Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

January 30, 2011

Baked Red Snapper with Piquillo Pepper Vinaigrette

My love for red snapper continues. This time I garnished the fish with another favorite of mine: piquillo peppers. The Spanish peppers are roasted over embers, which gives them a distinct sweet, spicy flavor. They are peeled and de-seeded by hand, before being packed into jars or tins. Stuffed with goat cheese, shrimp, or left-over rice, they make terrific appetizers. I like to toss them into green salad.

Red Snapper with Piquillo Pepper Vinaigrette
Baked Spinach
Wine: Martin Códax Albariño Rías Baixas 2009
Dessert: 85% Lindt Dark Chocolate

Baked Spinach Recipe

Preheat the toaster oven to 400 degrees

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound spinach, well washed
Salt,pepper and a touch of sugar to taste

Pour olive oil in an ovenproof casserole. Add rest of the ingredients, cover with aluminum foil, and place in the oven. Spinach will be ready in 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and keep covered, till ready to use.

Piquillo Peppers Vinaigrette Recipe

3 scallions, chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 tomato, diced
1 teaspoon drained, small capers
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
4 whole canned Piquillo peppers, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a small sauce pan to medium-high. Add the scallions, onions, and garlic. Cook through till wilted. Mix in the remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Remove the sauce from the heat, cover to keep it warm.

Red Snapper Recipe

¾ lbs red snapper fillet, with skin, cut in half

Preheat toaster oven to 450 degrees

Season the fillets with salt, and place, skin-side down, on a baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the fillets are opaque and just beginning to flake.

Put a fillet on each plate. Spoon the warm vinaigrette over each fillet.

January 28, 2011

Mark Bittman’s Spaghetti with Fried Eggs, lightly tweaked

Bless Mark Bittman for choosing a blizzard for his farewell selection of his 25 favorite recipes. I didn’t have to brave the elements to put supper on the table: Spaghetti with Fried Eggs. What could be simpler?

For the salad I assembled whatever I had in the house: some left over greens, Piquillo peppers, defrosted corn kernels, half a can of baby peas, and a bit of feta cheese.

Spaghetti with Fried Eggs
Mixed Salad
Wine: Saint-Esprit 2008 Côtes du Rhône, Delas
Dessert: Frozen Chocolate Yogurt

Spaghetti Recipe

½ pound spaghetti
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 eggs
Salt, pepper and freshly grated Parmesan

• Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Start cooking the pasta when the water boils. Combine the garlic and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic, pressing it into the oil to release its flavor; it should barely color on both sides. Remove the garlic, and add the remaining oil.
• Fry the eggs in the oil, until the whites are just about set and the yolks still quite runny. Drain the pasta, and season to taste. Top with the eggs. (The yolks will finish cooking in the heat of the pasta.)

“Boring,” said George.

I rather liked it; particularly breaking up the eggs. It was a fun thing to do, reminding me of college days.

January 25, 2011

Spicy Indian Chicken Meets Soothing Lima Bean Purée

The recipe for Chicken Karhai is based on Madhur Jaffrey’s recent cookbook At Home with Madhur Jaffrey. Karhai refers to a wok, the cooking utensil believed to have originated in India.


Chicken Karhai
Lima Bean Purée
Wine: Bogle, Pinot Noir 2008
Dessert: Valrhona Guanaja 70% Cocoa Chocolate

Chicken Karhai Marinade

4 small chicken thighs, boned and skinned,
cut into bite-sized portions
2 tablespoons Canola oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Small amounts of ground cumin, coriander seeds, cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Combine all of the above ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

Cooking Chicken

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
Freshly chopped mint

When ready to cook, pour the canola oil into a wok, or large frying pan and set over medium high heat. When hot, add the onions and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add the chicken and the marinade. Stir-fry for 4-5 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are cooked. Fold in the chopped mint.

Lima bean purée is an ideal winter dish. It’s easy to prepare, tastes great and looks attractive. Properly stored, it will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days; in the freezer for 3 months.

Lima Bean Purée

1 package frozen lima beans
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons olive oil, more if needed
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Sprigs of dried or fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper

Cook the frozen lima beans as directed, reserve some of the liquid. Purée the lima beans with the butter in a food processor. Gradually add the oil and vinegar, and as much of the reserved liquid as needed to form a medium-thick purée. Blend in the chopped parsley and the rosemary. Season with salt and pepper.

January 22, 2011

Scallops with Braised Endive and Broccoli Rape

Surely, scallops are among cook’s best friend. You barely have to wash them; in a pinch, you can eat them raw. To cook them takes all but 2 minutes per side. They all but beg to be accompanied by vegetables with pronounced tastes. Broccoli rape, that slightly bitter, macho green and the slightly off-beat Belgian endive fill the bill.

The broccoli rape can be prepared ahead of time, which is a blessing since the endives require supervision and the scallops are cooked à la minute.


Scallops with Endives & Broccoli Rape
Wine: Domaine Jean-Paul Balland, Sancerre 2009
Dessert: Chocolate Yogurt

Broccoli Rape

1 bunch broccoli rape
2 tablespoons olive
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes

Remove the tough stems from the rape. Cut the smaller leaves into 2-inch pieces, leaving the buds intact. Drop the rape into salted boiling water. When the water beings to boil again, drain immediately, saving ¼ cup of liquid.
Place the rape into a saucepan with the oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Cook 10-15 minutes or until tender. Add some of the reserved liquid if the rape becomes too dry.


2 small endives
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Madeira (or sweet Vermouth)

Remove dark leaves from the endive. Trim the ends. Cut the endive in half; core the inside. Heat the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the sugar, Madeira and salt. Add the endives. Cover loosely with wax paper. Braise over medium heat, until soft and slightly brown, about 15-20 minutes, turning once.


6 scallops
1 tablespoon butter

Pat the scallops dry. Salt lightly. Heat butter in pan over high heat. Add scallops. Cook for 2 minutes per side.


Place the braised endive in the center of individual plates. Surround with the broccoli rape. Arrange the scallops around the broccoli.

January 17, 2011

My Version of Choucroute Garni

Preparing my version of choucroute garni, I remember the ones I ate on my several visits to Alsace: the mountain of pale choucroute, three different kinds of sausages, gigantic pig’s knuckle, cured slab bacon, plus boiled potatoes--enough to feed the Light Brigade. I briefly considered adding the two Italian sausages sitting in the refrigerator to my version, but decided against it. Who eats like that now?

Instead I concentrated on elevating the ready made sauerkraut from Schaller & Weber to something more akin to the noble Alsatian kraut. I warmed up some duck fat, added white wine and a few twists of ground juniper berries. When the mixture had cooked through, I turned off the heat and seasoned the sauerkraut with salt and sugar.


Baked Pork Chops with Vegetables
Boiled potatoes
Wine: Willm Rieseling 2008
Desert: Grapes

Prep Vegetables

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
Salt, pepper, pepper flakes, sugar

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Sauté green pepper, then add onion. Reduce heat and continue to cook. Add tomatoes. Cook vegetables for about 20 minutes until soft. Season the vegetables with salt, black pepper, pepper flakes and sugar. Set aside till ready to use.

Recipe Baked Pork Chops

2 pork chops, trimmed and patted dry
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Reheat the cooked vegetables.
Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add pork chops and sauté until lightly browned. Transfer pork chops to a casserole. Spoon the vegetables over the chops and bake, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the chops are cooked through.

George’s verdict: “tough and tasty.” Fact was I’d overcooked the chops by a few minutes. The sauerkraut tasted terrific.

January 14, 2011

Ode to Red Snapper

Red snapper would win first prize by looks alone. Slightly curved, with a flattened belly and pointed nose, the fish looks elegant. The scales run from silver pink to deep rose red. But, it is red snapper’s slightly sweet and delicate taste that has me fall in love with this fish. The less done to it, the better. A whole snapper weighs from 2 to 3 pounds. Luckily, most fishmongers sell fillets. To cook these well—and this applies to all fish—depends more on look and touch than on timing, depending on the texture and thickness of the fish.


Baked Red Snapper with Fried Parsley
Mashed Potatoes
Wine: Willm Pinot Gris 2008
Dessert: Lemon Bread Pudding

Recipe Red Snapper

¾ pound red snapper fillet, cut into two portions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
Several hot red pepper flakes
About 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
Opt. Fried Parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Lay the filet, skin-side down, on an oiled baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the fish is opaque throughout.
In a small sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it is wilted. Add the pepper flakes and vinegar. Cook,
stirring, until the sauce is blended.
Spoon sauce over and the fillets and garnish with the fried parsley.

Recipe Fried Parsley

1 bunch curly parsley, washed and dried, coarse stems removed
Vegetable oil for frying

Heat the oil in a deep fryer or wok over medium-high heat. Add the parsley and hold it in the oil till crisp. Remove with a skimmer and drain on paper towers. Sprinkle with a bit of salt.

January 9, 2011

Perfect Cold Weather Dinner: Flemish Beef Stew

When I learned that one rabbit costs 40 dollars, I dropped my intention of cooking rabbit, notwithstanding that this is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit. Instead I decided on the mundane, but affordable, Flemish stew. Ideally the stew should be cooked with Belgian beer. However, any slightly bitter beer will do. It’s the use of spice cookie and cider vinegar that gives the stew its authentic Flemish flavor.

Like most stews, the dish is best made in advance since it improves with age. For once, I doubled the portion and froze half of it for future use.


Flemish Beef Stew
Roasted Cauliflower Salad
Beer: Sapporo
Wine: Côtes du Ventoux-Delas 2007
Dessert: Lemon Bread Pudding

Recipe Flemish Beef Stew

2 pounds chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
Flour to coat
3 tablespoons butter, more if needed
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 large or 2 small bottles beer
Bouquet garni (thyme and bay leaves tied in cheesecloth)
Orange zest
Ginger bread cookie or brown sugar to taste
Cider or red vinegar to taste

Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper and dredge with the flour. Shake off any excess. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large heavy skillet over high heat and add the beef cubes until browned on all sides. Work in batches so as not to crowd the beef cubes, add more butter if necessary.

Transfer the beef cubes to a heavy Dutch oven. Put the remaining butter into the skillet; add the onions and stir, until lightly brown. Combine the onions with the meat. Deglaze the pan with some beer.

Pour the deglazed scraps over the meat. Add the bouquet garni and the orange zest. Raise the heat and add most of the remaining beer. Cover, and let simmer over low heat for 2 hours or more, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid as needed. Remove the bouquet garni and the orange zest.

When ready to serve reheat the stew. Add the sweet and sour ingredients. Season to taste.

The recipe for roasted cauliflower by Melissa Clark appeared in the New York Times. George and I liked the dish so well, we finished all of it.

Recipe Cauliflower Salad

1 small head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
1/3 cup olive oil, more if needed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 bunch watercress, washed and dried, large stems removed
About ½ cup grated Gruyère or similar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Cover the bottom of an oven-proof glass dish with oil and place the cauliflower in a single layer into the dish. Season with salt and pepper, mix, rearrange, and brush with additional oil. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, turning once to brown evenly.

Meanwhile, mix together the vinegar, salt, pepper, and remaining oil. Pour over the watercress. Combine cauliflower and watercress salad in a bowl. Toss well and sprinkle with grated cheese.

January 4, 2011

A Hunter's Breakfast: Our Favorite New Year's Day Dinner; Migas

My introduction to migas occurred at a hunting lodge in La Mancha country, a few hours drive from Madrid. We sat at two refectory tables in the dining hall, surrounded by moose, boar and caribou heads, and assorted stuffed birds and antlers of every size and shape.

The breakfast, served by white-gloved butlers, consisted of one dish: migas. Migas, my host explained, is a peasant dish made with bread, olive oil, peppers, and ham. Nourishing and easy to digest, it has become the traditional prologue to a Spanish hunt.

Since I don’t hunt and the dish is too copious for breakfast, I usually serve it at an early dinner on New Year’s Day.


Wine: Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza 2005
Conde de Valdemar
Dessert: Flan

Recipe Migas

½-1 loaf stale white bread
¼ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika de la Vera
Salt and black pepper
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
¼ pound Serrano ham, cut into small pieces
(Prosciutto, speck or bacon work equally well.)

Remove crust from bread and cut into bite-sized portions. Sprinkle with water to dampen and wrap in a towel. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, stir in the spices, add the
bread, salt and pepper. Mix well. Lower heat and cook bread slowly till crisp, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a separate skillet. Add onions, minced garlic and green peppers, lower heat and cook to wilt, about 15 minutes. Add Serrano ham and cook through. Fold mixture into
the bread pieces. Season to taste.

Place the dish into a bowl. Serve family style.

Beware: Tasting the sautéed, seasoned bread, I liked it so much, I couldn’t keep noshing to the point I could have skipped the trimming.

January 2, 2011

Reflection on 2010

From my File Marked “2010 Delicious” with a Nod to Sam Sifton of the New York Times.

I cooked a lot of meals. These are ten dishes we particularly enjoyed (not necessarily in that order:

Chicken Braised in Beer with Belgian Endives (Nov. 1)
Salmon with Avocado Remoulade (October 3)
Mussels 201 (April 12)
Chicken Breast with Garlic & Parsley/Home Style Roasted Potatoes
(Oct. 22)
Filet of Sole with Almonds (August 8)
Roasted Halibut with Lemon & Rosemary (May 19)
Ginger Friend Rice (July 21)
Poached Chicken Roulade (June 9)
Steak Tartar (May 11)
A Basque Dinner: Hake (August 20)

My New Year’s resolutions? I plan to cook more risotto now that I got the hang of it; try a rabbit dish, concentrate on legumes, become more familiar with Argentinean wines, and otherwise keep an open mind.