Saturday, October 29, 2011

Our New Favorite (Savory) Muffins

Cafe Drake rarely posts recipes verbatim, but this gem from Rozanne Gold's brilliant cookbook Radically Simple is too good not to share. Or to alter in any way! Actually we shortened the directions and made them a little more slangy in that Cafe Drake sort of way.  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and grease about 12 muffin cups well. Process 1 large chopped onion in a food processor or Magic Bullet. You should end up with a paste. Place onions in a large mixing bowl and add to them: 2 large eggs, a stick of melted butter and 6 T. of sugar. Blend in 1 1/2 cups of self-rising flour (note: you MUST use self rising flour here). Stir until you have a smooth batter and then add 1 cup of chopped walnuts. Stir again, place in muffin tins and bake for 18 minutes or until firm and golden. Delish with soup or scrambled eggs.

Korean Food on the Quick

Cafe Drake never prepares Korean food at home, mainly because it's a Herculean kitchen task to recreate the vast number of dishes typically served at a traditional meal (or at any Korean neighborhood restaurant). Like you we select favorite grill houses based on the largesse of the banchan (complimentary appetizers) selection!

A craving for super spicy tofu stew had to be sated recently however and Cafe D. didn't feel like braving the chilly, pouring rain for a trek to nearby (Korean restaurant enclave) Sunnyside, Queens. Soooo . . . as above, we made a fiery and satisfying tofu and yam stew - it's heat derived from Korean chili peppers and wedges of kimchi - along with brown rice and zucchini namul. Please see our recipe for the latter dish below.


Namul are rapidly prepared stir-fried vegetables; generally several varieties are served at the Korean dinner table.

1 T. vegetable oil
2 t. sesame oil
1/2 an onion, sliced thinly
2 medium zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
about 1/2 t. salt or more to taste
2 T. sesame seeds (toasted first in a dry skillet)
Black Pepper
Dried Chile Flakes

Heat the oils in a large frying pan over a medium-high flame. Add the onion and saute for 1 minute. Now add all the other ingredients and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Adjust seasoning. A namul should be quite spicy so add as much chile as you can bear!

Transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm or at room temperature.

Snowstorm in October!

Photos snapped on a wet and cold trek to Cafe Drake's neighborhood farmer's market. Thank Heavens we only had a 5 minute walk!

True to feline form, while the Nor'Easter rages outside Lloyd stays warm in Cafe Drake's cozy kitchen.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Goan Beach Bum Calamari

We don't know why we tagged this South Indian style calamari dish as "beach bum" but probably because it seemed reminiscent of ocean front dining in Goa. If you cook the seafood for just a minute or two over high heat it will be perfectly tender. 

Here's how: Heat about 2 T. of olive oil in a large skillet. When the pan is very hot throw in 12-15 curry leaves (remember to buy and always keep a pack in the freezer) and 2-3 dried red chilies. Now add a teaspoon of cumin seeds and if you have them, a teaspoon of nigella seeds (also called kalonji). Don't let the seeds burn so immediately after add to the skillet 1 large tomato (chopped) and 2-3 sliced shallots

Cook for 2 minutes over high heat then throw in about 1 lb. of calamari. Cook, stirring constantly, until the calamari has become white and opaque. This won't take longer than a couple of minutes.

Remove from the heat and season generously with salt and black pepper. Calamari needs lots of salt! Serve hot. 

As above, Cafe Drake enjoyed ours with chana dal, basmati rice and a simple salad of chopped tomatoes, onions, cukes and avocado. To recreate the chunky salad, toss together equal amounts of the veggies with a drizzle of olive oil, a good bit of lime juice and garnish with green chilies and cilantro and fresh mint. Salt well. Enjoy.

Latin Cheese for Grilling (or broiling)

If you've never been tempted to buy Latin American "hard cheeses", available at most urban supermarkets in the Spanish section, then perhaps you will after you hear of a recent meal at Cafe Drake. Gifted with a block of Queso Seco - one of many salty cow milk cheeses made in Mexico and Central and South America and pressed to remove virtually all moisture - we broiled strips of this ultra-firm cheese (more commonly grilled) and were delighted how it bubbled, browned and held its shape. The texture is quite chewy and complimented beautifully a plate of stewed black beans with chipotle peppers, yellow rice and roasted broccoli.

Fried Goodness for Dinner

Pomegranate and Lime Rickeys

Vegetable Tempura with Green Tea Salt and Ponzu Dipping Sauce
Brown Rice
Tofu Skin Bundles with Kohlrabi, Hatcho Miso and Red Chilies
Burdock and Carrot Kinpira
Pickled Mustard Greens

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Leftovers for Lunch

Leftover chicken, sliced and served cold; leftover braised daikon and carrots; leftover red cabbage slaw and sprouts dressed with leftover walnut dressing.

Returning home to Atlanta during the summer after our freshman year at college, Cafe Drake took a job at a local independent bookseller and, on most days, brought our lunch in a paper bag. As we sat amidst stacks of books to be unpacked and sorted, eating a typical meal of cashews, small chunks of cheese, crackers and hummus, our kind employer would jokingly ask if we were on the "mouse diet". A recent lunch above reveals our tastes haven't changed so very much years later.

We stumbled upon whole wheat dumpling wrappers recently in an Elmhurst, Queens Chinese market and couldn't wait to get home and try our hand at stuffing and then steaming them.

An After Lunch Cat Nap

Click on photo above to enlarge.

A Couple of Meals, Here & There

Thai red curries are among the quickest of meals we know in terms of preparation and food shopping. Keep a small can of red curry paste in the pantry, along with the canned coconut milk that's already sitting there, and you can throw together dinner in minutes utilizing whatever proteins and vegetables you have at hand. Above is Cafe Drake's lazy but scrumptious version borne from a fridge stocked only with chicken thighs, cauliflower and a red bell pepper. The recipe below can be endlessly adapted in a multitude of ways.


Best with rice or soft, gravy soakable flatbreads, red curry is also good with rice noodles or very thin spaghetti. Some sort of green salad is all you need to complete the meal; in a pinch just slice some cucumbers and onions and toss with a light dressing.

3 T. vegetable oil
3 T. red curry paste (available at most supermarkets)
2 red bell peppers, sliced thinly
4-5 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin off
1 can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 onion, sliced
1 T. soy sauce
2 T. brown sugar (white is ok)
Sliced red or green chilies, chopped cilantro, 10-12 torn basil leaves: for garnish as desired

Heat oil in a large saucepan until hot and then fry curry paste, over medium heat - for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken thighs and brown on both sides for 1minute. Add the bell peppers and onions and cook for another minute or two. Add the coconut milk, water, cauliflower, soy sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Adjust for seasoning and serve garnished as desired with chilies and/or basil and cilantro leaves.

Karhis, or soupy yogurt sauces/side dishes, are in name the origin of the term "curry". With endless variety and ingredients used, karhis can range from mild to fiery and from quite thin to thick in consistency. They are always eaten either spooned over rice or dipped into with plenty of parathas or naan breads. A bowl of karhi, some basmati rice, a dab or chutney and a few toasted pappadums comprise one of Cafe Drake's favorite at-home lunches of all time. The recipe below is the simplest we know; if you can't find the vadis you can make the karhi without or substitute diced veggies such as carrots, turnips and/or daikon.


Chickpea flour is used not only in Indian and North African cuisines but is also common in Mediterranean France and Italy. It should be relatively easy to find and keeps forever refrigerated. Vadis are small nuggets of sun-dried soaked and ground chickpeas; the flavor is reminiscent of falafel.

Whisk the following together in a very large mixing bowl: 1 1/2 cups each plain yogurt (NOT fat-free) and water, 1/2 t. turmeric powder, 2 T. chickpea flour, 1 t. salt, 1 t. sugar and 1 t. cayenne pepper. Stir till smooth.

Heat 1 T. oil in a large skillet and fry until just golden 1/4 cup vadis. This will only take a minute over a medium flame and the vadis must not burn or blacken. Remove from the oil and add another bit of oil and then: 1/2 t. cumin seeds, 10 curry leaves and 2 dried red chilies (torn into pieces). Cook for 30 seconds then pour in the yogurt mixture.

Add in the fried vadis and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and stirring frequently, simmer for 5 minutes, adding splashes of water as needed. The consistency should be slightly  thick but pourable. Remove from heat, cover for 5 minutes then serve hot or at least warm. May be garnished with sliced green chilies.

Mid-week Lunch with Julianne

Taking a break from our daily chutney duties, Cafe Drake had the mid-week pleasure of hosting lunch for our dear friend Julianne Zaleta. Catching up with Julianne brightened a recent sunny school day, as did (we hope) a simple meal based around an oven-baked Tunisian omelet, Greek Kefalotiri cheese, tossed salad and baguettes toasted with za'atar. Reese's peanut butter cups in the shape of pumpkins for dessert!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Making Monday Better: Sunday Supper with Friends

Sunday evenings, with their inevitable baggage - i.e. hesitation at the week ahead and sorrow at loss of the weekend - are perhaps the most perfect of all days for dinner with friends. And Cafe Drake will never complain about a meal at Jen Ruske's, always thoughtfully constructed and most importantly, always delicious and boasting the best of ingredients possible.

Recently Jen "whipped up" (??!!) an astonishing meal of artisinal cheeses and Gimlets to start, followed by organic roast chicken, roasted Peruvian blue potatoes and Cippolini onions, a mix of red lentils, mushrooms and kale and a yellow heirloom tomato salad. Wow!

The Prince and the Pea?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mumbai Bread Salad

Red Currant Glazed Pork Chops, Braised Collard Greens and Mumbai Bread Salad


Panzanella, or Italian bread salad, officially became a restaurant menu and home kitchen staple in the late '80s, and after so many years savoring, Cafe Drake wanted to try thinking outside the bread box. The result is the recipe below and photo above (nestled under a thick-cut pork chop). Bread salads are ideal for company as they can be prepared ahead (up to 2 hours) and easily feed a crowd.

Start with a loaf of French or Italian style bread, white or whole wheat. Cut into 1" cubes and place on a baking sheet (you may need to use two). Toast in the oven until the bread is quite crisp and dry but not burned. Remove and place bread cubes in a LARGE mixing bowl.

In a skillet over medium-high heat place 3 T. of olive oil. When very hot toss in 1 t. black mustard seeds. Soon they will begin popping so have a cover or lid handy! As soon as the mustard seeds begin popping add to the skillet 1 t. cumin seeds. Cook for no more than 30 seconds and immediately pour over the bread. Toss well and quickly.

Now add to the bread: 2-3 minced green chilies, 1 small red onion (diced) and 1 tomato, diced as well. Toss. Throw in about 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro and the juice of 1 lemon. Season with salt and black pepper and toss once again. Let the salad rest either in the fridge or at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

Radical New Roasted Veggies

Both of the recipes below have been adapted by Cafe Drake from the genius cookbook Radically Simple by Rozanne Gold; small changes made merely reflected our personal tastes and ingredient availability (i.e. what was in the fridge).


Author Gold's version calls for grated Parmesan, and while no doubt an utterly delicious addition, our further simplified preparation boasted flavors powerful enough to omit the cheese.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wash and trim 1 bunch of radishes (red, icicle, French breakfast etc) and cut in halves lengthwise. Toss well with 1-2 T. olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 25 minutes, shaking the pan a couple of times while the radishes cook.

Remove from oven and toss with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Coring and carefully trimming/slicing the cauliflower takes either practice or good knife skills. Like most things in Life, Cafe Drake got the hang of it the second time around. Some of the florets will inevitable fall apart but just toss them on the baking sheet along with the perfectly sliced cauliflower specimens. We substituted a dry, aged Provolone for the suggested Cheddar cheese and loved the tangy/salty results.

Begin by coring an entire head of cauliflower; to do this without breaking apart the vegetable, a long thin knife works best. Cut the head into two pieces then slice the cauliflower into large pieces, about 1/2" thick. Place sliced cauliflower on a large baking sheet (or use two smaller ones) and drizzle with 3-4 T. olive oil. Salt and pepper well. Place in a hot oven, about 450 degrees.

Roast for 15 minutes then carefully flip each slice. Roast for another 10 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Remove from oven and dust with finely grated aged Provolone ( or Parmesan, Romano, Asiago etc). Sprinkle on top either fresh or dried rosemary leaves and crown with a final splash of your best olive oil. Cafe Drake served ours with brown rice and tossed salad.

Cashews for an Entree (Dinner With Jen & Ben)


Purple Gins
Indian Cheese Crisps

Buttermilk Lassi with Mint Leaves, Cilantro and Green Chilies

Cashew and Petite Pea Bhaji
Chana Dal
Roasted Broccoli with Cumin and Garlic
Cucumber and Sesame Salad
Basmati Rice

Provolone Trevicchio
Sweet Olive Oil Crispbreads

Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds
Single Barrel Bourbon

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Things We Love in October

Hand-made, crusted with sugar and saturated in flavor with heart healthy Spanish olive oil, these crispbreads are divine during an afternoon tea break or paired with cheeses for dessert.

From the rarest almond tree in the world, Marcona almonds are even more sublime than usual after being tossed with aromatic rosemary leaves.
The richness of intense dark chocolate playing off the tartness of dried pomegranate seeds is pretty much perfection.

The Icelandic goodies above are all gifts from our dear friend Axel. Her father is the mastermind behind the dulse (a salty, delicious seaweed) and herbal tea products. Read more about these soon-to-be pantry essentials on the Islensk Hollusta website. Hint: Google can translate the pages for you.