Thursday, February 28, 2013

Winter Kitchen Survival Tips

Situated between at least three ski mountains, Cafe Drake HRV spends most of the winter blanketed in deep snow. Major storms like Nemo call for special and extensive preparation. There's no deli around the corner anymore, people! Like all our neighbors in this frozen hamlet, we stock up before the heavy weather hits and ride it out inside, warm, snug and flush with food, coffee, liquor, batteries, candles and kitty litter. Cabin Fever is checked by a steady supply of classic movies, magazines and books (thank heavens for Shirley Hazzard's After the Fire). Leisurely prepared meals in the soft kitchen lamplight also ensure time passes happily.

Recent snowbound treats included:

Quirky Indian meal of spinach soup (perfumed with cloves and ginger), basmati rice, buttermilk curry, tomato salad and yogurt-peanut chutney.

This unusual peanut-yogurt chutney doubles at Cafe Drake as a sandwich spread or dipping sauce for toasted pita bread. You can make it in under 5 minutes. In a small bowl mix together well: 2 T. smooth peanut butter (salted or unsalted), 2 T. yogurt, 1 T. lemon juice, about 1 T. minced shallots or red onions, 1 T. minced cilantro, 3/4 t. cayenne pepper and salt to taste. You'll need at least 1/4 t. Now heat just 1 t. vegetable oil until hot. Add 1 t. sesame seeds and cook just until they begin to brown. Stir into the peanut-yogurt mixture and enjoy cold or at room temperature.


Keeping dried shitake mushrooms in the pantry is always a good idea. Inexpensive and versatile, dried mushrooms can be soaked for 30 minutes then added to many recipes for additional depths of flavor.

Breaded chicken cutlets, kale and cherry tomatoes and white cheddar polenta

Mushroom barley soup, hummus, toasted baguette slices and olives; a small tub of that latter is always kept in the Cafe Drake HRV fridge. We add them to sandwich plates, pasta sauces and martinis!

Mushroom and barley soup again, this time with salad (and rich tahini dressing) and crackers

A "hopeful salad" of pale escarole leaves with sesame dressing + leftover Chinese stir-fried veggies. Doesn't it just look like Spring on a plate?

Quesadillas with Greek yogurt, stewed cabbage, more tomato salad, pickled red onions

Random Refrigerator View XXIV


Of all the myriad potato curries in the universe, this may be the easiest to prepare. Serve with rice or flatbreads like chapatis or parathas. First, get everything you need prepped and placed near the stove. This one moves fast!
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (7-8 leaves)
  • 2 tablespoons split peas
  • 1/2 medium onion chopped
  • 1 green chili chopped or chili flakes to taste
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 medium potatoes, chopped

  1. In a medium pan, add oil and heat on medium.
  2. After half a minute, add mustard seeds and let them start to crackle.
  3. Add curry leaves carefully and mix.
  4. Add the split peas, chili and onions and cook on medium-low heat for 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden.
  5. Add the turmeric and salt and mix,
  6. Add the potatoes, 2-3 Tablespoons of water, mix well, cover and cook on low heat for 12-14 minutes, stirring every 4 minutes until potatoes are done.
  7. You can also use boiled potatoes to reduce the cook time. Add boiled potatoes in the onion mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes and serve.


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