Monday, November 28, 2011

Spaghetti Gratin

Convenient because it can be made ahead and refrigerated until needed, this Spaghetti Casserole is based on a recipe from Cafe Drake's grandmother Maude Kirkpatrick Page and was often found on her holiday buffet table. We've adapted it slightly but a key distinction with this casserole is the generous amount of sugar, employed to great effect when juxtaposed with a salty cheese topping.

Cook 1 lb. of spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water until very al dente; the pasta should be slightly underdone. Drain and set aside - do not rinse. If the spaghetti sticks together too much toss it with a T. of olive oil.

In a medium skillet saute (in olive oil) 1 finely chopped green bell pepper, 1 finely chopped onion and 2-3 cloves of minced garlic until veggies are quite soft. Add 3 chopped tomatoes and cayenne and black peppers to taste. Cook until the tomatoes are soft and the mixture is thick. Season with a bit of salt and stir in 4 T. sugar. Cook for another minute and toss very, very well with cooked spaghetti. Try to make sure every strand of pasta is coated with a bit of the tomato sauce. Toss in a small handful of oil-cured olives and mix well.

Turn the dressed pasta into a large casserole dish and cover with grated sharp Provolone cheese. The amount you wish to use is up to you. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until cheese is browning and a few stray wisps of pasta are dark and crispy. Delicious hot but also good warm.

Seafood in Tomatillo Sauce

Tomatilloes are easily found in large supermarkets and all Mexican grocery stores. Of course even more readily available is canned or jarred salsa verde made from these tart berries ( tomatilloes actually are not botanically related to tomatoes in any way) but Cafe Drake's homemade version tastes fresher and is lesslikely to induce a sodium overdose.


Begin by removing the papery husks from 1 1/2  lbs. of fresh tomatilloes. Leave small ones whole and halve or quarter large tomatilloes. Toss with olive oil, 1 chopped onion, 3 cloves of whole garlic, 2 halved jalapeno peppers and roast in a single layer on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the "berries" have begun to break down and release their juices. Place baking sheet under the broiler for a minute or two, just to char slightly. Don't burn!

Transfer the contents of the baking sheet to a blender and process till smooth-ish ( a few chunks are fine). Place the puree in a saucepan and add: about 1 t. ground cumin and 1/2 t. dried oregano. Throw in a generous pinch of ground allspice and sugar to taste ( we use about 1-2 T.). Tomatilloes are mind-bending in their extreme tartness so adjust salt/sugar until you have the right balance. Simmer in a low flame, uncovered for 10 minutes. If the mixture is too thick, thin with a bit of water or stock.

Finally, add your favorite seafood to the sauce;  above, we used scallops, shrimp and calamari rings (all frozen from Trader Joe's). Cook for another couple of minutes or just until seafood is cooked through. 

Serve with warm, buttered CORN tortillas or rice and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Happy Holidays from Lloyd and Cafe Drake

Another Lazzaro Birthday or, Jen Looks Younger Than Ever!


Aged Gouda
Khahkra Millet Crisp Breads
Cava Brut

Root Vegetable Bisque
Binner Alsace Riesling

Foie Gras with Fleur de Sel
Toast Points

Montreal "Hot Steak"
Bay Smoked "Russian Banana" Potatoes
Parsley and Chile Sauce
Chateau Charmail Bordeaux

Quebec Maple Syrup Pie
Whipped Cream
Lamarca Prosecco

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chickpeas Cooked With Tea / Curried Turnips

Cooking Indian food at home needn't always require a couple of hours and pricey trip to the nearest supermarket spice section. The dishes below are simple, fast, delicious served together with basmati rice or individually as a side to any Western-style entree. Tea-simmered chickpeas make an excellent vegetarian meal when combined with breads and a salad. Both recipes were lightly adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's excellent cookbook Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.


2 cans chickpeas / 1/4 cup vegetable oil / 1 t. cumin seeds / 1 chopped onion / 3 cloves chopped garlic / 1/2 cup canned and chopped tomatoes / about 1 T. grated ginger / 1 1/4 cups black tea ( Cafe Drake likes lapsang souchong for its smoky flavor) / 2-3 minced green chilies / 1 t. salt or more to taste / 2 t. ground cumin / 1 t. garam masala / 1 T. fresh lemon juice

Drain the chickpeas in a colander, rinse well and drain again.

Heat oil in a LARGE skillet over a medium-high flame and when hot, add cumin seeds. Now add the onion and fry until it browns without burning. Throw in the garlic and a few seconds later, the tomatoes. Cook until they thicken, a matter of a minute or two.

Stir in all the remaining ingredients except for the lemon juice and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Re-season as necessary and remove from heat. Sprinkle all with lemon juice and serve hot, garnished as you wish with chopped cilantro, shaved red onions, etc.


Also incredible with peeled and thickly sliced daikon; proportions and cooking times remain roughly the same.

1 lb. medium-sized turnips, each one peeled and cut into 4 wedges / 2 T. chickpea flour / 5 canned plum tomatoes, chopped + juice from can / 2 T. vegetable oil / 1/2 t. cumin seeds / 3-4 dried red chilies / 1/4 t. ground turmeric / 1 t. salt or more to taste

Mix the chickpea flour in a bowl with 2 t. of water, whisking with a fork to make as smooth as possible. Avoid lumping! Now mix in the chopped tomatoes, about 1/4 cup water and at least half of the liquid from the can. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet till quite hot. Add the cumin seeds and stir for 15 seconds. Toss in the red chiles, turnips and turmeric. Stir well to coat the vegetables with the seasoned oil then add 1/2 cup water, the flour mixture and salt. 

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a mere simmer. Cover the pan and cook gently for 20 minutes or until the turnips are very tender. Serve hot.

Happy Holiday Weekend To All

Cafe Drake has lately eschewed turkey kitchen duty these past few November holidays in favor of being a seated guest at the annual fall feast. Thanksgiving 2011 was a real banner day thanks to hostess Elfe C. and family, grazing as we did for hours through a groaning buffet table and plentifully stocked bar. Not to mention the best, most succulent and well seasoned turkey we've tasted in many a (harvest) moon!

In this instance too mank cooks did definitely NOT spoil the sauce, or gravy.

Sharon's rich and delightful appetizer of baked brie and bourbon pecan glaze.

Our extraordinary hostess Elfe C.!!

Moments of Grandeur (with Jen L.): Elfe's Swank Lobby

Only part of the feast . . .

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Sound of Cafe Drake

Can't be here with us in person? So soak up the vibe of Cafe Drake with our new Playlist and check back soon for a special holiday selection of our fave December tunes.

Catching Up with Cafe Drake

We've been insanely busy with duties over at The DP Chutney Collective, furiously crafting condiments for all your upcoming holiday needs, but don't worry, Cafe Drake is still here for you. A few recent updates below and more to follow after our first chance again to breathe. Whew.

It's not possible to roll out the red carpet every time, at least not our plushest selection, but we'll always find time to host an informal meal for dear friends like Jenifer Ruske. Always the most gracious and laid-back of guests, Jen sat and sipped pomegranate martinis and regaled us with her own personal updates while we puttered around the Cafe Drake kitchen, applying the finishing touches to a wintery meal of Chinese Pork and Sweet Potato Stew, brown rice, roasted broccoli and fenugreek leaves and rice vinegar cucumber quick pickles. Ruske's sabbatical from dairy was the mother of invention and inspired milk-free blackberry milkshakes for dessert.

Lazy evenings at Cafe D. dictate quick-cooking and easy to assemble meals, hence a recent dinner of nachos as seen above. Clean Sweeping the fridge, we topped Trader Joe's Flax Seed Chips with sliced chicken sausage, oil-cured olives, grape and sun-dried tomatoes, sliced jalapenos, leftover salsa and cheddar and provolone cheeses.

It may be getting late in the season to can and "put up" ultra-local produce, but with the stores currently awash with citrus fruit from our Left Coast farmer friends, Cafe Drake tried out pickling our own Indian style lemons. Holiday Gift Alert: these jars are stunning when labeled and hang-tag adorned. Here's how to do it:

Begin by scrubbing well 10 thin-skinned lemons. Organic would be best as you'll be eating the peels as well but if unavailable or too expensive be sure to scour the lemon skin very, very well. Note: this recipe can be doubled or tripled as desired.

Slice the lemons thinly, discarding only the tips of each end. Remove as many seeds as possible but don't drive yourself crazy with neurotic thoroughness. Toss the lemons in a large glass or ceramic bowl with 3 T. kosher salt and set aside for at least 2 hours.

In a large saucepan, combine and bring to a boil the following: any juices accumulated from salted lemons, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup cider vinegar and about 1 T. (no more) vegetable oil. When boiling, add: 3 T. paprika, 1 T. cayenne pepper, 5-6 thin slices of peeled ginger and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Now dump in the lemons and 1/4 cup golden raisins. Reduce to a simmer. Cook for 2-3 minutes then remove the lemons to sterilized jars.

Pour the hot liquid with raisins and spices over the lemons, filling to 1/2 " from the jar's rim. Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. 

These pickles should rest in a cool, dark location for approximately one month before sampling (or gifting).

For All You Lloyd Fans . . .

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Simmered Tofu Chorim

Chorims are similar to vegetarian Korean dishes known as namul; the latter are quickly stir-fried while chorims are generally simmered in a highly spiced stock or braising liquid. Tofu Chorim is a favorite here at Cafe Drake, served above with brown jasmine rice and sauteed, shredded broccoli stems. To make the tofu chorim: Drain a large block of tofu for 15 minutes in paper towels. Use the extra-firm variety for best results. After draining slice the tofu into 8 pieces and fry over medium heat until browned. Vegetable oil is best and allow at least 5 minutes per side, flipping once. The tofu is very delicate and here's a great opportunity to break out the non-stick skillet if you have one! While the tofu is frying combine in a medium-sized saucepan: 2 1/2 T. soy sauce, 1 T. sugar, 1 T. mirin ( substitute more sugar and a splash of sherry or sake if you don't have mirin) 1 garlic clove (minced finely), 1 t. sesame oil and about 2-3 T. water. Bring all to a boil then reduce to a low simmer. When cooked and crispy, add the tofu to the simmering liquid and stir very gently. Cook for another minute and serve hot.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Quesadillas Once Again

We just can't say it enough at Cafe Drake - quesadillas are about the quickest dinner we know of that truly, deeply satisfies. As blank a canvas as pizza or the humble omelet, quesadillas are regularly filled here with pantry and fridge excavations, often as simple as pictured above, chopped cilantro, aged Cheddar and snipped chives. And every star needs a faithful sidekick; let canned and doctored black beans serve as Ethyl to Lucy's quesadilla. We like them with a few pinches of cumin and dried oregano and a squirt of hot sauce.

Cafe Drake Delivers!

Doggie Bag, or Curry to Go, for our upstairs neighbor, longtime friend and DP Chutney Collective designer Octavio Fenech. Included: toorvar dahl, string beans with South Indian spices and coconut, basmati pilao and roasted tomato and onion salad.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Happy Dia de los Muertos

A simple Mexican dish suitably festive and perfect for a crowd. Even one of wandering spirits!

Buying a roasted duck (half or whole) from your local Chinese restaurant makes this a reasonably quick dinner to prepare and cost effective as well. 


  • 1 tablespoon duck fat or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin crescents 
  • 3 cups shredded roasted duck meat 
  • 16 small (3"-4" diameter) corn tortillas   
  • For the salsa:
  • 1 pound tomatillos, without husks
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • 6 garlic cloves, separated but not peeled
  • 2 serrano chiles, stemmed (seeded for less "heat", if desired - jalapenos may be substituted)
  • 2 avocados, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • juice of ½ fresh lime
  • salt to taste

Heat the duck fat or oil in a skillet, sauté the onion until limp, add the shredded duck and heat through. Season with salt to taste.

Roast the tomatillos, onion, garlic and serranos on a dry griddle or non-stick skillet until charred on the outside, about 5 minutes, turning with tongs to ensure even roasting. They should be soft but not burned.

Peel the garlic cloves and place the roasted ingredients in a blender with just enough water to move the blades. Blend to a coarse puree.

Add the avocados, cilantro and lemon juice and puree just enough to combine ingredients. The salsa should be on the chunky side. Add salt to taste.

Heat the tortillas on the griddle (or cast iron skillet) and use two stacked together for each taco. This is the Mexican way of serving tacos, in small "double" tortillas. If the small tortillas are not available, one for each taco can be used.

Place the duck filling on each taco, top with the salsa, and fold over. Pass extra chopped onion and cilantro, along with extra salsa.