Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hot Nights Mean Cool Meals & Condiments

You know it's hot when we have salad as an entree! This version was so satisfying however we wanted for nothing. Except for ice cream afterwards. Above: romaine lettuce tossed with a tofu-based bleu cheese dressing, homemade cayenne croutons, roasted mushrooms, oil-cured olives, grape tomatoes and onion. Sided with jalapeno corn muffins. The dressing is a revelation, creamy and rich yet far lower in calories and fat than a standard version. Bonus points of course for mega-doses of antioxidants and soy protein. To make: begin with 1 small box or carton (roughly 1 cup) of soft tofu (silken is best; we rely on the Mori-nu brand whenever creaminess is required of our bean curd). Break the tofu into pieces and place in a blender along with 4 T. vinegar of your choice and 1/2 cup milk, unsweetened soy milk or buttermilk. We use the latter because there's always a carton in the Cafe Drake HRV fridge. Blend for a moment then slowly add in, one at a time, 4 T. vegetable or olive oil. Blend until everything is smooth and thick and pour into a bowl. Crumble in small pieces of bleu cheese and season with salt and black pepper. You'll need far less cheese than you might imagine. Optional add-ins at this point include chives or scallions and minced fresh herbs.

Somewhere between a vegetable side dish and a pickled condiment, this eggplant sambol should be served either cold or chilled. Best with everything from dal and rice to broiled pork chops. In the spirit of Summer, Cafe Drake HRV often spoons a mound on top of veggie burgers and hot dogs. Begin by quartering 1 large eggplant lengthwise and then slicing the quarters into thin wedges. Do not peel. Toss the sliced eggplant with 3 T. vegetable oil and roast on a sheet pan at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until browned and soft. Set aside. While the eggplant roasts, heat 2 T. oil in a large skillet (non-stick if possible) and saute 1 small onion (sliced into the thinnest rings imaginable) until soft. Add in the eggplant along with 1 t. ground mustard powder, 1 t. sugar, 1/2 t. turmeric powder, 3 T. white vinegar, 5-8 small green chilies (sliced in half), 1 T. Maldive fish flakes (or bonito flakes or dashi broth powder or nutritional yeast+smoked paprika) and salt and black pepper to taste. Cook all over a low flame, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until all veggies are soft and well blended. Chill before serving for at least 2 hours.

This simple Sri Lankan salad is one of the best we know and complimentary to and and all meals. You'll need to peel and slice thinly 1 small English/hothouse cucumber before rubbing with 1 T. of salt and setting aside. After 30 minutes rinse the cucumber slices very well and pat dry. Toss in a bowl with: 2 small green chilies (minced), 1 small peeled and thinly sliced carrot, about 1/2 t. sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 2 T. fresh lime juice and 2-3 T. canned coconut milk. Mix well and serve slightly chilled, soon after making.

Also from Sri Lanka, Seeni Sambol, a slow-cooked and then chilled condiment of browned shallots, garlic, ginger, coconut, Maldive fish flakes and dried red chilies.

Probably the best thing to grace your charcoal grill this July, our Vietnamese style chicken thighs can also be roasted or broiled: plan ahead if possible and marinate the chicken overnight. If you naturally procrastinate, 4 hours in the fridge should also work. Start with the marinade by mixing in a bowl: 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 T. fish sauce, 1 T. sesame oil, 1 T. brown or regular sugar, 2 t. five-spice powder and 1/2 t. salt. After stirring well add to the bowl 2-3 lbs. chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on. You can also do half and half with drumsticks. Pour ALL of this into a large plastic bag, double bag (grocery bags come in handy here) and marinate from 4-24 hours. To cook, either grill the chicken or roast for about 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven, broiling for a couple of minutes at the end to crisp the skin. We enjoyed ours as above with roasted turnips, grilled bread and lots of shiso leaves from the Cafe Drake HRV gardens.

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