Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

December 30, 2010

Squid Ink Risotto

When I saw a packet of squid ink at the checkout counter of Agata & Valentina, I couldn’t resist. Once home, I didn’t know what to do with it. Meanwhile I was busy with Christmas happenings. The squid ink, however, gave me no peace. I studied several recipes before embarking on a composite. Just in case the risotto wouldn’t come out, I included my tried and true Shrimp with Garlic and Parsley dish.

I didn’t have to worry. “Excellent,” said George. I agreed. The shrimps played second fiddle.

Squid Ink Risotto
Shrimps with Garlic and Parsley
Mixed Salad
Wine: Urbano Torrontès
Dessert: Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

Recipe: Squid Ink Risotto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup of arborio or carnaroli rice
1 tablespoon white wine
2 ¼ cups chicken stock, heated
1 packet squid ink
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes, coating the grains with the oil. Add the wine and enough chicken stock to cover the rice. Stir until the rice absorbs the liquid. Repeat, add a ladle of stock at a time, allow it to be absorbed until all stock is used. Cooking time will be about 18-20 minutes. Once the risotto is cooked add the squid ink, stir well, then add the Parmesan and season with salt.

To add a splash of color to the nearly black risotto, I topped the individual portions with red piquillo pepper strips. Not very Italian, but attractive. The Argentinean white wine is a recent discovery. Young and lively, it is very food friendly.

December 26, 2010

Perfect Weather for Duck

I thought hard about our Christmas dinnerand considered ham, rabbit and venison and--for one brief moment—goose before I hit on duck. Question was roast duck or duck breast? The fact that I don’t have the proper tool to carve a bird took care of that.

The next question was the wine. We had a bottle of Château de Beaucastel sitting in our closet. (Not the best storage place). The Wine spectator awarded 96 point to the 2005 vintage with the caveat: “Best from 2011 through 2030.” Since 2011 is just around the corner, I decided “now.” I opened the bottle three hours before serving and hoped for the best.


Duck Breast
Red Cabbage
Caramelized Apple
Wine: Château de Beaucastel 2005 Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Dessert: Chocolate Yogurt; Chocolate Lebkuchen

Because cooked cabbage improves with age I prepared it a day in advance which was a blessing since it enabled me to concentrate on the duck. Ironically, the recipe calls for duck fat which I only produced once the duck was fully cooked. Luckily I had my tried-and-true goose fat in the refrigerator.

Recipe Red Cabbage

2 tablespoons rendered goose or duck fat
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1 small red cabbage, shredded
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
Bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, four cloves, coriander and pepper seeds
tied in cheesecloth)
Salt and pepper
Water as needed
Opt. 1 tablespoon Madeira

Heat the fat in a large skillet, add the onion and cook till soft. Add the cabbage. Cook for about 15 minutes to soften somewhat, then add the apple, salt and pepper and the Bouquet garni. Mix well. Cook, covered, over low flame for about 45 minutes, adding some water if needed. When ready to serve, reheat, adjust seasoning and add the Madeira.

Recipe Duck Breast

1 Duck breast, boneless, cut in half
Salt and Pepper

With a sharp knife, score the skin sides of the breast in a diamond pattern. (This helps to render the duck fat and produces a crisp skin.) Pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Sauté the duck breasts, skin side down, in a Teflon coated pan over medium heat. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until all the fat has been rendered, removing the fat as you go. (Save the fat)
Turn the breasts over and sauté for another 10 to 15 minutes. The duck will be medium rare. The skin side will be fairly crisp. If not, sauté over high heat for another few minutes.
Let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Arrange fan-like on individual plates.

P.S. The Château de Beaucastel was a winner. Can’t even imagine how much better it would be 10 or 15 years hence.

December 19, 2010

Gilding the Lily; Formidable Brussels Sprouts & Eating Memory

In some way or other, left over food items inspire the best of meals. Here I was with a package of frozen Porcini Tortellini, a pair of sweet Italian sausage, two slices of thickly cut bacon, and a recently arrived package from Germany with Nürnberger Lebkuchen.*

Any one who follows my blog knows that I don’t like sweets. So why am I suddenly salivating over chocolate covered gingerbread cookies? It's a case of eating memory. The Lebkuchen recall going shopping with Father at the Christmas market in Osterburg, Germany, buying Nürnberger Lebkuchen, the traditional Christmas cookies, baked in Nürenberg for hundred of years. Around Christmas a friend sends me a package with Nürnberger Lebkuchen: Chocolate Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Almond Lebkuchen, Lebkuchen-Sterne (stars), Chocolate Lebkuchen-Herzen (hearts), Honigplätzchen, and Spekukulatius. I select one after dinner, relishing every bite.


Porcini Tortellini with Sweet Peas and Italian Sausage
Bacon-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Wine: Cantina Zaccagnini 2006
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Dessert: Chocolate Lebkuchen

The Tortellini dish all but cooked itself. I cooked the pasta as directed, sautéed the sausages, cut them into small pieces, and tossed them into the cooked pasta. To add color, I added precooked, small peas.

For years I ignored Brussels sprouts, thinking it a boring vegetable. Of course, it wasn’t the vegetable that was boring, but that I didn’t know what to do with them. I have since cooked Brussels sprouts in various ways. Preparing them with bacon is the best. (With an apology to my Kosher daughter-in-law.)

Recipe: Brussels sprouts

½ pound small, fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices thick bacon, cut into thin strips
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper
¼ cup chicken stock

Parboil the Brussels sprouts in boiling water for 5 minutes, plunge them into cold water, drain and set aside. Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the bacon until crisp. Toss in the garlic and sauté until golden. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the stock and raise the heat. Let simmer until it reduces just enough to coat the Brussels sprouts.


December 16, 2010

The Perfect Winter Dish: Boeuf Bourguignon

With temperatures in the 20’s it was bound to happen: I cooked Boeuf Bourguignon. Not Julia Child’s full-fledged version, but a satisfying imitation stimulated by Ginette Mathiot’s “I Know How To Cook.” Cooking  stew is all about mis en place, which means having all the ingredients lined up and using them as directed.  After the initial chopping, sautéing and browning, you are home free. All you have to do is check the pot once in a while and let the stew to do its thing.


Boeuf Bourguinon
Wine: Delas Côtes du Ventoux 2008
Dessert: Grapes

Since stew tastes even better the second or third day, I cooked enough for two meals.

Recipe: Boeuf Bourguignon
1 tablespoon oil
3 shallots, chopped
4 slices of thick-cut bacon, diced
1½ pounds boneless flanken, cut into small cubes
Up to ¼ cup flour
1 1/4 cup chicken stock, more if needed
1 1/4 cup red wine, more if needed
1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 sprigs parsley,
small bark of cinnamon tied in cheesecloth)
1 orange peel
salt and pepper
½ package frozen white pearl onion
½ pound small porcini mushrooms
Chopped parsley for garnish

Day 1

1. In a heavy pan, heat oil. Add shallots and bacon and cook until browned. Remove and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.
2. Add the meat and brown on all sides (work in batches as needed)
Sprinkled browned meat with flour, stir well.
3. Add the stock and mix well; then add the reserved bacon and onion, the wine, bouquet garni and orange peel. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Cover and let simmer for 2 hours
5. Let cool. Remove the bouquet garni and orange peel and refrigerate

Day 2

1. Skim the fat from the stew and bring to a simmer
2. Sauté the mushrooms in oil to brown and mix into the stew.
3. Cook to pearl onions in the microwave for 4 minutes; sauté to lightly brown and incorporate into the stew.
4. Continue to cook for 30 minutes. (Add more stock and wine as needed.)
5. Season to taste.
6. Garnish with parsley

Tastes even better on Day 3—an ample reward for a labor of love.

December 14, 2010

Baked Salmon Vinaigrette with Home-Style Roasted Potatoes

I was intrigued by Teresa Barrenechea’s recipe that called for salmon vinaigrette. Since George loves salmon in any shape or form, I went for it. I had previously made the home-style roasted potatoes (see the blog of October 22nd) and liked the result. Since the salmon dish only requires 7 minutes and the potatoes need 30 minutes, I roasted the potatoes first and kept them covered to stay warm.


Baked Salmon with Vinaigrette
Home-style Roasted Potatoes
Green Salad
Wine: Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie Corbières Blanc 2009
Dessert: Lindt 80% chocolate

Potato Recipe:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees

1 Yukon Potato, peeled and cut into medium-thick slices
1 red onion, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & pepper
Opt. chopped parsley for garnish

Cover bottom of baking pan with some of the olive oil. 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.

Recipe Salmon

½ pound salmon fillet
1 small tomato, diced
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Sprinkle salmon with salt. Place on the baking sheet. Combine the tomatoes, scallions, oil, and vinegar. Spoon the mixture over the salmon and bake for 5 -7 minutes (for rare); 10 minutes for medium rare.

The roasted potatoes stole the show. George called the dish “exceptional,” and I agreed. Perhaps the extra resting time intensified their flavor.

Of late I’ve asked Will Helburn of Rosenthal Wine* for wine recommendations. Will suggested a white Corbières. On the first sip, the wine seemed much too buttery. As it turned out, it was the perfect match for the fatty salmon.

*Will Helburn/Rosenthal Wine Merchant
318 East 84 Street (212) 249-6650

December 11, 2010

The Inspirations of my Favorite Cookbooks

The New York Time’s recent list of newly published noteworthy cookbooks, made me recall the cookbooks that influenced me in the past, the ones I continue to enjoy, and those that are new discoveries.

The first book I read about food was M.F.K Fischer’s The Art of Eating. Fischer’s writing style bewitched me; her down-to-earth observations enchanted me; her love for food and wine and people kindled a like-wise desire. Recently married with a young child, staying at home no longer seemed boring. I started to cook.

My muse, of course, was Julia Child. Her television show became as important as going to the movies or to the opera. Her “Chicken Broiled with Mustard, Herbs, and Bread Crumbs” was my first triumph. It launched me on an upward spiral gastronomic adventure that endured for years. I could produce a salmon soufflé at the drop of a hat and thought nothing of preparing "Breast of Chicken in Chaud-froid". Gourmet Magazine became my Bible.

After a trip to Morocco, Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco taught me how to make tagines and preserved lemon. Cooking lessons with Giuliano Bugialli let to The Fine Art of Italian Cooking

Among the 600 odd cookbooks I have in my library, the ones I cherish now include Patricia Wells’
Simply French in which she presents the cuisine of Joël Robuchon. I particularly appreciate her trucs
such as:
                   “Unsalted water will come to a boil father than salted water,
                     so when cooking pasta in boiling water, it is most practical
                     to salt just before adding the ingredient. Make his a habit
                     and you’ll avoid the common problem of trying to remember
                     whether or not you salted in the beginning.”

Jane Grigson’s straightforward Fish Cookery continues to be an important source. Ed Giobbi’s Italian Family Cooking remains a favorite especially for his vegetable recipes. Louis Szathmáry’s The Chef’s
Secret Cook Book, gives valuable tips.

Teresa Barrenechea’s The Basque Table offers such a wealth of good recipes, it will take some time to incorporate them into my repertoire. The success I had with “Lightly Puffed Pan-fried Hake” and “Home-Style Roasted Potatoes” alone endear the book to me. Madhur Jaffrey’s At Home with Madhur Jaffrey helped me to overcome my fear of Indian spices. “Spicy Shrimp Stir-Fry”, the first recipe I followed,
proved successful. I’m moving on.

Since I usually prepare small quantities, I don’t bother with the oven and bake or broil in the toaster oven.
I don’t follow recipes slavishly, and seldom measure. I welcome recipes that stimulate me to prepare dishes
I didn’t know before. They add zest to our dinners.

December 4, 2010

Lamb Burger with a Twist

After all those fish and fowl dinners, I longed for unadulterated red meat. Medium-rare lamb burger was the perfect choice. I always buy freshly ground meat in the late afternoon. This way, the meat retains its moisture and red color. Instead of serving the burgers on a bun, I used English muffins, lightly toasted, spread with butter.

To stay in the Indian mode, I followed Madhjur Jaffrey’s recipe for Potato Chaat. The advantage of this dish is threefold: it tastes terrific, goes well with lamb, and has to be made in advance. 


Lamb Burger
Cole Slaw
Potato Chaat
Wine: Crozes- Hermitage Michel Poinard 2007
Dessert: Chocolate Frozen Yoghurt

Recipe Potato Chaat

½ pound red potatoes, boiled, allowed to cool, and peeled (do not refrigerate)
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Cayenne pepper
Cumin seeds, roasted and ground
Lemon juice
Opt. Cilantro, chopped

Cut the peeled potatoes into thin slices. Put into a bowl together with the rest of the ingredients and mix well. (Start with small amounts of spices and adjust accordingly). Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Crozes Hermitage, a lesser cousin of the noble Hermitage, added to the enjoyment of this multi ethnic meal.

December 1, 2010

Gone Indian: Spicy Shrimp

George and I love Indian food. Unfortunately, the Indian restaurant in our neighborhood doesn’t measure up to expectations. Although I had vowed not to buy another cookbook, I succumbed to Madhur Jaffrey’s latest opus “At Home with Madhur Jaffrey”. Jaffrey delivers her promise to simplify the use of Indian spices which, to a novice, can be mind blowing. I went to Kalustyan*, the Indian spice mecca on Lexington Ave., and replenished my Indian staples of ground coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper, with  cardamom seeds, cinnamon sticks, and ground turmeric which, according to Jaffrey, together form the cornerstone of Indian cooking.


Spicy Shrimp
Steamed Rice
Roasted Grape Tomatoes
Wine: Dr. Konstantine Frank, Gewürztraminer, 2007
New York Finger Lakes
Dessert: Fruit Salad

Shrimp Recipe

3/4 pound medium-sized shrimp with shell
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice

I shelled the shrimps, covered the shells with water, brought it to a boil and the let it simmer for 10 minutes. I strained the liquid. Once cooled, I poured it in a mini ice tray and put into the freezer. (This is a good beginning to assemble fish stock.) Next. I patted the shelled shrimps dry and placed them in a bowl together with the turmeric, cayenne, coriander, cumin and salt.

I heated the oil in a sauté pan, added the garlic and let it soften. Then I added the shrimp, lowered the heat and cooked the shrimp until they turned opaque and slightly red, about 3 to 4 minutes. I removed the pan, added the lemon juice and tossed to mix. I placed the shrimps in the center of the plate, and arranged the rice around them.

Since the shrimp dish was my first attempt at Indian cooking, I didn’t make any of the suggested rice dishes, figuring I would be too occupied with the shrimps. As it turned out, I didn’t have to worry. The dish was easy to make and had that intriguing Indian flavor. I’ll definitely venture on.