Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

August 29, 2010

Trilogy of Summer Staples: Basil Pistou, Brunoise, Tomato Concassée

I came home from the Farmer’s Market with an armful of pungent basil, luscious tomatoes, tender zucchini, and fiery red pepper. Since this was a lazy weekend with half of the city seemingly out of town, I decided to do myself a favor and prep some staples. First I made basil pistou. The one I make contains walnuts, Parmesan, and garlic confit. It is moss green, fairly thick, and packs a mighty wallop. I like to spread it on bread, sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, and usually finish half of it before I have a chance to use in chicken roulade with pesto, not to mention pasta.

Recipe Basil Pistou*

1 ½ cups basil leaves, tightly packed
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup shelled walnuts
2 tablespoons garlic confit (or about 4 cloves)
3 tablespoons water, more if needed

Wash the basil leaves and pat dry. In a blender, purée the olive oil, Parmesan, walnuts, and garlic. Add the basil and finish puréeing. If the mixture is too thick, add water. Adjust the seasoning.

Next, I prepped brunoise. This was a regular staple at "La Colombe d’Or." The kitchen always had two batches of brunoise on hand: a blanched and a marinated version. Blanched brunoise quickly sautéed, flavors soups, pasta or sauces; marinated brunoise, dressed with capers, anchovies, garlic, red wine vinegar, oil, salt and pepper, garnishes anything from house smoked salmon to hard boiled eggs.

Prep Brunoise*

Any of the 3 following:

1 large carrot
1 yellow squash or yellow pepper
1 zucchini or cucumber
1 red pepper
1 Spanish onion
2 celery ribs

Peel and dice 3 of the above vegetables. Blanch them briefly in boiling water. Strain and store in a covered container. Because it’s so useful to have on hand, I put a small portion of blanched brunoise in plastic bags and keep them in the freezer.

Tomato Concassée*

Tomatoes are my favorite vegetables. I could eat them on all and every occasion. Since I had bought too much of them at the market, I decided to make tomato concassée, a kind of tomato marmelade that spruces up dishes from scallops and chicken to meat loaf.

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
Bouquet garni” 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 3 springs Italian parsley, 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed, tied in cheesecloth.
Salt and pepper
Pinch of sugar

Prep Concassée

Blanch and peel the tomatoes. Cut them in half, remove the seeds and dice into small pieces. Pour off any excess liquid. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the shallots and sweat them slowly till they give off their moisture, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the bouquet garni. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove the bouquet garni. Adjust the seasoning. Let the concassée cool.
Store in a tightly covered glass jar and refrigerated till ready to use.

August 26, 2010

Lamb Chops with Oregano

The sudden change of weather put me into such a good mood, I treated us to rib lamb chops.


Lamb Chops with Fresh Oregano
Zucchini Chutney
Red Baby Potatoes
Wine: Barnard Griffin, Sangiovese Rose 2009
Dessert: Purple Figs

Recipe Lamb Chops

4 rib lamb chops, trimmed
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, rosemary or marjoram, minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Rub the lamb chops with oil on both sides. Season with salt. Sprinkle with oregano and garlic. In heated skillet sauté lamb chops over high heat for 4 - 5 minutes a side. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

Recipe: Zucchini Chutney

½ Spanish onion, peeled and slices crosswise into thin slices
3 small yellow squash, peeled and cut into small triangles
3 small zucchini, peeled and cut into small triangles
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 small piece ginger, peeled and grated
¾ - 1 cup fresh orange juice
Zest of ½ orange
1 tablespoon honey, or to taste

Heat the oil in a sauce pan and sweat the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the squash, zucchini, salt and pepper and ginger. Sauté to coat. Cover with the orange juice and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and let the chutney simmer for 25 minutes, or until soft. Season to taste. Serve at room temperature.

It's best to make the chutney in advance because it tastes even better 1 or 2 days after it has been made. Properly stored, it will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week. This recipe is enough for at least one more serving.

George put the chutney on top of his lamb chops. Perfect match!

August 23, 2010

Ode to Fresh Tomatoes: Veal with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Hurrah for New Jersey tomatoes. I use them to make Tomato Soup, Tomato Concassé, and Roasted Tomatoes. They play a major role in the easy-to-make, tasty veal dish below.


Veal with Coarse Fresh Tomatoes*
String Bean Salad
Wine: Columbia Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Dessert: Vanilla Ice Cream & Biscotti


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 ½ cups peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

In a medium skillet heat the olive oil. Sauté the garlic until it just begins to color. Add the tomatoes and the basil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes Set aside till ready to use.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound veal from the shoulder or leg, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled and flattened
Salt and black pepper
1/3 cup white wine, more if needed
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

In a skillet heat the olive oil. Add the veal and sauté over high heat, until it begins to color. Add the garlic, salt and pepper. When the veal begins to brown, remove and set aside. Add the wine, the tomato sauce and oregano. Cook, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency. Season to taste. Add the veal and cook through for another few minutes.

The fresh oregano was a revelation. I think it made the dish. I wrapped the left-over oregano in a damp paper towel and put in the refrigerator. I plan to use it again soon.

*Recipe adapted from Ed Giobbi’s “Pleasures of the Good Earth”

August 20, 2010

A Basque Fish Dinner: Hake & Txakolina Wine

Ever since Eric Asimov mentioned New York sources of Txakolina, the impossible to pronounce, but utterly beguiling Basque white wine, my head has been filled with memories of our trip to San Sebastian. We were seduced by its people, scenery, architecture, food and wine. We had a high-end, intriguing meal at Azrac, a superb lunch at the Guggenheim Museum Restaurant in Bilbao, and several delightful snacks of pinchos at a café around the corner from our hotel. No matter where and what we ate, we drank the local Txakolina. Light, young and refreshing, the wine fitted right in.

When we returned New York, the wine was unavailable in wine stores. Fortunately that has changed and, thanks to Asimov’s information, I hunted down several of them. Question was: “now what?”
I toyed around with idea of giving a pinchos party. But, because of the limited space of our apartment that was totally unrealistic. Then I thought of hake, that delectable, delicate fish we had so enjoyed during our Basque visit.

Hake is not always available. Luckily, I found it at Citarella.* (In a pinch, use scrod.)


Tomato Salad
Lightly Puffed Pan-Fried Hake
Roasted Potatoes
Wine: Xarmant Arabako Txakolina
Dessert: Ice Cream


¾ lb hake cut into 6 portions
1 tablespoon flour
Salt and white pepper
1 egg, white and yolk separated
1 tablespoon olive oil

Season the hake with salt and white pepper; dredge each piece in flour and shake off excess flour. Beat
the egg white until foamy, then whisk in the egg yolk.In a sauté pan, heat the oil. Dip the fillet pieces into
the egg mixture and drop them into the pan. Sauté for 3 minutes per side, less or more depending on the thickness of the fish.

The Txakolina, of course, had us reminisce about our visit to the Basque country. What a delight!

*Citarella ((212) 874-0383
**Adapted form Teresa Barrenechea’s “The Basque Table”

August 16, 2010

A Cuban Supper: Ropa Vieja + Cold Tomato Soup

George grew up in Havana, a country he remembers fondly. Picadillo (Cuban Beef Stew) and Ropa Vieja (Old Clothes) are among his favorite dishes. I think to call Ropa Vieja “Old Clothes” is an insult. It is a highly flavorful dish that can be dressed up or down, depending on individual taste. George advised me on the spicing. There were no complains.

Now that I have taken my food processor down from the upper shelve, I enjoy making cold soups. With tomatoes in season, the chilled tomato soup is a natural. It is so simple to prepare that a child could whip it up.


Chilled Tomato Soup
Ropa Vieja
Black Beans
Wine: Marqués de Cácerres, 2006
Dessert: Fresh Berries

Chilled Tomato Soup

2 large ripe, New Jersey tomatoes, skin removed and cored
2 cups top quality tomato juice, more if needed
Salt and black pepper
Pinch of sugar
Snipped chives for garnish

Purée the tomatoes in a blender, adding tomato juice to thin to a medium thickness. Season the soup with salt, pepper, and sugar. Refrigerate. When ready to serve, spoon the soup into individual bowls. Garnish with chives.

Tip: I freeze some tomato juice in a small ice tray and float three or four frozen cubes on top of the soup.

Ropa Vieja

1 lb. beef flank steak
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons canned tomato paste (more if needed)
½ package Sasón Goya (with Coriander & Annatto)
Generous pinch of smoked sweet paprika
Salt and pepper

Optional: 1 red pepper, skin and seeds removed, cut into strips


Put the meat in a small saucepan. Cover with water. Add several black peppercorns and coriander seeds, 2 bay leaves, 1 cube Knorr chicken bouillon cube. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 ½ hours or until very tender. When cold enough to handle, drain the meat and pull it apart into shreds. (The meat iself tasted so good, I kept on noshing.)


Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onions until translucent. Briefly sauté the garlic. Add all other ingredients, including the meat. Stir-fry until well mixed and heated through. Adjust seasoning.
Serve over a bowl of rice.
Arrange the optional pepper strips over the meat.

August 11, 2010

Bonnard in the Kitchen

Avocado Soup with Shrimp & House Cured Salmon

Pale olive green, blush red, splashes of dark green-- the colors of avocado and shrimp soup; surely, a palette that would have pleased many painters, particularly Pierre Bonnard. What’s even more, the dish isn’t only good enough to eat—it is great. Thanks, Mark Bittman for your recipe.

House-cured salmon was one of our favorite summer appetizers at La Colombe d’Or. It requires no cooking, is made in advance, and is light and refreshing. Extra portions will enhance Cucumber Soup, another summer crowd pleaser. (to follow soon)


Avocado Soup with Shrimp
House-cured Salmon
Light sour Cream
Cucumber Salad
Wine: Prosecco Zardetto Brut

Recipe: Avocado Soup with Shrimp

1 cup chopped, ripe avocado (1 large or 2 small avocados)
¾ cup milk (more if needed)
Salt and cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon lime juice, or to taste
4 large cooked shrimps*
Chopped parsley for garnish

Put chopped avocado in a blender. Gradually add milk, a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper; process to a purée. Add more milk as needed. Chill for up to 6 hours (press a piece of plastic wrap to surface of soup so it does not discolor.)

When ready to serve, add lime juice and adjust seasoning. Serve in individual soup bowls, float the shrimps on top, garnish with parsley.

*Tip on cooking shrimp. Place unshelled shrimps in a sauce pan with cold water to cover. Bring to a light boil. Remove the shrimps when the shells turn red, refresh under cold running water. Peel and serve.

Recipe: House-Cured Salmon

The measurements depend strictly on the thickness of the salmon

2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 ¼ cup Kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 ounces salmon fillet

Coarsely grind the coriander seeds and peppercorns in a food processor. Coat the both sides of the salmon with the ground spice mixture. Put the coated salmon into a Ziploc bag. Combine salt and sugar. Completely cover the salmon with the salt/sugar mixture. Shake the bag to make sure the salt evenly covers the salmon. Refrigerate.

Depending on the thickness of the salmon, the salmon will be cured after 5 to 6 hours. Rinse under cold water; blot dry and brush off any remaining coriander seeds and peppercorns.

When ready to serve, thinly slice the salmon fillets against the grain. Serve with sour cream and cucumber salad on the side.

Enjoy the dinner with Prosecco.

August 8, 2010

Filet of Sole with Almonds

Thinking how to utilize the left over slivered almonds from my previous white garlic soup brought me to this dinner. Filet of sole with almonds was one of our favorite dishes many years ago. I decided to resurrect it. I realized with a shock that, in order to do it right, I had to clarify the butter—something I hadn’t done since the age of butter gave way to olive oil. Clarifying butter, however, is not a big deal. All you have to do is bring the butter to a boil in a small saucepan, let it stand for a few minutes and then skim off the white particles that form on top. It was like a throw back to former cooking days. Will I do soufflés next?


Filet of Sole with Almonds
Green salad with black olives, feta cheese, and grape tomatoes
Wine: Columbia Crest 2009
Sauvignon Blanc
Dessert: Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

Recipe Filet of Sole

2 pieces of sole (about ¾ lb)
Flour for dusting, seasoned with salt & white pepper
About 4 tablespoons clarified butter
¼ cup slivered almonds
Lemon wedges & parsley for garnish

Dust the filets with the seasoned flour. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in sauté pan. Sauté the filets for about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a serving dish. Heat the remaining butter in the pan, add the almonds and cook till golden brown. Pour the almond/butter sauce over the filets. Garnish with lemon wedges and springs of parsley.

The Columbia Crest from Washington State added to our enjoyment of the meal. Wish they would all be like that.

August 4, 2010

Lazy Turkey & Red Pepper Coulis

It’s not the turkey that is lazy, but the cook. Ottomanelli* daily sells a marinated Turkey London Broil. All I had to do is pop it into the oven, put the timer on 30 minutes, and voilà, a tender, perfectly cooked, skinless, boneless turkey breast. It wasn’t a Cordon Bleu masterpiece, but a good contribution to our Sunday evening dinner. At $7.95 a pound, it was a bargain. If you want to be ultra lazy, you can buy Ottomanelli’s fully cooked version every Thursday after 11 AM.

Now that local peppers are plentiful, red pepper coulis is one of my summer staples. Properly stored, it will keep in the refrigerator for about a month. I have never been able to keep the coulis for that length of time because, before I know it, I’ve depleted my stock


Roast Turkey Breast
Red Pepper Coulis**
Wine: Moulin-e-Vent Georges Duboeuf
Dessert: Häagendasz Chocolate Ice Cream

Recipe Red Pepper Coulis

4 red peppers
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Pinch of sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Rub the peppers with olive oil. Bake them in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a metal bowl. Seal with plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the skin and seeds from the peppers. Purée the peppers in a blender, together with the oil. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.

I thought a Beaujolais Village would go well with the meal and had gone to our local wine store to buy a bottle. All their Beaujolais were by Georges Duboeuf of whom I never had a high opinion. Still, I thought this was a bit of snobbism and bought the Moulin-A-Vent. I disliked it thoroughly.

*Chef Frank
Ottomanelli (212) 772-7900
York Ave. & 82nd St.

**The recipe comes from my book, "Life of a Restaurant." It is available at Kitchen Arts & Letters.

August 1, 2010

Ajo Blanco & Morcilla (White Garlic Soup & Spanish Blood Sausage)

Ivory colored, garnished with a circle of green grapes, this soup from southern Spain looks like a bridal bouquet. Don’t be fooled: made with bread, almonds, garlic, olive oil and sherry vinegar, it packs a mighty wallop. You either love it, or hate it. George and I loved it.

Morcilla is a Spanish blood sausage seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon. In general I’m not a great friend of blood sausage, but I liked the morcilla because of its enticing flavor and nice texture. Bought on my previous visit to Despaña Brand Foods all I had to do was heat the sausages in hot water for a few minutes and cut them into bite-sized portions.


Ajo Blanco (White Garlic Soup)*
Sautéed caramelized apple
Wine: Marques de Canceres Rioja 2006
Dessert: Fresh berries

Recipe Ajo Blanco
*adapted from a recipe by Joanna Pruess, food writer and consultant for the specialty food industry.

½ cup stale white bread, soaked in warm water
2/3 cup blanched almonds, more if desired
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup olive oil, more in needed
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Amontillado sherry (optional)
10 white seedless grapes for garnish

Combine the soaked bread, almonds, garlic and a bit of olive oil in a food processor and purée until well blended. Slowly add the remaining oil, vinegar and salt until the mixture is smooth. Add more water and olive oil as needed. Adjust the flavor. Add sherry if desired. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Serve in individual bowls garnished with grapes.

For the caramelized apple I used Granny Smith , cut into slices and sautéed in butter until golden brown. They added a touch of sweetness the sausages.