Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

June 22, 2011

Midsummer Night Dinner, June 21

There isn’t an ounce of Scandinavian blood in me, but I love to celebrate midsummer night. I fondly recall a tip to Norway where we visited Oslo
and Bergen and took a catamaran to Stavangar. Stavangar was a lively town, filled with bright-eyed sailors, young amd old people their faces lobster red from too much sun. On our first evening, George and I had a leisurely dinner, went to the movies, spent time in the public library, and strolled over to cathedral square where we watched a group of masked ballet dancers on stilts. It was past midnight and still light.

A few years ago we gave a midsummer night party in Sag Harbor. We asked everybody to come dressed in white. People appeared in anything from wedding gowns to tennis outfits. We served white wine only and, with the exception of salmon, had as many white dishes as possible.

For this year’s midsummer night dinner, I concentrated on herring. To get it all together was far from practical but, then, being sentimenmtal never is. Main thing we enjoyed the evening.


Herring in Sour Cream*
Matjes Herring*
Boiled Potatoes
Salmon Roe,** Blini,*** Sour Cream
Aquavit, O.P Anderson
White Grapes

*Schaller & Weber
** Katagiri
*** Zabar's

June 20, 2011

The Practical Side of Me, Part II

Summer agrees with me. I love the long days; the fact I can go outside without a coat, hat and gloves. I love walking barefoot around the house and, beyond all of this, I love tending to our garden. It helps me function more efficiently, or so it seems. The other day, three dinners popped into my head simultaneously. I bought all ingredients in two stores: chicken breast, pulled pork, and chili at Ottomanelli; the rest (indicated by a*) I had in the house, or bought at Gristede’s.

Dinner # 1

Roasted Chicken with Dijon Sauce
Haricots Verts*
Wine: Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence Rosé, 2010
Dessert: Frozen chocolate yogurt*

Recipe: Roasted Chicken with Dijon Sauce

½ chicken breast, pounded flat, cut in half
salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon white wine
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Chopped chives or parsley for garnish

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a sauté pan. When hot, add chicken, skin side down, and sauté to brown, 5 minutes per side. Depending on the thickness of the chicken breast, you may or may not have to bake it in the oven for additional few minutes.
Meanwhile, add shallots and wine to the pan juices. Raise heat and boil until reduced by half. Add the cream and boil until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Whisk in mustard, and adjust seasoning. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the chopped herbs.

This could have been a great meal: the Dijon sauce tasted great; the haricots verts were excellent; the wine was good. Unfortunately, I had overcooked the chicken. Better luck next time.

Recipe Haricots Verts

1/2 pound of haricots verts, trimmed
2 teaspoons butter
1 shallot, sliced
Salt and pepper

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Parboil haricots verts for 3 minutes. Plunge them into cold water, drain, and pat dry. In a medium sized sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent. Add the haricots verts and cook to desired doneness. (3 minutes if you like them crisp; longer if you like them lightly browned and soft.) Season with salt and pepper.

Even George, a stickler for etiquette, ate the haricots verts with his fingers.

Dinner # Two

Pulled Pork
Dill pickles*
Left-over sauerkraut*
Wine: Bogle Petit Syrah, 2008
Dessert: Fresh pineapple*

I heated the pulled pork and stuffed the meat into two separate rolls, topped with sliced pickles. The asparagus were a bit too elegant for this trencherman’s meal. I had enough left-over for the following meal.

Dinner # Three

Steakhouse Chili
Asparagus Salad*
Wine: Guigal, Côtes du Rhône, 2007
Dessert: Valhora Chocolate*

For sheer value, you can’t beat Ottomanelli’s steakhouse chili. I used to cook a mean chili on New Year’s Day and invited friends over for a five o’clock “help yourself chili and wine.” It simply doesn’t pay to cook chili for two people. Ottomanelli’s medium-sized container serves two. I like to add a bit of sweetness by cooking it with turnips and carrots. I may also add some red wine and serve the dish with grated cheddar cheese. The asparagus, made into a spicy salad, worked well.

Tomorrow’s dinner? If it’s Monday, it’s going to be Sushi of Gari.

June 13, 2011

Four Summer Meals

I had hardly finished my litany about the heat and how I handle our dinners, when the weather changed and turned cool. However since we are only at the beginning of summer, I know there be other dog days ahead, so herewith my solution.

Summer arrived with a vengeance. In fact, we are in the middle of a heat wave. Shopping in this heat is torture and never mind cooking. After a few mishaps I’ve developed a system that seems to work. First of all, I shop early in the morning, preferably before 10 AM. Ideally, I shop for three to four meals. Dishes should either be served cold, or to be made ahead of time. It’s like being back in the restaurant days when everything had to be planned.

Here is my hot weather dinner line up:

Dinner # One

Buttermilk Soup
Poulet Maison*
Wine: Moulin a Vent
Dessert: Chocolate Yogurt

The recipe for the buttermilk soup was given to me by my friend Alice who, in turn, copied if from Dorothy Rodgers' Summer Soup. I had no idea how this dish would come out. To my delight George liked it a lot and, since I did too, I’ll incorporate it into my repertoire.

Recipe Butter Milk Soup

8 medium-sized shrimp, cooked and peeled
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, dissolved in a bit of buttermilk
1 small cucumber, diced
Fair amount of fresh dill, snipped
Pinch of salt and sugar

I reserved 2 of the cooked shrimps for garnish. I diced the remaining ones and mixed them into the buttermilk, together with the rest of the ingredients. I refrigerated the soup and adjusted the seasoning just before serving, placing one shrimp on top of the soup.

*Poulet Maison

For recipe see my blog of April 15, 2010. This was one of our most popular
dishes at La Colombe d’Or. It must be prepared ahead of time and then takes only 10 to 12 minutes to cook.

Dinner # Two

About every second week, we place an order with Fresh Direct: primarily cleaning material, paper goods, Snapple, coffee, and George’s favorite cheese Roquefort, plus some of Terrance Brennans’s frozen dishes.

Terrance Brennan: Fettuccini w/Shrimp, Tomato Confit & Pesto
Spinach with Garlic
Wine: Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Dessert: Grapes

It took 8 minutes to get this meal on the table. Terrence Brennan’s dish looks appetizing and is tasty. The spinach was perfectly cooked. I just added a bit more garlic and oil.

Dinner # Three

Deviled Eggs
Tuna Fish/ Cannellini Salad
Carottes Râpées (carrot salad)
Wine: Rosé Chateau d’Oupia (Minervois) 2009
Dessert: Valrhora Chocolate

Recipe Tuna/Cannellini Salad

The salad is very satisfying, easy to prepare and fool proof.
1 can tuna fish packed in olive oil (I use imported “Genova Tonno”)
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
Pinch of dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and black pepper

Break tuna into coarse pieces. Then mix all ingredients together and serve at room temperature.

Recipe Carottes Râpées
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried cranberries, optional

Grate the carrots in a food processor. In a bowl, combine grated carrots with garlic. In a separate bowl combine the lemon juice with olive oil. Pour over the carrots. Add cranberries if desired. Season with salt.

The salad can be prepared a day ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate. Return to room temperature before serving.

Dinner # 4

Chilled Tomato Soup with Crabmeat and Chives
German style potato salad
Cole slow
Wine: Willm, Pinot Gris, 2008
Dessert: Cantaloupe and Strawberries

Since I attended a meeting, we had dinner later than usual and I wanted everything to be ready the minute I got home. The tomato soup recipe is from my “Life of A Restaurant” cookbook. It is so easy to prepare that a child could whip it up. The wonder is that it tastes as if a professional chef had toiled over it.

I don’t understand why people buy strawberries out of season. They are woody and have zero flavor. The greenmarket is now featuring the season’s first strawberries. They are relatively small, deep red, juicy, and altogether yummy. I don’t even bother to remove the stems.

Recipe Tomato Soup

1 pound ripe plum tomatoes
1 14-ounces can good-quality tomato juice (I use Sacramento)
Salt and black pepper
Pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon crabmeat or surimi
1 teaspoon snipped chives

Core the tomatoes. Purée them in a food processor or blender, adding tomato juice to thin to a medium thick consistency. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Refrigerate to chill. When ready to serve, spoon the soup into individual bowls. Float some crab meat or surimi on top, and garnish with chives.

George’s Favorite Sandwich

I bought all the ingredients at Schaller & Weber, prepared the sandwiches ahead of time, and popped them into the toaster oven to warm up just before serving.

Our 2 Sandwiches

6 ounces low sodium ham, shredded
3 slices cream Havarti cheese, sliced fairly thick
Balsamic vinegar and olive oil, Dijon mustard
Dill pickle, cut into thick slices
2 Kaiser Rolls

I moistened one part of the rolls with the Balsamic vinegar and oil and spread some Dijon mustard on the other side of the rolls. I alternated one layer of cheese and one layer of ham twice. Closed the rolls tightly, cut each in halv, and wrapped in Saran wrap till ready to serve.

June 2, 2011

Italian Sausages meet Provençal Mushrooms

I have been ogling Ottomanelli’s home-made pork sausages for quite
a while and finally tried them.

“Just sauté them in a frying pan,” advised Frank, the butcher.
I did just that, cutting the sausages into small pieces. Easiest thing I ever did and so tasty!


Italian Sweet and Spicy Sausages
Home-Style Roasted Potatoes*
Mushrooms Provençal
Wine: Beaujolais Villages 2009 [Juliénas]
Dessert: Valhora Chocolate

This meal was a triple winner. George loved the potatoes and asked for seconds; I loved the mushrooms; we both liked the sausages.

Mushrooms Provençal

3/4 pounds crimini mushrooms, wiped dry and cut into quarters
¼ cup olive oil, more if needed
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh marjoram, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 teaspoons bread crumbs
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms. Sauté over high heat to brown, about 8 - 10 minutes. Reduce heat. Add garlic, herbs,
and parsley. Continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Lately I have become rather fond of Beaujolais. I just had to learn which ones to buy. Will Helburn at Rosenthal Wine Merchants is a big help, educating me about superior Beaujolais. Served slightly chilled, they are great summer wines.

Skeptic meets great Chocolate

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I don’t like sweets. That is to say with one exception: Valrhona’s “70% Cocoa Baking Bittersweet Chocolate”. I discovered it at Zabar’s nuts and dried fruit department-- a big block of chocolate, wrapped in saran. I don’t know what made me buy it. We tried it that evening after dinner. I couldn’t believe it: this was a great chocolate! It is so dense, I had to use a Parmesan cutter and a mallet to break off some pieces. Once, in your mouth, you have to chew it slowly—a process that helps savor its opulent, rich flavor. In addition, this chocolate goes well with red wine. Now we both are addicted to it.

*For recipe see December 14, 2010 blog

P.S. The dogwood tree is still blooming. Good doggie.