Friday, December 30, 2011

The Holidays (with Mother) Are Always a Blast at Cafe Drake

Excuse our recent absence. We've been busy loving the holiday season and promise in 2012 to hit you up with more regular postings and updates. For now, see below a sampling of how Cafe Drake celebrates in December. Happy New Year to All and Best Wishes for a Healthy and Exciting 2012!

The NYPL tree may be grander than Cafe Drake's Charlie Brown version but is no more loved (by us anyway). Mother at the NY Public Library with the 2nd best tree in NYC.

Homemade spiced nuts are always a big deal with cocktails at Cafe Drake. And they partner so well with our traditional Christmas drinks of Manhattans and Rob Roys.

Susan M's birthday was belatedly feted at Cafe Drake when the Divine Ms. M. and her bestie Christine ( also a Cafe D. neighbor) joined us for a festive coastal Indian meal. Papadums, tandoori-style shrimp and veggie skewers and many other subcontinental dishes graced the table as we held glasses of bubbly aloft in honor of Susan!

After 20 years, now checked off the To-Do List, is a tour of Gracie Mansion. Fascinating and enhanced by both an erudite and personable tour guide and the recent decorations of Jamie Drake, the house is matched in elegance by the graceful, serene walkways of adjacent Gracie Park.

Peter Pan, Gracie Park, Upper East Side, NYC

A highlight of an overnight trip to the Hudson Valley with Mother was a stroll across the Hudson River via the Walkway in Poughkeepsie.
The nation's oldest operating inn, the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck, New York.

Liberty of Rhinebeck, home to the Hudson Valley's best Sidecar! Dinner following cocktails here was at Tivoli's extraordinary tapas temple, Pan Zur.

Mother relaxes en suite at the Beekman Arms.
A new "house favorite" at Cafe Drake - Saigon Steak (marinated in fish sauce with scallions) and Parsnip Fries.
We always make time during the holidays for the tossed together, weeknight meal with friends: above, Jen Lazzaro vamps it up with homemade lamb sausage, curried peach chutney and enoki mushroom salad.

With Jen L., Christmas Eve 2011

The cheese course is always one of Lloyd's favorites.

Mother and Jen Lazzaro

Mother and the Amazing One-Eyed Chihuahua Ocho Manahan

Lloyd waits patiently for falling scraps during the preparation of Devils on Horseback

Christmas Eve is always the Big Meal at Cafe Drake, and this year we somehow grazed our way through Persimmon Salad, Roasted Hazelnut Soup, Fois Gras with pickled pomegranate seeds, frisee salad, baby lamb loin chops with rutabaga gratin and Brussels sprouts, Mother's homemade yeast rolls, cheese and cranberry chutney, baked cranberry "cobbler", ice cream, white chocolate and apricot bark and much more.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Is It??

Why, brined daikon for Chinese-Style Fermented Daikon Pickles, of course! The ziplock bag nested in the mouth of the quart jar is a great trick for keeping all pickling veggies submerged in brine.


  •   1 lb. daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  •   4 slices ginger, peeled
  •   3-4 dried red chilies, broken into pieces
  •   2 cups water
  •   1 1/2 T. kosher salt

Layer daikon, ginger and chilies in a 1-quart jar. Mix water with salt and pour over daikon. Fill the jar to the top and place a freezer/ziplock bag into the mouth of the jar. Fill the bag with remaining brine and seal. Let the jar sit undisturbed for 3 days at room temperature. 

The pickles should be ready to eat in 72 hours. From this point on, store in fridge. Wonderful with plain rice and as a topping for burgers of all sorts.

Potato Torta (and Octopus in 60 Seconds)

Cafe Drake wanted Spanish food and we wanted it quickly. The obvious answer was a potato torta, or baked omelet, dressed with a topping of flash-fried octopus. Sound impressive? Not really, especially if you purchase the nifty bags of frozen and boiled octopus available at all Asian supermarkets. Thaw in the fridge then toss for 30 seconds in a screaming hot, olive oil-slicked pan with a tomato, some garlic and a few olives or capers. 


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring salted water to a boil and cook in it, until just tender, 1-2 peeled and sliced potatoes. Drain potatoes and set aside. 

Add oil to an ovenproof skillet - cast iron is ideal and adds rustic charm to your family-style table - and heat in hot oven for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven and carefully layer boiled potato slices on the bottom. Watch out as the pan will be frightfully hot! Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a mixing bowl whisk together 6 eggs and 1 cup of milk. Season with salt and pepper and some fresh herbs (we used summer savory, having scored a small bunch for a buck at the corner vegetable market). Stir in some minced onion and garlic and 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Pour oven the potatoes and return pan to the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the torta is relatively firm and golden. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing into thick wedges. Traditionally, in Spain, the torta would be served at room temperature with a few olives on the side.

Roasted Okra

Need a green veggie to round out your meal but lack even the energy to rinse and spin dry a bowl of greens. Try this: 

Toss okra (untrimmed and unwashed unless very gritty or sandy) with a decent amount of olive oil and salt, cumin powder and cayenne pepper to taste. You'll need to add more salt than seems logical as the okra pods crave quite a bit to both enhance their flavor and remove the moisture some find unappetizing, i.e. the vegetable's characteristic sliminess.

Roast in a single layer on a large baking sheet for 20 minutes at 450 degrees, shaking the pan once or twice only during the cooking.

Good as a side dish with anything or also at room temperature on an antipasto platter.

Christmas Cookie Party, Courtesy of Jen Lazzaro

Who doesn't love a chic candlelit holiday gathering, bolstered by good company and champagne with pomegranate seeds? Add to that parting gifts of seasonal flora and doggie bags laden with cookies of all stripes and sizes and you have the perfect recipe for a party that keeps on giving. A house full of adorable dogs (and kitty) doesn't hurt either.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Millet Sunflower Burgers

Millet Sunflower burgers were an experiment in recipe recall, having originally followed instructions 20 years ago from Ten Talents, a now long lost 7th Day Adventist cookbook much treasured during Cafe Drake's strict vegetarian days of yore. Below is my rendition which may have little to do with the original but is certainly tasty, chocked full of non-animal protein and perfect as either a side dish or entree. Sunflower butter can be found at some large supermarkets, most natural foods stores and Trader Joe's.

Begin by dry-toasting 1 cup of millet in a saucepan; do this over a low flame for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan frequently so as not to scorch the grain. Add a pinch or two of salt and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to a low simmer, basically the same procedure as cooking rice. Cook until all the water has evaporated and most of the millet grains are soft. Some grains will remain a bit crunchy and the entire procedure should take no more than 30 minutes. Set aside until needed or cool and refrigerate until assembling the burgers.

In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked millet (it will be somewhat mushy-crunchy and this is perfect) with 1/3 -1/2 cup of sunflower seed butter. Add at least a T. of soy sauce and salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Dried thyme and sage are also interesting. Mix very well until you can roll the mixture into one large ball. If the millet is too sticky and soft, refrigerate for an hour and it should firm up nicely.

Make individual patties of the millet and shallow fry over medium heat in vegetable oil, about 5 minutes per side or until lightly browned and crisp on top. Drain on paper towels and serve hot. Above, Cafe Drake partnered the burgers with collard greens and a spicy carrot salad (grated carrots, olive oil, harissa paste, lemon juice, green chilies, parsley and onions).

Jen & Jen & Some Very Special Booze

After a multi-bottle tasting at Williamsburg's swish doc Wine Shop, Jen L and Jen R and Cafe Drake spent an evening at home swigging the spoils of their purchases (Ruske snagged a bottle of the world's only quinoa vodka, produced in Cognac, France; Lazzaro poured out deep red glasses of Racines, Les Cailloux du Paradis). We whipped up a red currant-glazed pork loin, fresh Yelloweye beans, parsnip fries and an herb salad with persimmons and walnuts to accompany these special liquid treasures.

Lloyd Shows Some Leg