Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Just Found This Amazing (short) Video: Click Below

Three Uber-Rapid Warm Weather Meals

(from top left)

Hoisin Chicken with Thai Potato Salad

Marinate 1 lb. of thin chicken cutlets in the following marinade: 3 T. hoisin sauce, 2 T. toasted sesame oil, 1 t. cayenne pepper, 1 clove minced garlic and 2-3 minced scallions. Keep in the fridge while you make the potato salad.

Boil 1 lb. of peeled potatoes, drain and cut into medium sized cubes. Toss carefully with mayonnaise, a few splashes of fish sauce, 1-2 t. of sugar, a splash or two of rice vinegar and a handful of chopped cilantro. Place in fridge to cool.

Heat oil to just cover the bottom of a wide skillet and when smoking hot, add chicken cutlets along with all marinade. Salt and pepper and cook each side for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and add a tiny bit of water. Cover and cook until just tender. This will not take long and be careful to not over cook.

Plate by scooping potato salad out and crowning with a chicken cutlet. Drizzle with any accumulated pan juices.


Drain and lightly rinse 1 large jar or packet of sauerkraut. Avoid the canned variety. Place sauerkraut in a large saucepan and add to it: 1 cup of dry white wine, 1 T. of sugar, a few whole black peppercorns, a T. of caraway seeds, 1 chopped onion and 2 peeled and chopped apples of your choice. Add some chicken or vegetable stock to moisten further and cook over a low heat, covered, for about 1 hour. During this time you can check in on the 'kraut only occasionally - feel free to do the laundry or watch Oprah.

After 1 hour boil the perogies according to package directions and drain. Arrange over sauerkraut and dollop with sour cream. Garnish freely with chopped dill, parsley and paprika.


Cook 1 16-oz. package of wide rice noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse exceedingly well under cold water, rubbing with your fingers to extract excess starch. Set aside in a colander to drain very, very well. 

Chop 1/2 bunch each fresh basil and mint and add to a large mixing bowl. Tip in drained noodles and add the following: a big spoonful of garlic-chili paste or sauce, salt to taste, the juice of a lime or lemon and 2 T. of sesame oil. Toss very well. The toss again. Refrigerate to chill.

Serve topped with spicy fried tofu, flash-fried shrimp or stir-fried veggies of your choice.

Out on the Town with Ruske (Moody Pics Below)

With Ruske at Greenpoint's Black Rabbit Bar. Good to know: BR has an expanded food menu and - rarest of rare - more than a handful of quality wines available by the glass. Ruske and Cafe Drake chose a dry Rose to sip in the back garden.
And later, after a cozy opening at Kill Devil Hill's back gallery (complete with cocktails of Hendrick's gin and blackberry brandy), Cafe Drake had a memorable meal at Williamsburg's new destination dining spot, The Bedford. Along with more good cocktails and a bottle of brisk Alsatian Riesling we supped on a sort of fritto misto starter of tiny whole fish and melting-tender calamari served with aioli and a Gaeta olive paste, followed by luscious fish and steak (grass-fed hangar atop caramelized potatoes and lemony, rich stewed broccoli rabe) entrees. Cafe Drake joins the general consensus that The Bedford is a huge asset to our local dining landscape and a welcome relief after far too many overpriced slop house startups, blossoming like toxic mushrooms following the Billyburg housing boom deluge.

Japanese Dinner on a Budget (and Diet)

Low-fat truly doesn't mean no-taste when braising thick slices of daikon radish and tender, young turnips in a broth of sake, mirin and soy sauce.
We'll admit it - brown rice can be deadly boring without a saucy accompaniment to moisten and accent the nutty grains. A super quick fix is a generous sprinkle of Ajishima Foods' numerous varieties of rice seasonings. Cafe Drake spiked our rice bowl above with seto fumi furikaki, a blend of bonito flakes, sesame seeds and toasted crumbled toasted nori.
"Custard-style" tofu served as a chilled salad, adorned only with a light soy dressing and snipped garlic chives to allow the clean, simple flavors of the bean curd shine.
Brown rice, tofu salad, Chinese cabbage with green and red chilies, pickles.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lloyd Survives Summer's Heat

Lloyd's Strategy? Expend as little energy as possible and always seek shade.

Two Garden Summer Meals with Jen Lazzaro

Roasted Beets slicked with herbed olive oil and fresh oregano.

Dry chorizo sausage is first rendered slowly in a pan with onions and bell peppers, then stewed with chickpeas and garlic. At the end of cooking, split cherry tomatoes are stirred into the soupy beans.
Bread and aged balsamic and oil for dipping, natch.
A very refreshing starter is a chilled cantaloupe soup. As above, 1 melon - peeled and cubed - is blended with 2 cups of ice, lime zest and the juice of 1 lime. Stir in a bit of sugar or honey and black pepper and chill for several hours. Serve garnished with minced jalapenos, red onion and shredded basil.
Cured meats and Cafe Drake's pickled okra.
Semi-vegetarian Lucy Lazzaro waits patiently for garden-fresh table scraps.
Boiled eggs frying in olive oil (see full recipe below).
House-made Honey and Ginger Cuke Pickles are brined and canned with golden raisins and green chili peppers.
Crispy jicama salad.
Pan frying baguette slices in good olive oil makes a nice change from oven-baked croutons. use for soups, cured meats, cheeses etc.
Jen looks well pleased with her chilled Cantaloupe Soup.
Sopressata and cheese.
Intrigued by a recipe from Lynne Rosetto Kaspar, Cafe Drake prepared eggs the Sardianian way: slice in half hard-boiled eggs then fry till slightly crispy/toasty in olive oil. Splash with white wine vinegar and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from pan, add more oil and quickly stir-fry minced garlic, chopped parsley and some bread crumbs. Pour all over eggs, salt and pepper well and serve warm. Delish.

Cafe Drake loves the Summer Southern dinner staple known as the "Vegetable Plate", a medley of whatever's freshly picked then carefully cooked, supplemented by pickles, relishes and bread or dinner rolls. Our own versions lately have included everything from pitchers of Sweet Tea with Lemon Verbena to bottles of dry Rose, slow-simmered chickpeas with tomatoes and dried chorizo sausages, radish and zucchini carpaccio, icy classic gazpacho, roasted beets with oregano and olive oil and more. Throw in good company and a functioning window unit a/c an evening to remember. In a good way.

Random Pantry View IV

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cool Down with Cafe Drake

With NYC experiencing the hottest (both in high temps, humidity and number of days over 90 degrees) summer since the infamous heat wave of 1896, we've gotta drink something to take off the edge. Our beloved "straight up - no ice" standbys  - Manhattans, Gimlets, Sidecars, Stingers and Martinis - all warm up quicker than even WE can drink them in this infernal weather so we've reverted to venerable faves such as Old Fashioneds and Cuba Libras. Variation is the spice of our lives however, so join Cafe Drake in cooling down and catching a buzz with the two cocktails below.


A great opportunity here to explore the new world of artisanal and homemade bitters. Have fun with a kitchen project and make your own and spice with anything from rhubarb to lemon verbena. Endless recipes and techniques abound on the internet.

Shake the following with ice cubes and strain into highball glasses filled with ice: 3 dashes Orange or other flavored bitters, 2 dashes regular Angostura bitters, 2 oz. gin and 1 dash of grenadine. Garnish or not.


Since we've had plenty of leftover pineapple juice around the house lately, Cafe Drake rediscovered this Southern smash hit. Almost universally enjoyed.

Combine 3 oz. dark rum and 2 oz. each of orange and pineapple juices in a shaker filled with ice. Shake or stir briefly. Strain in to a tall Collins glass filled with ice and garnish with a drizzle of grenadine and a fresh cherry.

Dinner en homage Mrs. Robinson

Cafe Drake is merely preaching to the choir and reading to the already literate when we state the obvious fact that legendary stage and screen actor Anne Bancroft has the most distinguished of careers spanning decades and dozens of awe-inspiring character performances (or more correctly, inhabitations). Still, we're partial to her iconic performance in 1967's The Graduate as the absolute pinnacle of chic perfection and icy glamor. Only more endearing (and disturbing) are the flawed aspects of this semi-tragic figure, but indulging our superficial side we can't get past the wardrobe, the witty sarcasm, the enchanting ennui of the elegant housewife. 

In honor of both Ms. Bancroft and her timeless alter ego (though Bancroft stated many times in interviews she found the association tiresome), Cafe Drake presents below an imaginary menu for a guest we will never host, and never could in reality given her fictional status. Then again, that's never stopped us before. Appropriately, we have tailored the evening's meal (food and wine selections) to the time and milieu of Mrs. Robinson, drawing from our archives of retro classics still withstanding time's test.


Cream of Mushroom Soup
Garlic Croutons
California Pinot Noir

Rack of Lamb Dijonnaise

If your knife skills are rusty (pun intended) have the butcher clean - or "french" - for you a double rib rack of lamb. This will be a special and relatively expensive meal so don't skimp on this step; otherwise the less than clean bones may burn in the oven. This part you can do yourself: remove the fat on both sides of the rib with a sharp knife, exposing the muscle but not cutting into it.

Rub each rack with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Roast 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F. Do make certain the oven is hot, i.e. begin preheating 10 minutes or so (for older model ovens) before cooking lamb. After 10 minutes remove racks from oven and brush with 3 or more T. of good Dijon mustard. Sprinkle each rack with 1/4 cup breadcrumbs; if you can find good seasoned ones by all means use (otherwise sprinkle lamb additionally with rosemary, oregano and more salt).

Spoon 2 T. of melted butter on each rack and return to oven for 10-20 minutes. The timing is crucial but only really concerns the degree of doneness you prefer.  20 minutes total should produce a lovely medium-rare chop; if you cook the meat till well done (i.e. tough, gray and chewy) consider purchasing a cheaper cut of meat and preparing differently (stew, ragu, etc).

Let the racks rest 5 minutes before carving into individual portions. This recipe will serve 6 easily provided you offer side dishes.

Serve with a good Zinfandel. Hey, this is an extravagant meal!

Broiled Tomatoes
Salad of Boston Lettuce and Endive

Cantaloupe in Port

What could be easier than this? 
Peel and cut cantaloupe into 1" cubes (a bit larger is okay as well).  Toss fruit with tawny port or Madeira, using a ratio of 2 T. per average size melon. Refrigerate for up to 3 hours and rest at room temperature for 15 minutes prior to serving.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Dinner en homage Coral Browne

Cafe Drake Comrades rejoice, we heard the email cries from our internet family and promptly decided to post a long-overdue version of our perennially most-favored feature . . . the Dinner en homage Series. This time we focus on the fabulosity that was/is Coral Browne. Commonly considered British due to her nearly life-long tenure on the London stage and in UK cinema, Ms. Browne was actually born and raised in Australia (but we forgive her). Later in life she married Vincent Price and by all accounts they lived the happiest and most sophisticated of lives in their beach-front Malibu home until Coral's unfortunate demise from breast cancer in the late 1980s. More fortunate is the legacy she left to all of us starved for enduring, unerring and effortless chicness, not to mention her few but choice examples of screen perfection. Quite a character and growing more infamous 20+ years after her death from anecdotes celebrating her legendary potty (and utterly witty) mouth, Coral Browne is honored by Cafe Drake with a dinner we only wish we could have hosted for the Divine Ms. B. Simple as we heard she liked it, and focused more on the booze than the food, chilled champagne would be served throughout after (very) dry Martinis to start. We probably would have asked her bristly self to channel our favorite character from The Killing of Sister George, Miss Mercy Croft!

Selected Filmography: Auntie Mame (1957); The Killing of Sister George (1968); The Ruling Class (1969); Theater of Blood (1973); Dreamchild (1985)

Shrimp on the Barbie
In-shell, head-on prawns grilled over charcoal coals and wrapped in moistened, fresh bay leaves. Served with salt and limes and lemons.

Mixed Grille of Sausages
Grilled Apricots
Assorted Grilled Vegetables (Onions, Bell and Chili Peppers, Tomatoes)

Lemon Syllabub
(Anglo dessert still beloved by Aussies and other colonial remnants of the defunct British Empire). Cafe Drake loves this simple dessert served with frosted sugar cookies and iced coffee after a sweltering summer dinner. Easy enough for non-bakers like ourselves.

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or to taste)
  • fresh mint leaves for garnish
  • lemon slices for garnish


  1. Whip the cream and sugar in a chilled bowl, until the cream begins to thicken. Gradually whip in the white wine, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Continue to whip until light and fluffy, but not grainy. Cover the mixture and chill until serving time.
  2. Serve in chilled parfait glasses, garnished with a dash of nutmeg, a sprig of mint, and a slice of lemon. Syllabub should be eaten with a small spoon, and savored.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

We'd Love to Serve You an Action Pic of Lloyd i.e. Still Sleeping

But unfortunately Lloyd's frisky hours are only after we're either in bed or too tired to reach for the camera. Yes he does actually move around - and even plays frenetically - but only in the early AM hours. Next time we stumble home late from the bar, and can focus through the lens, we PROMISE animated pics!

Tropical Meal with Octavio Fenech

Fresh from the morning's GreenMarket, summer beets boiled, peeled, sliced and dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper, minced red onion and fresh oregano. Like Revenge, a dish people with taste prefer served cold.
Along with beet salad, Cafe Drake served two of our homemade pickles: Ginger and Honey Cukes and Spicy Okra.
The Prep Station for our Black Bean Cakes entree in respect of our vegetarian guest: form patties of mashed black beans mixed with bread crumbs, chopped onions and garlic and green chilies, minced cilantro, cumin seeds, salt and black pepper and whipped eggs and dip patties in a) seasoned flour then b) whisked egg and c) bread crumbs. Fry in plenty of oil for 3 minutes per side over medium heat. Serve hot with limes and sliced onions.
Amazing Cabbage Salad will astound guests with just a few twists on the more familiar coleslaw. First, grate 1 head of cabbage finely on a cheese grater. This will go much faster and with be less annoying should you have a food processor. Now mix grated cabbage with at least 1 T. of salt and the juice of almost an entire lemon. Sprinkle on a bit of sugar and mix very well. Heat 3 T. of veggie oil in a skillet and fry 1/2 t. of black mustard seeds just until the all pop. Add to cabbage and mix well again. Mince 1 hot green chili and stir into cabbage. Set aside for at least 1 hour for flavors to blend and re-adjust if needed. Serve cold or, even better, just below room temperature with virtually anything.
"Don't try to take these Cafe Drake pickles away from me!"
The building blocks of a tropical-themed meal.

Cafe Drake and dear pal Octavio Fenech have been trying to schedule dinner for days but always were thwarted by both of our busy and irregular schedules. Of course with friends of 15 years+ we're always gonna keep trying and recently sat down finally to a Pan-Tropical Dinner (Afro-Cuban, Portuguese, Brazilian, Caribbean, Indian), or as we dubbed it, a Meal with an Identity Crisis due to Northeast Heat Stroke! On the menu was: multiple servings of Octavio's fave cocktail, Cuba Libre, followed by (mostly from today's GreenMarket largesse) Spicy Black Bean Cakes, Tangy Cabbage Salad, assorted house-made pickles, Steamed Beets with Fresh Oregano and Red Onions, Goan Savory Coconut Crepes and Braised Kale with Heirloom Tomatoes and Black Garlic. The feast was rounded off with upstate artisanal goat cheese and dark chocolate cookies.