Saturday, October 31, 2009


Two More Recipes from Africa


Apparently peri-peri sauce is common throughout southern Africa, especially in former Portuguese colonies like Zimbabwe. This recipe is basically for the sauce itself, used here as a marinade. After marination cook the chicken in any manner you prefer: roasting, broiling, grilling etc.

Combine the following in a mixing bowl and mix to form a paste. You will need to work hard to thoroughly crush the garlic.

4 T. fresh lemon juice
4 T. oil of choice
1 T. cayenne pepper (use more if you like it hot)
1 T. paprika
1 t. kosher salt (a HEAPING teaspoon)
1 t. black pepper
2 cloves garlic

Rub this paste - or peri peri - all over roughly 2 lbs. of chicken pieces or even 1 3- lb. whole chicken. Cook accordingly.


Fairly basic dish here, but we love it Cafe Drake when decorated with plenty of fresh green chiles and chopped cilantro. The stew is also a good deployment of the often overlooked but delicious plantain. From the nation of Tanzania, home of the fabled Mt. Killimanjaro.

Cut a pound or so of lean beef into 1-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Dry cook for 3 minutes in a deep and large saucepan. Add 4 cups of beef stock and 1 chopped onion. Cover partially and simmer/low boil until the meat is tender. Keep adding stock orr water as needed.

When the meat is cooked add another onion - this time diced - and 2 large, green plantains chopped into 4-inch pieces. Add about 1 cup of thick tomato puree and 1 cup coconut milk. Cook until the plantain is soft and the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce. As always taste for saltiness and adjust if needed; serve hot.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Vegetable Dumplings in Fenugreek-Yogurt Sauce

Don't worry about making the vegetable koftas (fried fritters in the shape of meatballs) yourself - they are tricky to pull off and perfectly acceptable frozen ones are available from all Indian markets and many specialty food stores. The sauce - as much a star of this show as the koftas - is impressive enough to wow guests. And simple enough to make even after work.


This recipe yields plenty of sauce (or "kadhi") so you'll need basmati rice and/or bread to soak it up. Cafe Drale likes to serve the dumplings and sauce as a vegetarian entree, sided with crisp pappadums, rice and sweet mango relish.

2 cups plain yogurt (low fat is OK - non fat is NOT) / 2/3 cup chickpea flour / 6 cups cold water / 1/2 t. turmeric / 2 t. ground coriander / at least 1 1/2 t. kosher salt / 4 T. vegetable oil / 1/2 t. fenugreek seeds / 1 t. cumin seeds / 4 hot green chiles, chopped / 2 tomatoes, chopped coarsely / 2 onions, thinly sliced / 1 package frozen vegetable kofta
  1. Soak kofta in very warm water to cover for 1 hour.
  2. While kofta soak, start sauce by mixing together yogurt, flour, water, turmeric, coriander and salt in a bowl and place near stove.
  3. Heat oil in a large deep pot and fry fenugreek seeds for 5 seconds before adding cumin seeds. When both turn brown (about 15 seconds) add chiles and yogurt mixture. Stir with a whisk vigorously to prevent any lumping.
  4. Bring sauce to a boil and add kofta. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes or longer. Stir now and then to avoid sticking.
  5. At end of cooking - and you could cook for up to 90 minutes if you keep a close eye on sauce - add tomatoes. Check for salt levels as you may wish to add more.
  6. Ladle into soup bowls or large plates and serve very warm.

Salsa Verde, Muy Rapido

Sure the canned and bottled green salsas are generally very good, but why not create a batch at home now and then to appreciate the fresh difference? Below is the simplest and shortest version we know but still long on flavor; roasting the vegetables first mellows out the sharp notes of onion, garlic and tomatilloes.

Place a pound of tomatilloes (papery husks discarded) and 1 chopped onion and 2 cloves of whole garlic on a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If the tomatilloes are large, cut them in half. Toss all with olive oil and some kosher salt and roast about 10 minutes. Scrape all roasted veggies into a blender and process till smooth with a bit of water or vegetable stock. Season to taste with salt and a pinch or two of sugar. Reheat gently for 10 minutes after adding some ground cumin and dried or fresh oregano. You may also add chopped cilantro and minced green chile peppers at this point.

Use as a dip for chips, as a condiment or a sauce for enchiladas. Above Cafe Drake employed this versatile sauce for the latter, or Lazy Enchiladas as we call them - warm tortillas dipped in hot green sauce, folded and topped with crumbled cheese, peppers and sour cream. Maybe Deconstructed Enchiladas sounds better.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Unusually Here, An Appropriated Recipe

Cafe Drake rarely if ever reprints a recipe without at least putting our own CD spin on it. But it's well nigh impossible to top David Chang's failproof and utterly easy instructions for crafting at home his famous ssam, a Korean/Pan-Asian take on the classic burrito. We're also diehard fans of Chang's legendary Momofuku restaurant in Manhattan's East Village; more than once we've extolled their tasty virtues on this site! So below find the original recipe and - because we feel sort of guilty doing this - a link to buy his new cookbook. And no we don't receive a commission.

The Original Momofuku Ssam Recipe adapted from David Chang

Makes 1 burrito

1 extra-large flour tortilla, steamed or microwaved until warm / 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce / 2 tablespoons cooked short-grain rice, right out of the rice cooker or pot / 1⁄2 cup pulled pork shoulder, warm (Cafe Drake loves Trader Joe's quick and easy brand) / 1 tablespoon pureed cabbage kimchi (frankly, no need to puree) / 1 tablespoon shelled soybeans (edamame, frozen and thawed are fine) /1 tablespoon roasted onions 3 or 4 slices quick-pickled cucumbers

Lay the tortilla on a piece of aluminum foil that you’ll eventually use to wrap around the burrito. Smear a thick line of hoisin sauce across the tortilla and arrange the rice in a neat, even mound over the hoisin.
Scatter, spread and arrange the remaining ingredients over the rice.

Fold the right and left sides of the tortilla in first, then roll it closed as tightly as possible, using the foil to guide it.

Soup for the Sick

When Cafe Drake friend and co-conspirator Jenny Lazzaro came down with a dreadful cold recently - during one of the wettest, chilliest and gloomiest weeks in awhile - we whipped up a batch of Chicken Matzo Ball Soup and strolled across McGorlick Park to hand deliver (along with Theraflu, candy corn and Pet Shop Boys CDs). Our not totally traditional version adds breast meat and veggies to the normally clear broth, creating a sort of hybrid between the Yiddish standard and Southern chicken and dumplings stew. The use of garlic may be controversial but we add only 2 uncrushed cloves to 8 cups of water when creating our stock, so the flavor is mellow and not overpowering. Also unorthodox is a substitution of fresh dill for parsley leaves. Here's how to make a batch next time you - or anyone dear to you - falls ill. Or is cold. Or hungry. Or just needs a homecooked meal.

Begin with a large, deep pot and 6-8 cups of water. Add to it one full chicken breast with the skin removed but still on the bone. The latter is a strict requirement as you will not be able to develop any really deep flavors without the use of the poultry bones. Bring slowly to a boil while adding along: 1 large onion chopped in large pieces, 2 peeled large carrots (chopped large as well), 2 cloves of peeled but uncrushed garlic and 3 peeled and quartered turnips.

When mixture does finally boil, reduce to a simmer and add a few whole black peppercorns and 2-3 bay leaves. Season generoulsy with salt - the soup will need alot. Simmer until chicken is tender and remove from pot. Cool, remove flesh and add meat back to pot.

Now whilst the chicken and veggies cook and create a rich broth, get to work on the matzo balls. Grind to a fine powder (or meal) about 3 matzos. (Whole wheat are readily available in supermarkets now as are the zesty "everything" variety). You should have roughly 1/2 cup of matzo meal. Whip together 2 eggs and 2 T. of melted butter and add to meal. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

With wet hands roll matzo mixture into 10-12 balls and drop in simmering soup. Add 1/2 bunch of chopped dill. Cover and simmer on low for 45 minutes. Adjust salt as desired.

That's it.

Mazel tov!

Monday, October 26, 2009

From the Talented Lens of Jen Ruske

Jen Ruske's superb supper of skate wing, potatoes, grilled endive and cauliflower gratin.

Skinny and frail Sailor Page is still holding on.

Cafe Drake dinner of braised pork belly, roasted onions, garlic jam and frisee salad with apples.

Anthony Castro patiently waits for the next course at Cafe Drake.

A typically elegant composition from Jen R.

Cheers to an amazing chef and hostess!

Seasonal tablescape at Cafe Drake.

Pork belly braises for 3 hours at Cafe Drake

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ruske Perfects the Dinner Party

Crisp autumn evening . . . the typically dreaded Sunday night . . . but tonight leaves swirling in a chilly wind, Clinton Hill brownstones decorated with cobwebs, witches and fluttering ghosts made from sheets. Enter Casa Ruske and move to the darkened back patio, sitting amidst late-flowering rose bushes and happily ensconced with Gimlets brightened from hand-pressed lime juice and smoking cigarettes and feasting on Vermont blue cheese and sweet purple globe grapes. Slowly move back into the warmth of a hard-working kitchen and hear the celebratory POP! of a bottle of bubbles. Sit in splendor and dive into a dinner of pan-seared skate wings dressed with brown butter sauce, potatoes prepared en papillote, cauliflower gratin with hints of mustard and horseradish, grilled Belgian endive and bowls of tangy lemon-caper-parsley sauce. Finish - after second helpings - with a digestif of Haitian 7-yr aged rum. What more can we say? What more needs to be spoken?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Scent of Green Papaya

Evocative film title (as above) aside, the unripened - and thus emerald green - papaya has little aroma and the very mildest of flavors. The ubiquitous Thai appetizer salad starring the fruit, if you think about it, owes virtually all its piquancy to the fish sauce/lime juice/rice vinegar dressing adorning the papaya's shredded pale flesh. Nonetheless green papayas feature prominently in cuisines ranging from Caribbean to Indian/Pakistani and throughout all of tropical South East Asia and Africa.

Green papayas contain masses of enzymes that are the active ingredient in all natural meat tenderizers so a nifty use can be made of them whenever slow-cooking particularly tough cuts of beef or pork.
When unripe and fully green and lacking any sweetness, this fruit is treated as a vegetable.

The recipes below are for a) a tropical stew from Curacao that is a cinch to make and a must to serve with rice and chili relish and b) a creamy soup hailing from Tanzania . The former dish is illustrated above through snapshots from Cafe Drake's kitchen.


While naturally subtle in flavor, the green papaya soaks up the spices of this stew. Additionally it tenderizes the meat and adds a moist, exotic texture to an otherwise very familiar dish. Serve with rice and/or roti bread and perhaps a vinegary cabbage salad for a true Curacao dining experience.

Marinate about 2 lbs. of beef stewing meat in a couple of tablespoons of good soy sauce, a heaping tablespoon of ground cumin, a healthy dose of ground nutmeg and plenty of salt and cayenne pepper. After an hour or so at room temp, brown the beef well in a generous amount of vegetable oil.

Now add some fresh green chiles, a chopped green bell pepper, 2 large tomatoes (chopped) and 1 large onion (also chopped).
Now peel, seed and chop into decent-sized chunks 1 green papaya. Add it to the stew.

Add water to just cover and simmer for 1-2 hours until meat is tender. Readjust seasonings to taste and add about 1-2 T. of sugar if desired. Serve very warm and garnished with sliced green onions or snipped chives if you like.


Tanzanian cuisine seems to encompass a broad range of African influences from across the vast continent with a special penchant for fruit dishes. This soup is not as bizarre as it may first sound, and the resulting flavors are smooth and elegant and sure to please even a finicky palette.

1 green papaya, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces / 1 T. butter / 3 shallots, minced / 2 cups vegetable stock / salt / black pepper / 1 cup heavy cream / snipped chives or chopped parsley for garnish
  1. Fry the papaya and shallots in butter without browning. Add stock and season well with salt and pepper. Simmer until the papaya is very soft - you may need to add a bit more water or stock during this process.
  2. Cool slightly and then puree in a blender, along with 1/2 cup of cream, until smooth.
  3. Return to pot and reheat gently, slowly stirring in the remaining cream.
  4. Garnish as you wish and serve either hot or cold.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Restaurant (and Winery and Distillery) Reviews

Five Leaves

Tuthilltown Spirits

Whitecliff Vineyard

Five Leaves (18 Bedford Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn NY 11222)

Park) and a resident Best known as the late Heath Ledger's business venture, Five Leaves is more famous in Cafe Drake's Brooklyn neighborhood for their strong, cold-brewed ice coffees (conveniently served from a "take away window" across from McCarren Park) and a resident mixologist expert in crafting signature cocktails. A recent dinner here with Jen Lazzaro proved the kitchen is also very strong, and when coupled with a charming candlelit dining room and friendly, astute servers, Greenpoint benefits from yet another go-to restaurant.
The menu is large-ish but discerning, as are the carefully edited daily specials, and offers a nice range of appetizers, small plates and generously portioned entrees. As mentioned the drinks are a major draw here and we adored a Calvados Sidecar ($10) - sweet and tart with an added complexity of flavor courtesy of the smooth apple brandy. Sensational starters included perfect fries ($6) and tender, sweet mussels steamed in a light coconut broth ($12); entrees ordered were a rich, decadent Shepherd's Pie ($18) featuring ground lamb and the zing of fresh herbs such as lemon myrtle and a whole grilled Dorade ($20). The fish arrives in its entirety but thoughtfully de-boned and topped with olive-oil poached veggies, an unexpected richness complimenting the tender flesh and crispy skin.

Gilded Otter Brewing Company (3 Main Street, New Paltz, NY 12561)

Cafe Drake admits to a prejudiced viewpoint here, so biased are we in context of the glorious October afternoon and our enjoyment of the outdoors when we knoshed on lunch here. Very tasty was a grilled meatloaf sandwich ($11) with chipotle chile sauce, mayo and both crispy fries and a scattering of onion rings! Decadent but delicious (and greedily consumed) was a bursting platter of cheese drenched nachos ($11) topped with the usual fixings but also a mound of three-meat chili (chunks of beef, pork and turkey stewed tender in a brick red dried A covered patio behind the brewery yields scenic views of a creek and ancient bridge across the road, and on this particular day, a blaze of upstate NY color: every tree it seemed boasting a different shade of gold, red or electric orange.

Tuthilltown Spirits (14 Gristmill Lane, Gardiner, NY 12525)

$8 buys a tasting of any three of 8 bottles on offer - do as Cafe Drake did and go with a friend so between the two of you a sample of (almost) each is guaranteed. At least three friendly dogs greet you upon arrival at the picturesque distillery, distinguished by being New York state's only manufacturer of high octane spirits. A rustic, backwoods mood belies the sophisticated styling and quality of these artisinal liquors and careful tending yields flavorful, potent liquors with hefty price tags ($30 to $50+ for a small bottle) to justify the TLC and top-notch ingredients. We especially enjoyed the Hudson Manhattan Rye (made from 100% whole rye grain) and the Four Grain Bourbon (richly dark and caramely) but found the Heart of the Hudson Vodka disappointing. Also on sale in the tasting room are the impossible-to-find Fee Brothers bitters, bottled in Rochester, NY for over 150 years and available in flavors such as Cherry, Grapefruit and Rhubarb.

Whitecliff Vineyards & Winery (331 McKinstry Road, Gardiner, NY 12525)

With sprawling views of both the vineyards and Catskills mountains - and a small wooden deck from which to soak up both scenery and wine and cheese plates ($6 per cheese) - Whitecliff is easily one of the more charming wineries in Ulster County. And they don't do too badly with their wine either: the quintessential NY grape Cab Franc is notable as is the value-priced Grappa.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Feed Shelter Animals for Free

Click to Give: It is Free!

Each click on the purple "Click Here to Give - it's FREE" button at The Animal Rescue Site provides food and care for a rescued animal living in a shelter or sanctuary. Funding for food and care is paid by site sponsors and distributed to animals in need at the Fund for Animals' renowned animal sanctuaries (including Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Texas and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in California), pet shelters supported by the Foundation, North Shore Animal League, and other worthy animal care facilities supported by the foundation.

100% of sponsor advertising fees goes to our charitable partners. In September, this program provided funding 6,501,826 bowls of food -- or more than 3 million pounds of chow for animals in need!

Thank you for caring about animals and don't forget to click today! Pass this message to a friend to double your impact.

Lunch in the Green Dome

Green Dome Garden (North 12th Street between Driggs and Union Avenues, Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11211)

Oasis Restaurant (161 North 7 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211)

Mere blocks from Cafe Drake, hidden on a quiet side street just off Williamsburg's bustling McCarren Park, sits a "secret garden", a space so densely landscaped within its tiny square footage that the city seems miles away, not 3 feet. Cheekily playing with the notion of adding hilly topography to the surrounding supreme flatness, mini-mounds have been constructed through which tiny narrow paths meander amidst. Some must be trekked on foot while others (esp. near the entrance) are wheelchair accessible. Did we mention this all occurs within the space of an average-sized living room? Amazed as always at what we can do with minuscule spaces here in NYC, even more amazing to Cafe Drake is the garden's complete maintenance by volunteers and free, 7 days/week access from morning till dusk. To get involved contact:

So enchanting is the Green Dome that Cafe Drake forgot all about the smoggy air, slate gray skies and chilly winds while lunching there on take-away from nearby Oasis, still the single best Mid-East fast food joint in the hood. The $6 Falafel
Platter remains the steal of Williamsburg - 5 fluffy mounds of warm falafel balls drizzled with tahini and hot sauces, 2 whole wheat pitas, dollops of thick, creamy hummus and baba, a small green salad and pickled cukes and red cabbage.

Oven "fried" Chicken with Leeks

It's well nigh impossible to recreate the crackly, crunchy ecstasy of deep-fried, breaded, skin-on and bone-in chicken without the use of massive oil and a bottle of Lipitor. But at Cafe Drake we recently tried a far healthier method employing the oven and skinless, boneless chicken thighs.

You will want to pound the thighs out a bit to create a "cutlet" of a somewhat even thickness.
For 1-2 pounds of thighs, plan on mixing about a cup of seasoned breadcrumbs with 2 T. of oat bran or wheat germ. Place these dry ingredients in a bag and toss the chicken inside till all pieces are well-coated. Now place meat on an oiled baking sheet (1 large or 2 smaller) and sprinkle all with a good bit of salt and any other ground spices you may wish - coriander, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric and sage all work well.

Top chicken with finely sliced leeks; one large leek will do the job but be sure not to use any of the tough green parts (save those for making stock). Bake in a pre-heated, 375 degree oven for 25 minutes then turn chicken over. Turn the leeks on top as well so they do not blacken excessively.
Cook for 20 more minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes then serve.

Cafe Drake had this delicious and easy poultry dish alongside toasted seeded pumpernickel rolls, kale with garlic (from Jen L.), pickled cucumbers (also courtesy of Jen) and homemade cranberry chutney (recipe below).


This comes together so fast you won't believe it!

Place 1/2 bag of fresh cranberries in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, a drizzle of good honey, 1-2 T. rice wine vinegar, 1 T. ground ginger and 1 T. cayenne pepper. You should reduce the amount of spices if you prefer a milder chutney. Stirring well bring all to a boil and cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes maximum. 90% of the berries will burst and transform to the consistency of jam. Stir frequently then cool and serve.

Keeps fresh in fridge for quite awhile.