Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

October 28, 2010

A Cheese Blow Out

A chapter in R. W. Apple, Jr.’s recent book “Far Flung and Well Fed” mentioned the Michelin three star rated restaurant La Pyramide, in Vienne. It reminded me of our lunch there, sitting in the garden, finishing a late lunch with St. Marcelline –Fernand Point’s favorite cheese-- accompanied by Condrieu. A confirmed sentimentalist, I tried to simulate that experience and went to Zabar’s in search of St. Marcelline. In addition I bought three more cheeses and was on my way for another cheese dinner. I toyed around with the idea of buying a bottle of Condrieu, but I wasn’t ready to spend $50. Instead I opted for a fruity Alberiño.

The Cheese Plate
Queso Leonora
Pont L‘Êvêque
St. Marcelline


Fresh Green Figs
Pink Lady Apple
Roasted, Unsalted Almonds
Pumpernickel bread
Sour Dough Roll
Wine: Rías Baixas Alberiño, 2009
Dessert: Biscotti

Tangy and robust, the soft-ripened goat cheese Queso Leonora from Leon, Spain was my favorite. The little known Langres was another winner. It is a soft ripened cow cheese from the Champagne region with a nearly sweet and subtle flavor. The cheese is washed with an orange pigment from the Annatto tree and flavored with a local Marc de Champagne

I didn’t have Pont l'Êvêque for a long time, but recalled it as being very creamy and pungent. Sure enough, it was so creamy it practically ran off the cheese board. It also had the pleasant after-kick I remembered.

Oddly enough, the eagerly anticipated the St. Marcelline, was a disappointment. It came in a small plastic crock, was buttery all right, but had little else going for itself. Perhaps the cheese is too young and delicate to travel and best to buy it at the source.

The Rías Baixas Albeirñro ($18.) from the northwest region of Spain in Galicia, was an excellent choice. The wine is made from the Albariño grape which is likened to both Riesling and Viognier. No wonder, I liked it.

October 22, 2010

A Double Winner: Chicken Breasts with Garlic & Parsley/Home-Style Roasted Potatoes

This was a terrific meal. The chicken breasts were succulent, perfectly cooked and nicely flavored. The potato dish was a winner: it required little effort and was so tasty, we could have eaten twice as much. No question, I’ll incorporate it into my cooking repertoire. Both recipes were adapted from Teresa Barrenechea’s The Basque Table.   

Chicken Breasts with Garlic & Parsley
Home-Style Roasted Potatoes
Wine: Springtown, Oregon Pinot Noir 2006
Dessert: TCNY Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Potato Recipe:

1 Yukon Potato, peeled and cut into medium-thick slices
1 red onion, cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & white pepper
Chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Place potatoes, onions, olive oil, salt and pepper into a baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Mix before serving and garnish with chopped parsley.                                                 

Chicken Recipe:

1 boned chicken breast with skin cut in half
Salt and a few dried pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
About 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil

Salt chicken breasts. Mix the parsley, garlic and olive oil in a small bowl. Rub the mixture over the both sides of the chicken. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add the chicken breasts, skin side down and sauté over high heat for 1 minute. Reduce heat and sauté for about 3 more minutes. Turn over, raise the heat and sauté for 2 minutes, reduce the heat, and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes, or until cooked through. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

The only sour grapes, literally, was the wine. It lacked structure and tasted thin. Judging by its ridiculous label, I should have known better. But, the wine salesman assured me this was a fine example of New World Pinot.

October 19, 2010

My Favorite Winter Vegetables

As much as I like summer, come the first nippy days, I’m ready for a change. The most dramatic switch is from salads to vegetables. Luckily, the farmers market on 82nd Street
off York Avenue, offers the freshest, most appealing vegetables. I came home with an armful of tender, young carrots, golden–colored cauliflowers, and baby-sized Brussels sprouts.

To avoid vegetable overkill, I opened two cans of sardines, dribbled some lemon juice over them and served them with hard boiled eggs as an appetizer.

Boneless Portuguese Canned Sardines in Olive Oil
Hard Boiled Eggs
Caramelized Carrots
Baked Cauliflower with Cheese
Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar
Wine: Giesen Sauvignon Blanc 2009

George loved the caramelized carrots because they were nice and sweet. Personally I prefer carrots râpées, but am usually too lazy to grate them.

Caramelized Carrots
1 bunch baby carrots 
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and a pinch of sugar

I peeled the carrots, cut them into 1” sized pieces, and steamed them over boiling water till tender (about 35-40 minutes). When ready to serve, I sautéed the carrots with butter in a hot skillet, added salt and sugar and cooked them until lightly browned.
Cauliflower seems an underestimated vegetable. I like it a lot, particularly cooked this way. 

Baked Cauliflower with Cheese

1small head of cauliflower
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil (more if needed)
Sea salt and black pepper
Grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

I cut the cauliflower into florets and arranged them in a single layer in an oven-proof baking dish. Next, I sprinkled lemon juice over the cauliflower, drizzled the florets with olive oil, and added salt and pepper.  I baked the dish in the preheated oven, uncovered, till cooked through (about 30-35 minutes), and the tops had turned lightly brown. I removed the baking pan from the oven and poured the remaining pan juices over the cauliflower and sprinkled them with a generously portion of finely grated Parmesan.
As a child, I hated Brussels sprouts. The fact that my family assured me that one day I might find a pearl in one of the Brussels sprouts did nothing to alleviate my intense dislike for the dish. Who knows? Maybe they overcooked the Brussels sprouts. Maybe my palate has grown more sophisticated. Anyway, I have totally changed my mind.

Brussels sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar
3/4 pound Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
Salt & pepper

The Brussels sprouts were so small, they didn’t need any trimming. I blanched the sprouts in boiling water for 5 minutes, drained and rinsed them under cold water.

I heated the olive oil in a skillet and sautéed the garlic for a few minutes. Next, I tossed the Brussels sprouts into the skillet and sautéed them for about 8 minutes. (I like them slightly underdone.) Then I poured the Balsamic vinegar over the sprouts. To finish I added the butter, salt and pepper.

October 14, 2010

Veal Birds with Olives

The autumn weather put me in the mood for some serious cooking. After some back and forth, I decided to cook veal birds. Under one name or other--Fleisch Rouladen (meat roulades) in my case, and oiseaux sans tête, (birds without a head) in George’s case—veal birds were part of our respective culinary background.


Veal Birds with Olives
Mashed Potatoes*
Wine: Willm Riesling 2009
Dessert: Fresh Pineapple

Veal birds appear in many different guises. Looking at various recipes I came up with the following composite. The dish takes longer in the telling than in the making, particularly since  I prepared as much as possible in advance.


2 thin large veal scallops, evenly pounded
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 thin slices of boiled ham
2 ¼ pickle, cut lengthwise

I spread the mustard on one side of the veal scallops and topped each scallop with a slice of ham and the pickle. Then I rolled the scallops up and secured the jelly-like role with kitchen twine. I wrapped the birds in aluminum foil and refrigerated.  


2 tablespoons olive oil
4 shallots, peeled and chopped
¾ cup grape tomatoes, cut in halves
2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1/4 cup pitted Picholine olives
Salt, black pepper, and a few flakes of crushed red pepper
Optional: A plash of Madeira

I heated the oil in a skillet, added the shallots, and cooked to color lightly, about 5 minutes. When done, I removed the shallots with a slotted spoon, raised the heat and added the veal birds to the pan, browning them on all sides. 
I returned the sautéed shallots to the skillet, added the tomatoes, and the garlic. I lowered the heat and cooked everything through for 10 minutes. Next, I removed the veal birds, tossed in the olives, raised the heat, added a splash of Madeira, and seasoned to taste.  

I removed the strings from the veal birds and cut George’s portion into small slices. I arranged the slices on a plate and surrounded the meat with the vegetables.  

*Store-bought and warmed in the microwave oven with a generous portion of butter. 

October 8, 2010

Reminiscing over a Bottle of Chateau Haut-Brion 2001

George has been home for 10 days. I planned a simple dinner with pasta and cheese.

“Let’s have the Bordeaux Julien gave us,” said George who hadn’t had a sip of wine since his hospital stay. He was referring to the Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, brought by his brother. I thought it was a brilliant idea.

The Haut Brion was good, but it wasn’t great. I should have opened the bottle two hours ago. But then, who knew?

We had the pasta and enjoyed the Roquefort Société, Goat Gouda and Asiago while reminiscing about the memorable meals we have had on our travels.

“Best fish?” No question. We agreed on Loup de Mère at Tetou in Golfe Juan where we spent two months in a garden apartment across the street from the restaurant. It was only natural that we should become habitués. George opted for the Bouillabaisse at Chez Michel in Marseille—his great love.

“Best chicken?” At L’Ami Louis in Paris where we finished lunch and two bottles of wine at 4 o’clock and appeared that evening, stuffed and tired, at Joël Robuchon where we had made dinner reservations a month ago. The spit-roasted chicken doused in cognac and pistachio nuts by the joke-cracking chef/owner of L’Auberge des Seigneurs in Vence. And the extraordinary, juicy, crisp-skinned Poulette at Michel Bra in Laguiole, an ardenous Schlepp from Montpellier, but worth every kilometer.  .

“Best lunch?” The homemade charcuterie and beef stew at Café Sjiek in Maastrich; in the kitchen at Comme Chez Sois in Brussels; the buffet around the pool at La Mamounia in Marrekesh; in the garden of Le Pigonnet in Aix-en-Provence; and at Azrak in San Sebastian.

Once we hit the memory button, there was no stopping. What about the hors d’oeuvre beneath the Leger ceramics in the courtyard of La Colombe d'Or in St. Paul de Vence after which we named our restaurant in New York? The Bollito Misto at Diana in Bologna. Or dashing to Wheeler’s in London, after the theater, for Dover sole, Stilton and port.

We finished our meal long before we got around to best dinners. We have traveled a lot and eaten at so many places, it would take time to remember them. Besides, why blow it all during one meal? Nothing is more delightful than talking about food while eating.

October 3, 2010

Salmon with Avocado Remoulade

Unlike George, I am not enamored with salmon. To please George, I went to buy it at Agata & Valentina. The lady ahead of me bought King salmon which was $6.00 more than regular salmon.

“Is it worth the difference?” I asked.

“Definitely,” she said. She was right.


Salmon with Avocado Remoulade Sauce
Mashed potatoes (GS)
Salad (HS)
Wine: Giesen Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Dessert: Caramelized Apple Slices


1 ripe avocado, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
About 2 teaspoons green onions, finely chopped
About 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, more if needed
1teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

I put the avocado, lemon juice, onions and parsley in the food processor
and blended it, gradually adding the olive oil, and seasoned the mixture with mustard, salt and pepper. I stored the sauce in a bowl, covered it with seran wrap and kept it in a cool place till ready to use.


¾ lb King salmon fillet, cut into two portions
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Lemon wedges for garnish

I seasoned the salmon with salt and pepper and sautéed the fish, skin
side down, for about 3 minutes per side. I plated the salmon and
served it alongside the avocado sauce.

The look of the pale green remoulade and the glistening pink salmon
alone made me root for this dish. More important, this salmon was succulent and infinitely flavorful. George awarded the avocado sauce
two stars.

October 1, 2010

Thinking Soft

Meatloaf in Spring Rolls Skin

George’s appetite is improving. His only diet restriction is that the food must be soft. I tried to come up with a tasty and interesting meal. I made a meatloaf and folded it into delicate spring rolls skins. To appease my preference for crunchy food, I made a big salad.


Meatloaf in Spring Rolls Skin
Pureed green peas
Wine: Giesen Sauvignon Blanc, 2009
Dessert: Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Ice Cream

Recipe: Meatloaf in spring rolls

¾ lb ground round
Bread soaked in beef broth
A chunk of soft liverwurst
Ketchup, salt, pepper Tabasco sauce, soy sauce
4 spring rolls skins

I separated the seasoned meatloaf into two separate loafs. Since I didn’t want any crust, I brushed the meat loafs with soy sauce and baked them in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Next, I soaked the spring rolls skins in warm water to soften, placed slices of meatloaf on top of each and rolled them up. To finish, I sautéed the filled spring rolls briefly in butter.

“Tastes terrific,” said George.

I knew we were on our way and treated myself to two glasses of Giesen Sauvignon Blanc.