Saturday, January 31, 2009

More Recipes from the Vaults of Cafe Drake

More quick and easy favorite recipes from the test kitchen of Cafe Drake . . . all speedy winter co-stars certain to enhance any meal in a hurry.


A quite sweet side dish, suitable alongside pork chops or salty roasted chicken.

2 sweet potatoes / 3 T. olive oil / 1 t. or so dry mustard / 1/2 t. ground ginger / 1/2 t. cayenne pepper / salt/ 2 pears (Bartlett work best)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Slice sweet potatoes and toss with two tablespoons of the oil and all the seasonings including salt.

  3. Roast on a baking sheet for 25 minutes, turning now and then.

  4. Quarter the pears and add to potatoes, tossing well.

  5. Continue roasting for about 15 more minutes.

  6. Serve hot.


A nice one-pot side dish, good with any meat or fish entree.

1/2 lb orzo / salt and pepper / 1 lb. sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in halves / 2 small yellow squash, chopped / 3 T. lemon juice / 2 T. olive oil / 2 T. Parmesan cheese or to taste

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook orzo within for 5 minutes.

  2. Now add the veggies to the same pot. Cook for about 3 more minutes or until just tender.

  3. Drain well and return all to pot.

  4. Season with oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and the cheese. Combine well and serve hot or at room temperature.


Sounds too simple to be so tasty. Great with baked fish.

1 large bunch of broccoli, floret only / 1 T. Dijon mustard / 2 T. red wine vinegar / 2 T. olive oil / 1/2 red onion, diced / salt and pepper / 1 small package of grape tomatoes, halved / 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed well

  1. Boil the broccoli florets in salted water till just tender. Drain very well.

  2. In a LARGE bowl, mix together mustard, vinegar, oil and red onion.

  3. Add broccoli, tomatoes and chickpeas to bowl; toss very well and season with salt and pepper.

Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce

The recipe below was freely adapted, a couple of years ago, from the magazine pages of Everyday Food. Because the enchiladas themselves are so mild in spice, Cafe Drake serves this with the fieriest salsa in our repertoire.


While the combination may seem unusual, trust us, you'll like it! And besides being loaded with antioxidants and mega doses of Vitamin A, pumpkins are an indigenous staple of the Latin American diet.

1/2 of a store-bought rotisserie chicken / 6 green onions, sliced / salt and pepper / 1 can pumpkin puree / 3 garlic cloves / 1 jalapeno chicken, sliced / 2 t. chili powder / 8 corn tortillas / plenty of shredded Cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  2. Shred chicken and mix with onions. Season with salt and pepper.

  3. In a blender, combine and process till smooth: pumpkin, garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, 2 t. salt, some black pepper and 2 1/2 cups water.

  4. Pour 1 cup of this sauce into a baking dish.

  5. Roll tortillas around chicken filling and place in dish. The seam side should be facing down.

  6. Pour all remaining sauce over the tortillas and top with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Use caution that the sauce not bubble over the dish and onto oven floor.


Too spicy to eat with chips, this salsa is better (and delicious) as a relish or condiment. Try it with soft scrambled eggs and warm tortillas for a breakfast sure to kick-start your day.

4 habanero chile peppers / 4 poblano peppers / 3 tomatoes, seeded and diced / chopped cilantro / 1 T. red wine vinegar / 2 T. olive oil / salt to taste

  1. Broil all peppers on a baking sheet till soft and slightly charred.

  2. Chop well and mix with remaining ingredients.

Lunch with Susan & Sloane

Sloane with Water

Sloane with Mango Lassi

Cafe Drake met up for an overdue lunch with S & S recently at Curry Hill's Tiffin Wallah (Lexington Avenue and 28th Street), Manhattan's premier South Indian vegetarian restaurant. As Susan and Cafe D caught up, and Sloane took in the bustling pace of the packed place, we grazed through platters heaped with mini-uttaphams; coconut, mint and tamarind chutneys; exceedingly fresh spinach and paneer; creamy whole mung bean dhal; cauliflower and potatoes in a tomato gravy; crisp, paper-thin rotis and considerably more. Tiffin Wallah is almost unique in their approach to clean flavors, unmuddied and bursting with intelligent seasoning - no overcooked veggies or ubiquitous, one-fits-all spice mixtures here!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sweet Potato Soup with Caraway, Chives and Cheddar

Saute 4 peeled and chopped sweet potatoes with 1 chopped onion in olive oil for about 4 minutes.
Add 1 T. of dried marjoram, alot of paprika and a very large pinch of caraway seeds (at least a teaspoon if not more). Saute for 2 more minutes then add 4 cups stock (veggie or chicken) and about 6 whole peppercorns.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a steady simmer for 30 minutes. Stir now and then.

Remove from heat and let cool.

Puree till smooth in a blender. Return to your saucepot with 1 1/2 cups milk.

Add plenty of salt to season.

Heat till quite hot and serve topped with snipped chives and grated aged cheddar (the best you can afford).

If Sailor Wasn't Sick He Wouldn't Be Up Here

Sailor Atop a Dining Table

Indonesian Chili Shrimp

For some reason, Cafe Drake is shrimp obsessive this winter, an altogether new experience for us. A seafood we generally leave to restaurants, and not a particular favorite, we're discovering the incredible versatility of these shellfish, and especially entranced by their shockingly short cooking time. The recipe below has become a new favorite - easy enough to prepare while sleepwalking, fine enough to serve to the best of company. Have plenty of rice to soak up the sauce and a salad to add some green crunch.


1 inch of ginger, peeled and chopped / about 1 lb. of raw shrimp, shelled and de-veined / 2 T. peanut oil / 2 garlic cloves, chopped / 4 shallots, minced / 3 fresh hot chiles of choice / 2/3 cup coconut milk / 1 t. ground coriander / chopped cilantro for garnish / salt to taste

  1. Heat oil and stir-fry over a medium flame: ginger, garlic, shallots and chiles. Cook for 4 minutes.

  2. Add shrimp and cook for 3 minutes.

  3. Add coconut milk, coriander and some cilantro, season with salt and bring to a boil.

  4. Reduce heat and simmer VERY gently for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Serve as soon as possible.

Q: What Could Be Easier?

A: Nothing is simpler than a worknight meal of chicken tenders, dredged in bread crumbs spiked with cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper, pan-fried and draped atop a well-dressed bed of greens of choice (we like baby spinach for this dish). What sets it apart - as always - is the judicious use of homemade sauces and condiments. Above you will note we drizzled chicken and greens with a pleasantly spicy harissa-tomato sauce and a South Indian cooked onion relish. Recipes to add distinction to almost any meal are below.


This is unusual among Asian relishes in that it is cooked. If you cannot find the curry leaves, skip it. If you can (at any Indian grocer), buy two or three bags and simply freeze in ziplock bags, ready for use at any time. Should tamarind concentrate find difficult to procure, substitute a generous splash of fresh lemon juice.

2 T. oil / 2 medium red onions, chopped / 6 dried red chiles / 1 inch of ginger, peeled and grated / 1 T. tamarind concentrate / 5-6 curry leaves / salt to taste
  1. Saute onions and ginger in oil till quite soft.

  2. Add to blender with rest of ingredients. Puree to a thick paste. If needed, add a couple of tablespoons of stock or water to ease the process along.


This sauce is divine with broiled steaks and also delicious over strong flavored fish, such as broiled mackerel or fresh sardines. We're lazy enough to generally buy harissa canned from Middle Eastern grocery stores, or often even large supermarkets. The all-purpose sauce - the ketchup of the Mid East - is easy enough to whip up anytime however, and keeps in the fridge for well over a month. Recipe to follow below.

Heat gently over a low flame: one small can of tomato sauce, 2 T. harissa sauce and almost 1 T. of sugar. Mix well and serve hot.


2 red bell peppers, roasted and chopped / 1/2 t. coriander seeds or ground / 2 fresh hot chile peppers, chopped / 2 garlic cloves, chopped / 2 t. caraway seeds / olive oil / salt

  1. Puree all peppers, spices and salt in a blender.

  2. With blender still running, slowly stream in oil until a thick paste forms.

  3. Store in fridge topped with more oil for (almost) as long as you like.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Miki's Korean Stew Recipe

Below is the basic recipe for Miki's scrumptious Korean soup, with a few notes on adaptation from the chef herself.

from Miki (who cooks by instinct, not books):

I found this recipe, kind of close, but not exactly same. I don't like to use beef broth since this soup has clams/seafood. And I put garlic & grated ginger first, not in the recipe.

  1. Heat the oil over medium flame in a clay hotpot or large saucepan. Add the garlic and pepper powder and sauté until the garlic just starts to brown.

  2. Add the beef stock, kimchee and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 10-15 minutes, or until the kimchee softens.

  3. Gently stir in the tofu and clams with their juice. Adjust the seasoning with soy sauce and Korean pepper, and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

  4. Sprinkle with scallions, drizzle with sesame oil and serve piping hot in bowls with steamed rice.

An Original Creation from David Sellers

Cafe Drake is a happy guinea pig anytime in the kitchen of pal David, a home chef with an intuitive grasp of seasoning, timing and full flavors. David's latest experiment was a casserole/gratin of potatoes, cream, Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses and Italian sweet sausage, all baked till bubbly and golden brown. Delicious is the verdict! Equally impressive was the perfect mixed green and veggie salad preceding - a seemingly simple dish too often pallid, watery and lacking in bite. Baby J loved the grape tomatoes best! Playing with Julian and visiting with Natalie added to the charm, as did a slew of top-shelf Sidecars, freshly shaken.

Spicy Soup with Sassy Miki-san

What do you crave on one of the coldest of January nights, one with strong winds and an ominous dove-gray sky foretelling an immanent snowstorm soon to arrive? Miki S got the answer right: spicy, warming soup. And plenty of it.
Nestled on Miki's comfy sofa, amidst her toile fantasia of a living room, Cafe Drake lapped with fervor at a huge, steaming bowl of a house specialty, Seafood & Tofu Chigae . Korean comfort food at its best (and most blazing), M's soup/stew begins with a fiery red chile broth, well-stocked with clams, squid, shrimp, scallions and fluffy clouds of soft tofu. Pour all over rice and top with a cracked egg and you have a home-cooking masterpiece. Along the way we picked at mounds of cold spinach seasoned with soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds and Japanese-style mixed nuts and rice crackers.

Of course, the always welcome Korean version of vodka - shochuu - was on hand, splashed with soda and lemon for a soothing counterpoint to the soup's delightful heat.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Scallops with Ruske


Wasabi Peas

Salad of Watercress and "Knotted" Tofu Skins in Sunflower Seed Dressing with Chinese Chives and Thai Stick Chiles

Oven-Roasted Sea Scallops
Brown Rice
Yu-Choy with Red Chiles and Garlic

Ginger Blackberry Cobbler


Saturday, January 24, 2009

January 2008 Restaurant Round-Up, PART I

Restaurant Week is always a special time here in New York, a brief shining period when secretaries can lunch beside their bosses, when mere mortals can dine in splendor usually reserved for corporate expense accounts. Now that so many bosses have had their corporate AMEXs shredded, Restaurant Week is more fevered than ever. And more needed and welcomed. In a gesture greatly appreciated but also unnecessary, Jorge M. treated Cafe Drake to lunch recently at Midtown Manhattan's ode to modern Greek cuisine, Anthos (bottom pic), as a token of appreciation for our care of his aging chihuahua, Ocho Manahan, over the December holidays.

Anthos is an essay in easy, lyrical charm - uncluttered yet cozy, filled with natural light and the crisp reflections of white linens and flowering branches from its mirrored walls and shiny cream floors. Efficient waiters and servers guided us through three dazzling courses. Standouts included: butter-soft fluke sashimi atop "whipped feta" bullets atop drops of thick smoked chile puree atop grassy slicks of scallion oil; melting tender lamb shanks with stripes of creamed celery root and deep-fried kale leaves nestling sharp Greek cheese; cranberry bread pudding and a heart-stopping finale of warm walnut fudge crowned with a dense quenelle of dark chocolate ice cream.

Not all meals can be so extravagant, but they can be rich and satisfying. A great budget alternative is STILL the Nachos Supreme ($9.95) at the century-old tavern Teddy's in North Williamsburg. Cafe Drake hadn't tackled a platter of these perfectly cheese-smothered chips with all the fixings (3-bean chili, spicy salsa, jalapenos, sour cream, thick guacamole) in over a year! It was high time on a frigid January night - an early dinner with Jen Lazzaro - and also warming was an impressively priced but just OK Sidecar ($6.50).

Return visits also paid off (in Spades!) to Indian buffet meccas - Long Island City's Punjabi 5-Star and Jackson Heights' lunchtime jewel, Delhi Palace. The former offers a basic selection that for $9 can fill any emptiness of stomach or heart or soul: noteworthy typical selections include the fenugreek-laced vegetable dumplings, a superb tikka masala and a very ample "salad bar".

Delhi Palace charges a scant $2 more, but also offers cooked-to-order masala dosas and a much wider range of Southern Indian vegetarian options (the lentils and saag paneer are legendary!)

Finding ourselves unexpectedly in downtown Brooklyn, wandering in search of sustenance in the blocks surrounding BAM, Cafe Drake popped into 67 Burger for a much-craved Ranch Burger and Beligian frites ($12.95). Pricey? A bit. Encroaching SoCal-styled interiors? Sadly, yup. Highly Competent and warm servers? Almost. Porked Major? Um, yeah. The ranch burger is a mound of tender, medium-rare grass-fed beef, decorously arranged atop a toasted roll with lettuce, ripe tomato, pickles, stips of crispy bacon, aged cheddar and ribbons of housemade ranch dressing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fry Daddy



Tempura (Sweet Bell Peppers, Serrano Peppers, Red Onions, Stringbeans, Ginger, Yams, Shrimp)
Brown Rice
Soy-Mirin Dipping Sauce
Toasted Nori
Hearts of Romaine with Tofu Dressing

(big surprise, eh?)

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Return of Audrey Sellers to Cafe Drake

Cafe Drake is always a happy place, but never more so than when we're paid a visit from Audrey Sellers, in town (from Smith College) to see her dad over the MLK holiday weekend. See below our special occasion menu, and above, pics of the delightful Ms. Audrey and dad David.


Champagne Cocktails
Feta, Yogurt & Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Cumin Roasted Almonds
Syrian Olives

Tagine of Yellowfin Tuna, Tomatoes, Capers & Cinnamon
Whole Wheat Egg Noodles with Butter & Poppy Seeds
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Grains of Paradise
Moroccan Pickled Lemons

Irish Cheddar, Aged Parmesan


Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Return of Recipes

Cafe Drake apologizes for the recent lack of actual recipes here on the site, but if you're like us, January brings on the kitchen blahs: exhaustion from holiday cooking, tears on the bathroom scales, unappealingly frigid trips to the food markets, overindulged palettes. The dishes below are from the Cafe Drake vaults, dusted off and presented in deep winter because they fill the seasonal prerequisites of ease and speed of preparation and require minimal ingredients. Each is perfect for even the most ennui-filled of weeknights, so try them all and (as always) write us with suggestions on how we might better these standby favorites.


A perennial winter staple, this is the easiest version we know of this beloved soup.

6 medium leeks, sliced, whites only and well well well rinsed / 2 cans of chicken or vegetable broth / 1 large potato, peeled and diced / 3/4 cup heavy cream / salt and pepper / chives

  1. In a large saucepan, simmer on medium heat until veggies are tender: leeks, broth, potato 2 cups water and a generous amount of salt and black pepper.

  2. Puree in a blender, in batches if needed.

  3. Return to saucepan and stir in the cream. Warm very gently until piping hot.

  4. Serve with snipped chives as a garnish.


Below you will use the quite economical shoulder chops, taking care to not overcook. Very good with whipped potatoes or buttered rice.

4 lamb shoulder chops / 1 T. dried rosemary (less if using fresh) / salt and pepper / 3 T. lemon juice / 1 T. olive oil / 2 t. Dijon mustard / 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped / 1/2 cup fresh mint, minced / 1 scallion, sliced

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Rub both sides of the lamb chops with rosemary and salt and pepper. Broil for 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare.

  3. While the lamb is cooking, mix together the remaining ingredients in a bowl and season to taste.

  4. Spoon mint-pepper mixture over each chop.


Our favorite black bean cakes can be found at Vickery's Bar and Grill in Atlanta, a warm and cozy space tucked away on a dark and leaf-lined Midtown sidestreet. While Cafe Drake is is NY however, the recipe below suffices well.

olive oil / 4 scallions, sliced thinly / 6 garlic cloves, minced / 2 jalapeno peppers, minced / 1 T. ground cumin / 2 cans of black beans, rinsed and drained very well / salt and pepper / 1 large sweet potato, coarsely grated / 1 egg, beaten / 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Saute the scallions in oil till soft, then add garlic and peppers and cumin. Cook for no more than one more minute. Transfer to a large bowl.

  3. Add the beans to the bowl and mash well. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Gently fold in the egg and grated sweet potato. Stir in breadcrumbs.

  4. Make 8 balls and press into patties. Place on an oiled baking sheet about 1 inch apart.

  5. Broil for 8-10 minutes, flip and broil for 3 more minutes. You may need a longer time to really crisp the tops.

  6. Serve with sour cream thinned with a T or so of fresh lime juice.

  7. Sliced radishes and chopped cilantro make tasty garnishes.


Our laziest Indian preparation EVER! And you'll be surprised how tasty it is, especially sided with basmati rice and a dollop of mixed masala pickle (available at all Indian markets).

1 cup plain yogurt / 2 garlic cloves, minced / 1 t. turmeric powder / 1 t. ground ginger / salt and black and cayenne pepper / 4 bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed / 2 Granny Smith apples / chopped cilantro

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

  2. Mix together 1/2 cup yogurt, garlic, turmeric, ginger and a bit of pepper. Add the chicken and coat well.

  3. Bake chicken on a cookie sheet for 25-30 minutes.

  4. Whilst the chicken cooks away, peel and grate the apples. Mix with cilantro and 1/2 cup of yogurt. Season with salt and both types of pepper. If you like, throw in a dash of sugar. Stir very well.

  5. Serve the chicken hot with sauce on the side.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pretty Label; Not Pretty Tasting

We pulled the bottle above from the murky depths of our local wine merchant's $10 bargain barrel, an unassuming locale harboring a few of our weeknight favorites. So we were unpleasantly surprised to find this watery red both bitter and weak, what few flavors it possesses tart and vinegary in nature.

Just as Cafe Drake likes to point you in the right direction, we also like to direct you off the path best less traveled.

We Scream . . . for Anything Free!

Head over to to sample the tasty homesite of the people who bring us lucky New Yorkers free parties with free drinks and yes, free ice cream. They've loaded the webpage with cool graphics and true to their spirit, free music downloads. More precisely, Free Ice Cream hosts some of the best live DJ sets out there, recorded at their massive NYC parties and then thoughtfully zipped up to a manageable size for your home pleasure. We love 'em with cocktails.
And if you're in the area, head over Jan 30 to Williamsburg's posh but friendly Huckleberry Bar for the next Free Ice Cream shindig.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Welcome Home Dinner for Jen Lazzaro

Gin Gimlets
Chat Masala Toasted Almonds

Shrimp Kashmiri
Whole Wheat Couscous
Baked Belgian Endive
Parsley, Red Onion and Green Chile Salad