Monday, June 30, 2008

Purslane Arrives in Markets

Every year Cafe Drake becomes excited by the late June appearance at greenmarkets of thick bunches of emerald green purslane; hey, it's the little things that keep us going. Often dismissed as a weed and gardener's nuisance, purslane is in fact a highly nutritious herb/vegetable with three times the potassium of spinach. The leaves and stems resemble a jade plant, with thinner petals, and besides being tasty and healthful, purslane adds visual appeal to any summer plate. You'll notice in the photo above we tossed the delicate leaves with sugar snap peas and red onions and dressed with olive oil, French mustard and chopped red chiles. Below are a few other options for using purslane, but do not limit yourself to our suggestions - in fact, substitute freely for spinach or even watercress in any favorite recipe and enjoy the subtle flavor that harmonizes so well almost universally.


Purslane and cukes are a match made in heaven. Dress this salad with yogurt mixture just before serving.

6 medium sized cucumbers, sliced / 2 cups Purslane leaves/ 1 cup yogurt /1 Tbsp olive oil / 2 tsp red wine vinegar / 2 Tbsp chopped mint / coarse black pepper and salt to taste

  1. Slice cucumbers and mix together with Purslane in a salad bowl.

  2. In a blender, mix together the rest of the ingredients for your dressing.

  3. Coat the cucumber-purslane mixture well with the dressing. Serve chilled.


A nice alternative to red salsas and exceptionally toothsome over broiled or baked fish.

4 cups fresh or canned tomatillos/ 2 cups Purslane leaves/ 1 small can of green chile peppers / 3 cloves garlic, crushed (we use a heavy mortar and pestle called a 'mocalhete' and crush them until they are good and juicy)/ 1/4 cup minced cilantro, fresh / about 1/2 tsp salt

  1. Put tomatillos in a blender and whiz them up.

  2. Put the tomatillo puree into a pot and simmer for about 15 minutes, then let cool and chill.

  3. Meanwhile, chop Purslane leaves coarsely.

  4. Chop the green chili peppers, crush the garlic, and mince the cilantro.

  5. Mix everything together and add the salt to taste.


What won't we pickle at Cafe Drake? Keep this on hand in fridge to dress up (too) simple salads and humdrum sandwiches.

1 quart purslane stems and leaves / 3 garlic cloves, sliced /1 quart apple cider vinegar (or leftover pickle, jalapeno juice etc.) / 10 peppercorns / about 1 T. of sugar

  1. Clean the purslane stems and leaves by rinsing with fresh water.

  2. Cut into 1" pieces and place in clean jars with lids. Add the spices and pour the vinegar over the purslane.

  3. Keep this in the refrigerator and wait at least two weeks before using.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

More Upstate Fotos (with Captions)

Cafe Drake would never have supplied rabbit ears above had he not been drinking.
Thordis and David's cozy, sun-filled breakfast nook.

Thordis can't use liquor as an excuse for the rabbit ears above.

Wine tasting on the Cooperstown Beverage Trail

Fine ale tasting at Ommegang Brewery

Thordis samples cheese spreads.

Product testing at ye olde cider mill.

House Rule No. 1: All laundry must be folded before gin-and-tonics are served.

Relaxing after the laundry

The lovely pool just down the road.

No one ever checks out from the spooky Hotel Adler. EVER.
Cafe Drake and David at the natural sulphur springs.

Thordis promised this was a surefire hangover cure.

Taking Daphne for a walk.

Delicious salmon dinner.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Love Our Photos?

But hate cooking? Avoid all pesky text if so inclined by viewing every single photo from the last three years of this site by clicking on links below.

Another Fiery Chutney for Spicy Weather

This chutney/relish/all-purpose condiment will keep indefinitely in the fridge, so you may wish to double the recipe and have on hand to liven up lackluster soups, rice dishes or boring old steamed veggies. Our tastes tend towards the rich and heavy, so Cafe Drake always serves the chutney alongside lamb curries or nestled in a scoop of sour cream crowning baked potatoes.


4 onions, roughly chopped / 8 cloves garlic, left whole / 5 dried red chiles / 3 T. peanut or vegetable oil / 1 cup skinless roasted peanuts / drizzle of tamarind paste (optional) / 1/4 t. asafoetida powder (also optional) / salt to taste

  1. Heat oil in large pan and fry onions and garlic over high heat till browned.

  2. Add peanuts, chiles and if using, tamarind and asafoetida. Salt liberally.

  3. Cook for 1-2 minutes then allow to cool completely.

  4. Grind in blender to the consistency of a rough paste, adding a drop or two of water as needed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Potatoes That Go Pop(py)

An unusual side dish below that oddly enough partners well with most entrees, not just those of Indian origin. In the winter serve alongside roasted meats or poultry; in the summer, place a mound beneath broiled or grilled fish. The potatoes are quite mild in flavor yet possess a hard-to-place richness. If you have difficulty finding mustard oil, fry a tablespoon or so of yellow mustard seeds in plain vegetable oil, let cool, then proceed with recipe.


5 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces / 4 T. poppy seeds / 2 T. mustard oil /salt / 1 t. sugar / 3-4 chopped green chiles

  1. Soak poppy seeds in 1 cup of warm water for half an hour. Drain through a fine-mesh strainer. Grind lightly with the back of a spoon to a roughish paste.

  2. Heat mustard oil in a large skillet till it smokes. Allow to cool then reheat again to a medium heat.

  3. Fry the potato pieces for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

  4. Add the poppy seeds, 1/2 cup or so of water, cover the skillet and cook on low until potatoes are tender.

  5. Now add salt to taste, sugar and green chiles. Cook covered for 2 more minutes.

  6. Serve very warm.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sharon Springs, NY

Recently loaded with 24 ounces of Greenpoint iced coffee, a full pack of American Spirit Lights and an arsenal of CDs (including Macaque's recent The Chinatown EP), Cafe Drake hit the NYS Thruway (and its alarming myriad of tolls) en route to Cafe Adalsteinsdottir-Herbert in Montgomery County, New York. On the way we fed our historic mansions jones with a quick pit-stop in downtown Albany to tour the Schylluer House. And Hands Down the best 18th century French scenic wallpaper EVER!
A dozen missed turns later, we were cruising US-10 to T-Dogg and Da Herb's upstate pad - a gorgeous and carefully renovated 5-bedroom farmhouse in God's and cow's country. Scrumptious al fresco dining on the patio, barn swallow-infused naps in the comfy hammock, Ostego Lake-side scenic drives and tours of a half-dozen Northern hamlets followed, as well as breakfast at Black Cat Bakery, so-so gringo Mexican at the gloriously campy Tepee, cocktails in the posh gardens and salon of The American Hotel and a Cooperstown Beverage Trail featuring four wineries and micro-breweries (preggers Thordis served as designated driver) all followed.
Best of all was the gracious hospitality of our professional hosts.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dinner with Good Friends, Italian Style

Fiore (284 Grand St, nr. Roebling Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, 11211)

Roberta's (261 Moore Street, nr. Bogart Street, Bushwick, NY, 718/417-1118)

A blistering Brooklyn weekend morphed Saturday afternoon into a 4-hour violent thunderstorm, but neither heat nor sideways rain could stay Cafe Drake from our mission of sampling two new neighborhood Italian trattorias. Blessed cool breezes allowed us to dine al fresco Friday evening with Susan McKeever-Duys at spanking new Fiore, although we suspect the beflowered and charming vast interior portion of the restaurant would have been uncomfortably warm, despite an open-air front and 14-foot ceilings.

Nestled in a courtyard nook table, Susan and Cafe Drake plowed through Olive Oil Poached Baby Octopi ($6), stewed to astonishing tenderness and emboldened with a touch of tomato paste and smoked paprika, good chewy bread with seasoned dipping oil (gratis) and perfect Fries ($3), delicately crisped, retaining no oil and dusted with deep-fried parsley leaves and thick kosher salt grains. A dish of Bucatini cooked with Tomatoes, Onions and Pork Jowls ($10) was near perfection, and only slightly less successful was a Linguine with Frutti del Mare ($12) - the sauce being too bland but saved by very tender scallops, calamari and in-shell clams and mussells. Susan claimed her favorite part of the entire meal was an ultra-rare bottle of dry Montefalco Rosso ($30), imported from a tiny Umbrian vineyard and dripping with toffee and warm walnut overtones. Just trying finding this at your local wine superstore!

Torrential rains, alarming thunder and special FX-worthy lightning did not deter Miki S and Cafe D from driving through the storm to Bushwick's hidden gem, Roberta's. Part summer ski-lodge (cords of seasoned logs decorate the mammoth space, stacked to stoke the wood-burning pizza oven), part industrial warehouse/converted barn, Roberta's astonishes with both vastness of size and sardine-packed crowds of local artists jammed atop each other at long communal tables.

Ambiance A+, the real attraction here is the top-notch individual pizzas and long list of original daily specials. A platter of mixed smoked and house-cured meats and sublime Italian cheeses ($13) made a superb shared appetizer, bolstered by (again) good chewy wholegrain bread, primo olive oil and dried fruits, walnuts and thyme-infused honey. Pies were equally great ($12-$15): Miki and Cafe Drake tore up a White Pizza piled high with nicely dressed baby arugula and a Margareta spiked with roasted peppers and briny olives. It's BYOB at Roberta's, so given the reasonable prices, splurge on a magnificent bottle of red for a gustatory evening fit for Brooklyn royalty.

Dinner en homage Honor Blackman

Cafe Drake's constantly TiVo'd channel BBCA recently turned up on a morning chat program - cheekily titled Loose Women - an interview with the 78-year old Honor Blackman, former Avenger, Bond girl and Swinging 60s and Rollicking 70s It Girl. Turns out - shocking! - Honor is a grandmother twice over and living single in London (after 4 failed marriages) and quite the health nut. Might explain her still extraordinary figure and aged, but glowingly healthy, visage. We thought it high time to honor here one of our all-time favorite actors and Cafe Drake icon, so thus below we present in Honor's honor, an uber-healthy meal of whole foods we'd be honored (sorry, we can't resist working the pun) to serve Ms. Blackman should she ever venture across the pond to Brooklyn. Fat chance it seems as Honor, in her racy interview, declares herself an adamant Londoner too attached to her various paramours to leave the British Isles.


White Wine Spritzers (low cal/low alcohol)
Cheese Straws
Toasted Brazil Nuts (antioxidant powerhouses)
Broiled Dover Sole with Caper Sauce (crazy Omega-3s)
Wheat Berry Salad

Cafe Drake loves this salad year round, but especially in the warmer months. Leave in the fridge for a day or two and the flavors magnify to a glorious intensity. Strict vegetarians would do well to serve a mound under tofu kebabs or a thick vegetable stew.

2 cups wheat berries / 6 cups water / salt / grated zest and juice of 1 orange / 1 T. fresh lemon juice / 1 minced shallot / 1/2 cup olive oil / salt and pepper / 2 cups chopped fresh spinach / 1 cup toasted pine nuts or pecans / about 1/2 cup or so crumbled feta cheese
  1. Boil the wheat berries in highly salted water for about 45 minutes, then drain well in a colander. They will retain a characteristic, pleasant chewiness.
  2. Make the dressing: combine orange zest and juice, lemon juice and shallots. Whisk in olive oil and season with salt and a few grindings of black pepper.

  3. Toss still-warm berries with spinach, nuts and citrus dressing. Adjust seasoning, adding more salt if required. Serve topped with feta cheese.

Dairy-Free Chocolate Mousse

Almost as rich and delectable as the real thing. We promise!

1/2 cup vanilla or chocolate soy milk / 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips / 12 oz. SILKEN tofu (no other variety will suffice) / 1/4 cup amaretto or other almond liqueur / 1/4 t. almond extract / pinch of salt

  1. Bring soymilk to a simmer, then cool and set aside.

  2. Slowly melt chocolate in a double boiler, or failing that, a smaller saucepan set inside a larger one filled with water.

  3. Add soy milk and tofu to melted chocolate.

  4. Blend in blender until velvet smooth.

  5. Stir in remaining ingredients.

  6. Chill in individual serving bowls for 2 hours. The mousse will set up nicely.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How to Make Fierce Chili Chutney

Is it a chutney? A hot sauce? Difficult to say but one certainty is the delectable nature of this condiment. Wait, is it a relish?

Chop 12 cloves garlic very roughly and fry in 3 T. oil for about 4 minutes, taking care not to burn. Add 1 T. dried ginger and cook for 1 more minute, then add 25 dried red chiles. Sounds like alot, Cafe Drake knows, but trust us on this. Besides, an entire bag costs about 2 bucks so go for broke. Cook chiles in oil for another 2 minutes and then let cool slightly. Place in a blender with about 4 T. cider vinegar, a small splash of fresh lemon juice, some salt and roughly 1 T. sugar. Pulse until you have a thick paste.

Extraordinary with beans and rice, dhal of any sort, most curries and even as a marinade for devilishly hot shrimp.