Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pizza Pizza

Before the oven: fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil sauce, oil-cured olives, grape tomatoes, red wine and chile salami and banana peppers

After 10 minutes in a 450 degree oven: finished with Cafe Drake's best olive oil, fleur de sel, cracked Tellicherry pepper and herbes de Provence

One of our fastest dinners in awhile, with a 2-Minute watercress salad.

Last Batch of Lloyd Pics For Awhile

Fear of Media Overexposure has Lloyd crying "No more photos, please Daddy".

OK, but one more really cute one.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lots of Food = Lots of Leftover Lunches

A light dinner of Lime-Chile Tofu, mustard green pilaf and Cafe Drake's famous Cajun Carrot Pickles. Basically we had leftover, slightly over-salted mustard greens leftovers and re-purposed them by stirring into hot, cooked brown rice. The whole grains were a perfect foil for the mega-seasoned greens and mellowed their sodium shock! Even those who claim to hate tofu will love this dish: start by cutting two blocks of tofu into slices and then diagonally into triangle shapes. Use firm or even better - extra firm - tofu. Plop the tofu pieces in a pot of boiling water, simmer for 3-5 minutes and drain well. Ever wonder why tofu never falls apart in Chinese takeout? The par-boiling is the trick to firming up bean curd!! Now heat about 3 T. of oil in a large skillet, big enough to accommodate all tofu in a single layer if possible. If not fry in batches. Fry tofu over a medium-high flame until lightly browned, flipping once. Now add to the pan the following, pre-mixed in a bowl while the tofu browns: 2 T. brown sugar, 3 T. soy sauce, 3 T. lime juice, 1 clove of garlic, minced, about 5 T. minced cilantro and red pepper flakes to your liking. Cook on a high heat until the tofu is glazed and sauce thickens. Stir well to coat all pieces of tofu. Serve hot or also delicious cold, especially tucked in to sandwiches.

Cafe Drake likes shredding bulky stalks of bok choy and quickly pan-frying the veggie with a bit of garlic and orange (or red or yellow) bell peppers. The distinctive flavor of bok choy only needs a bit of salt or soy sauce to compliment it. When cooked, remove from heat and scatter with thin slices of red onion. Cover for 10 minutes and serve warm. A drizzle of sesame oil is also nice.

It may look like baby food but this Coconut and Garlic fresh chutney (Lahsun Chutney) is anything but bland. Super thick and rich, almost a paste really, this condiment is of course best suited to Indian meals. Cafe Drake also adds a dollop to plates of Caribbean food or enrich a simple meal of rice and beans. Here's how: heat a cast iron skillet (or non-stick) and dry roast just over 1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut until golden brown. This will take about 4 minutes over a medium-low flame. Stir frequently so as not to burn. Throw in 5 whole dried red chilies and roast another minute or two. Allow to cool slightly then puree in a blender with: 5 cloves of garlic, chopped, salt to taste and 1/2 t. tamarind paste. If you don't have tamarind around just use an equal amount of fresh lemon juice. You'll end up with a thick-ish paste - you may need to add a bit of water to help process/puree. Keeps well for about 5 days in the fridge where it thickens considerably when chilled.

Enjoying the bok choy with rice and a bowl of steaming hot and spicy toor dal. We borrowed a recipe for the dal (split pigeon peas) from Manjula's Kitchen.

Leftover toor dal, basmati rice, lime and chile tofu, bok choy and coconut-garlic chutney, along with store-bought aloo paratha, created a magnificent lunch of leftovers.

Lloyd Is ALWAYS Hungry (Part III)

After making a huge mess with this wet food, Lloyd returned to the feeding bowl. Apparently he still believes sitting next to an empty plate gets food delivered faster. Smart kitty, he's usually right.

Monday, September 24, 2012

2012 Emmy's TV Dinner

The award show may have been humdrum this year yet the company at Cafe Drake was anything but flat. Likewise our starter glasses of bubbly! Jen and Ben joined us 'round the coffee table as we grazed through assorted snacks and wines.


Rosemary Breadsticks
Red Chile Salami
Dry Aged Provolone
Assorted Olives

Olive Oil Braised Shrimp
Fennel Gratin
Roasted Eggplant

Fresh Mozzarella and Arugula "Pizzas"

Fennel Gratin

Par-boiled, chopped fennel is then tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and Moroccan oil-cured olives prior to hitting the gratin dish.

While researching fennel gratins online we kept coming across the same recipe, posted on multiple food blogs. For some reason this lemming like slavish devotion to one source sort of depressed us and we struck out on our own. Cafe Drake's adapted version is below. Eschewing the suggested mozzarella made for a lighter dish and allowed the baked fennel's highly subtle flavor to emerge as a faint whisper.

Start with 2 large or 1 very large bulb of fennel. Trim both ends and then slice. Make sure your slices are roughly the same size and don't go thicker than 1/2 inch. Toss the chopped fennel in some boiling water and cook for 5 minutes or just until it becomes tender. Drain and when cool, mix well with 1 or 2 T. of olive oil and some salt and black pepper. In a small bowl mix together 1/2 cup each panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese

Now, assembly: place the fennel in a gratin dish and top evenly with the bread crumb/cheese mixture. Drizzle all with more olive oil and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Begin the oven time with the dish covered - cook this way for 20 minutes then finish off the last 10 minutes uncovered. If needed pop under the broiler to brown on top.

Lloyd Continues to Help With the Packing

Looking Forward to Winter Already

Bedford Avenue and McCarren Park, Williamsburg, Brooklyn / 2006

A Meaty Meal, Strictly Vegetarian

Giant portobello mushrooms served as our meaty entree, in texture and earthy flavor.

Portobello Steak, turmeric rice, pan-fried okra with black pepper and green chilies and (upper left corner) roasted baby eggplant.

Roasted baby eggplants are another veggie with decidedly meat-like qualities. Their chewiness and dense flavor can be best appreciated sometimes with the simplest of preparations. After coating well with olive oil, ground cumin, black pepper and a healthy drizzle of honey, roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until they begin to shrivel and break down upon touch. Allow to cool slightly then season with a good "finishing" salt. Toss with torn mint leaves and enjoy warm or at room temperature. Do NOT salt before or while roasting - the salt will release too much moisture and affect texture.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Just In Time For Our Departure

View From Transmitter Park, Greenpoint, Brooklyn. September 21, 2012
Three weeks from saying Goodbye to Greenpoint, Brooklyn and the city opens a new waterside park in our neighborhood! It's the size of a postage stamp and the waters gently lapping the corroded concrete beach are probably toxic but a charming addition to the city nonetheless.

Variations on a Meal or, Upcycling Leftovers

Sometimes we need lunch NOW. What's easier than green olive focaccia, store-bought but sublime hummus, pre-rinsed baby arugula and a spice-dusted thigh cut from rotisserie chicken?

After removing the skin we finely chopped the breast meat from our multi-use rotisserie bird to make Cafe Drake's favorite fast chicken salad. To the chopped poultry add: 1 small minced red onion (or 2 shallots), about 4 t. minced cilantro, a T. of best quality curry powder, a few dried cherries, salt, pepper and equal amounts of yogurt and mayonnaise (to your taste). Stir well and eat.
Now the OTHER thigh gets served, again on top of baby arugula.
Cafe Drake loves roasted tomatoes so we created this new version to bring a bit of variety to our meals. Start with 5 or 6 nice sized plum (Roma) tomatoes. Slice each horizontally and place cut side down in a casserole dish. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Now sprinkle with 3 T. brown sugar. Not to worry, the tomatoes won't be particularly sweet; the sugar merely compliments nicely their acidity. Tuck between the tomatoes a few garlic cloves, slices of ginger and small green chilies. If you only have larger ones simply cut into slivers. Sprinkle all with some panko bread crumbs and drizzle with just a bit more olive oil. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or so. Delish hot, warm or cold.

Tomatoes repurposed alongside the following evening's meal of turmeric rice, raita and Saag Aloo. Yup, we diced those previously roasted and leftover potatoes and tossed them with a seasoned spinach puree.

Minimal Labor Dinner

An herb omelette for One is the easiest quick fix we know. Cafe Drake uses two eggs only and here we filled ours with contents lingering in the fridge - coarsely grated Parmesan cheese scraped from a drying rind, a withering minced scallion and chopped mint and cilantro leaves.

A well seasoned cast iron skillet is just as effective as any non-stick pan when making omelettes.

Roughly cut oven "fries" make a great alternative to deep-frying.

Finally add a garnish of oil-cured olives and enkoi mushroom salad. These mushrooms are best appreciated raw in our opinion. Cafe Drake makes a 1-Minute Salad by separating them at the base and tossing quickly with equal parts - 1 T. each to a packaged cluster of enoki mushrooms - sesame oil and soy sauce. Season to taste with salt and white pepper if you have it on hand.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Disassembling Cafe Drake

This bastion of glamorous merriment, Greenpoint's very own Camelot a/k/a Cafe Drake, is indeed closing its doors forevermore. Not to worry however as we'll be setting up shop soon amidst the bucolic splendor of the Hudson River Valley. Soon, very soon, we'll be sharing with you all our latest discoveries amongst that area's prolific restaurant/winery/dairy and organic farm havens. Right now though we're still stuffing boxes. Look very forward to Part II - Cafe Drake HRV!

Moving is EASY for Lloyd.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Smokey Eggplant Puree

Another versatile side compatible with Indian, Caribbean, Persian and Western meals. We're letting the genie out of the bottle here folks - this is one of our most popular dishes at various Cafe Drake cooking classes!

Start with 1 very large or two medium black eggplants, the Italian variety found at every supermarket. Slice in half lengthwise and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (to help catch the sweet juices released during cooking). Roast undisturbed for 45 minutes or so in a 450 degree oven. When the eggplant is very soft remove, allow to cool, and then scrape all the flesh from each half. Chop roughly and discard the skin. Set aside.

Heat 3 T. oil (vegetable, olive etc) in a skillet and fry 1 1/2 cups of diced onion until richly browned. Over low heat this may take 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Now add 1/2 t. turmeric, 1 minced green chile, about 3/4 t. salt and 1 t. sugar. Stir well then add in about 1/2 t. cayenne pepper (or to taste) and 1 t. smoked paprika. Stir then pour in 1 cup milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and add the chopped eggplant.

Cook uncovered for 10 minutes or until 90% of the milk has been absorbed by the eggplant. Turn off the flame and cover the dish for 5 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Serve warm sprinkled with either chopped mint leaves or cilantro. Tiny rings of slivered shallots or raw onion are also highly appreciated.

Cardamom Chicken: Another Version

Frying cardamom seeds and pods

Cardamom Chicken with Sauce

We've previously posted recipes for this classic Moghul dish. None however are easier than the version below. Prep may be almost brainless but the flavor is on point. Cafe Drake likes to serve ours with refreshing Mint Pilao. Cardamom is vastly cheaper - and fresher - purchased at Indian markets.


OK the only part of this that takes a minute or two of effort is the beginning. Carefully crack open 5-6 pods of green cardamom and scrape out the seeds. You should have a bit less than a teaspoon. Toss them in a skillet with 2 T. oil and 2 whole cardamom pods. Fry gently for a minute.

Add 4-5 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs and salt generously. Brown lightly on both sides over medium flame, about 4 minutes total. Now sprinkle chicken with 1 t. cayenne pepper and 1 t. turmeric. Grind some black pepper over the chicken.

Add 2 t. tomato paste to the pan along with 2/3 cup plain yogurt and 2/3 cup water. Stir to combine all and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until chicken is tender. This will take 20 minutes or more but you don't need to do anything.

Remove cover and boil - if needed - sauce until it has thickened slightly. For a stronger, more perfumed flavor add 2-3 more whole cardamom pods. Serve chicken hot, garnished with chopped cilantro. If entertaining, or desiring a richer entree, sprinkle cooked chicken thighs with 2 T. dry-roasted pine nuts.


A convenient side dish as this goes with many types of meals.

Take a heaping handful of fresh mint leaves and toss in a mini-processor or blender along with a t. of water and 2 chopped green chilies. Blend to a paste. Set aside.

Heat 2 T. vegetable oil in a small-ish, deep skillet or saucepan and when hot add in 1 t. cumin seeds. Fry just until the cumin darkens and then add 1 1/4 cups brown rice. Season with 1/2 t. salt. Fry the rice for one minute and now add the pureed mint and chilies. Pour in 2 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to the lowest flame, cover and simmer for 50 minutes. When all of the water has been absorbed turn off the heat and allow rice to sit covered for 5 full minutes. Uncover, fluff rice with a fork and serve hot.

Wood Ear Mushroom Salad

This side dish has a surprising crunch and slight bite via the judicious use of chilies. If you like you can add in 1 slivered green onion before serving. Cafe Drake adapted the recipe only marginally from the blog Cooking in the City.

1 cup wood ear mushrooms
2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced
1 small green or red chilli, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

Pour boiling water over mushrooms and soak for up to 1 hour until soft. Drain and tear into bite size pieces. Rinse very well, scrubbing mushrooms with your fingers. Drain again.
For the dressing, mix together garlic, chilli, lime juice, sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar until sugar has dissolved. Toss dressing with mushrooms and cilantro. Refrigerate for an hour or two before serving slightly chilled.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Another Tindora Recipe (we're hooked)

Toasting coconut and dried red chilies

Cafe Drake enjoyed our "tindora rice" with raita, smokey eggplant puree and pappadums.

Grab the recipe here.

Zucchini may be substituted for tindora (ivy gourd), an Indian vegetable available only at Asian markets. For that matter almost any finely sliced or chopped veggies could stand in for the tindora as well. The important thing is that you simply make this delicious "fried rice" recipe. Pilafs such as ours need be served only with yogurt and sliced onions to complete the meal, although cucumber salad and hard-boiled eggs are equally appropriate accompaniments. Thanks to the comprehensive blog Plantain Leaf for the recipe!