Friday, June 14, 2013

Random Acts of Deliciousness

Warm Weather Dinner, best eaten al fresco: clockwise from top center, stewed lentils, grape tomatoes, sesame flat breads, cucumber/herbs/feta salad, baba ganoush, roasted Yellow Finn potatoes, micro-greens.

When done correctly baba ganoush warrants no flourishes or superfluous variations. The pure flavors of this creamy and smokey vegetable side - pioneered in Arabia centuries ago - can not be improved upon! Begin with 1 very large or 2 small eggplants (standard dark purple variety found in every market), about 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 pounds total. Prick the eggplant(s) all over with a fork and roast, on a baking sheet, in a 425 degree oven for 40 minutes. Timing may vary a bit so check every 15 minutes or so and turn the eggplant over once. When the eggplant is soft, wrinkled and yields easily to the touch, remove and cool. After the eggplant has cooled, peel and very roughly chop the eggplant. Be careful to not lose all of the delicious liquid released from the vegetable during cooking. Place the eggplant and juices in a blender along with: 3 cloves of minced garlic, about 1/4 cup tahini, the juice of 1 small lemon and salt to taste. Puree until relatively smooth, check for salt levels and adjust as needed, place in serving bowl and garnish with your best olive oil. A dusting of smoked paprika is the only accoutrement we might indulge.

Micro-greens garnishing lentils stewed with vegetable broth, onions, tomato paste and ras el hanout. Micro-greens are easy to grow and do as well in a sunny window as outside. Our preferred brand of seeds is Botanical Interests.

Wow this is simple. Chop 3 Kirby cucumbers into 1/2" dice and toss with good olive oil. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper and mix in 1/4 cup diced feta or ricotta salata cheese. Enhance further with whatever fresh herbs you have on hand - oregano, mint, dill, basil, thyme, savory, parsley, tarragon . . . all work well.

Cafe Drake HRV got really really lazy during a brief heatwave attacking the Hudson Valley. Above: bowtie pasta tossed with Rao's Marinara sauce and grated Parmesan; arugula dressed with just olive oil, salt and a squeeze of lemon juice and roasted string beans (Toss trimmed string beans with olive oil and salt and black pepper and roast in a single layer on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes in a 425 degree oven. Stir once or twice. Let the beans get dark and wrinkled but not burned. You've never tasted green beans with such depth of flavor. Once the roasted beans have been removed, if desired, toss once more with fresh oregano and/or grated lemon zest).


Tapas classic - Patatas Bravas, or Fried Potatoes in a Spicy Hot Tomato Sauce. Hint Hint Nudge Nudge: Do like we did and use leftover roasted potato wedges for an ultra-fast rendition. Pitted and chopped green olives make a lovely garnish.

Tears of Cafe Drake HRV find a natural metaphor in discarded petals from disappearing flowers. Hard not to miss departed peonies. The blooms have ended their short life cycle on bushes and cut flowers withered in forlorn vases. We can hardly wait for their return next year.

RIP Blazing Salads, a long defunct West Village restaurant that fed Cafe Drake HRV on many a hungry afternoon in the late 80's. NEVER has a tofu salad dressing bested that eatery's spicy and creamy version . . . Until Now. Ours is almost as good and we've found a way to make it in under 5 minutes. For best results use silken soft tofu, one 12 oz. block. Mori-nu is our preferred brand as it requires no refrigeration until opened and is widely available. Plop the tofu into a blender along with: 1/2 -3/4 cup of either olive or vegetable oil, 3 T. Dijon mustard, 1-2 t. fresh tarragon (or 3/4 t. dried), a dash of salt, black pepper to taste, 1/4 - 1/2 cup water, 1 T. fresh lemon juice and 1-2 chopped cornichons (or just use dill pickles). Blend for about a minute until smooth and creamy and adjust for salt if needed. More or less water may be added until you reach desired consistency. And that's it.

Hard-boiled quail eggs, ready for peeling and pickling.



Cafe Drake HRV headed down to visit Susan McKeever-Duys at her new Brewster, NY home during yet another massive rainstorm. Susan's insanely charming, fairy-tale cottage complete with secret garden - and denizens above - brought sunshine to a dreary day. (As did an appreciated intro to Jaipore restaurant - homey Indian grub in a majestic mansion). Photos above, from top: Rosemary Dries Off; Sloane Welcomes Ian and Elliot to Her New Digs; sweet kitty Miette.

Japanese turnips purchased at local roadside stand. So fresh and tender the white turnips needed no peeling.

More strawberries from the side yard patch.

Turnips were diced and fried with onions and their shredded leaves and spiced with mustard seeds, green chilies and coconut.

The cooked white turnips and greens (with basmati rice, masoor dhal and mint chutney).


Strawberries picked, cleaned and crowned.

Berries mashed and mixed with sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and cloves.

Waiting for bubbly jam to reach 220 degrees F., the temperature required for proper "setting".

Looks good here. Sadly, the jam didn't exactly work out. Never defeated - and still replete with unpicked berries on vines - Cafe Drake HRV will give it another try.

Halved baby new potatoes roasted with olive oil, onions, salt, black pepper and fresh oregano. As mentioned above leftovers may be tossed with a spicy tomato sauce for classic Spanish tapa - Patatas Bravas.

Fistful of side yard garden-sourced garlic scapes!

We'll leave you with one of many charming features at Susan's new crib, a gorgeous marble mantle, um, one of THREE fireplaces on the first floor.

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