Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
WWW.CatholicCulture.org is a surprising place for Cafe Drake to be visiting, but Lo' and Behold, they have a great treasure chest of simple recipes appropriate to the religious season. Below is an adaptation of a cheese tart preparation, consumed frequently during Lent by the devout and (temporarily) vegetarian. It's so good we could almost eat it every day for 40 nights. Perfect for a post-baptismal brunch, the tart is excellent in Fall and Winter as well, sided with a cup of rich tomato soup.
- Line 9-inch pie plate with pastry.
- Sprinkle grated cheese with flour; spread evenly in pie plate.
- Combine eggs, milk or cream, salt and pepper and mustard. Pour over cheese.
- Bake 15 minutes in hot oven (400°), reduce heat to moderate (325°); bake 30 minutes longer or until inserted knife comes out clean.
- Serve hot.
- Pour organic chicken or beef broth into a large bowl. Add 5 tablespoons of vinegar, stir gently, and taste.
- Add a small amount of sea salt, to taste. If there is enough time before mealtime, put this bowl of broth in the refrigerator to chill.
- Put buckwheat noodles into a large pot of boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. They should be taken out as soon as they are al dente - chewy, but not too soft. At this point, put noodles in a large colander and rinse two to three times with cold water. Allow noodles to rest in the colander for a few minutes or until excess water has been drained.
- To serve, place a large handful of noodles in a large eating bowl. Add a small bunch of cucumber strips, a few pear slices, and one soft boiled egg (cut in half right before serving) to the bowl. Then use a ladle to add a generous amount of cold and tangy broth to the bowl, enough to cover about 75 percent of the ingredients. Place shitake mushrooms on top.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
It almost seems as if we spent the entire winter cooking, hosting and reading. All of these activities were intimately related we assure you; after all, there is hardly a more productive or enjoyable way to pass time in the kitchen - stirring a custard, marinating filets - than with a great book. What you must Amazon wish-list in 2007 are:
The Ruins of Contracouer. Joyce Carol Oates. Avon Books. - For her, like 1000th book, our favorite author returns to the genre of High Gothic, made even creepier and more compelling for its realistic prose style. Menu Suggestion: Decayed Wedding Cake.
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Elizabeth Smart. Vintage Books. - All thanks to the universe for an early-90s re-issue of this experimental masterpiece, a tale of love gone wrong wrong wrong. Menu Suggestion: Salad of Bitter Greens
Port Mungo. Patrick McGrath. Knopf. - Again British author McGrath gives us a tale of romantic obsession turned macabre, largely set in a lurid port city (straight out of Genet's fantasies) in Honduras. Suggested Menu: Black Beans, Rice and Fried Plantains
A Glass of Blessings. Barbara Pym. Vinatage Books - Long after her death Pym remains the coziest of English writers. Suggested Menu: Roasted Beef with Yorkshire Pudding
Now is the Hour. Tom Spanbauer. Houghtin Mifflin. Another coming-of-age tale from Spanbauer set in the American West; rough, raunchy and glorious as always. We dare you to not fall in love with narrator Rigby John. Suggested Menu: Venison Chops
This Book Will Save Your Life. A. M. Homes. Penguin - Like most of her previous work, it did. Suggested Menu: Belvedere on the Rocks and a Heart Pill.
Jill. Philip Larkin. Faber and Faber - A rare prose work from a masterful poet. Dated certainly, but the emotions rise above the post-war details. Suggested Menu: Earl Grey Tea with Milk and No Sugar, Please
The Demon in the Freezer; A True Story. Richard Preston. Random House - The deadliest virus on Earth, smallpox, exists in only two freezers on Earth: the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and a Siberian waystation. A non-fiction science horror that will scare you to death. Suggested Menu: Frozen Dacquiris (and lots of them for your jangled nerves).
Thursday, March 22, 2007
A recent meal (courtesy of Cafe Drake pal Octavio Fenech) began with a starter unappealingly described as "street food" but titled Shrimp Toast ($6). Two baguette slices arrived adorned with a generous slather of yuca and mung bean puree and topped with chopped shrimp; a small cup of sweet vinegar sauce was nestled alongside for dipping. This is the sort of snack we could nosh on all night - given the small portions perhaps four could be offered for the asking price. Octavio enjoyed an entree of Fried Sole with Vietnamese Spices ($14.50), curiously sided with spinach and spears of okra. A double-thick cut pork chop ($14.50) was quite successful - pan-caramelized on both sides after a long marination in rice vinegar and black peppercorns. Slices of cooling cucumber and creamy hard boiled egg provided a lovely contrast to both the meat and expertly steamed rice (seasoned with more fiery peppercorns).
Occupying the former space of Oznot's Dish, a neighborhood restaurant with vast amounts of memories, Silent H seems to have wiped out most of the intriguing decorative elements of the former tenant; sadly, the new design is overly spare, leaning towards the dead trend of mid-century modernism and completely without soul. As mentioned before, a graceful staff that is warm, courteous and professionally trained goes along way towards correcting this lack of coziness or visual interest. Then again we live in a tragic age when purposelessly austere lines and monochromaticism passes for style amongst the irreverent and historically deficient.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
1/2 tsp Apricot Brandy /2 oz Gin / 1 tsp Orange Juice /2 oz Lillet Blanc
- Mix all with ice in a shaker and agitate.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Being Southern by birth and nature, Cafe Drake adores the following concoction.
1/3 Jamaica Rum / 1/3 Apricot Nectar / 1/3 Sloe Gin /1 Dash Grenadine / Juice of 1 Lime
Shake all with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Repeat until you feel like a million bucks.
- Put 1 cup of ice in each of 4 large, shallow, rimmed soup bowls, or small, decorative trays and press down gently to make a level bed.
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt over each bowl of ice.
- Place 6 oysters in their shells on each bed.
- Serve with small bowl of sauce.
COQ AU VIN
This pared-down and simplified version is almost as good as the more laborious classic. Cafe Drake has yet to have any complaints about this easy recipe. Serve with boiled and buttered tiny potatoes and lightly sauteed french green beans (haricots verts).
1 tablespoon vegetable oil / 1 (4 pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces / 1 teaspoon salt / 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper / 1 minced garlic clove /1 1/2 cups red wine (use the $3 Shiraz from Trader Joe's!) /1 1/2 cups chicken stock / 1 onion / 1 tablespoon cornstarch /1/3 cup water
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Season chicken parts with salt, pepper and garlic powder and saute until lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Place wine in a shallow dish or bowl. Dip chicken pieces into wine, one at a time, and return to skillet.
- Add any remaining wine, stock and onions, stir together and reduce heat to medium.
- Cover skillet and cook for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside.
- In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and water and add mixture to sauce to thicken; cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes and serve.
This is where the work comes in, but to simplify, buy the merengues at a reliable nearby bakery or pasrty shop. We've made them before at Cafe Drake, and while simple enough to prepare, they are time consuming.
FOR THE CUSTARD SAUCE:
4 egg yolks /1/4 c. sugar /Pinch of salt /2 c. milk /1 tsp. vanilla /1/4 tsp. lemon rind, grated fine
- Beat the egg yolks slightly, then add the sugar and salt.
- Scald the milk and slowly add to the egg mixture, whisking to prevent yolks from curdling.
- Place the custard in a double boiler, stirring constantly until it begins to thicken and coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add the vanilla and lemon rind.
- Chill thoroughly until ready to use.
- Note: This is not a firm custard, but a sauce. It must not be permitted to boil at any time.
FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE:
1 c. sugar /1/2 c. water
- Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Stir well and then heat until sugar turns a golden brown. Do not stir while sugar mixture is boiling or it may crystallize.
- Remove from heat and cool slightly.
- Pour a bit of the custard sauce into a deep dessert plate.
- Float a meringue on each pool of custard.
- Dipping a fork into the caramel sauce, drizzle a web of the caramel sauce atop the meringues.
- In a pan deep enough add water, olive oil, salt and potatoes.
- Cook until the potatoes are tender.
- When the potatoes are cooked mash them lightly.
- Once this is done add them back to the pan. Stir in and bring to a boil.
- Add the kale and boil uncovered for 15 minutes.
- If desired, garnish with green onions and grated cheese (Manchego, Gruyere or Parmesan-Reggiano will all do nicely).
NEW ENGLAND FISH CHOWDER
A staple all across coastal Rhode Island, home to the largest percentage of fishermen of Portuguese descent. What Mexican food is to California, what Indian is to England, so is Portuguese cuisine to the Ocean State. Far from fancy the following stew is nonetheless perfect for a weeknight meal with only crusty bread and a green salad needed as sides.
1 lb. cod or haddock fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces /1 lb. of small red potatoes /2 tsp. olive oil /3 tbsp. chopped Canadian bacon /1 red bell pepper, cut into med. pieces /1 green bell pepper, cut into med. pieces /2 or 3 cloves of garlic /2 tbsp. of flour /11/2 cups of milk /1/2 tsp. salt /1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- Cook the potatoes until just tender, using a medium pot.
- In a large skillet heat the oil ( don't burn it) (use med. heat).
- Put in bacon, peppers, garlic and cook until the peppers are somewhat soft.
- Add flour into pan, stir into cooked ingredients.
- Now stir in milk, salt and cayenne pepper. Bring all to a boil.
- Place the fish on top, reduce to simmer, cover and cook until the fish is opaque, around 5 minutes or so. DO NOT BOIL THE FISH, as it will fall apart and lose both texture and flavor in the ruinous process.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
- Put pulp of 1 mango in food processor or blender. Cut the other mango into small cubes.
- Trim pork tenderloin and slice into 1-inch thick medallions. Flatten slices lightly with hand.
- Add a small amount of olive oil to a large skillet and heat on medium-high.
- Brown pork for 1 minute on each side. Season each side with salt and pepper to taste.
- Reduce heat and cook pork another 5 minutes to cook through. Remove to a plate and add mango puree to the skillet or saucepan.
- Cook puree about, scraping up brown bits of pork, for about 30 seconds. Add several drops of hot sauce and the mango cubes.
- Toss cubes in puree while heating through.
- Spoon sauce over pork and serve with hot cooked rice.
This is a summertime favorite for quick, no-fuss, before-work breakfast at Cafe Drake. Follow the measurements below for proper consistency.
1 cup mango, peeled and diced / 1 cup plain or vanilla nonfat yogurt / 1/2 cup crushed ice
soymilk or milk, optional
- Place mango, yogurt and ice in a blender and process until smooth and drinkable, about 1 full minute usually.
- If too thick, add a small bit of soy or regular milk and blend further.
Sometimes it's the little things that count. The sum of several parts. Attention to a tiny detail that can magnify the success of a meal or an evening with friends and family. Maybe it's the right scent from a particular candle greeting guests as they settle into cocktails in the living room, or the subtle tones of a flower arrangement gracing the table. Certainly big things come in small packages when we're discussing condiments. Sauces, relishes or quick pickles can enhance every meal and, if paired correctly with more substantial fare, elevate dining to the level of the Sublime. A few simple recipes below will add spark to your (no doubt already delicious) next dinner party.
- Combine onion, lemon juice and spices in a large bowl. Add salt to taste and just a few drops of vegetable oil. Stir well.
- Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour or longer before serving.
BLACKBERRY BBQ SAUCE
Serve this with anything even remotely barbequed - such as grilled chicken or fish. Livens up (without alot of extra fat and calories) baked poultry or pork chops nicely.
1 1/4 cups blackberries / 1/4 cup catsup / 1/4 cup honey / 1/4 cup packed brown sugar / 1/4 cup minced ginger / 1 teaspoon pepper / 1 or 2 teaspoons hot sauce, to taste / salt, to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
- Transfer to a blender and reduce to about 1 1/2 cups total over medim heat.
SOY AND HONEY DRIZZLE
This is the sort of concentrated "sauce" you often find swirled across a dinner plate, a favorite of chefs looking for a big boost to a simple entree. Sprinkle a generous teaspoon or so over broiled flank steak or pan-fried salmon.
2 tablespoons honey / 1 tablespoon good soy sauce / juice of 1/2 lime / 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour in 1/2 cup of water and stir well.
- Reduce to about 1/2 cup total.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Occupying a vast, high-ceilinged first floor of a Gothic apartment building on Greenpoint's Franklin Street (once desolate, now increasingly commercialized), Brooklyn Label is far more unique than its bland name suggests. A wall of picture windows and the afore-mentioned dizzingly lofty ceilings keep things airy and spacious feeling, despite a floor plan of tables densely and closely packed. All the usual coffeeshop beverages seem professionally done, and several oddities are thrown into the mix (rosehip soda anyone?); the breakfast/brunch only menu is creative with a few novel twists on morning standbys. Recently, an open-faced Steak Sandwich with Bernaise Sauce ($10.95) got good reviews from Susan McKeever, while we enjoyed immensely a burger studded with pepperoni bits and slathered in a red pepper mayo ($9.95). Fries were uniformly excellent - crisp and salty and worthy of the best bistros in town. A congenial local crowd and friendly waitstaff make Brooklyn Label a brunch destination to keep in mind.
A Punch to Quench the Thirst of Many Guests (and preserve the contents of your wallet)
Sometimes you need to provide libations for a hefty crew . . . say cocktails in honor of a housewarming, or a birthday fete for a Guest of Honor with many mutual friends. The following swill has always worked for us; just keep extra pitchers in the fridge to replenish the punch bowl as needed (and ziplock bags of floating granish as well). The concoction is STRONG, so after the first round steadily add ice cubes to the bowl, keeping the drinks chilled and guests less likely to snatch your lampshades. Double or triple the recipe depending on the size of your crowd.
CUCUMBER VODKA PUNCH
- Place vodka and sliced cucumbers in a large container that can be sealed with a top. If you don't have such, place in a large saucepan and cover very tightly with plastic wrap AND aluminum foil. Place in a dark, cool area for 2 hours before guests arrive.
- Just prior to the start of the festivities, place half of the vodka/cucumber mixture in a large punchbowl and add 1/2 each above measurements of the remaining ingredients.
- Garnish with sprigs of mint or basil and thin slices of lemon.
- Refill as needed, always keeping proportions on ingredients intact (this can be difficult if you're quaffing freely yourself so pay attention!)
1 1/2 ounces Earl Gray Gin Infusion (see recipe)
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
1 lemon twist, for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add the gin infusion, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white. Shake for approximately 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the twist.
Earl Grey Gin Infusion
1/4 cup loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1 liter Tanqueray gin
Add tea leaves to the bottle of gin.
Replace cap and shake well. Allow the tea to steep in the gin for 2 hours; strain gently to remove the tea leaves. Do not press the tea leaves to extract excess gin -- this can make the infusion bitter.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Thursday, March 08, 2007
- Peel and quarter the parsnips and boil for 15 minutes, but do not let them cook completely (par-boil).
- Place in a large dish and add the Beef Stock , salt, pepper and nutmeg as required.
- Spread with Butter and cook for 30 minutes on a lowish oven heat.
This is so nice as a starter alongside a simple salad of shredded cabbage and sliced apples (dress with a vinegarette). Also great sliced into wedges and served with beef stew. Figure one omelette per two diners.
4 large eggs /1 large mashed potato /some lemon juice /1 Tablespoon of Chives /Salt and Pepper /1 Tablespoon of Butter
- Separate the eggs and beat the yolks.
- Add them to the mashed potato, mixing thoroughly and then add the lemon juice, chives, and salt and pepper.
- Melt the butter in a pan.
- Whisk the egg whites until stiff and stir them into the potato mixture.
- Cook the mixture until golden and then run under the broiler to finish and puff it up.
- Serve immediately
This is an adaptation of a dish we sampled at a Bed & Breakfast years ago in the Scottish Borders country. It seems appropriate enough for an elegant St. Patrick's Day dinner, given the two countries' geographic proximity.
Ingredients: Champagne Vinaigrette • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil• 1 tablespoon walnut oil• 1 tablespoon chopped garlic• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 4 duck breasts, or 1 pound chicken or duck livers • Salt and freshly ground black pepper • 2 tablespoons cooking oil• 2 slices bacon, chopped • 2 tablespoons chopped chives • 2 tablespoons chopped scallions • 8 mushrooms, sliced • Mixed greens • 1 cup croutons
- In a small jar with a lid, combine the vinegar, oils, garlic, shallots, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Shake to blend and reserve.
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Sprinkle the breasts with salt and pepper. In a frypan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the breasts and cook on both sides until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer breasts to a baking pan and cook in the oven for about 5 minutes. Remove and keep warm.
- Return the frypan to stove top, add the bacon and cook until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towel to drain.
- Reduce heat, add chives, scallions, and mushrooms to the pan, and cook to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables to paper towel to drain.
- In a saucepan over low heat, warm the vinagirette for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Arrange the lettuces on 4 salad plates. Divide the bacon and vegetables over the lettuce. Slice the breasts and arrange on top of salad.
- Pour the warm vinaigrette over the meat and garnish with croutons.