Monday, July 29, 2013

Nachos, Our Way. Your Way. Any Way.

Like omelets and pizza, nachos should be considered culinary tabula rasa. What doesn't go with toasted tortilla chips and melted cheese? July and August dictate lighter variations as above. Cafe Drake HRV just dusted 1/2 bag of organic corn tortilla chips with grated dry jack cheese and then ran under the broiler for a couple of minutes to melt. This summer entree was then decorated with a fresh tomatillo and arbol chile salsa; a pico de gallo made from garden zucchini, tomatoes, cilantro, red onions and serrano chilies; ancho chile powder and sour cream. The recipe for the salsa is below.

(above photo: roasted garlic cloves)

To make Tomatillo and Chile Arbol Salsa begin by placing 15 dried arbol chilies in 1 cup of very hot water. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes while you peel about 12 tomatilloes of their papery husks and broil for about 5 minutes along with 4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled. This is easiest if you place all the vegetables on a lightly oiled baking pan. You'll need to shake the pan a couple of times - we're going for black, blistered spots on both tomatilloes and garlic but not badly burned. Remove tomatilloes and garlic from pan, slide garlic out of skins and place in a blender along with soaked and drained chilies. Process until smooth or only slightly chunky. Transfer to a bowl and season with black pepper and 1 t. of salt. A pinch or two of sugar can be added if the salsa is too sour for personal tastes. Excellent with all roasted, broiled or grilled meats, poultry and fish. Also, a nice detour from standard tomato salsa for dipping chips.

Just an Overload of Cute

Finally, a moment when these two aren't fighting like cats and dogs.

Although he knows he's in "Off Limits" territory, Lloyd couldn't resist giving himself a bath in the laundry room sink.

A Seasonal Dal

Tindora is a favorite veggie at Cafe Drake HRV. Problem is we only score it in Queens or Albany Indian supermarkets so it's becoming a rare treat. Luckily tiny fresh gherkin cucumbers make an acceptable substitute, although one should always use tindora if available; this East Indian vegetable has a tangy earthiness all its own and the tindora/cukes add a calm, cooling quality to the seasoned legumes.

Soul satisfying summer dinner of tindora dal, basmati rice, mint and green chile raita and baby salad greens with pistachios.

Tindora Dal, the Cafe Drake HRV Way: To begin, you'll need about 1/2 lb. of either tindora (also known as ivy gourd) or tiny fresh gherkin cucumbers. In a real pinch, peeled and seeded Kirby cukes will suffice. Chop into small pieces and set aside. Rinse well 1 cup of either moong dal or masoor dal (these are just split red lentils, available at every supermarket) and place in a sauce pan with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Reduce heat to medium-low and partially cover; simmer for 15 minutes. Now add the chopped tindora/gherkins to the dal along with 1/4 t. turmeric powder, 1 chopped tomato, 3-4 halved small green chilies and 1 finely chopped onion. Remove lid and continue to simmer for another 25-35 minutes. If the mixture is getting dry or sticking/burning, add water as needed. The final consistency should be that of a thin pea soup. Season with 1 t. salt and freshly ground black pepper, cover again and set aside, off the heat. In a small skillet heat 1 T. vegetable (or coconut) oil until very hot. Sprinkle oil generously with ground asafoetida (skip if you don't have) and then 1 t. cumin seeds. After a few seconds add 1-4 dried red chilies (torn into pieces) and cook another 30 seconds, stirring constantly. The chilies should turn dark. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic along with 5-10 frozen curry leaves. Cover the pan as the leaves tend to splatter oil. Immediately pour the contents of skillet into the dal and stir well. Check for seasoning and serve hot with rice or bread. If a slightly tart flavor is desired, sprinkle the dal with fresh lemon or lime juice. Chopped cilantro makes a nice garnish.

Making Kimchi

Of course kimchi is traditionally made with Chinese, or Napa, cabbage but Cafe Drake HRV found ourselves with a bowling ball-sized green cabbage courtesy of a Schoharie Valley farm stand and utilized this tender, ultra-fresh specimen. Start with 2 pounds of cabbage (Napa, green or savoy) - cut into 2-inch pieces and toss in a LARGE glass or ceramic bowl with 1/4 cup kosher or sea salt. Cover the cabbage with a plate and weigh down by topping plate with a jar of water or heavy can of beans (or as we did, a large rock from the yard). Set aside at room temperature for 2 hours. Rinse and drain the cabbage 2 or 3 times. Drain further in a colander for 30 minutes while you mix the spice paste in the same large bowl used for soaking cabbage. Here's the basic recipe for kimchi spice paste: 5 cloves minced garlic, 1-2 T. grated ginger, 1 t. sugar, 2 T. fish sauce (or fermented shrimp paste) and 2-4 T. ground cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like it). Stir all this together, toss in 3 chopped scallions and add the cabbage. Mix very well, rubbing the paste well into the veggies. Transfer all this to a 1/2 gallon jar.

You'll need to keep the fermenting veggies submerged beneath accumulating brine. The easiest way to do this is simply placing a gallon-size ziplock bag into the mouth of the jar and filling it with some water. Zip/seal the bag closed and set the jar aside in a cool(ish) location for 4-5 days. Sometimes the liquid flows over the side of the jar so it's best to use a saucer or plate to catch any overflow. When ready, drain off most of the brine, close jar tightly with a lid and place in fridge. The kimchi will be ready to eat in a week and should keep under refrigeration for at least 2 months.  NOTE: This is the most basic recipe and method of creating delicious kimchi in your home kitchen. Variations abound. For example, vegetarians can use kelp powder in place of fish sauce and season with more salt. Cubed daikon radish or small, tender turnips is are excellent additions. Korean red pepper paste adds authenticity and can be substituted for more commonplace cayenne pepper.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer Should Be Shared with Friends

Above photos: Hanging with the goats (with Nova and Zoe) at Thordis' upstate home/farm

The garden requires special care in mid-Summer!

Arabella Page meets the goats.

Relaxing with a book in Sharon Springs, NY

Above photos: The upstate abode of Thordis, David and Zoe reflects the innate creativity of its owners in every room, nook and cranny.

Arabella waits patiently table side while Cafe Drake HRV tore through two tacos of succulent pulled pork, avocados and pickles red cabbage at Sharon Springs' 204 Main Bar & Bistro.

Old Age doesn't deter Daphne from romping between NYC and upstate NY throughout the year.

Thordis makes the tastiest, most intuitive al freso dinners seem effortless - local fish filets, steamed potatoes with butter and sauteed veggies from the garden. Roasted marshmallows for dessert!

 And then it's Cafe Drake HRV's turn to host dear friend Susan McKeever-Duys . . .

Pretty in Pink

Tamarind Martinis with Borage Flowers

OMG Arabella LUVS her Auntie Susan!

A pre-theater dinner at Cafe Drake HRV included Vietnamese turkey and pork terrine, roasted eggplant salad, marinated cabbage salad, homegrown tomatoes and sweet onions, pickles, red chili potato salad and lots of garden-plucked herbs and chilies. Susan brought a dry, mineraly local Riesling, the perfect libation.

A late evening performance by Theo Bleckmann at Bard College's Der Spiegeltent was a highlight of Susan's visit. The uber-talented jazz singer devoted the entire show to the song book of Kate Bush; each familiar tune was re-crafted and given a new perspective by Theo and his accomplished quartet.

The sprawling spiegeltent, buried deep in the lush Bard campus, exudes decadent carnival charm.

A Sunday morning iced coffee helped Susan face the fact she'd be saying Goodbye (for now) to her new bestie in a couple of hours. A sweet send-off to Susie was brunch at always scrumptious Miss Lucy's of Saugerties. Quite the animal charmer, Susan also spent lots of quality time with Lloyd Page.