Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Lucky is Cafe Drake??!!

We count ourselves blessed indeed, graced with two weekend dinners from our dear friends Jen and Jen.

Below: Jen Ruske and Ben T.'s gorgeous Duck Dinner:

Is it possible to not love baby Yukon Golds pan-fried in duck fat?

We remain in awe of Ruske's butterscotch pie with homemade Marcona almond brittle!

Now that's what we call a cheese course. Complete with roasted figs!

Oozing goat milk cheese deliciousness.

The titular bird of the Duck Dinner.

Ruske makes it all seem so effortless.

And from the Kitchen/Chic Pad of Jen Lazzaro, Oscar Night:

Ben is enthralled with the Oscars' Red Carpet Pre-Show.

Fried Chicken Wraps with Oven-Roasted Sweet Peppers. Yeah, J-la rolls like that.

Jen Lazzarro always serves high glamor, on and off the plate.

Jen hard at work, constructing a grazing feast.

Sliders topped with ketchup and mayo.

We all sat glued to the TV, watching the Academy Awards, plates in laps, never empty.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Success at the Kitchen Swap

Cafe Drake unloaded some cookbooks and spices etc and in return scored at the Brooklyn Brewery Kitchen Swap. Denizens of the neighborhood, those culinarily inclined, swapped out unwanted or unused items for new kitchen swag. A grand time was had by all! We left - wallets intact - with a Le Creuset No. 29 casserole dish, a kelly green mid-century Italian saucepan (ICM!!), sake set, a much-needed candy thermometer (very useful for deep frying etc), an immersion blender still in the box etc etc. Now this is the kind of guilt-free shopping we could get used to!

A Few Meals, Here & There

Tandoori Chicken, made at home without the ubiquitous red food dye!

A hearty Indian-influenced lunch: yellow split peas, basmatic rice, roasted okra, creamed and spiced mustard greens, whole wheat chapati bread

All you basically need for Thai Vegetable Green Curry is a handful of chopped fresh produce and a can of coconut milk and one of green curry paste.

Tandoori chicken again, served with leftover split peas transformed into a thick soup.

Leftovers again for lunch, made more interesting with toasted pappadums and a dollop of homemade tomato-chipotle salsa.

Ravioli, garlic bread and 5-minute coleslaw. Here's how to make the slaw: In a large bowl mix 1/4 cup red wine vinegar with about 2 T. sugar. Now add 2 T. of olive oil and whisk until blended. Add 1 14-16 oz. bag of shredded cabbage and mix again. Add 1 t. salt and plenty of black pepper and mix well. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.  Also good mixed in, but totally optional, are celery seeds, tarragon and a t. of Dijon mustard. Leftovers keep for at least 3 days refrigerated and make an excellent topping for sandwiches or may be tossed into green salads.

Frozen pork and scallion dumplings from Trader Joe's with brown rice, tossed salad and ponzu dipping sauce.

Lamb Bolognese

A gift from Axel in Iceland - pickled dulse.

Living in Greenpoint a/k/a Little Poland, Cafe Drake needs a repertoire of recipes employing perogies. Here, boiled and mounded atop a veggie stir-fry.

Chilled "custard-style" silken tofu with soy sauce and the Japanese 7-spice pepper blend known as shichimi togarashi.

Lemon Rice with carrot ribbons (dressed with spicy yogurt sauce) and Bibb lettuce salad.

Yet another quirky/crazy fusion meal at Cafe Drake: Thai meets Japanese home cuisine.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dhokla for Dinner, or Anytime

While dried mixes for dhokla, a spongy Gujarati chickpea flour (besan) cake, can be found in every Indian supermarket, this homemade version is superior in flavor and texture and not terribly difficult or time-consuming to prepare. Dhokla is most often eaten as a snack, drizzled with both tamarind and mint chutneys, but Cafe Drake prefers wedges or squares served as a side dish to thick stews or saucy beans. Above, dhokla plays well with a chickpea curry and pan-fried, shredded cabbage. This savory "cake" also intrigues when presented as a first-course, a well-dressed mound of micro-greens resting alongside. Our recipe below makes a large cake so it's perfect for a dinner party. Refrigerated leftovers, wrapped well, keep for 5 days; for best results, allow the dhokla to come to room temperature before eating.

Bgin by mixing 4 1/2 cups of chickpea flour with 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (low-fat is fine, non-fat not so good) and set aside for 2 hours. Now add 1 t. of dried ginger powder and 1 t. of cayenne pepper. Stir in about 2 t. sugar, 1 t. lime juice, 2 t. baking soda, salt to taste (count on at least 1-2 t.) and 1/2 t. turmeric. Mix well and begin to slowly add warm water until you have achieved a batter just barely of pouring consistency. To do this effectively stir the mixture constantly while adding the water, bits at a time so as not to get it too runny.

Here's the tricky part: you'll need to pull out the largest, most enormous saucepan/soup pot you own. Find a round cake pan that can fit inside and lightly oil it. Pour the batter into the pan (you may have to do this in 2 batches - or cut the recipe in half). Put a rack, or even a bowl filled with water, into the bottom of the sauce pan and carefully place the filled cake pan on top. Add water to the saucepan to about 1 inch or less below the bottom of the cake pan. Are you staying with me here? If not, just re-read carefully as it's actually easier than described! Just make sure the water level has not reached, or is touching, the bottom of the cake pan.

Cover the sauce pan with a lid and steam over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the dhokla has firmed up. A good trick is to touch the top of the dhokla - if your finger comes away clean you should be good. Allow the dhokla to cool for at least 15 minutes then carefully cut into squares, wedges, diamond shapes, etc. Do not remove pieces from the pan just yet. Set aside while making the tempering oil:

Heat 2 t. vegetable or olive oil over a medium-high flame. When very hot toss in 1 t. black mustard seeds. Have a lid handy as they pop and fly everywhere! Once the seeds have stopped popping throw in 1 t. sesame seeds, 10 curry leaves (if you have them - and you should keep some always in your freezer) and 2-3 minced green chilies. Cook for about 15 seconds then pour the seasoned oil over the dhokla, still in the pan. Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature. May be garnished with chopped cilantro or slivered scallions.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

An Unusual Condiment

Combining the slight sweetness and peppery bite of daikon with fiery red pepper and paprika, momiji oroshi is a Japanese condiment used as one might wasabi, with sashimi and sushi. It is considered an essential sidekick to shabu shabu. Cafe Drake likes it with grilled or broiled fish and thinly sliced, well-salted roast beef.

Peel and dice a 3-oz. piece of daikon radish and place in a blender/processor with 2 T. water. Puree very well then transfer to a fine-mesh strainer and allow to drain for 5-10 minutes. Press down gently on the puree to release as much liquid as possible. Place in a bowl and mix well with 1 t. paprika and 1/4 - 1/2 t. cayenne pepper. Season if desired with just a pinch of salt

This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Caulifower and Sweet Potato "Bisque"

One of many brands of dashi (bonito fish flake) stock available at Asian supermarkets. Cafe Drake likes the variety above as the "broth" is packaged in individual servings, powdered. Adding warm water is all the effort required.

Pureeing well-cooked cauliflower and sweet potatoes gives this soup a luxurious velvet texture, without the addition of cream, milk or butter. A dashi broth made from bonito fish flakes will yield a subtle, smokey depth of flavor but you can of course substitute vegetable or chicken broth.

Begin by frying 1 head of cauliflower (cut into small florets), 1 very large sweet potato (peeled and diced) and 1 small onion (diced) in 2 T. of olive or vegetable oil. After a few minutes add about 1/2 cup of diced green bell pepper. Stir and cook for another minute or two and then add: 1 t. of salt and black pepper to taste. Pour in 3 cups of broth of your choice. Bring to a boil, cover partially with a lid and simmer on a low flame for about 15 minutes or until the veggies are very soft.

Cool slightly then puree until very smooth in a blender. Return to pot and simmer very gently, stirring frequently. The soup should be quite thick but if needed, add a bit more water to thin out. Now add a healthy dash or two of good quality soy sauce. Cook for 1 more minute then remove 1/3 cup of soup from the pot and place in a small bowl. To this bowl add 1 T. or more (to taste) of miso paste. Mix well and stir back into the soup pot. Do not allow to return to a boil and serve the soup very hot in warmed soup bowls.

Dinner with Susan M. Duys


Blood Orange Gimlets
Cheese and Rye Crispbread
Tunisian Lemon Olives
Stuffed Grape Leaves

Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup
Shishito Pepper "Croutons"

Dover Sole with Brown Butter and Capers
Wilted Spinach and Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Green Tea Panna Cotta
Cocoa Dusted Almonds

Rose and Sauternes

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

We're Sort of All Over the Place

Check out our admittedly "slight", or slim, internet presence at Cafe Drake's sister sites (mini visual blogs if you will) such as The Glittering Retinue of Nerves and Chutney Wallah and Satan's School for Girls. Updates promised soon.

Happy 200th Birthday, Charles Dickens



In honor of today (February 7 2012) being the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, Cafe Drake is listening to NPR's 2-hour prime time tribute and offering up a winter punch attributed to the author himself. The recipe is snagged from The Charles Dickens Cookbook by Brenda Marshall and adapted by the ever inspiring Lynne Rosetto of The Splendid Table.

  • Zest of lemons, cut into several pieces each
  • 1 packed cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups dark rum
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • 4 cups very hot water
  • More sugar to taste

  • 1. In a 4-quart saucepan combine the lemon zest, sugar, rum, and the brandy. Warm over low heat.
  • 2. Be sure there's no exhaust fan running. Stand well back as you light the liquid with a long match. When the flames have gone out, stir in the lemon juice and the water.
  • 3. Taste for sugar. Bring the punch to a very gentle bubble, cover completely and cook 10 minutes.
  • 4. Remove the lemon zest. Set aside up to 3 hours, or refrigerate overnight.
  • 5. Serve warm, ladled into handled cups.
  • Note from Lynne: My own touch here would be a few cinnamon sticks added with the lemon zest.

Monday, February 06, 2012

A Week's Worth of Meals, Mostly Lazy

Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas. Made so much easier with refried black beans and smoked Cheddar from Trader Joe's.

A perrenial favorite at Cafe Drake - Thai-style Garlic and Black Pepper Tofu. Check out our recipe here.

After a recent shopping expedition at Sahadi's, Brooklyn's venerable market of all things Greek and Mediterranean, Cafe Drake went on a lunch spree of taramasalata, lemon-cured olives, roasted eggplant, flatbreads and Aegean cheese. We supplemented these mid-day snacks with homemade lentil soup and Mykonos rice casserole.

Our beloved Yogurt Curry with brown basmati rice, roasted broccoli and plum tomatoes.

Bengali-style mustard greens, rice, our best ever rassam and roasted cauliflower.

Two of our fave condiments: pickled Seranno peppers and Greek yogurt.

From Frying Pan to Plate: Rabbit Ragu with Fettuccine and Escarole Salad

Tangerine Chess Pie