Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

March 31, 2011

Pasta with Sardines & Capers

Give me a can of sardines and capers and I’d be happy. However, since this doesn’t constitute a dinner, I found one of Mark Bittman’s recipes that combines sardines and capers with pasta and bread crumbs.


Pasta with Sardines and Capers
Arugula, Grape Tomatoes, Black Olive Salad
Wine: Chianti Rufina “Nipozzano” Riserva 2007
Dessert: Biscotti

For The Pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 small onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
6 ounces spaghetti, or similar thin pasta
Grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 can boneless sardines in olive oil
Chopped parsley for garnish

What to Do:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Put 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and cook, until golden brown. Remove. Add the remaining oil and the onion to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until softened.

Meanwhile add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just tender. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking liquid.

Raise the heat under the onions, stir in the lemon zest, capers and sardines and heat through. Add the pasta to the mixture and toss to combine. Add the breadcrumbs and enough of the reserved liquid to moisten well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with parsley.

I would have liked more sardines. George asked for grated Parmesan. That’s life.

March 28, 2011

Our Korean Encounter

“Korean take-out. Interesting,” said George referring to a New York Times piece entitled "Grazing Tour of Koreatown." The idea of Korean food didn’t particularly thrill me but, since I am always ready for a culinary adventure, I headed for Koreatown, an enclave on West 32nd Street in Manhattan. On the way, I passed Artisanal, where George and I had several wonderful meals. I was tempted to buy some their cheeses but, mindful of my Korean mission, I tried to find H-MART, one of the stores listed in the NY Times. Street numbers were sporadic; and signs were in Korean.

By checking the phone number on the marquee of one place which matched that of the Times, I realized that H-Mart, stood for Han Ah Reum, a large Korean supermarket. It took a while till I found some one who spoke English. I showed her the NY Times article and asked her to locate the items marked interesting: pickled vegetables, blood sausage, and whiting pie. All were prepackaged and weighed a ton.

Next I searched for Koryodang, referred to as a “tony café.” Koryodang was tony alright. In fact it was an attractive, super modern establishment, filled with young people. The café specializes in sweet and savory pastries (called dutch) lined up at a long counter. I chose the bacon filled dutch which, according to the Times is so substantial, “it practically oinks.” Weight-wise, it further added to my load.

Preparing my purchases for dinner, I realized they could easily feed a party of six.


Pickled vegetables (Kimchi)
Bacon filled Dutch
Korean blood sausage
Whiting Pie
Wine: Willm Gewürztraminer 2009
Dessert: Bahlsen Choco Leibniz

The pickled vegetables-- carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts, mushrooms, spinach, and fenugreek--were so spicy, my lips puffed up. Far from oinking, the bacon-filled dutch was dry and shy on bacon. The pan-fried whiting, to which the Times referred to as “the fabulous love child of a fishcake and an omelet”, was bland. The most interesting dish was the blood sausage. According to the label, it contained porkomasum, pork blood, sweet rice, soybean, and garlic. Fortunately I detected neither blood nor pork, only the sweet rice encased in a thin, edible casing.

The acidic and slightly sweet Gewürztraminer straddled the meal from the spicy kimchi to the sweet rice.

March 25, 2011

Broiled Garlic Chicken with Cold Potato/Mint Purée

This recipe comes from my The Chicken For Every Occasion cookbook. I hadn’t looked at the book for a while but, once again, I am intriguiged
by some of the recipes of the “Chicken Around the World” chapter. The dish offers an exciting contrast between the sizzling chicken and the cold, smooth purée.


Broiled Garlic Chicken with Potato-and-Mint Purée
Watercress, Grape Tomatoes, and Feta Cheese Salad
Wine: Pascal Granger Juliénas 2008
Dessert: Lindt 85% Cocoa Chocolate

Prep Chicken

2 garlic cloves minced
1/4 cup oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs separated, trimmed)
Salt and pepper
Combine garlic, oil and lemon juice. Pour over he chicken pieces and marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Prep Potato-Mint Purée

2 medium potatoes, cooked and peeled
1/4 cup oil, more if needed
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon lime juice (more if desired)
1 tablespoon fresh mint (more if desired)

Place the oil and garlic in a blender, mix. Add lime juice and potatoes, blend. Add mint and blend until smooth. Season to taste. Cover and store in the refrigerator till ready to use.

Cooking Chicken

Preheat the broiler

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade. Pad dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Place chicken pieces, skin side down, on the broiler rack. Brush with marinade and broil for 15 minutes. Turn, brush again, and broil for another 15 minutes. Test for doneness. Lest rest for several minutes. Serve hot with accompanying cold potato-mint puree, and garnish with thin slices of lemon and lime.

This is the second time that I was impressed by Beaujolais, my least favorite wine. My prejudice against the wine stems mostly from the hoopla around Beaujolais Nouveau and the mass produced wines from the Beaujolais region. Beaujolais from top producers of the 10 Cru Villages—among them Juliénas, Moulin-A-Vent, Fleurie, and Morgan-- are another matter. Light and delicious, the Juliénas was a case in point. As advised, I had opened the bottle three hours before serving to give the wine plenty of time to breathe.

March 22, 2011

One Table, Two Separate Orders: Hanger Steak, Plus

I love hanger steak, also called butcher steak, because it is so flavorful. I also like the fact, that the butcher will often cut the hanger steak into smaller pieces, just right for one or two people.

Anatomically, the hanger steak "hangs" from the diaphragm of the animal. The diaphragm is one muscle, commonly cut into two separate cuts of meat: the hanger steak traditionally considered more flavorful, and the outer skirt steak composed of tougher muscle within the diaphragm. If you like, you can marinate either steak. But I don’t mind a bit of chewyness. In fact, I welcome it.

I know that George wouldn’t dream of eating hangar steak and prepared a small meatloaf for him. No contest here. We both won.


Hanger Steak: HS
Meatloaf: GS
Mashed Potato
Braised Red Cabbage
Wine: Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2007
Dessert: Fruit Salad

Hanger Steak
1 6-ounce hanger steak, about 1 inch thick, trimmed
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
Fresh or dried thyme sprigs to coat the steak
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 shallot thinly sliced
Chopped curly parsley for garnish

Rub the steak with olive oil and coat with the thyme. Season with salt and pepper. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the remaining olive oil until shimmering. Add the meat and pan-fry over moderately high heat until browned and crusty, about 3 minutes per side for rare, 4 minutes for medium rare. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the shallots to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned, about 3 minutes.
To serve: Cut the steak on the bias into thin slices and fan the slices out on a warm dinner plate. Spoon the sautéed shallots on top of the steak, garnish with the parsley.

Braised Red Cabbage*

1 pound red cabbage
2 ounces pancetta, cut into small cubes
1 ½ tablespoon goose or duck fat, or olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
¼ cup red wine
Salt and pepper

Quarter the cabbage, remove the core, and shred fine
Sauté the pancetta in a heavy skillet till slightly crisp.
Pour off the rendered fat. Heat the goose fat or the oil in the same skillet. Add the onion and sauté till translucent. Add the cabbage and the wine. Lower the heat and braise the cabbage, covered, for 45 to 55 minutes, or until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

*You can prepare the red cabbage a day before. A big help, I think.

March 19, 2011

Grilled Salmon with Mustard Glaze

Grilled salmon used to be the number one best-seller on the menu of La Colombe d’Or. At the restaurant we served the salmon with braised red cabbage and carrot curls. Instead, I made caramelized carrots and, since I can only juggle two dishes at a time, I served the salmon with last nights’ left-over black risotto (squid ink).


Grilled Salmon with Mustard Glaze
Caramelized Carrots
Black Risotto
Wine: Bordeaux Blanc Sec “Chateau La Rame” 2009
Dessert: Chocolate Yogurt

Prep Mustard Glaze and Sauce

1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ tablespoons water
1/4 cup Pommery Grain Mustard
2 tablespoon vegetable oil

Mix the dry mustard, sugar and water together to create a paste for the glaze. In a separate bowl, mix the Pommery mustard with the oil emulsion.

Prep Caramelized Carrots

1 bunch fresh carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sherry or wine vinegar

Peel the carrots and cut off their tops. Slice them into small rounds.
In a skillet, warm the olive oil and butter. Add the carrots. Cover and let cook over medium heat until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. When ready to serve, sprinkle the carrots with the sugar. Cook, uncovered, until the carrots have caramelized. Add the vinegar and season with salt.

Cook salmon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brush the salmon with oil. Season with salt and pepper. In a hot skillet, sauté the salmon, skin-side down, for 3 minutes at one side. Remove the salmon and brush the top with the mustard glaze. Transfer the salmon in the preheated oven for 3-4 minutes for medium rare.

Place the salmon in the middle of the plate; surround with the Pommery mustard sauce, the carrots and risotto.

Back in 1994, we suggested to enjoy the dish with white Burgundy such as Chassagne-Montrachet or Puligny-Montrachet. Today, these wines retail for about $120. We were just as happy with our Bordeaux Blanc.

“Excellent dinner,” said George. I wholeheartedly agreed.

March 15, 2011

Missing Mark Bittman: Pasta alla Gricia

I had clipped some of Mark Bittman’s favorite dishes in his exit of the Minimalist column from the pages of the NY Times, among them Pasta alla Gricia. Not having an ounce of Italian blood in my bone, I decided to take the proverbial bull by the horn and-- when in Rome—forged ahead.

Alla Gricia , I learned, is a Roman classic consisting of guanciale, cured pork jowl, which has a unique, intensely piggy flavor, and Pecorino Romano, the hard, tangy grating cheese made from sheep's milk. “With so few components at play, substitutions are not minor,” I further read. “Pancetta and Parmigiano will make a tasty dish, but you cannot call it alla gricia, for the simple reason that their flavors are quite different.”

Thus advised I went to Di Palo’s to get cured pork jowl and, while there, bought various Italian items, among them crucolo, a succulent semi-soft cow’s milk cheese from the Trentino region of Northern Italy. That
cheese, which I served while cooking the pasta, was so good, we overindulged and barely could do justice to the pasta.


Crucolo from Trentino*
Pasta Alla Gricia
Wine: Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva 2007
Dessert: Ricotta Cheese Cake**

Recipe Pasta alla Gricia

• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/4 cup guanciale, sliced into thin strips or wide ribbons
• ½ pound linguine or similar thin pasta
• 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place the guanciale in a cold sauté pan with the olive oil and place over medium heat; the olive oil helps to render the fat evenly and helps transferring the flavor from the pan to the pasta.

Drop the pasta into the water as you slowly sauté the guanciale. The goal is to slowly soften the fat, keeping it translucent; avoid letting it turn brown and crisp, or the pleasure of biting into those soft, juicy, fatty parts will be lost. When the guanciale has softened, add a small splash of water from the pasta pot. Lower the heat, and keep dribbling in a little of pasta cooking water, just enough to keep the guanciale moist.

When the pasta reaches al dente texture, scoop out some of the cooking water and set it aside. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan, then turn up the heat. Toss the pasta, coating it with the guanciale and rendered fat. If needed, add a splash of the reserved pasta cooking water.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the grated Pecorino Romano. Season to taste, toss well and serve on a heated plate.

Although I usually prefer crunchy crispy pancetta, or bacon, I found the taste of guancile most intriguing. George wouldn’t commit himself. He did appreciate the cheese cake.

*Di Palo’s of Little Italy

**Café Ferrara

March 12, 2011

Charcuterie Dinner

I needed a break from cooking and treated us to a predominantly Spanish charcuterie dinner, enhanced with a French Pâté and German potato salad.


Truffle Mousse Pâté*
Serrano Ham**
German potato salad*** with migas
Wine: Muga Reserva 2006 Rioja
Dessert: Fresh pineapple

I have a soft spot for Serrano ham which I first tasted at the Museo del Jamon--the delicatessen/bar in Madrid--before it became legal to import the ham to the U.S. George prefers Prosciutto, finding Serrano ham too salty. I, on the other hand, wouldn’t touch blood sausages with a ten foot pole. Luckily, we came together over the chorizo, beautifully spiced with Pimenton de la Vera, and both agreed that the Truffle Mousse Pâté stole the show. The mousse contained chicken liver, sherry wine, truffles, mushrooms, and Brandy aspic. It was utterly delicious.

The surprise came with the potato salad/migas. In my infatuation with Despaña’s food, I had bought ½ pound of their ready made migas. Once home, I discovered that the migas ingredience had been cut into minuscule size. I couldn’t possibly serve it like that. But, when I tossed it into the German potato salad, the combination turned into a triumph.

The Rioja pulled the meal together nicely.

*Trader Joe's

**Despagna Brands Foods

***Schaller & Weber

March 7, 2011

Corned Beef Hash

I wanted to cook a meal that George would really like and decided on corned beef hash. I had never cooked the dish before. In fact, I thought this was not the kind of dish I would enjoy. Still, I love preparing new dishes and threw myself wholeheartedly into this one. The recipe calls for boiling the potatoes in oil. It seemed odd, but I assumed there was a reason.


Corned Beef Hash
Cole Slaw
Wine: Réserve Perrin Côtes du Rhône
Dessert: Chocolate Yogurt


1 lb. medium-size Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and dried
Vegetable oil to cover (in my case 2 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
¼ lb corned beef (or pastrami), cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper
Opt. 2 poached eggs

Put the potatoes in a pot large enough for a single layer. Cover with the oil. Turn the heat to medium, bring to a simmer, and cook 25 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked. Remove the potatoes and set aside to cool. (The oil can be reused.)

When ready to serve, peel the potatoes and cut into dice. Heat a nonstick skillet to medium high. Heat olive oil, add potatoes and distribute evenly in pan. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes until browned
on both sides. Stir in the butter, shallots, garlic, parsley and corned beef. Cook until the corned beef is heated through and the shallots are soft. Season to taste.

I skipped the poached eggs because it seemed like a protein blow-out. But we agreed the hash could have used the eggs as a binder. George used ketchup instead.

I was sure we would have left-over. But we finished every bit of it.

March 5, 2011

Chicken with Yogurt/Spice Sauce

“I think I need more yogurt in my diet,” said George. We all do and the idea of chicken braised in yogurt appealed to me. I also found a recipe for Rice Pilaf with Almonds and Raisins in Madhur Jaffrery’s “At Home with Madhur Jaffrey”s cookbook and liked the almonds/raisin/rice combination.


Chicken with Yogurt/Spice Sauce
Rice Pilaf with Almonds and Raisins
Baked Spinach
Wine: Les Bosquets Vouvray Sauvion, 2009
Dessert: Afrika Cookies

Recipe Chicken

½ large chicken breast, with skin and bone, cut into four pieces
Flour for dusting
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon clarified butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala (store-bought)
1 cup plain yogurt
Lemon juice if desired
Chopped mint or parsley for garnish

Dust the chicken lightly with flour and season with salt and pepper. Heat a casserole to medium-high, add butter and sauté chicken to brown. Remove the chicken; cover to keep warm.

Raise heat and add olive oil to the casserole. Sauté onions till translucent. Then add the garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Stir in the spices and the yogurt. Lower heat and warm through. Add chicken to the yogurt-spice mixture, cover. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Adjust seasoning. Garnish with chopped mint or parsley.

The chicken dish came out nicely. It was rather spicy, but the yogurt tempered it.

The less said about the rice pilaf, the better. In fact, it was a gummy disaster. Fortunately, I always serve excellent bread with our dinner, so all wasn’t lost. The Vouvray was a delight.