The Many (Food) Moods of Cafe Drake HRV

A recent weekend visit from Jen Ruske and Ben Terziani inspired Cafe Drake HRV to concoct a multi-course Indian dinner upon their arrival. Among the condiments, a banana pachadi. Pachadis are close relatives of more familiar raitas; the chief difference is the former (as above) are briefly cooked then served cool.

A starter of spicy pickled egg and marinated radishes

Friday Night Lights: Late dinners kicking off the weekend are best enjoyed in soothing candlelight. Stress lines from hectic days melt away under the soft glow.

An intermezzo "shot" of jaljeera, a piquant, salty lemonade designed to jolt awake any lagging taste buds. Sharp notes of citrus, cumin and mint also cleanse palettes between courses still to come: tomato and coconut soup; roasted chickpeas;lamb koftas with basmati rice, salaad and banana pachadi; green almonds and cardamom water "shooters" and marzipan.

Leftover koftas, rice, roasted chickpeas, salaad and banana pachadi
And more leftovers! Pizza reheats exceptionally well in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Who knew? Refrigerated slices lingering in cardboard box are enjoyed with arugula salad and shaved shallots.

Butternut squash always looks so appealing at the market, until we get home and somehow it rests undisturbed for 3 weeks on the kitchen counter. When finally resolved tackle the veggie, Cafe Drake HRV went into automatic mode and made a squash curry, its innate sweetness balanced against earthy dal and tangy yogurt.

Not sure how this Cafe Drake HRV riff on grilled cheese really began. Or is it a Mexican calzone? Either way it's delicious and ready to eat in 5 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees while mixing in a bowl about 2 cups of grated sharp cheddar cheese with 2-3 sliced jalapeno peppers and 1/3 cup each (very approximate measurements here) plain Greek yogurt and mayonnaise. Blend well and season as needed with a bit of salt and black pepper. Stir in now some chopped cilantro and if you like, a bit of minced onion. Stuff in to halved pita breads and bake on a cookie sheet until all is melted and gooey and bread edges crisped. Good on their own but even better with a dipping sauce or pico de gallo.

Lazy AND indulgent lunch. Damn! Must have been a hangover day . . . toasted whole wheat rolls with cheddar, tossed salad and yellow squash bread and butter pickles.

Browning pork chops and onions is the first step in preparing a new Cafe Drake HRV favorite we're calling Chinese Braised Pork with Turnips. After searing off pork chops (or pork loin) quickly saute sliced onions in same pan, just until translucent. Cover the pork chops with water or stock and season with a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce and hoisin sauce. Throw in a few slices of peeled ginger along with some black peppercorns and a cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for about 30 minutes. Add to the large skillet roughly 2 cups chopped turnips and continue to simmer - uncovered - for another 45 minutes or until most of the sauce has evaporated and the pork is falling apart-tender. When a slightly sweeter flavor is craved add a T. of brown sugar in the last 45 minutes of cooking.

None too pretty Sesame Chutney is actually an arsenal of complex flavors packed into one (ugly) condiment. Way too versatile to be confined to Indian meals, sesame chutney can sit happily alongside most entrees and works great as a sandwich spread or dip for chips. Of course Cafe Drake's favorite way to savor is with hot rice drizzled with ghee. Making this chutney couldn't be easier and it keeps for at least a week in the fridge. Begin by lightly roasting in a dry skillet 1 cup of sesame seeds. It's best to do this over a medium flame, shaking the pan often to avoid scorching. When the seeds just begin to color and emit toasted aromas, remove from pan. Place pan back on flame and now dry roast 4-5 dried red chilies, again taking care to not burn. Lastly, remove chilies from pan and add about 1/2 t. cumin seeds. Toast only until the begin to change color, a matter of seconds in your pre-heated pan. Combine the seeds, chilies and cumin seeds with 1 1/2 t. tamarind paste or concentrate, salt to taste and enough water to process in a blender. Use only as much liquid as needed to grind the ingredients to a thick paste. The finished product should be rather dry. If you don't have tamarind in the house you may substitute an equal amount of lemon juice. Now, re-season with salt and stir in 2 thinly sliced small green chilies (or to your taste).

The braised pork chops with turnips are plated over jasmine rice and with moong bean chutney, steamed and dressed carrots and kale.

Clearing out the fridge, clockwise from top left:braised pork and turnips, green salad, potatoes with miso, roasted summer squash, rice and sesame chutney. If you haven't tried Potatoes Simmered with Miso - an erstwhile Japanese izakaya (bar food snack) - now is the time to do so. Like this: for best results start with a creamy variety of potato such as Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold. Peel and chop into 2" pieces about 1 1/2 lbs. of potatoes. Fry them in a deep skillet in 2 T. vegetable oil for 5 minutes or until they turn slightly golden. Add to the pan: enough stock to cover the potatoes (veggie, chicken or traditional dashi broth all work here), 2 T. red miso and 2 T. mirin. Bring to a low boil and cook, uncovered, until virtually all of the liquid has evaporated. Garnish as above with shredded shiso leaves if you have them. If not, an equal mixture of basil and mint leaves can be used or simply a few slivered scallions.

When Cafe Drake returns to Brooklyn dinners at the home of Jen and Ben are an especial delight. As above, pasta with fennel, Italian sausage and broccoli.

Through a Lens Misty. Typical Cafe Drake HRV weekday lunch of paratha (Indian flat bread), rice, roasted okra and our beloved buttermilk curry.

Chewy, sweet and slightly tangy, the combination of roasted red bell peppers and baby eggplant is a perennial at Cafe Drake HRV.

Cafe Drake HRV does Spahetti-Os. Pasta circles tossed with Bolognese sauce and plenty of grated Romano cheese.

And yet still more braised pork leftovers! With dal, sesame chutney, toasted pita wedges, rice, spinach and okra pickles.


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