Monday, February 21, 2011

Fresh Green Chickpeas

Fresh chickpeas are one of those exotic ingredients even many seasoned chefs have never encountered. Luckily they are currently appearing in markets as diverse as Indian grocery stores and your local Whole Foods. With a nutty and also grassy flavor fresh chickpeas are best prepared as simply as possible. The recipe below delivers savory and healthy twists to any humdrum cocktail hour.


You'll need about a pound of fresh, green chickpeas; they are sold still in their pods. Begin by heating a large skillet over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes and then wipe the skillet with a very thin covering of olive oil (you may do this with either a brush, tea towel or paper towel). 

Add the chickpeas, still in their papery skins, to the skillet in one single layer if possible. Add 2-3 T. of water and cover the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and shake it around a bit to prevent burning.

In about 5 minutes or just less the chickpeas will be ready. Remove lid and allow them to "dry". They should not be wet at this point. Season liberally with kosher salt and cayenne pepper or even chili powder.

Serve and consume as you would edamame.

French/Vietnamese with/for Octavio/Lloyd

Seasoned and floured skate wings prior to pan frying.

Vietnamese Daikon Slaw

Octavio's enthusiasm for his meal almost embarrasses Lloyd.

Sides included brown rice and as seen above, a cabbage salad and mangoes tossed with mint, green chilies and chives.

Simple but rich and satisfying: pan-fried skate wing with capers and brown butter.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sometimes We Just Want a Greek Salad for Dinner

Lloyd Lounges in February

Pozole and Pork Stew for Anton, Erica and Jen Lazzaro

Shredded cabbage is the classic topping for a bowl of pozole - hominy stewed in a rick pork broth laced with tomatoes, onions, carrots, turnips and Ancho and Guajillo dried chilies.

Anton and Lucy spend time bonding.

Jen and Erica

Snacks in the front room with plenty of bubbly.

Fried Goodness! In this case, chile pepper doused fried wheat crisps.

The stew bubbles away merrily in the Cafe Drake kitchens.

A touch of impending Spring is reflected in the table setting.

Pre-dinner snacks.
The finished product: pozole stew. Cafe Drake did our best to replicate the best version we ever tasted, years ago at a tiny taqueria in Detroit's Mexicantown.

Monday, February 14, 2011

BAFTA Awards Inspiration for Cafe Drake

As always the best thing about any awards show worth its (kosher) salt is the appearance of Tilda. On Sunday night's awards (which we of course TiVo'd) Ms. Swinton presented and was properly introduced as a film star of indie UK cinema since 1983. She never looked more stunning! 

Even more we loved the kudos in her intro which acknowledged that she learned Italian (with a Russian accent!!!) for her star and producer turn in 2010's most beautiful movie, I Am Love.

What You Perhaps Didn't Know about Polenta

While nearly always delicious and rich in Italian restaurants, polenta can often disappoint in home kitchens. The only tricks you need to know  involve discarding the plethora of cookbook recipes instructing one to use water as the base and encouraging under-seasoning re: salt. The Cafe Drake version below is a general "base" recipe - add to it any additions your vivid imagination can conjure . . . sauteed mushrooms, good and aged provolone cheese, roasted red peppers, balsamic glazed and baked onions etc etc.

CAFE DRAKE'S BASIC POLENTA (to be embellished at will)

3 cups whole milk / 1 cup water / 1 cup cornmeal / 2 T. butter / at LEAST 1-2 T. salt / 1 t. crushed red pepper / 1 T. chopped rosemary leaves (less if using dried) / black pepper to taste

  1. Bring milk to boil in a large saucepan. While the milk is heating up, mix the water and cornmeal together in a bowl to make a paste.
  2. When the milk has just almost boiled, whisk in the cornmeal mixture. Now stir in with a wooden spoon the remaining ingredients.
  3. Reduce the heat to a very low flame and stir very often for 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to burn as the polenta sticks easily to the pan's bottom.
  4. Serve hot, readjusting seasonings as required, and doctor up as you wish.

Fenugreek Chicken

Although this toothsome chicken entree requires the procurement and use of dried fenugreek leaves, the end result is well worth any ingredient expedition undertaken. The herb can be readily found at all Indian markets and grocers and at most Middle Eastern ones as well - Cafe Drake grabbed a bag for $2.99 recently at Atlanta's Scheherazade Persian market. When using the dried leaves be sure to run them briskly together with your fingers or palms prior to adding to the pan; this quick extra step fully releases the herb's sweet/slightly bitter/strangely nutty flavors.


4 T. canola oil / 2 whole cloves / 1 cardamom pod, cracked / 1 cinnamon stick / 1 onion, chopped / 1 clove of garlic, minced / 2 t. of minced ginger / 2-3 T. dried fenugreek leaves / 8 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into large cubes / 1 t. cayenne pepper / kosher salt / a large pinch of turmeric powder / 1 cup plain yogurt / 1 cup water / 1-2 t. sugar / minced cilantro (use the leaves and stems)

  • In a large skillet heat the oil till very hot. Add the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the ginger, garlic and fenugreek leaves. reduce heat to medium and cook for 4 minutes or so; the onions should just be browning well at the edges.
  • Add the chopped chicken and brown quickly. Toss in the cayenne, turmeric and salt. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring often.
  • Now the yogurt goes in and cook for a minute or so until the fats begin to separate. Add the water, cover and cook on a low flame for 25 minutes.
  • Remove the lid, raise the heat, toss in the sugar and cook until the sauce is thick-ish.
  • Serve hot with rice or bread and garnished with chopped cilantro.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Vegetarian Japanese Small Plates with Octavio, Part II

Haricots Vert with Walnut-Sake Sauce
Toasted Nori
Hiziki seaweed with Carrots and Sesame Seeds
Watercress Salad with Wasabi Dressing
Mixed Pickles
Shitake Brown Rice
Miso-Broiled Tofu

Yet Another Stellar Supper from Jenifer Ruske

One Wonders: How many marvelous meals can Jen Ruske concoct and serve with consummate aplomb this Winter of '11?! Cafe Drake, along with Jen's pal Ben, sought refuge from the bitter cold on a recent Saturday night at Ruske's Greenpoint pad and was feted with an assortment of carefully chosen cheeses, porcini mushroom lasagna, kale braised with chickpeas and homemade sweet-tart lemon bars. We can only dream that the Spring will deliver so many delish dinners!