Saturday, November 28, 2009

More November Moments

A constant dining companion at Cafe Drake is the Pickle Plate. Above: French cornichons and bird's eye chilis.

Mysteriously labeled (beyond the indecipherable Mandarin characters, what exactly is steam powder?) to attract the curious attention of Cafe Drake, this esoteric seasoning is becoming a fast favorite in these parts. A powdered mix of rice flour and Chinese spices, the steam powder is dusted across fatty cuts of meat (spare ribs, pork belly) that have previously marinated in soy sauce and white wine and are then steamed until tender. The ultra-moist method of cooking ensures a juicy finished product. We like it even better with wedges of sweet potato and daikon radish added in the final half hour of cooking.

Besides generally amplifying the flavors of most anything, roasting is a welcome contribution to a chilly winter kitchen. Even jumbo whole prawns get the baked treatment at Cafe Drake! Simply toss with salt, pepper, a bit of olive oil and some lime juice. marinate at room temperature for 1/2 hour then roast for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Delicious.

Another autumn-themed table setting at Cafe Drake.

Mood lighting!

Easy Steps to Perfect Pumpkin Soup

We began our soup making with a 4-lb. pumpkin used in the previous weeks as autumn decoration at Cafe Drake. Smaller squash will be easier to work with for the pumpkin soup novice.

Wash pumpkin of any dirt or debris then chop in half. Scrape out all seeds and stringy flesh. If you plan to roast the seeds later, scatter them on dish towels to dry thoroughly.

When pumpkin halves are cleaned, cut into quarters or large wedges and place on a baking sheet with a 1/4" of water. Roasting the squash will not only improve the flavor and consistency (i.e. creamy, soft flesh) but also saves you from the daunting task of peeling.

While the pumpkin is roasting in a 400 degree oven until fork tender (about 1 hour, maybe more) begin cooking 1 large onion and 2 peeled and chopped apples in a mixture of butter and olive oil. To this we added some dried red chilis and a few cloves of garlic.

When the pumpkin is cooked scrape all orange flesh into the soup pot with onions and apples. Add at least 4 cups of water, some salt and pepper and a tablespoon of good quality curry powder. Simmer for 20-30 minutes then process till very smooth in a blender. Return to pot and stir in a little heavy cream and salt, pepper or even sugar to taste.

Cafe Drake likes a thin soup as a first course, so as above, we used more water/stock than others may desire. Garnish with snipped chives or toasted pumpkin seeds.

Octavio samples the finished product.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Condiments, Cordials, Oven-Roasted Veggies and a Garden in the Sky

Persimmon Vinegar Sure Is Easy: Place 1 fruit, trimmed at top, in a jar with approximately 2 cups of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Seal tightly and decant in 4-6 weeks. Use flavored vinegar for salad dressings, and by all means slice up the pickled fruit to add piquant flavors to any roasted meat entree. Vegetarians will enjoy the pickles with beans and rice.

Never Roasted Grape Tomatoes: Why not? Roasting for 15 minutes at 400 degrees intensifies the sweetness of baby tomatoes, which can then be added to pasta dishes or served as a side. Toss tomatoes with olive oil and kosher salt prior to roasting. Also delicious when stirred into finished risottos.

A 6,000 sq. ft. garden lies improbably on top of a former factory building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn's waterfront district. Recently the collectively-run, volunteer manned Rooftop Farms opened its doors (or, um, fields) to the public and Cafe Drake snagged fresh chiles, micro greens and a bag of dinosaur kale. Talk about local produce!

Sweet and tender baby turnips make a delicious gratin, and for those busy weeknights, aid in speedy preparation by their lack of need to be peeled. Slice a bunch thinly and layer with slivers of leek. Salt all and sprinkle a teaspoon of flour on each layer. Cover with good, nutty cheese and grated nutmeg. Salt again and pepper well, then pour in a few tablespoons of cream and dot with tiny bits of butter. Bake at 375 degrees for 60 minutes or until veggies are fork tender. Incomparable with pork roast but mild enough to dish up alongside fish as well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November Interludes

Marinade Ingredients for Georgian-Style Chicken Kabobs:
Mix together yogurt, sweet and hot paprikas, salt and black pepper, onions, garlic and fresh mint leaves and marinate with chicken overnight in the refrigerator. Broil chicken till just done and browned on top. Serve with flatbreads, sliced red onions dusted with sumac and creamy red cabbage salad.

A Special New Favorite Introduced to Cafe Drake via Jen Ruske

Autumnal Rabbit Stew:
Chop rabbit into pieces, shake with seasoned flour and brown quickly in olive oil. Add 1 large chopped onion, 1 peeled and chopped large parsley root, a cup of good red wine, a sprinkling of herbes de provence, a couple of bay leaves, some black peppercorns and salt to the pan. Cover and simmer on low until rabbit is just tender. Add water as needed. Do not overcook or the meat may be become dry and chewy. Remove rabbit, allow to cool, pull all meat from bones and return the meat to the pan. Simmer gently for 2-3 minutes then serve hot. Cafe Drake plated the stew with homemade whole wheat spaetzle. Ruske proclaimed the entree "restaurant-quality".

Casual Dining at Cafe Drake

Ultimate Comfort Food from Jen Lazzaro: Green Salad with homemade Toasted Parmesan Crisps, Roasted Organic Chicken Breasts and Turnip Puree and New Potatoes with Garlic

Fast & Creamy Cabbage Salad:
Shred 1/2 head of red cabbage and toss lightly with a bit of salt. In a large bowl mix together equal amounts of yogurt and mayonnaise and whisk well. Season with more salt, black pepper and 1/3 bunch of minced fresh dill. Whisk in a tablespoon of white wine vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar. Mix dressing with cabbage and let rest for 1 hour. Stir well and re-season as needed before serving.

Jen Lazzaro: Birthday Girl

A Gift of Orchids for the Birthday Girl

Jen & Dallas

Brian & Anna

Margaret & Mike

A Candlelit Birthday Dessert

Another Beautiful Birthday Bouquet

Cafe Drake recently gathered with friends and family of Jennifer Lazzaro to celebrate a milestone (of sorts) birthday at South Williamsburg's Rabbithole. Better known for their illustrious and packed brunch scene, the cozy and pretty restaurant proved a perfect setting as Jen and her crew settled into a corner banquette conveniently located next to the wooden bar. The food was great, the portions sizable and the service friendly and efficient, all paling only next to the glow of our delightful guest of honor.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Persimmon Cookies

Use very ripe persimmons for these cookies, i.e. fruit that is dotted with black spots and soft to the touch. To puree, just cut open persimmons and squeeze the flesh out into a food processor or Magic Bullet. Note that the finished result here is mild in flavor but appreciated by all. Good with afternoon tea or coffee. Feel free to add raisins, dried cranberries or chopped nuts if you'd like.

  • three average size persimmons, pureed as above
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour ( or split it up and use 1 cup of whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease or line one large baking sheet (or 2 smaller) with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.
  3. Cream the butter or margarine with the sugar. Beat in the egg and persimmons. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Drop by teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Random November Moments

Freshly baked treats for pets

Inspired by Miki's delicious Japanese winter vegetable stew, Cafe Drake's version included parsley root, turnips, lotus root, leeks and sweet potatoes.

Jen L relaxes between courses at Cafe Drake.

Late autumn table setting at Cafe Drake.

A Page family tradition includes chili on Halloween, here topped with a whole wheat cornbread crust.

Fresh cranberries, shredded ginger and chopped hot chili peppers make a bright tasting quick relish for cold weather. Good to ward off colds as well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Traditional Izakaya Meal at Miki's Home

Tucking in to a feast of traditional izakaya dishes, or "tapas" typically served at a Japanese drinking establishment.

Bottle feeding Baby Kitten.

Attempting to handroll one of Miki's scrumptious gyouza dumplings.

Kinoko Takikomi Gohan (Japanese Mushroom Rice)

Gyouza, or Leek and Pork Dumplings

With great dexterity Miki flips the dumplings from pan to plate.

Feeding tiny kitten. Miki rescued this beautiful baby from a city park in Flushing.

Braised fishcake and vegetables.

Waiting for adoption.

A typically welcoming table at Cafe Miki.

The Master instructs apprentice Jason in the art of dumpling making.

Simmered Satoimo (Yaro Tams in a Pork Broth)

Cold Weather food at its most comforting: Oden, or Japanese Hot Pot of fishcakes, cabbage, eggs and daikon radish. Delicious!