas, pitted Niçoise olives, grape tomatoes
Wine: Petit Bourgeois, 2009
Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays du Val De Loire
Henri Bourgeois
Dessert: Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Ice Cream with fresh strawberries

Recipe Chicken Escabèche

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon lime juice
   juice of ½ lemon
¾ cup white wine
Bouquet garni of 2 bay leaves, 10 peppercorns, 10 coriander, 1 teaspoon dried thyme tied in cheesecloth
1 to 2 tablespoons imported small capers
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 small or 1 large chicken leg, drumstick and thigh separated, skin removed*
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley and lemon wedges for garnish

*Have your butcher do that.
Combine all ingredients except the chicken and garnish in a saucepan, bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the chicken pieces. Cover and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, turning the chicken pieces over once. Remove the chicken from the heat and let cool. Discard the bouquet garni. Return the chicken pieces to the saucepan. Cover, refrigerate and let set to jell.

Frankly, I had my doubts about the jelling part. But, when I removed the dish shortly before serving, the mixture had indeed jelled. I took the drumstick and served George the thigh.

“Should have been butchered better,” he said.

Give me a break!

July 21, 2010

Ginger Fried Rice

Whenever I cook rice, I have some left over. This time I struck gold with a recipe from Mark Bittman, stuck away in my old recipe file. At first glance, the recipe looked complicated. But, following it step by step, the dish came out exceedingly well: it looked lovely and, according to George, tasted great.

Since I am not a great fan of rice, I opted for a marinated skirt steak instead. We both had tomato salad, made with the first, ripe yummy New Jersey tomatoes. The wine straddled both dishes.

Menu: George

Ginger Fried Rice
Tomato Salad
Wine: Barnard Griffin Sangiovese Rose, 2009
Columbia Valley
Dessert: 85% Lindt Chocolate

Recipe: Ginger Fried Rice

¼ cup peanut oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger*
1 leek, white and light green parts only, rinsed and sliced into thin strips
1 cup day-old rice
1 egg
sesame oil
soy sauce

*I came to ginger relatively late. But once I started to appreciate its unique taste, I have taken to it like the proverbial duck to water. Grating fresh ginger, I discovered, is easier than mincing it.

Sauté garlic and ginger in hot oil until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel. Reduce heat and cook the leek about 8 minutes until tender but not browned. Season lightly with salt. Raise heat, adding more oil if necessary, and add rice. If the rice is too dry, squirt some cold water of it. Heat through and transfer into a serving bowl.

Fry the egg in a nonstick skillet, sunny side up, until edges are set but the yolk is still runny. To me, this was the trickiest part of the recipe since I don’t remember ever having fried an egg sunny-side up, because when I was a child, it struck me as barbaric having to destroy the lovely looking egg yolk. Lo and behold, the egg came out beautifully. I slipped the egg over the rice, drizzled some sesame oil and soy sauce over the dish, and sprinkled the crisp garlic and ginger over everything.

July 18, 2010

A Spanish Feast

I had a sudden urge for Spanish food. Heat notwithstanding, I took the subway to Soho and, after a few wrong turns, found Despaña Brand Foods*. In contrast to their place in Jackson Heights -- crammed on Saturdays with purveyors, chefs and restaurateurs—the Soho store was empty, except for one woman who couldn’t decide what size paella pan to buy, and a young couple with two children having pastry at the store’s self service café.

I treated myself to a Gazpacho before looking around the store. Samples of chorizos, cheeses, plus various dips were displaced at the deli counter and the packaged food station. I stocked up on as many items I could carry and went home. To create an authentic Spanish dinner, I bought a bottle of Amontillado, recommended as the perfect food sherry by the wine store’s salesman. All of this was rather extravagant, but I figured I’ll make it up with a Chinese meal sometimes this week.


Boquerones (anchovies in vinegar and vegetable oil)
White asparagus
Traditional Chorizo
Seranno Ham
N.J. Tomatoes
Haitian Mango
Manchego, 3 mos.
Lustau, Dry Amontillado Los Arcos

Packaging is not Despagña’s forte. It took three different appliances to open the asparagus can and a lot of patience to remove the wrapping from the Boquerones package. Once this was accomplished, I curled up the anchovies, and put them on a small plate with some toothpick. I arranged the main bounty on a long platter: the asparagus spears, napped with mayonnaise, thin slices of tomatoes, the heated, sliced chorizo, curled up Seranno ham along side Haitian mango, and chunks of Manchego.

The asparagus from Navarra were succulent, better than any asparagus in recent memory. The chorizo was mild and well seasoned. I had forgotten how good Serrano ham tastes: lean, chewy and very macho. It paired well with the Haitian mango. The young sheep Manchego cheese nicely rounded out the meal.

My only gripe was the sherry. The Amontillados was slightly sweet and heavy. I didn’t like at all. I should have bought a Fino.

“That was a nice dinner,” said George.

I agreed.

*Despaña Brand Foods
408 Broome St., Soho (212) 219-5050

July 13, 2010

Lamb Burger with a Twist

The minute the heat eased up a bit, I thought “enough salad. I want some meat.” George likes chopped lamb but I find it rather boring. I remembered a recipe in Jean-Georges Vongerichten “Simple Cuisine” cookbook for lamb burger with Goat Cheese. Not exactly Kosher, but intriguing. I simplified the recipe and was very pleased with the result. So was George.


Lamb Burgers with Goat Cheese
Roasted red baby potatoes
Grape Tomatoes with purslane
Wine: Cantina Zaccagnini 2006
Monterpulciano d’Abruzzo
Dessert: Poached Peaches

Recipe Lamb Burger

½ pound lamb, ground
1 Tablespoon or 1 oz. Montchevre, fresh goat cheese
Salt and Black pepper

I divided the lamb into two portions, made an indentation, inserted the goat cheese, and formed the burgers. I seasoned the outside with a little bit of salt and plenty of pepper. In a hot sauté pan, I sautéed the burgers for 3 minutes on each side, and let them rest for a few minutes before serving.

A kind neighbor had left a bunch of fresh purslane at my door. It grew like wild at our flower bed in Sag Habor. Thinking it was a weed, I used to pull it out until our friend, cookbook author Ed Giobbi, told me this was a very tasty herb, ideal for salads. The purslane added a nice touch of color to the tomatoes which I cut in half and seasoned with Balsamic vinegar and sea salt.

The wine was terrific. At $12. a bottle, it was a bargain. I had grown tired of our wine selection and had ordered a variety of wines from the 67th Street Wine store-- delivered free of charge to the East Side.

July 9, 2010

Salad Days

According to Shakespeare, “salad days” refers to the time of youthful inexperience. To me, salad days means it’s so hot, all I want to eat is a refreshing salad.

Here are three of my favorites:

Corn Salad

With the temperature in the high 90’s I didn’t want to leave the house. Luckily, I had a box of whole corn kernels and one box of sweet green peas in the freezer. I also had a Persian cucumber, a box of grape
tomatoes and some Feta cheese in the refrigerator, plus and a jar of Piquillo Peppers strips on the shelve. I tossed these items together and produced a lovely summer salad.

1/2 box frozen corn, defrosted under running water, drained
1/2 box frozen peas, defrosted under running water, drained
1 Persian cumber, sliced and quartered
Leftover Feta cheese, cut into small pieces
About 1/2 cup of grape tomatoes cut in half
About 1/4 cup Piquillo* Pepper strips
Lemon/Dijon mustard vinaigrette
Sat and pepper

*Piquillo peppers are sweet, roasted, red peppers from Northern Spain.
If you can’t find them at your local specialty store, go to Despaña Brand Foods
at 408 Broome Street, Soho (212) 219-5050, or to 86-17 Northern Blvd.,
Queens (717) 779-4971. It’s the next best things to taking a trip to Spain.

Tuna & Cannellini Bean Salad

All you need for this is a can opener and a fresh baguette

1 can Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained
1 can light Italian tuna fish in olive oil, drained
Pitted Niçoise olives (optional)
Balsamic vinegar/olive oil vinaigrette
Dash of Tabasco
Rosemary leaves
Salt and pepper
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Serve on a bed of green lettuce

Watermelon Salad

Red onion, raspberries or strawberries add a new dimension to watermelon. The recipe comes from
Paolo Penati, once the chef of our former Long Wharf Restaurant in Sag Harbor.

Equal amounts of
Watermelon, seeded, cut into cubes
Red onion, thinly sliced
Raspberry or strawberry purée
Touch of lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Sugar if needed

I used to make this salad with fresh raspberries or strawberries when I got them fresh from the farm.
Since most of berries I can buy today have little, if any flavor, I use frozen ones, adding some fresh berries for appearance.

Would love to hear about your favorite summer salad.

July 6, 2010

Salade Lyonnaise and Kassler Rippchen

When I read Mark Bittman’s recent article on Salade Lyonnaise, I decided it would be a perfect dish for the Fourth of July weekend. Since I also wanted a meat dish without having to cook it, I bought a fully cooked piece of Smoked Pork Loin, called Kassler Rippchen.


Salade Lyonnaise
Kassler Rippchen*
Persian cucumber
Wine: Potel Aviron Moulin a Vent, Vielles Vignes 2008, chilled
Dessert: Cherry Garcia Ice Cream & Biscotti

Recipe: Salade Lyonnaise

1small bunch frisée, washed and torn into small pieces
¼ pound slab bacon, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 eggs

I like to parboil bacon because it gives the bacon a particularly pleasant flavor without the greasiness. To parboil the bacon, I cooked it in boiling water for 10 minutes, rinsed it under cold water and patted it dry. I sautéed the bacon in a heated skillet until crisp, about 10 minutes. Next, I cooked the shallots till soft, added the vinegar and mustard, brought everything to a boil and turned off the heat.

I poured the dressing over the frisée, seasoned it with salt and pepper. tossed the salad and divided the salad into two portions.

Poaching the eggs was a production. I put 1 ½ cups of water and 1 tablespoon vinegar into a small sauce pan and brought it to a boil. Then I cracked one egg into a small bowl and slipped the egg into the water. I poached the egg until the whites had just set, about 4 minutes, removed the egg with a slotted spoon and slipped it over the salad. All went well, except the poached egg flipped upside down, so that the white side showed up. I hoped for better result with the next egg, but no such luck. I think next time I’ll soft boil two eggs, slice them in half and mix them into the salad. The result, I’m sure, will be the same.

Kassler Rippchen derived its name from a late 19th century German butcher, called Cassler. I like the meat for its slightly smoky flavor and good texture. I served it with Dijon Grainy Mustard. For a touch of color, I added several slices of Persian cucumber, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.

Joe from Mr. Wright Fine Wines & Spirits** had recommended the wine. I couldn’t have asked for a better choice. This was an exceptional, fine Beaujolais that almost tasted like a Burgundy.

*Schaller & Weber (212) 879-3047

**Mr. Wright (212) 722-4564

July 2, 2010

A Symphony in Pink: Poached Salmon

I didn’t plan it, but the dinner turned out to be a symphony in pink-- the perfect prelude to the 4th of July weekend.


Poached Salmon with Chive Sauce
Salmon Roe with Blinis
Watercress & Grape Tomato Salad
Wine: E. Guigal: Tavel 2007
Dessert: Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

Recipe: Salmon

½ lb. salmon fillet with skin cut in half
Wesson oil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Bay leaves (optional)

I brushed the salmon with oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper. Then I placed the salmon onto a bamboo steamer, lined with bay leaves, and covered the basket. I set the steamer over a pan with water, brought it to a boil and poached the salmon for 3 minutes on each side. I removed the salmon, let it cool and served it at room temperature.

Chive Sauce

Kewpie Mayonnaise*
Plain yogurt, strained (I always do that to removed all that water)
Spanish Pimenton de la Vera (or Hungarian paprika)
Taramassalata (also spelled Taramasolata)
Chopped chives

I totally improvised the sauce. I didn’t measure anything. I just kept on tasting, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that, whatever I had in the house. As it happened I liked the sauce so much, I kept spreading it on the bread. Alas, the salmon was slightly overcooked.

The wine was a Rosé with muscle. It had the typical Tavel Burgundy color and had aged nicely. It was the perfect accompaniment to the salmon.

* With its light texture, Kewpie Mayonnaise tastes more like French than Hellman’s mayonnaise. I buy it at Katagari Japanese Market on 59th St. bet. 3rd and 2nd Aves.

Readers Comments:
Ever so often, I’ll post some of the reader’s comments to the various dinners.

Nadia W. “Try Ithaka’s moussaka. It has a very light Béchamel sauce and is utterly delicious!”
Mary C.   “Buying Zabar’s Gazpacho, as you had recommended, I discovered their Russian Cucumber Soup. It’s chock-full of cucumbers and tomatoes and is most refreshing.”