Monday, May 27, 2013

And Back to the Food . . .

Dollops of a few different veggie salads were combined with old bread for an Italian peasant feast of panzanella (bread salad), stuffed grape leaves and ricotta salata.

'Tis the season for Cherry Blossom macaroons from Takahachi Bakery. Thanks, Miki!!

Heirloom rice from South Carolina has the scent and flavor of a native basmati.
Many South Indian dishes begin with these ingredients - curry leaves, onions, garlic, ginger and green chilies. Above we're beginning our Green Chile Chicken (recipe below).

Green Chili Chicken, Basmati, Moong Dal, Yellow Squash with Cumin Seeds, Salad with wheat berry sprouts. Here's our recipe for Green Chili Chicken, a recipe from the Jewish community in Cochin where it would typically be served with plain rice and a salad for Shabbat dinner. We begin with around 2 lbs, more or less, of boned and skinless chicken thighs. Cut into 2" pieces and remove any excess fat if that sort of things bothers you. Over a medium flame heat about 2 T. of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet. When the oil is very hot add 12 curry leaves (remember, these should always be ziplocked in your freezer - if you don't have toss in 2 bay leaves) and, a few seconds later, 2 cups thinly sliced onions, 7 cloves of minced garlic, 2 T. grated or minced ginger and 5 sliced small green chilies. Stir and fry until the onions just begin to lightly brown and then add 2 small chopped tomatoes. Cook for 4 more minutes before adding 3/4 t. turmeric and 1/2 t. cayenne pepper. Put in the chicken along with 1 t. salt. Add 1 cup of water, reduce heat to low, cover pan and simmer for 20 minutes. You may need to check once to make sure nothing's burning or sticking. Now add 3-5 more small green chilies (slivered), remove lid, and also add 1-2 t. tamarind paste or concentrate (or equal amount of lemon juice if tamarind isn't handy). Cook at a gentle simmer for at least 10 more minutes or until the sauce thickens a bit. Serve warm or hot with chopped cilantro as a garnish. You may need to add more salt, or if the dish is too sour for your tastes, feel free to add 1-2 t. sugar at end of cooking.

Cooking yellow crookneck squash to a sweet, melting consistency is a classic Southern technique. Cafe Drake HRV furthers our Indian-Southern fusion cuisine experiments with this preparation of summer squash: start with quartering lengthwise 2 medium sized zucchini and 2 yellow crookneck squash of roughly the same size. Now chop the quarters into 1" chunks and set aside. Heat 2 T. olive oil and 2 T. butter in a large skillet over medium heat until the butter has melted. When all is hot toss in a very large "pinch" of asafetida/hing and 1 t. cumin seeds. A few seconds later add the squash/zucchini and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Pour in 1/4 cup water, 1 t. salt, 2 t. sugar and at least 1/4 t. cayenne pepper. Stir well, bring to a simmer, lower heat a bit, partially cover skillet and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and squash is becoming very soft. Serve warm. Note: no asafetida in spice pantry right now? A poor but acceptable substitute would be 1 T. grated onion and 1 clove of minced garlic.

Leftover green chili chicken with salad, garden herbs and wheat berry sprouts.

Cafe Drake HRV invented our recipe for Middle Eastern Meatballs with Wide Noodles and Yogurt Sauce back in the '90s. Still satisfying today in our modern incarnation, which swaps out lamb or beef for ground turkey and includes pine nuts for garnish.

There's never many leftover Middle Eastern Meatballs so we supplemented lunch a few days with stuffed grape leaves, pickles and green salad.

Nothing screams the start of Summer like an omnipresent pitcher of iced tea on the counter. Garden infusions at the moment include lavender, mint and shiso. If you're making sweet tea try throwing in a few sprigs of tarragon while your tea brews. Sip with plenty of lemon and spike with gin as desired/required.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The GARDEN POST (You Knew It Was Coming)

Lloyd Page is an efficient garden helper. He chases away even the snakes he doesn't eat!

Tiny pearl onions are ready. The long thin stems boast more flavor than scallion greens and are garnishing everything except oatmeal at Cafe Drake HRV this week.

Growing micro-greens so we can garnish like da fancy restaurantz! Above, a planted mixture of Beet Bull's Blood, Cabbage Red Acre, Kohlrabi and Pak Choi seeds.

The best Vietnamese restaurants (see the trend here in the HRV) always provide rau ram in the leafy herb condiment platter served with soupy entrees. We're growing our own, all from Asian supermarket cuttings.

The oregano, a creeping variety, was looking splendid before the heavy, saturating rains of the last 72 hours. Hopefully it will dry off and return to its bushy glory seen here (last week).

So happy to tell you this thriving shiso also came from supermarket (Japanese markets of course) cuttings. We put the store-bought herbs in small shot glasses of water after trimming and waited for them to sprout roots before planting.

Strawberries are growing. Let's just hope Monsoon Weekend (a/k/a/ Memorial Weekend 2013) hasn't drowned them all.

Cafe Drake HRV is so proud of this baby - thriving dill stalks grown from seeds started inside in frigid March 2013.

The garlic is high! How much do we love free garlic scapes in our back yard?

Rhododendron bushes brutally hacked back during four months of constant snow survived to bloom another day.

Spring irises have grown up to 3 feet tall.

Borage seeds planted judiciously are peeking through the soil. We can hardly wait to harvest their bright blue blossoms for cucumber-flavored salad garnishes and cocktail simple syrup.

Up and Down with Lovage. One day it's fine, the next it's on its last leg. Able to hit heights of 8 feet we're betting on this one. The thick hollow stems can be used as straws for Bloody Marys and other savory drinks or cocktails. Leaves are the prize with a gentle celery flavor perfect for those of us who don't love celery.

Poor sad crazy Chervil. Who knew an herb existed that couldn't stand too much water, too little water, too much sun, too much shade. Vastly trimmed of 90% dead growth, this poor plant struggles on . . . If only we didn't need it so much for cream sauces and fish dishes.

Lloyd emits a warning cry to birds swooping too close to the ground.

Heavenly Blue Morning Glory heirloom seeds from Hudson Valley Seed Library are holding on through the rain and wind. Our mother gifted us with several packs from this amazing company. Check out their site, linked above, for inspiration. Bonus: they're standing strong with us all in the fight against Monsanto.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cooking Reading Cooking Reading Cooking Reading

Both go-to relaxation activities at Cafe Drake HRV, Cooking and Reading occupy much of our leisure time. With the exception of our new-found love of gardening, we can't imagine better ways to pass all too rare downtime. Here's what's on our bedside table (or just finished, off tucked away in our library) now:

L.P. Hartley is such an elegant prose stylist that we couldn't resist scouring the local libraries - SCORE at Woodstock!! - for an unread novel of his as described on Kirkus website:


A subdued, subtly compelling portrait of childhood, of the projection of fantasies and fears, pleasure and pain which shadowed the activities of a boy of nine, Eustace Cherrington. Delicate, apprehensive, susceptible, Eustace had always been under the supremacy of his sister Hilda, older, possessive and vigilant. In conflicting moods of self-assertion and subjection, Eustace finally rebels against Hilda when he runs away to play with another girl, and as a result falls ill for several weeks. In further evasion, this time not deliberate, he becomes the protee of the frightening old Miss Fothergill, receives from her a different -- but excessive -- adulation, and at her death becomes her heir and finds the tenor of his life quite changed. A strange, uneasy story, sensitively interpreted, and written with the English acuity of phrase -- this is a book for a distinctive, critical following.
Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1945
Publisher: Doubleday, Doran


A vicious little jewel about Seconal-addled housewives and humid homicide, The Girl in the Plain Brown Paper Wrapper is acknowledged widely as a pulp masterpiece of wrought writing and genius plot construction. Sorta sad it took Cafe Drake HRV so many years to lap up.


Unearthing another novel from our beloved Penelope Mortimer embodies the Freudian concept of delayed gratification. Quiet despair in faded lives reaches an aesthetic zenith in Mortimer's 1975 creation, The Handyman.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Our Latest Bad Habit and a Bonus Healthy Recipe

Just what Cafe Drake HRV needs, another vice. Witness above the $7 Nachos Supreme at Saugerties' outdoors BBQ emporium 'Cue. Tortilla chips loaded with melted cheese, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, bbq baked beans and pulled pork. Did we mention the chipotle-maple salsa? Summer waistlines are screaming! Here's our own recipe for flawless baked beans, great as a side for all grilled menus and summer fish fry dinners. Vegetarian as a bonus. 

We begin with 2 cans of small white (a/k/a Navy) beans, rinsed very well in a colander and drained. In a casserole dish combine the beans with: 1 large onion, sliced thinly; 1 T. cider vinegar; 1/4 cup or less water or veggie stock; 2 T. honey or maple syrup or blackstrap molasses; 1 t. dry mustard powder; 1 t. salt and about 2 T. oil. If you like things spicy, add as many dried red chilies as you can handle. Mix everything completely and cover and bake for 30 minutes in a 325 degree oven. Remove cover (or foil etc) and bake for at least 30 more minutes. You don't want the beans to dry out so watch in the last few minutes of cooking. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving hot or warm.

Lazy Sunday Salutations from Lloyd

Weeding the Garden

Assuming you don't spray your lawn or garden with pesticides, make the most of tedious weeding duties by claiming dandelion greens as prize for your efforts. Allowed to reach heights of a foot or more, commercially grown greens are often far more bitter and suffer further from sitting in supermarket produce aisles days at a time. Your own front yard boasts far tastier specimens. After tearing away bottom roots and rinsing well in several changes of water you'll be adding this sharp-flavored greens to salads and skillets galore. Of course they are still quite bitter so use accordingly. Cafe Drake HRV loves a few chopped leaves tossed with the mild butteriness of Boston/Bibb lettuce. Try them as a counterfoil to creamy, rich dressings such as bleu cheese. 

Or celebrate an Italian spring with a quick side dish like this: chop 1-2 pounds dandelion greens into 2-3 inch sized pieces and boil for 5 minutes or so. Drain very well - squeeze the water out as needed -  and then saute in a skillet with olive oil, garlic and sliced onion for about 3 minutes. Season with salt and crushed red pepper and serve warm, as a vegetable side dish or a topping for crostini

Simply amazing tossed with warm pasta, fresh ricotta and grated Parmesan cheese. A dear friend of Cafe Drake HRV swears by dandelion greens cooked for a minute in a hot skillet with crisped and rendered pancetta.

Sprout Madness Continues

We're generally better at developing bad habits rather then good ones, so our recent obsession with home sprouting can only suggest a healthier future for Cafe Drake HRV. In the kitchen at least. Above, sprouted wheat berries. You can buy them at any natural foods store (often in bulk bins) and larger markets like Whole Foods etc. Start with just 1/2 cup whole wheat berries and a 1 quart jar; soak wheat overnight in water to cover by an inch at least (place jar in cabinet or other dark location) and drain after 8-12 hours. Place a piece of cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and keep in a dark location, turned on its side. Twice a day (morning and night) just rinse wheat berries, drain through cheesecloth and replace jar in dark location on its side. Be sure to always drain water well and within 2-3 days you'll have the nuttiest, chewiest sprouts imaginable. These are much denser than alfalfa or clover sprouts, loaded with nutrients unavailable in any unsprouted foods and add texture and taste to pretty much all salads, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, you name it. Full instructions at The Nourishing Cook blog

And here's our go-to 5 minute stir-fry recipe: Heat 1 T. vegetable oil in a large skillet over a high flame. When oil is very hot, add to skillet 2 cups sprouted wheat berries (or substitute mung bean sprouts if desired, available at all Asian markets and most large grocery stores). Stir quickly and add 2 T. soy sauce, 1 t. sugar and just a bit of salt and black or white pepper to taste. Stir-fry for 2 minutes or less and remove from heat. Drizzle with dark sesame oil and enjoy. Variations are endless and could include sliced snow peas, mushrooms, fresh corn or peas etc. If you like it hot and spicy, add 2 dried red chilies to the oil and cook for 15 seconds (or until they blacken) before proceeding with sprouts and other seasonings.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

More Guests. More Fun. Very Cafe Drake HRV.

Thordis and Zoe (and the troupe of sweet animals) paid us another happy visit to Cafe Drake HRV. This time we hosted our first ever official My Little Pony Pizza Party and T. and I enjoyed an old tradition of watching scary movies and sipping wine into the wee hours.

Miki S. enjoys a gin and tonic under Cafe Drake HRV's backyard lights.

First course: a Duo of Vegetable Salads, Carrot and Orange Bell Pepper and Fresh Herb and Lemon Kale Salad with Vidalia Onions

A light Spring entree of butter and tarragon roasted salmon, house pickled eggs with mustard seeds and parsnip remoulade.

A selection of crisp white and rose wines complemented the meal.

Dancing to VEVO!

Lunch al fresco at Liberty's of Rhinebeck

Lloyd gentle wakes his Daddy from an afternoon cat nap.

Surveying the growing herb garden at Cafe Drake HRV.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chutney Demo + Movie Premiere

Meanwhile over at The DP Chutney Collective . . . we conducted a chutney demo, featuring regional condiments across the subcontinent, to celebrate the U.S. film premiere of Midnight's Children, based on the Salmon Rushdie novel (narrated and adapted for the screen by the author). Many thanks to David Herbert for his generous misuse of time in snapping photos below.