Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Black Beans and Sausage

We're almost embarrassed to tell you how easy this is. Almost. Open a can of black beans and simmer gently for 15 minutes with 2 chopped tomatoes, a bit of ground cumin and oregano, a clove of garlic and sliced Chicken Mango sausages from Trader Joe's. Cafe Drake dished up these tropical themed beans with coleslaw and braised Swiss chard.

And a Few More Indian Recipes


Sometimes made with buttermilk instead, yogurt curries are amongst the quirkiest of Indian delicacies. More soup or dipping sauce for bread than a substantial vegetable dish, these are especially popular throughout the province of Rajasthan. Serve with plenty of fresh bread to soak up or alternately, ladle plentifully over rice. Either way just give it a try!

1 T. canola oil  / 2 t. black mustard seeds / 1/2 t. cumin seeds / 1/2 t. turmeric / 2 scallions, sliced thinly / 1 green chile, minced / 1& 1/4 cup water / 1 cup plain yogurt / salt to taste / chopped cilantro

Heat the oil until quite hot and fry the mustard seeds until they begin to pop. Add the cumin and turmeric and stir. Lower the heat to medium and toss in the chile and scallions. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the scallions have softened.

Stir in the water now and then the yogurt. Reduce flame quickly to low. Stir until just warmed through and do not allow the mixture to boil. Season with salt and pour in a serving bowl, garnished with a bit of the chopped cilantro.


Another novel curry, this is traditionally quite spicy so lower the amount of chilies if you're not up to Cafe Drake's high levels of heat! 

8 chopped small green chilies, or 3 large jalapenos or Serrano chilies / 1 large onion, sliced / 1 1/2 cups water / 2 t. canola oil / 1 1/2 cups chopped tomato / 2 cloves of garlic, minced / 1/3 lb. of firm feta cheese, chopped into 1/2" cubes / ground black pepper

In a saucepan bring to a boil: the water, chilies, onions and oil. Reduce to a simmer and cover - cook for 15 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and garlic to the pot and return to a boil. Simmer uncovered until the tomatoes are falling apart - about 10 or 15 minutes.

Add the cubed cheese and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Stir and add some black pepper. You may also add salt if needed but remember the feta is most likely quite salty.

Very good with brown basmati rice and a simple green salad.


If you don't have a grill pan you can always broil the chicken following your basic recipe for such. Consider this your new "go-to" weeknight dish!

3-4 lbs. chicken pieces / 1 cup chopped tomatoes (canned are fine) / 1 1/2 t. ground cumin / 1 1/2 t. ground coriander / 1 T. minced ginger / 3 cloves of garlic, minced / 1 T. lemon juice / 2 t. salt / 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix together all the ingredients except for the chicken to make a marinade. Pour the marinade over the chicken and refrigerate, covered, overnight or at least 6 hours.

Remove chicken from the marinade and either grill or broil until cooked through.

Really, really nice with a side of sliced onions and ripe tomatoes. If you're grilling anyway, why not serve with grilled bread and/or veggies such as zucchini or eggplant?

A Few More Recipes from the Subcontinent


1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, chopped / salt / 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots / 2 fresh green chilies / 1/2 t. salt / 1/2 t. black pepper / 2 T. each: lime juice and coconut milk

Place the chopped cucumber in a colander and sprinkle with 1 T. of kosher salt. Set aside for 1/2 hour then rinse well and pat dry.

Toss the cucumber gently with all the remaining ingredients and serve at room temperature. Delicious with rice and beans.


A simple but flavorful side dish for almost any meal.

1 lb. trimmed green beans or long beans / 3 T. sesame seeds / 2 T. canola oil / 2 fresh green chilies of your choice / 1/2 - 1 t. salt / 2 T. lemon juice / chopped cilantro

Cook the beans until barely tender in boiling salted water and drain and rinse. Drain well again. If you have not done so already the beans should be cut into 1/2" long pieces.

Dry roast the sesame seeds in a hot iron skillet; take care to not burn. Cool then grind to a coarse powder with either a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder. ( The Magic Bullet is useful here)

Heat the oil over a medium flame until quite hot and then add the chilies to the oil. Cook for 30 seconds and then pour all over the cooked green beans. Add the ground seeds, salt and lemon juice and toss well.

Allow all to rest for an hour or so to develop flavor and serve as a side dish decorated with some chopped cilantro.


1/2 lb. peeled and seeded cucumbers, sliced into matchsticks / 1 T. sesame seeds / 1/2 t. cumin seeds / 2 T. plain yogurt / 1 1/2t. mustard oil / 1/4 t. each: fenugreek and nigella seeds / 1 minced green chile / 1/4 t. cayenne pepper / good pinch of turmeric / 1 T. lemon juice

Sprinkle the cucumber with 2 T. of kosher salt and leave to drain in a colander.

As the cukes drain, dry roast the sesame and cumin seeds in a small skillet and then pulverize into a coarse powder. Mix with the yogurt to make a paste and set aside. Alternatively you can roast the seeds and mix with the yogurt but skip the grinding. 

Rinse off the cukes and pat dry well. Rub them all over with the spice-yogurt mixture and place in a large bowl.

Heat the oil over a medium flame and fry the nigella and fenugreek seeds for 1 minute. Add the chile, turmeric, cayenne and heat for another 15 seconds. Pour this all over the cucumbers, stir gently and allow the flavors to develop and meld together for about 1/2 hour before serving.

You may need to add further amounts of salt.


Not so difficult to make but you will need to head to the Indian grocery store to pick up the urad dhal lentils.

1 1/4 cups urad dhal (white lentils), washed and soaked in 4 cups of water for 3 hours / 1 cup water / 1 t. salt / 1 T. or so of minced hot fresh chilies of your choice / 1 clove garlic, minced / 1/2 t. or just less of dried ginger / 1 cup finely chopped onions or shallots / 1/2 t. ground cumin / 1 cup chopped cilantro

Drain the urad dhal and blend with 1 cup water, the garlic and ginger, salt and fresh chile until you have a gritty batter.

Heat a cast iron skillet over a medium-high flame and add 1 t. of oil to the pan. When it is hot, pour 1/3 cup of batter into the skillet and spread into a circle about 7 inches wide. Sprinkle 2 T. of the onion, a pinch of the cumin and a bit of the cilantro leaves over all.

Cook for 3 minutes then flip the bread over and cook for 3 minutes on the other side. Remove from pan and keep warm in a very low oven.

Repeat and add 1 t. of oil to the skillet for each bread. This seems time-consuming but you don't need to do anything much during the 6 minute cooking time per bread other than flip it once.

The recipes above have been slightly adapted from those in the cookbook Mangoes and Curry Leaves.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Overdue Dinner for Jen & Ben

Rosewater Martinis
Salted Roasted Almonds

Arctic Surf Clam and Jicama Salad

Braised Calf's Tongue with Watercress-Shallot Salad
Cafe Drake's Pickled Sweet Green Tomatoes

Carrot "Osso Buco"
Barley and Mixed Mushroom ( Oyster, King Trumpet, Enoki, Baby Portobelloes) Pilaf
Roasted Pencil Asparagus

Sprout Creek Farm Batch 35 Cheese
Shropshire Apple and Pear Cardamom Chutneys
Whole Wheat Parker House Rolls

Ben's Grandma's Date Cake

Cranberry Vodka and Swedish Bitters Digestifs

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Outrageous Hubris of Cafe Drake Pays Off with Bhel Poori

Cafe Drake wants to go on record as most likely the first ever Westerner to plate Bhel Poori as an entree. Mumbai's favorite snack became our main course with a mixture of puffed rice, chickpea flour crunchies, diced apple, onion, tomato, cucumber, cilantro and minced hot chilies. We mixed it all dramatically table side with house made yogurt sauce, tamarind water (spiked with garam masala and brown sugar) and fresh cilantro chutney. Thank heavens for ages-old compatriots like Jen Lazzaro and Octavio F. willing to sample Mumbai beach snacks for dinner. Don't even ask us for the recipe but Google online the main ingredients of puffed rice!

As if we didn't already dish up at least 8 servings of vegetables, Cafe Drake preceded the eccentric meal with a creamy soup of broccoli and fenugreek.

Garlic and Black Pepper Tofu

Seems unbelievable but the chili pepper was only introduced to Thailand some 200 years ago. Prior to the arrival of the nation's quintessential flavor and ingredient, the Thai people still loved spicy food as evidenced by these centuries' old dish. More typically made with boneless and skinless chicken, the recipe below utilizes tofu as a substitution without sacrificing any flavor.

Anytime you're stir-frying tofu be sure to cut it into the desired shapes/sizes and simmer in lightly boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander for 15 minutes then proceed with the recipe, thus preventing the tofu from falling apart when pan-fried.

4 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB shallots, minced
2 TB oyster sauce or vegetarian oyster sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 t. coarse ground black pepper
1 tsp. cilantro root or stem, minced

2 TB vegetable stock, or more as needed
1 red or yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
1 cup long beans, chopped (or use string beans)
1 block tofu, cubed
2 TB oil

Fry the cubed tofu in 1 TB of the oil until golden brown. Remove from pan. 

Add garlic, shallots, oyster sauce, cilantro root, brown sugar, and pepper to food processor/mortar and process/pound until a smooth paste. 

Add 1 TB oil to pan and fry paste for 1 minute, until aromatic. 

Add blanched green beans, red pepper, tofu, and vegetable stock as necessary to make a sauce of medium thickness. Cook 3-5 minutes or until beans are cooked through.

Cafe Drake served this vegetarian entree alongside a bowl of Thai Tomato Soup. 


This was one we invented to use up an opened large can of tomatoes and a bunch of cilantro on the verge of wilting. It's a strong and acidic flavor, so if you're not a fan of the typically stringent nature of Thai soups, reduce the amount of chilies to create a milder experience.

Saute 2 chopped shallots in 2-3 T. of oil in a large saucepan. Add 2-3 T. of chopped ginger and a t. of powdered ginger. Stir well and pour in 4 cups or so of plain water - there is no need for stock here. Put about 7-8 whole or chopped canned tomatoes in the pot and season with salt and black pepper.

As the soup begins to simmer add: the well chopped roots and stems and leaves of 1/2 bunch of cilantro along with 3-4 chopped green chilies

Simmer the soup, covered, over a low flame for 45 minutes. Allow to cool and then process in a blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and add approximately 1 T. of brown sugar (or more as to your taste). Lightly simmer the soup on a very low flame for 5 more minutes, adjust for salt and pepper and serve hot.

For a richer and more elegant soup, as a dinner party first course for example, this soup is amazing with the addition of 1/2 cup of heavy cream stirred into the saucepan just before serving. Although we haven't tried it yet, topping each bowl with a cooked shrimp or two couldn't be a bad idea.

Beige Food

Blame it on the Irish, not us, but Cafe Drake's St. Paddy's meal lacked color. Still, the salmon cakes, roasted potatoes and braised cabbage were all delicious and satisfying and chased by a day full of salads.

J-Wow! Or Another Astonishing Dinner at J. Ruske's

Cafe Drake always expects greatness from a dinner at the home of neighbor and close friend Jen Ruske, but freshly fired, iron-skillet fried chicken wows us even more than usual. 

Jen Ruske?

Our very own Greenpoint version of That Girl, Ruske served a nibbling plate of good Gorgonzola and crackers minutes after finishing her Pilates routine after a full day at the office, and soon after delivered a beautifully composed winter salad of seasonal veggies (sliced razor thin) dressed in a lemon vinaigrette - parsnips, turnips, celery root, leeks and apples. 

Then came the delectable aforementioned chicken along with homemade biscuits and seriously rich mac and cheese. 

Groaning with fullness but unwilling to deny ourselves any of Jen's from-scratch goodness, we gasped with satiated pleasure as the imperturbable hostess herself iced personalized carrot cake cupcakes with aged whiskey digestifs on the side.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cousin Anna Turns Three!

Dinner in Cold Spring, NY

After an afternoon of antiquing along Main Street in Cold Spring, NY, we stopped by friends of Ben's living just around the corner. Turns out they have a fascinating backyard with several breeds of chickens, cute kids and intriguing botanical life. (see above all three)

When Jen, Ben and Cafe Drake arrived at Garrison, NY's Tavern restaurant the sun was setting. As our meal began, with a Manhattan and toasted cornbread squares, chilled half-shell oysters, chicken liver mousse with homemade pickles and crisp flat breads, and hay-smoked gnocchi, the light faded and soon we were plunged into full-on moody, flattering candle light for the remainder of our evening. Entrees of pork belly, braised short ribs and roasted wild salmon atop bacony lentils were all quite good, as were sides of polenta, barley risotto and pickled red cabbage. Desserts included apple pie with black pepper whipped cream and a selection of Hudson Valley cheeses.

The Cold Spring waterfront.

Passing Time Outside the Kitchen

And inside it as well; with our heavy chutney production schedule Cafe Drake often squeezes in books, magazines and videos on our laptop whilst prepping and cooking product. A few favorites, distractions and inspirations outside the world of food are praised below.

A good, nay great, book is the preferred method of passing time in the DP Chutney kitchens as our sweet and spicy creations merrily simmer on the stove top. Of course we had to devour Joyce Carol Oates' latest short story collection (and finish just in time to begin her new novel sure to appear on shelves within the week!) Give Me Your Heart, another in a long line of her recent macabre themed offerings. The title story is a stand-out for the author's characteristic mastery of telling details filtered through the deranged mind of her first-person narrator.

Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964), noted but now somewhat obscurely remembered novelist, essayist, art critic, photographer and composer, is a writer we've always meant to read. After finding two of his novels, bargain-priced first editions, both from the mid-20s, in a Kingston, NY used bookstore, Cafe Drake is thrilled we finally dove into Van Vechten's wacky fictional world of hedonistic aristocrats with hearts of tarnished gold and scheming ingenues. Loved loved loved The Tattooed Countess and Parties.

Local Brooklyn band The Drums update and embellish the simple, jangly melodies of Cafe Drake's youthful record collection, i.e. New Romantic/early British New Wave, in a manner impossible to not hum along with!

We only own their debut EP but are waiting with baited breath for a new release. Forever queued up on iTunes, FTP are our current go-to, feel good favorites.

Cafe Drake has for several years championed to friends and fans the easy sounds of Beach House, almost as wistful and carefree in their harmonizing as the band's name implies. Now the subject of any number of dance-oriented remixes we've discovered - along with our own - their wilder side.

Adept Googlers will find a treasure trove of free online films of course, but it takes even more advanced online digging to unearth rare 60s and 70s foreign thrillers from the Italian mystery and whodunit sub-genre known as gialli. Cafe Drake downloads these highly stylized (albeit confusing - style over plot rules!) gems by the handful to watch on the laptop alongside our boiling pots.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Go Ahead and Click the Arrow. Sing Along. You'll Feel Better.

Chicken Dhansak

The traditional version uses lentils, not yellow split peas, but as we had the latter and not the former in our cupboards Cafe Drake made an executive (chef) decision and was well pleased with the resulting textural contrast between tender, moist chicken and slightly al dente peas.

Soak and then rinse about 1/2 cup of dried yellow split peas. Drain and place in a saucepan with 2 cups of either vegetable or chicken stock. Boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes then set aside. A nice optional step is to toss in a bay leaf while the legumes are cooking.

Heat 2 T. of vegetable oil in a large and deep skillet over a medium flame. When the oil is very hot add: 1 chopped onion, some fresh or dried ginger to taste and 1-2 hot green chilies. Cook for a minute then add: 1 t. ground cumin, 1 t. ground coriander, 1/2 t. or more of salt and a scant t. of cayenne pepper. Add about 2 T. of water to the pan and stir well.

Now tip in 1 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes and 6-8 skinless and boneless chicken thighs. If you need to you can always use bone-in thighs but do remove the skin. Cover the skillet and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the split peas and any remaining liquid to the chicken along with 1 t. of garam masala. Stir and cook, uncovered for another 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. You'll want plenty of sauce but if it's looking too runny just crank up the heat a bit to thicken. 

After the chicken is cooked adjust seasoning as it will need more salt. The final step is essential: sprinkle over the entire pan at least 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro and stir.

Serve with good French bread, rice or boiled potatoes.

Carrots in Tahini Sauce

Peel and slice on the diagonal 2 1/2 to 3 lbs. of carrots. They should be about 1/2 - 3/4" thick. Steam in a steamer basket until just tender, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from steamer basket and set aside while you mix very well in a large bowl: the juice of 1 large lemon, 1/4 cup tahini, 1/4 cup olive oil and 2-4 T. of water. Now throw in a well minced clove of garlic and a few red chili flakes. Toss with the carrots and add salt and black pepper to taste. These can be refrigerated for several days but always serve at room temperature. Before serving sprinkle with chopped fresh dill and/or parsley. For a Middle Eastern flavor, toss carrots with toasted cumin seeds and paprika.