Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

July 31, 2011

A Belgian Dinner

After experiencing a lull in my cooking endeavors, I finally snapped out of it and went full speed ahead with an all out Belgian dinner.

Separately or together, George and I must have visited Belgium at least twenty times. Before opening Café de Bruxelles in New York, we stayed a month in Brussels to do research, buy Belgian lace curtains and other decorative items. Naturally, our dinner tonight was accompanied by recollections of good times spent in Belgium, now sadly divided into Flanders and Wallonia.

I apologize for serving a Portuguese wine instead of a Belgian beer. No excuses. The Vinho Verde is my latest discovery. It is the perfect summer wine that pairs well with this light meal.

Preparing the meal looks more formidable than it is. Most of the prep can be done ahead of time. In fact, the shallot-parsley vinaigrette can be done a few days in advance.


Salade d’Ardennes (Salad from the Ardennes)
Scallops on a Bed of Belgian Endives
Wine: Vera Vinho Verde, 2010, Portugal
Dessert: Grapes

Prep: Shallot-Parsley Vinaigrette
(make 2 cups)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 egg
1 ½ cup vegetable oil
1 medium sized shallot (about 1/3 cup), minced
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Place the mustard, vinegar and the egg in a blender. With the engine running, add the oil until it is incorporated. Add the shallots, parsley, salt and pepper. Refrigerate till ready to use. (Will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks)

Authentic Salade d’Ardennes contains the region’s famous smoked and air-dried, jambon d’Ardennes. Prosciutto or Serrano hams are good substitutes.

Recipe Salade

1 small head of red leaf lettuce, washed and dried
Some frisée or escarole
6 grape tomatoes, halved
2 oz. Prosciutto, cut into ¼-inch strips
½ cup shallot-parsley vinaigrette
Opt. home-made croutons

Combine the salad greens in a salad bowl with the tomatoes and Prosciutto. When ready to use, incorporate the shallot-parsley vinaigrette.

I keep forgetting how delicious braised Belgian endives are. It takes only a few minutes to cook them. In this instance, they are the perfect accompaniment to the tender scallops.

Recipe Scallops

3 endives, cored and sliced lengthwise into ½ inch long strips
1 tablespoon sugar
½ tablespoon lemon juice, more if needed
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup light cream
6 sea scallops, halved
Chopped parsley for garnish

In a mixing bowl, toss the endives with the sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over high heat. Add the endives and cook, stirring until tender and slightly caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and set aside. Pour the cream into the skillet and simmer until thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour over the endives.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet over high heat. Add the scallops and sauté, turning them over, until they turn opaque and slightly browned for 2 or 3 minutes.

Arrange the endives on individual plates and top with the sautéed scallops. Garnish the outside of each plate with chopped parsley.

July 24, 2011

Cool Does It: Cold Beef Salad

The first time I had cold beef salad was at the restaurant Abattoir (meaning slaughter house) in Toulouse. George and I were visiting the Languedoc region in France, essentially to sample the three different versions of cassoulet. We had tasted the one in Castelaudary and in Carcassonne. Toulouse’s version was our last stop. We figured that a restaurant named slaughter house would do the Toulouse cassoulet proud. However, the owner convinced us that today’s special –Salade de Boeuf-- should not be missed under any circumstance, and he was right.
Scouting for a substantial salad for dinner, I remembered the cold beef salad. The dish is essentially made with left over braised beef. Barring that, I bought a marinated hanger steak at Ottomanelli. The resulting beef salad wasn’t as fabulous as that of Abattoir’s, but it was a fair second. My only complaint was that the salad looked too brown on brown. A side dish of red pepper coulis would have helped. But then, I opted for simple. Besides, the peach soup looked attractive enough for both dishes.


Chilled Peach Soup
Cold Beef Salad
French Baguette
Wine: Moulin a Vent, Cru Beaujolais Villages Potel-Aviron, 2009, slightly chilled
Dessert: Chocolate Yogurt

Recipe Peach Soup

4 medium sized ripe peaches, peeled and cut into pieces
1 small cantaloupe or ½ honeydew melon, peeled, pits removed and cut
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup orange juice, more if needed
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
Pinch of salt
Opt. Fresh mint, chopped for garnish

Blend all of the above ingredients, adding more yogurt or liquid as needed.
(The soup should be fairly thick). Adjust flavor. Refrigerate overnight.

Recipe Beef Salad

¾ lb marinated hanger steak
French dressing: salt, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil pepper, plus
minced green onions, capers, fresh green herbs such as tarragon, thyme,
chives and, or parsley

Dry the steak well; slice thinly against the grain and sauté to brown, about 1 minute per side. Make the dressing according to your liking and whatever you have available. (I planted thyme, rosemary, and parsley in pots.) Mix everything together and refrigerate till ready to use. Serve on a bed of lettuce.

The light-bodied Beaujolais went well this typical summer meal.

July 19, 2011

Chicken Fillets in Parsley Aspic

This recipe comes from my “The Chicken for Every Occasion Cookbook.”
I had written the book so long ago, I didn’t remember ever having made the dish. I followed the recipe closely, wondering about the outcome. The stock didn’t look like aspic even after I had put in the gelatin. I didn’t spend a sleepless night over it, but I had my doubts. Peeking at the mold the next morning, I was pleasantly surprised: the aspic had set and the dish looked attractive.

I bought the cherry soup at Café André, a hole-in-the wall Hungarian restaurant, dating back to the time when the East 70’s and 80’s was an almost exclusive German, Hungarian and Czechoslovakian neighborhood. The soup reminded me of my childhood, our garden, and sour cherries. As such, it was a nice curtain raiser to a summer dinner. Besides, it tasted utterly delicious.


Cherry Soup*
Chicken Fillets in Parsley Aspic
Tomato and Feta Cheese Salad
Wine: Garda Classico Chiaretto Rosé 2010
Dessert: Fresh Peaches

Recipe: Chicken Fillets in Aspic

½ boneless, skin less chicken breast, cut into two pieces
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
½ package gelatin
1 tablespoon white wine or sherry vinegar
1 egg white, lightly beaten
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, sliced into attractive shape for garnish
2 cornichons, sliced fanlike for garnish

Season the chicken fillets with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet. Sauté the fillets for 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Remove and set aside.

Bring the stock to a boil. Dissolve the gelatin in the vinegar and add the mixture to the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce and let simmer for a few minutes. To clarify stock, add the beaten egg white, stir, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Line a sieve with a paper towel and strain the aspic through it.

Coat the bottom of a bowl, large enough to hold the chicken, with the aspic. Sprinkle with half of the parsley and let set slightly. Place the fillets over the aspic. Garnish with the vegetables and sprinkle with the rest of the parsley. Cover with the remaining aspic, and put into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

I thought the chicken dish was under spiced. George, who tends to undersalt most of his food, thought the dish was excellent. I didn't argue. The Sangiovese Rosé hit the right notes.

*André’s Café
1631 Second Ave.at 85th Street
(212) 327-1105

July 16, 2011

Too Hot to Cook: Try Seviche

92 degrees. No way am I going near the stove. Seviche to the rescue. Actually I had never made seviche before and didn’t know whether George would like it. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried on either count. In fact, the meal seemed like a celebration of summer. Next time I may serve it with Prosecco.


Cold Avocado and Buttermilk Soup
Boston lettuce and grape tomatoes for garnish
Wine: Babich Sauvignon Blanc, 2010
Dessert: Cantaloupe with Fresh Figs

Recipe Cold Avocado and Buttermilk Soup

1 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon green onion, chopped
4-5 sprigs fresh tarragon, finely chopped
Salt, pepper, lemon juice
1 ½ buttermilk, more if needed
2 shrimps, peeled and cooked

Split the avocado lengthwise; remove the pit and scoop out the pulp. Put the avocado in a blender together with the other ingredients and blend until smooth. Adjust seasoning and desired thickness. Serve in small soup bowls topped with shrimp.

Recipe Seviche

¼ lb each of fillet of sole and scallops, sliced into strips
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
Dash of Tabasco
Boston lettuce and grape tomatoes for garnish

Place the fish pieces into a dish. Pour the lime juice over it, cover, and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, until the fish has turned opaque. Drain off the lime juice; combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the fish. Mix well, adjust seasoning and refrigerate till ready to use.

Line serving plate with lettuce leaves, spoon seviche over it and decorate with grape tomatoes, cut in half.

July 11, 2011

Favorite Summer Salad: Frisée aux Lardons

When it comes to summer salads I become a confirmed Francophile
again. Consider their carrottes râpes and celery root remoulade, plus my all time favorites: Salade Niçoise and Frisée aux Lardons, also known as Salade Lyonnaise, after its origin city Lyon. The Niçoise presents no problem as long as you use haricots verts and a good canned tuna. The frisée, however, calls for some ingenuity because it depends on frisée and lardons, two French products not readily available.

The almost white, frizzy frisée has a slightly peppery, bitter taste
that is quite unique. You could use chicory, of course, but the texture and flavor won’t be the same. Lardons is a French type bacon that does not exist in this country. However, if you get double smoked bacon and blanch it for ten minutes in simmering water, it resembles the French version.

Frankly, I was more worried about poaching the eggs and for good reason. The white of the first poached egg got lost in the water, leaving me with the egg yolk. The second attempt was a little better but not great. Trying it again, I cracked the egg into a small soup ladle and slipped it into the water. Lo and behold, it produced a nice looking poached egg.


Canapés with Anchovy Butter
Frisée aux Lardons
Wine: Château d’Oupia, Minervois Rosé 2010
Dessert: Chocolate Yogurt

Recipe Frisée aux Lardons

¼ pound frisée, rinsed, dried, torn into bite-size pieces,
2 ounces thickly cut double smoked bacon, cut into small squares and blanched (I did that in the morning)
2 eggs (the fresher the better)
Water with a few drops of white or sherry vinegar
½ cup croutons

Place frisée and croutons in a mixing bowl. Prepare vinaigrette and toss with the frisée. Divide into two plates. Sauté the blanched bacon until golden. Remove and spoon over frisée. Heat water and vinegar in a saucepan. Bring liquid to a bare simmer. Break egg into a teacup and slip into simmering liquid for about 2 minutes for runny yolk to 3 minutes for firm one.* Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and set aside. Poach the other egg. Top each salad with the poached egg and grind some black pepper of it.
*For me, the small soup ladle worked better.

All told, it was a lovely meal. However, George thought the Rosé was too alcoholic and lacked finesse.

July 6, 2011

There’s Always Room for Improvement, plus a Word about Mustard

Improvement Example: Roasted Chicken with Dijon Mustard

When I first made the chicken with mustard sauce, (June 20, 2011)
I overcooked the chicken. To avoid tis from happening again, I brined the chicken (which makes them juicy) and sautéed them for 3 minutes for side. Instead of heavy cream, I used regular milk, which worked just as well. Happy to say, the meal was a success.

Roasted Chicken with Dijon Mustard Sauce
Baked Cauliflower
Watercress Salad
Wine: Wölffer Estate Rosé 2010
Dessert: Grapes

Roasted Chicken with Dijon Sauce

½ skinless, boneless chicken breast, pounded flat, cut in half
salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, more if desired
Chopped parsley for garnish

Pat chicken dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a sauté pan. When hot, add chicken and sauté, three minutes per side. Remove from pan. Add shallots and wine to the pan juices. Raise heat and boil until reduced by half. Add the milk and boil until slightly thickened. Whisk in mustard, and adjust seasoning. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Baked Cauliflower (Oct. 19, 2010)

1 small head of cauliflower
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil (more if needed)
Sea salt and black pepper
Opt. Grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cut the cauliflower into florets and arranged in a single layer in an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle lemon juice over florets and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake the dish in the preheated oven, uncovered, till cooked through (about 30-35 minutes), and the tops had turned lightly brown. Removed the dish from the oven and pour the remaining pan juices over the cauliflower. I skipped the grated cheese because I thought it would make the meal too rich.

I’ve been an advocate of Wöllfer Estate wines from the beginning. I wrote several articles about the wines and the wine maker Roman Roth with whom we became friends. The Wöllfer Rosé is a classic Provençal style rosé, of medium weight and a lovely bouquet.

Second example: gilding the lily. Grilled Salmon with Mustard Glaze (posted March 19, 2011; redone June 24, 2011)

This is George’s all time favorite fish dish. I prepare it when I want to make up for a meal that didn’t turn out so well, or when I’ve run out of ideas. When I told George that I was planning to make salmon with mustards glaze for dinner, he said: “Get some Prosciutto to go with it.”

I couldn’t see it at first, but it turned out to be a brilliant idea. The different textures between the fish and the Prosciutto, and the sweet glaze and salty ham, were magical. Not exactly kosher, but heavenly in a pagan kind of way.

Quite incidentally, both dishes involved Dijon mustard. It reminded
me of my press trip to Dijon, sponsored by Maille’s public relations company. I became so enamored with mustard, I decided to write a book on the subject. Nothing came of it, but I organized a mustard tasting dinner for members of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an event that was highlighted by a mustard pump, flown in from Paris, to dispense fresh mustard, and wrote a mustard article for Food Arts that included some 20 recipes. So be prepared for some upcoming mustard driven dishes.

July 4, 2011

4th of July Celebrated on the 2nd

Over the past two years I had two scares over the 4th of July weekend. Once, my sister suffered a stroke on the 4th of July; at another time, George had to be rushed to the hospital because he had a hematoma. So, I am particularly glad to celebrate the holiday, but there was a different problem: 4th of July means hamburgers and hamburgers call for freshly ground meat. This year’s 4th of July falls on a Monday when the butcher is closed. Since I don’t own a meat grinder we had our 4th of July dinner on Saturday, July 2nd.

A few days ago the NY Times featured a recipe for “Japanese Burger with Wasabi Ketchup”, to be served with champagne. I toyed around with the idea of trying the Japanese burger but, since I like an honest-to-goodness burger, I skipped the Japanese version, but went for the wasabi ketchup. Much as I like champagne, I opened a bottle of a cru Beaujolais. We enjoyed a happy meal.


Hamburgers on toasted English Muffins with Wasabi Ketchup
Zucchini Chutney*
Wine: Juliénas 2009 Cru Beaujolais
Dessert: Watermelon Salad

Recipe: Wasabi Ketchup

¼ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons wasabi paste

*The recipe for Zucchini Chutney appeared in my August 26, 2010 blog. If you need help, please contact.

I don’t normally care for watermelon, but this watermelon salad is fantastic. The recipe appeared in the July 9, 2010, but I so much want you to try it, I repeat it here and now. Refrigerate before serving.

Recipe Watermelon Salad

Equal amounts of
Watermelon, seeded, cut into cubes
Red onion, thinly sliced
Fresh strawberries, lightly mashed
Touch of lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Sugar if needed