Friday, November 28, 2008


No need to wait for Rockefeller Center - the Tree at Cafe Drake is already up!

Easiest Butternut Squash Soup

Too many winter squash soups tend to rely on the same usual suspects from the spice rack: pumpkin pie favorites like nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Cafe Drake eschewed predictability with the recipe below, borrowing flavor profiles from Mexico, all of which partner perfectly with the earthy sweetness of butternut or acorn squashes.Don't be put off by the number of steps below - this soup practically puts itself together, so intuitive are the directions. We like it at Cafe Drake with a slice of toasted Beer Batter bread (recipe below).

  1. Fry 2-3 dried chiles of various sorts in 2 T. of oil for 1 minute. Be careful not to burn. We like to use a mix of guajillo and Anaheim. Now add a bit of cumin powder and oregano.

  2. Add 1 chopped clove of garlic and 1 thinly sliced leek. Remember to wash the leek very well in a bowl of water to dislodge hidden sand and dirt.

  3. Saute all for 10 minutes or until leek is quite soft.

  4. Now add 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed and cook for 2-3 minutes.

  5. Add 1 quart of stock and simmer, covered on low, for 1 hour. Halfway through cooking, add a broken cinnamon stick to the pot.

  6. Allow soup to cool slightly then puree in batches in a blender.

  7. Return to the pot and season with salt and black pepper. Simmer on very low for 10 minutes then add 1 cup of whole milk.

  8. Warm through and serve hot.

Brussels Sprouts Crostini

Cafe Drake created this quick but admittedly quirky appetizer or snack as an accompaniment to a bowl of butternut squash soup (recipe above), completing a lunch entree good enough to serve to company, but savored here on a cold Saturday with a good book.

So Easy: wash and chop Brussels sprouts and cut in half unless very small. Toss with olive oil and sea salt and roast in a 425 degree oven until browned and soft - about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and now toast several slices of Italian bread or baguette for 5 minutes. Spread with herbed goat cheese, return to oven to warm and serve each crostini topped with 2 Brussels sprouts.

The Little Drummer Boy

Miki-San Does Thanksgiving

Cozy starters included wholegrain bread with cheese, cranberries and homemade curried mixed nuts.

Miki always sets a festive and beautiful table.

The hard-working hostess relaxes with one of many glasses of various wines, tailored to each course.

Cafe Drake's first helping of the entree overfloweth . . . with sweet potatoes, string beans, fowl and stuffing.

Miki readjusts the music while moving us on to a light and airy apple mousse with chocolate and Italian dessert wine for a finale.

Slow-simmered and lusciously rich homemade gravy.

A perfectly roasted bird stuffed with wild rice and mushrooms.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Just In Time For The Holidays

Cafe Drake presents our newest holiday soundtrack here.

Beer Batter Bread

The following recipe was been lightly adapted from Virginia Willis' cookbook, Bon Appetit Y'all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking. Cafe Drake likes this rich and dense quick bread a bit better with lager or a lighter beer than the dark stout called for in the original recipe. We also switched out 1 cup of regular flour for whole wheat and consequently added a bit more liquid. All else remains deliciously the same as the original.


1/2 stick butter, melted / 2 cups plain flour / 1 cup whole wheat flour / 1 T. baking powder / 3 T. sugar / 1 t. salt / about 13-14 oz of beer at room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter a loaf pan.

  2. In a bowl mix together all dry ingredients. Now add the beer and 2 T. of the melted butter.

  3. Mix well but not too much. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out basically clean.

  4. Cool on a wire rack.

Happy Thanksgiving from Toro Fenech

Cafe Drake is looking after our upstairs neighbor Toro over the Thanksgving holiday while his Daddy is touring Rome. Judging from the photos above, looks like Toro has slipped into a post- Big Meal food coma!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Products We Can't Stop

El Samahy Pickled Lemons
Seriously tangy and tart, indispensable for chicken tagines, these pickles are equally toothsome served quartered on a meze platter or antipasto tray.

Matouk's Green Seasoning (Alino de Hierbas)
Hailing from the West Indies, and available at most Caribbean markets, Matouk's Green Seasoning need not be limited to specific ethnic foods - Cafe Drake loves a dollop of the spicy relish spread inside an omelet just prior to folding over in the pan. Also delicious on baked potatoes with sour cream. To conjure a warm island breeze at your holiday brunches during the cold months, stir a tablespoon into the next pitcher of Bloody Marys.

Belle of Maine's Baked Soldier Beans
We first discovered Belle of Maine bean products at a supermarket in Belfast, Maine and have been hooked ever since. Belle's uses several variety of heirloom specimens in their line of canned legumes, but the baked soldier beans are hard to top . . . sweet, tangy and just tender enough without turning mushy, let Belle's save you the trouble of long-baking when under time constraints. Additionally, the 82-year old company cans fiddlehead ferns and (only manufacturer in the world!!) dandelion greens. Not easy to find so search high and low or try ordering HERE.

Happy Thanksgiving to Trixie and Family

And we're very thankful to dear friend Amee S. . . . for sending along more pics of her adorable daughter Beatrice a/k/a Trixie! Cafe Drake spent many many past Thanksgivings shared with Ms. Amee, and naturally, this time of year our thoughts travel to her and her family in Ann Arbor.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Indian Seafood Recipes

Wow! You guys can't get enough of the Indian recipes here at Cafe Drake, especially the simple ones with only a (large) handful of ingredients. Your email requests were received - and hungry prayers heard - and below find three of the fastest, easiest and breeziest Punjabi seafood concoctions we know.


Richer than you'd expect and perfect with plenty of plain basmati rice or mashed potatoes.

4 whitefish filets (or cod, catfish etc) / 1 T. turmeric powder / 1 t. ground ginger / 1 t. anise seeds (crushed) / 4 T. oil / 1 t. cayenne pepper / 2 t. coriander powder / salt / 1 cup whipped yogurt (whole milk, please)

  1. Rub the filets with turmeric, ginger and anise seeds and set aside for 10 minutes.

  2. Heat oil in a skillet and fry each filet one at a time, draining and stacking on paper towels.

  3. With the oil still in the skillet, add the cayenne, coriander and yogurt. The yogurt will curdle a bit but just keep cooking on LOW heat for 10 minutes.

  4. Now add the fried fish to the pan, cover and cook till fish is heated through.


Substitute pickled garlic for a unique, brisk change of pace.

1/2 cup heavy cream / 1 t. garam masala / 1 t. cayenne pepper / 1/2 t. turmeric powder / salt / 2 t. minced garlic (no more0 / at least 1 lb. firm-fleshed fish, cut in chunks / melted butter

  1. In a ziplock bag, combine: fish, cream, garam masala, cayenne, turmeric, salt and garlic. Mix well and set aside in fridge for 2 hours or so.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  3. Place fish on skewers and bake on a cookie sheet for 4 minutes. Baste with a little melted butter and bake for 5-6 more minutes.

  4. Serve hot.


Make a mango mayonnaise by mixing together 1 cup of mayo with 2 T. of mango chutney. Finely chop any large pieces of mango before combining.

4 salmon steaks / 4 T. oil / 1 t. crushed dried red pepper / salt / about 1/2 cup or more mango mayonnaise (as above)

  1. In a large bowl, combine the salmon with all ingredients except mayo. Mix very well.

  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  3. Place the salmon and any remaining oil on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes.

  4. Remove from oven and serve each salmon steak topped with a couple of heaping tablespoons of the mango mayo.

Dinner with an Old, Old Friend

Or as our dear friend Amee Simmons Spondike would say: "old" as in length of friendship, not actual age! Cafe Drake spent a recent evening catching up with Asmundur Asmundsson as he blew through a one-night stopover in NYC returning from a West Coast opening. Check out Asi's artwork on his website or via his highly amusing Facebook page. The photos above were taken at Williamsburg's Snacky Bar, where and A and Cafe D supped on bowls of rice, noodles, bbq beef, kimchi and scallion and egg pancakes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kerala Spice with David Sellers

Kerala, a southernmost state in India situated along the Arabian Sea, is a virtual untapped region of subcontinental cuisine for the Western home cook. Ever eager to expand our culinary South Asian repertoire, always staring into that smoky, pink sunset of an Indian horizon, Cafe Drake is currently tapping into this fertile field of kitchen exotica.

A chief characteristic of the area is a tendency towards savoury stews thickened with turnip, radish and other root vegetables, generally served as thick gravies beladen with sweet, highly aromatic spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. Inspired by such (again, Western mentality in full effect) autumnal flavor profiles, we created a luscious pork stew studded with halved turnips and sweet and tart apples. Said stew was ladled over cumin and bay leaf basmati rice pilaf and supported by braised kale, mango chutney and rich, whipped yogurt (raita).

Fellow Indian gastronomist - and buddy of many years, moods and lifestyle periods - David Sellers was our happy guinea pig. After the seasonally prerequisite Rye cocktails, Cafe Drake and David S tucked into our Kerali fare whilst sipping a dry yet fruity Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina (Sur De Los Andes 2004) supplied by David.

Things Get Fishy with Jen Ruske

Cafe Drake was thrilled to have dinner and drinks at the charming and stylin' home of dear pal Jen Ruske. And enthralled as well with our fellow dining companions - Ms. J. Lazzaro and Ruske's visiting friend from LA, Laura. A round of much-needed drinks (it was rainy, nasty weather outside) was soon followed by creamy and rich Risotto with Sweet Peas and Sausage, the rice lovingly stirred and tended to by Jen L. Our main course was a heaping bowl of Mixed Seafood Stew, packed with chunks of flaky whitefish, perfectly cooked scallops, sweet and moist shrimp and briny, tender mussels. Bread was broken to sop up with the slow-simmered broth and Ruske wisely brought an earthy note to the table via sides of chickpeas with spinach and roasted beets. Soft-rind aged bleu cheese was up next, devoured with fresh pear, drizzled honey and sweet RoseHip crackers/biscuits. Because Jen Lazzaro had a birthday coming up soon, Ruske pulled out the stops and kicked out the jams with a dessert platter of fresh berry and cream tarts and individual creme brulees. What a festive and delicious evening spent with good friends and great cheer.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Cafe Drake adores a good cheese plate after a stellar meal and has learned that many guests look forward to this intermediary course almost more than the main and starter themselves, so varied and experimental are our combinations. We're already dreaming up holiday offerings - special in themselves due to our annual absence from cost concerns - and wanted to share with Cafe Drake online visitors a couple of our favorite fromage accompaniments. Take the extra effort to adorn your cheese offerings with these (aged) dairy partners and be certain to sparkle throughout the Christmas/Hanukkah season.


Cafe Drake has served a version of this relish at Thanksgiving since we first basted a turkey; it remains a perennially popular classic.

In a saucepan fry 6 star anise pods and 2 cinnamon sticks in about 6 T. of good butter. Add 1 bag of cranberries and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Cook until the berries burst. Now add 2 T. sherry vinegar and 1 t. ONLY of Pernod, Pastis, Ouzo etc etc. Pull out the spices, take off the heat and add the zest of half a lemon or lime (or mix thereof). Cool completely.


This must be served with an extra-sharp cheese, such as an Irish or Canadian or Gloucester cheddar, or alternatively, a local hard-curd white cheese.

Cook 1 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup each of water and light corn syrup until a candy thermometer registers about 320 degrees or so. Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 T. butter and 1 t. kosher salt and 1/2 t. baking soda. Now stir in 2 cups of roasted sunflower seeds (shelled of course - duh). Spread it all on a baking sheet lined with oiled wax paper. Cool then break into reasonable pieces.


Inspired by the late and great Joe Strummer's brief foray into turntablism on BBC's World Service Radio, Cafe Drake Radio - FIRZ - FM's latest mix is perfect for the pre-holidays . . . and even more genius when you crave an international break from standard Christmas tunes at your December cocktail mixer. Some truly rare 70's 45 singles - reeking of West London reggae dub - and many more surprises - all wrapped up in a reverby silver bow. Early and raw Elvis, rockabilly pioneers from the 40s, spaced out dub scientists and so much more. Truly original. Click HERE for World Service mix.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Cocktail in Autumn

You're all asking for more drinks ideas, especially ones suitable for Fall.
Below is a new fave of ours and always good for dinner parties of four. Actually it's quite economical despite the high glamour quotient if you utilize a nice, dry Cava or Prosecco instead of a pricey champagne. Tastes the same!


12 tablespoons frozen cranberry juice cocktail concentrate, thawed / 6 teaspoons cranberry liqueur / 6 teaspoons orange liqueur / 1 bottle champagne or other sparkling wine /12 whole fresh cranberries / 6 orange slices, folded in half / 6 bamboo skewers
  1. Measure 2 tablespoons cranberry concentrate, 1 teaspoon cranberry liqueur and 1 teaspoon orange liqueur into each of 6 champagne flutes. Top with champagne.

  2. Thread 1 cranberry, 1 orange slice and then another cranberry onto each skewer. Place skewers atop glasses.

P.S. For everyone wondering how we create our annual Christmas Apricot Brandy: take 1 liter of decent-to-good brandy and empty into a large bowl. Add 1 cup dried apricots and 1 cup light brown sugar. Mix well. Cover VERY TIGHTLY with plastic wrap and place in a dark corner of your home, i.e. closet, underneath the bed etc. Shake or stir once a day for 6 weeks. Decant into small bottles and serve or give as special gifts. Keeps forever.