Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Apologies for Blogger's Recent Formatting Faux Pas

What's Happening Now at Cafe Drake

Ladies & Gentlemen (and Kitties) Who Lunch

Weekday Luncheon with Jen Lazzaro

Creole Rice with Smoked Andouille Sausage

Duo of Spring Salads:
Parsley Leaves with Honey Vinaigrette
Orange and Red Onion

Almond Pudding
Almond Shortbread Cookies

Iced Peppermint Tea

Main course salads rarely go unappreciated. Cafe Drake put a Mexican twist on a lunchtime entree staple by tossing crisp Romaine leaves with pickled Bird's Eye chilies, black olives, crumbly cotija cheese and shredded chicken. For a change of pace, try - as above - serving your greens with warmed tortillas instead of croutons or bread. It's easy and takes about as much time as toasting bread: with tongs, hold fresh corn tortillas over an open stove flame and turn to brown equally. Dark spots are fine and add a grilled flavor. Rub with butter if desired.

Two of our favorite flavors from The D P Chutney Collective are their Spice Route Citrus Chutney and the Carrot and Nigella Seed Chutney.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

March Bookclub Brunch

Perky pooches brighten a cold, wet and gray Spring afternoon.

Naptime for Lucy Lazzaro.

Ruske and Julie dive into a delicious brunch.

"What? No more vodka? Heads Will Roll!!"

Ruske & Biscuit

Spring at Chez Lazzaro

Eager Taste Testers.

Nothing says Sunday Afternoon like an oversize pitcher of Bloody Marys.

The Table.

The Bookworms convened recently at Jen Lazzaro's Swag Pad for a scrumptious brunch and scintillating discussion of the month's selection, Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro. Cafe Drake loved the collection of stories, the company gathered and the hearty but elegant spread rolled out for brunch: cinnamon raisin toast with homemade rhubarb preserves, fresh strawberries, spicy Bloody Marys, bone-dry Cab Franc, super-good wraps of Jen's special "honey and salt brined" fried chicken with carrot chutney and arugula, arugula and cilantro salad and a creamy sweet potato frittata with sage leaves.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Recent March Moments & Meals at Cafe Drake

Vietnamese Pork Quenelles with Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Japanese Eggplant and Parsnips

Don't even ask what went through the multi-culti blender of Cafe Drake's mind when we assembled this border crossing of a weeknight meal. Trust us that it all tasted delish and below are makeshift instructions for our very makeshift pork quenelles (that oblong football shape is not easy to create but practice yields better results). If it seems like alot of ingredients, don't fret, as most are pantry/fridge staples and the prep itself is a 15-minute breeze.

In a large mixing bowl combine: 1 lb. ground pork, 2-3 minced shallots, a handful of minced chives or scallions, minced garlic (3 cloves), minced ginger (about a 1-inch piece), 1 beaten egg and 3/4 cup of unseasoned bread crumbs. Mix well with clean hands and add a bit of salt, plenty of black and cayenne pepper and 1 minced jalapeno pepper (use seeds and all). Now add a T. of fish sauce . . . or not, while this seasoning can be found in all supermarkets in the Asian foods section and is quite mild in flavor when cooked, leave out if you wish.

Place the bowl in the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.

While the pork mixture chills, make your cooking sauce. In a deep skillet, combine over low heat: 1 cup chicken broth, 3 T. hoisin sauce, 2 T. dry sherry and 2 T. sesame oil. Bring to a very low boil.

Now - to the best of your ability - make a quenelle shape with 2 large spoons from the pork and gently place in liquid. Repeat until all pork is used (about 6-8 quenelles total). Cover the skillet and gently, gently simmer for 20 minutes or until pork is nicely cooked through.

Here's an important step: turn the heat up, remove lid and cover the contents of pan with chopped chives and cilantro. Continue cooking until sauce becomes thicker than serve soon with rice, noodles or potatoes.

Interesting variations include placing 2 of the quenelles (with some sauce) on a toasted hoagie roll for a Banh-Mi meets Philly Sub sandwich confluence, or substituting ground chicken or turkey for the pork.

Yes, more pork at Cafe Drake indeed! Above, pork chops are quickly seared on high heat and then simmered in a braise of chicken stock, onions, tomato paste, cinnamon, cloves, coriander and ginger for an hour, becoming fork tender and permeated with sweet, warm spices. We plated atop more potatoes and alongside a no-brainer Watercress Salad.

The D P Chutney Collective's latest flavor - Old Ceylon Green Papaya Chutney - cools and mellows after a hot water bath. Did you know a few of The Collective's exotic condiments can now be purchased online? Visit their website to find out how!

Zucchini Soup and Moody Lighting at the Cafe Drake dinner table.

Silly Lucy Lazzaro thought she might help herself to some soup.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dinner en homage Shohreh Aghdashloo

All hail the return of Cafe Drake's most popular feature, our Dinner en Homage series dedicated to meals and menus crafted with some of our dream guests in mind. Cooking for Ms. Aghdashloo would be a hoot not just because of her regal poise and elegant beauty but also because of the chance to prepare one of our favorite cuisines - Persian.

Suggested S. Aghdashloo Filmography: Surviving Paradise (2000); House of Sand and Fog (2003); The Stoning of Soraya M (2008)


Ash-e-jow (Iranian Barley Soup)

Khoresh Bamieh (Okra and Lamb Stew)

If you're offended by the "slimy" texture of okra be very careful when trimming the top ends - do not cut into the actual pod or you risk ending up with a gooey mess. That would not do for Shohreh.

  • 1 pound fresh okras
  • 1/2 pound lamb stew meat, cubed (or beef if you prefer)
  • 4 Oz of Tomato Paste or
  • 8 Oz of Tomato sauce
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper

    Cut off the stems of the okras, wash and drain them. In a medium
    size pot, fry the onions in oil over medium heat until they turn golden
    brown. Add the meat, salt, pepper and turmeric, stir, and let it cook for
    a few minutes. Occasionally stir so it doesn't stick to the pot. Add the
    tomato sauce/paste, stir and let it cook over medium-low heat. If you use
    tomato paste, dilute it in hot water before adding it in.

    Depending on the toughness of the meat you use, it may take as much
    as an hour for the meat to soften. Occasionally, put a sharp knife in one
    of the pieces to see if it has softened. In the process, you may have to
    add more tomato sauce and/or water to stop the sauce mixture from thickening.

    When the meat has softened, give the mixture one last vigorous stir
    and put the okras on top. With a knife make a few holes into the garlic
    clove (unpeeled), and put it in one corner of the pot so that later it could
    be retrieved. Let it cook over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes or until
    the okras have lost their green color.

    Sabzi Polo (Vegetable Rice Pilaf)

    Though the instructions here may seem overly complicated the dish will not turn out unless that are followed - more or less - carefully.

    • 4 cups (32 Oz) of white long grain rice.
    • 4 tablespoons olive oil.
    • 1/2 cup (4 Oz) chopped Chives/Scallion stems.
    • 1-1/2 cups (12 Oz) Parsely .
    • 1 cup (8 Oz) cilantro.
    • 1-1/2 cups (12 Oz) fresh Dill Weed.
    • A few large, outer leaves of lettuce.
    • 4 Oz of water.

For best results, soak the rice for a few hours in hot water and salt before cooking.

Wash and drain the vegetables. Using a cutting board and while repeatedly bunching up the vegetables, finely chop them.

In a medium size pot, half-way filled with water, bring the water to a boil. Add the rice (and the water it was soaking in), and let it cook for a few minutes until it starts boiling. Stir the rice a few times during the boiling process. Occasionally chew on a few of rice grains to see if they have softened.

Near the end of boiling, add the fresh chopped vegetables. Stir the rice one last time and then take it out and drain it in a kitchen colander. Run the water on it to wash out some of the excess salt.

Pour the oil in the pot, add 4 Oz of water, lay the lettuce leaves in the bottom of the pot and add a bit of extra oil if necessary.

With the back of a spoon, make five holes, one in the center and four around it so that the rice can breath in the cooking process.

Spread a little water on top and close the lid. Let it cook for a few minutes on high heat. When steam starts to rise, change the setting to medium heat and let it cook for another 15-20 minutes. Then turn the heat to medium-low, sprinkle some cooking oil to prevent drying, and let it cook for about another 10-15 minutes before serving.

Walnut Halvah

Mint Tea

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cocktail Time at Cafe Drake with Jen & Anthony

Sharon & Pete's Greenpoint Housewarming

Much of the activity at Sharon & Pete's housewarming gala was centered around the kitchen. Not a surprise given the voluminous amount and variety of food on offer: beef and chicken kabobs, lamb and chicken schwarma, pita, chips, roasted eggplant salad, grilled peppers and tomatoes, hummus, falafel, grape leaves, fried "cigar rolls" stuffed with feta and herbs, baklava and more!

An impressive collection of vintage shot glasses was put to good use throughout the evening.

Sharon remained the consummate hostess all night.

A delightful troublemaker concocted shots dubbed Little Devils from raspberry liqueur, vodka and hot sauce. At the time of consumption . . . heavenly. But Cafe Drake found ourselves cursing their satanic powers Sunday morning.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

From the Vaults: Part X


Patches of this piquant green are common in home gardens around the world. Cafe Drake - situated as we are in the midst of a Polish neighborhood - is no stranger to sorrel either. Year round, day in and out, bunches can be found in every grocery store and corner market. As sorrel is beloved by Western Europeans as much as their above-mentioned Eastern cousins, the recipe below was given to us by a French friend of Cafe Drake. As they say, If you make only one recipe from Cafe Drake's website this week or month . . .

2 tsp. kosher salt/ 1 large russet potato, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch dice/ 1 stick of unsalted butter /1 large shallot, finely diced /1 pound sorrel, washed well /4 cups chicken stock /Pepper
1 cup heavy cream
  • Add kosher salt to one cup of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add potato and cook until water begins to return to a boil (pieces should be neither crunchy nor mushy and should hold their shape). Drain and reserve water.
  • Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat, and sweat shallots until translucent.
  • Chop sorrel and add to shallots. Cook briefly, until sorrel changes color from bright to drab green. Add chicken stock, potato cooking water, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil and shut off.
  • Carefully blend in batches while hot, adding a chunk of butter to each batch, until silky smooth. Return blended soup to pot, add cream, and adjust seasoning.
  • To serve, distribute potatoes among soup bowls and pour liquid over them.


Utterly simple and one of Cafe Drake's most beloved side dishes. Often we let it take (near) center stage by serving as an entree alongside slow-cooked black beans and slices of avocado and red onion.

3 cups long grain white rice (brown doesn't work here - sorry) / 1/4 cup olive oil / 5 garlic cloves, chopped / 2 onions, diced / 3 serrano or jalapeno peppers, chopped / 3 bay leaves / 3 tomatoes, diced / 2 T. butter / salt and black pepper
  • Rinse rice very well under running water. This should take about 2 minutes.
  • In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add garlic, onions, peppers and rice. Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes.
  • Add 6 cups of water, the bay leaves, tomatoes, butter and salt and black pepper to taste.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until water is fully absorbed.
  • Take off heat, let rest for 5 minutes, fluff gently with a fork and serve warm.


No ordinary stuffed tomato, this makes a cozy partner to most fish or could be served on its own, with a salad and good bread, for a light luncheon.

6 ripe but firm tomatoes / salt and black pepper / 3 cups of any smoked ham, chopped finely / 2 shallots, minced / 1 bunch of curly parsley, chopped roughly / 1 T. butter (softened)
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet.
  • Carefully cut a thin bit of the top of each tomato off and with a teaspoon, hollow out most of the core and inside. Reserve for another use.
  • Generously salt the insides of tomatoes and place on baking sheet.
  • In a large bowl mix well: ham, shallots, parsley and butter. Place inside tomatoes, filling to the top.
  • Bake filled tomatoes for 30 minutes (maybe more) or until stuffing is bubbling and browning a bit and tomatoes are quite tender.
  • Serve hot.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Castillian Comida with Miki-san

Berry Shimada always presides carefully over meals at Miki's table.

A plate heaped full of Miki's stellar Catalan cuisine. Including a gratin of salt cod, hardboiled eggs, caramelized onions, roasted potatoes and black olives.

Muy fuerte Gimlets helped Cafe Drake bond further with our favorite Greenpoint kitty.

The omnipresent Berry Shimada.

Lovely and refreshing starter of romaine, creamy garlic dressing, slivered almonds and orange supremes.

Cauliflower - one of our all time favorite veggies - fried with paprika and croutons.

Miki's lethal but delicious pineapple-infused vodka digestif.

A perfect dessert of mango sorbet and cream.

Posing with the hostess.

Miki - never afraid of leather hotpants!

Well satiated.

From the Vaults: Part IX

Every once in awhile Cafe Drake dusts off our treasure trove of archived recipes (cobbled together with the help of a 3-hole puncher, tattered notebooks or stacked shoe boxes of hand-scribbled notepads) and reintroduces them to web visitors and ourselves alike. Below are a few worth revisiting.


We make about a dozen varieties of seasoned and spiced nuts at Cafe Drake, generally depending on what's closest at hand in the fridge or pantry. These always "sell out" on cocktail buffets.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Place the following in a large bowl and mix very, very well:

1 pound walnut halves
2 T. olive oil
2 T. melted butter

about 3 T. fresh rosemary leaves

2 t. hot paprika

salt to taste

Spread this all on 1-2 baking sheets in single layers only. Bake for 20 minutes - stirring at least once - or until the nuts become nicely toasted. You don't want the walnuts to brown too much so keep an eye on them.
Remove from oven and cool.

Can be stored in airtight containers for about 2 weeks, but they won't last that long.


This recipe is "borrowed" from Shirley Orfanella of Pennsylvania who enjoys delicious and retro cocktail party fare.

12 fat asparagus spears / 4 oz. cream cheese, softened / 2 oz. blue cheese / 1 egg / 12 very thin slices of good white bread (but it pre-sliced) / 1 stick of butter, melted
  1. Remove tough ends from asparagus and slice in half. Cook in boiling water for 5 minutes or until spears are just barely tender. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Mix the cream and blue cheeses with the egg.
  3. Trim the crusts from the bread and flatten slices as much as possible.
  4. Spread each slice with the cheese mixture and place an asparagus at the edge of each slice.
  5. Roll up the bread and asparagus and dip in melted butter.
  6. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and place in freezer for 15 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  8. Cut each roll into thirds and bake for 15 minutes. You may need to turn one time.
  9. Serve warm.


A very old recipe from the gracious homes of Louisville. Especially good on spinach salads, try it tossed with strawberries and red onions for a more unusual side dish.

Mix the following in blender until smooth and emulsified:

1/4 cup vegetable oil (could use olive)

1/4 cup sugar (Southern palettes will prefer a sweeter dressing so increase sugar as desired)

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 T. minced onion

2 T. sesame seeds

1 T. poppy seeds

dash of Worcestershire sauce


Cafe Drake makes plenty of zucchini soups and plenty of curried soups; this is perfect blend of both. If you're not in the habit of cooking zucchini soups, do start: their cooked texture becomes irresistibly silky when pureed.

2 T. butter or olive oil / 2 pounds coarsely chopped zucchini / 1 medium onion, chopped / 2 cloves of garlic, minced / 2 t. good curry powder / 1/2 - 1 t. salt / 1 t. white pepper (can use black of course) / 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock / about 1/2 cup milk or half-and-half
  1. Saute the zucchini, onion and garlic in the butter or oil for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Stir in curry powder, salt, pepper and 2 cups of stock. Heat through for a minute or two then remove from the flame.
  2. Puree this mixture in a blender and return to the pot. Add the remaining 2 cups of stock and the milk and heat over a medium flame until very hot. Avoid a boil. Serve in warmed bowls.


As comforting as the bowl of traditional borscht but decidedly more elegant in presentation. So delicious. Serve with dark, buttered rye bread and marinated cucumbers.

Trim about a pound of beets and boil them in 4-5 cups of water until fork tender. This should take anywhere from 30-60 minutes depending on the size and freshness of the beets.

When tender, drain the beets into a colander set over a bowl - you want to reserve most of the cooking liquid.
As soon as the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them under running water (the skins should slip off easily) and chop into 1-inch pieces.

While waiting for the beets to cool, place 3/4 lb. of chopped potatoes, 1/2 of an onion (chopped), 1/4 cup chopped dill and 2 cups rich chicken or veggie stock into a large saucepan. Cook at a nice simmer till the potatoes are very soft (about 25 minutes). Set aside.

Here's where it all comes together: in a blender (perhaps in batches if necessary), combine the potato mixture and the drained beets with 1 1/2 cups of the reserved beet cooking liquid. Blend until velvety smooth. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and 2/3 cup of half-and-half. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot or cold, garnished with chopped dill or minced onion or chopped hard boiled eggs etc etc.

St Paddy's with Octavio and Jenny Ruske

Sweet and Sour Cabbage makes a fitting Irish accompaniment to Fish (or Shepherd's) Pie and is very simple to make:

Shred or chop coarsely 1 head of purple cabbage and stew - over medium heat - with 3 T. cider vinegar, about 1/2 cup or more of vegetable stock, 2 T. of butter, 1 chopped onion, plenty of salt and black pepper, 1 T. each of brown sugar and honey and sweet, warm spices (we like a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger powder). Cook till tender/crisp, about 20 minutes.

(Non) Irish Eyes A Smilin'

Cafe Drake Goes Green

A mushroom bechamel sauce is one of the several components of Cafe Drake's Fisherman's Pie.

Fisherman's Pie prior to being topped with mashed potatoes.

St. Patrick's Day Dinner with Jen and Octavio

Gin Gimlets

Fisherman's Pie
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Cashel Blue Cheese
Apricot and Roasted Red Pepper Chutney
Whole Grain Rolls