A (Long) Weekend of Meals

Above 2 photos: Vegetable Kebabs a la Cafe Drake HRV. For these we used unpeeled seedless orange wedges, quartered plum tomatoes, plain ole' button mushrooms and wedges of onion. Green bell peppers and cubes of tofu are also delicious on the kabobs but we had neither on hand nor the inclination to run to the store to purchase. Our Basic Recipe: Start by cutting veggies/fruits/tofu/chicken(?) into appropriate sizes for fitting on skewers. Marinate all in the fridge for a few hours by mixing well with 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 t. grated ginger and 1-2 cloves of garlic. Assemble by carefully threading a combination of all ingredients on skewers. Grill or broil until lightly charred, brushing once with any remaining marinade. Serve warm or at room temperature, lightly seasoned with salt and black pepper.

Haste AND Good Taste. Mash together crumbled bleu cheese, plain Greek yogurt, red pepper relish (from a jar, dozens to choose from), salt and black pepper. Try it as a spread with crackers or bread.

Veggie kebabs with baba ganouj, olives, cheese spread and toasted whole wheat dinner rolls

The bleu cheese spread - served with a salad and good bread -  is great as a snack or light summer supper.

A dinner of chicken and long beans stir-fry, jasmine rice, braised cabbage and cucumber salad.

Leftovers from two meals above combine to create one stellar lunch feast.

Random Dinner: Chickpeas with chana dal, fenugreek chapatti, rice, Chinese broccoli and peanut and yogurt chutney.

Paraati Chana is ubiquitous street vendor fare in northern India and named after the large tray used as a serving vessel, a paraati. Honestly this mixture of chickpeas in two forms - whole and split/dried - is heaven on any type of platter and easy to make; it does require a bit of time in the kitchen so make a large batch and freeze any leftovers you're lucky enough to have lingering. In a large pot bring 1 cup chana dal (split, dried chickpeas available at every Indian market) and about 5 cups of water to a boil. Remove foam from surface, cover pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, checking now then to make sure the dal isn't sticking. Add more hot water as needed. While the chana dal is cooking add to a blender or food processor the following: 3 cloves chopped garlic, 1 T. chopped ginger (you could use a lesser amount of powdered ginger if needed), 3-6 small hot green chilies and 1 1/2 cups chopped mint leaves. Process into a runny paste, adding small amounts of water if needed. Set aside. Now heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet and fry 2 diced onions over medium-high heat until they're golden and very soft. Add 1 cup of chopped tomatoes - fresh or canned- and cook until the tomatoes reduce a bit. Now tip in the reserved mint and spice paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Pour in the now completely soft chana dal along with any liquid in the pot and add 1 large can of chickpeas, previously rinsed and drained. Stir in at least 2 t. salt, 2 t. cumin powder, 3/4 t. garam masala and about 3 T. jarred tamarind paste or lime juice. Cover, reduce heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Well well worth any effort, serve hot with rice, bread and the traditional accompaniments of chopped onion, sliced green chilies and wedges of lime. Garnish as desired with sprigs of cilantro or mint.

Assembling ingredients for a clear Vietnamese soup. Neater than usual mise en place for us!

Ca Nau Ngot, a Vietnamese clear soup made exclusively with catfish. Until Cafe Drake HRV decided we didn't feel like a car ride to the fishmonger. Try our version with substituted tofu. Start with 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth and bring to a rolling boil in a saucepan. Add 2 cups cubed firm tofu. Sorry, the softer varieties won't work here; best of all would be tofu designated on package "extra firm". Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes before stirring in: about 1 cup chopped and seeded tomatoes, 1-2 T. fish sauce, 1/2 t. salt, lots of black pepper and 1 thinly sliced scallion. Cook for 1 minute, remove from heat and add 1/4 cup coarsely chopped dill. Let sit for 5 minutes and taste for saltiness. You may need to add more but we're going for a gentle, clean flavor here. A splash of lime juice brightens things considerably, and if you're in a fishy mood by all means skip the tofu and replace with 1 1/2 cups of cubed white-flesh fish.

We really need cleansing meals like this some evenings. From top, clockwise: roasted green peppers with miso; cucumbers, onions and leftover bleu cheese spread; Ca Nau Ngot (clear Vietnamese soup); brown rice; braised daikon and carrots and pickled soybean sprouts.

A lunch of leftovers the following afternoon essentially involved a deconstructed version of the soup and fridge orphans like Chinese broccoli. The latter, with its thick, sweet stalks and grassy leaves that cook to the consistency of butter, is Cafe Drake HRV's very favorite among the plethora of Asian leafy greens available. Simplest Way to Cook: Rinse well one large bunch of Chinese broccoli and cut away the very bottom ends of stalks. Any overly thick stalks should be cut in half lengthwise to reduce cooking time. In your largest skillet heat a couple of tablespoons of oil over a high flame. Brown 2-4 dried red chilies in the skillet for a minute or so before adding in the vegetables. Toss very well with kitchen tongs and add 2-4 cloves of chopped garlic. Season with a few pinches of salt and cover the pan, reducing heat to medium-low. Stir now and then, taking care that nothing is burning or sticking to the pan, and cook until the both the green leaves and stalks are tender. If you need to add liquid to the pan any of these will work: water, chicken or vegetable stock, Chinese rice wine or dry sherry. Remove from heat, sprinkle with soy sauce, sesame oil and white pepper. Stir, adjust seasonings as desired and serve hot as part of any meal. Not in the mood for a sesame/soy flavor profile tonight? So eliminate both, season with more salt, use black instead of white pepper and fry in olive oil.

Salad, chickpeas, okra, yogurt sauce and rice. What more could we ask for from a weeknight dinner?

Forever seeking new recipes for okra, Cafe Drake HRV has been delighted with this dish of Indian-Ugandan descent. According to cookbook queen Madhur Jaffrey this would typically be served by Indian Muslims in Africa in an omelet or alongside scrambled eggs! Begin this super simple dish by heating 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. A non-stick pan is useful here if you have one. When oil is hot put in 1 lb. of okra, trimmed and cut into thin slices (see above). Stir-fry for about 8 minutes or until the okra begins to brown. Reduce heat to medium, cook another minute or two and add to the skillet: 2 chopped tomatoes (peeled please), a couple of cloves of garlic, pressed or minced, 2 T. lime juice, 1/2 t. ground cumin, 1/2 t. ground coriander, a generous pinch of turmeric, a very generous pinch of cayenne pepper and just under 1 t. of salt. Cook for another couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Season with lots of fresh ground black pepper and serve hot.

Cafe Drake HRV loves regular gazpacho and the watermelon variant. The latter however feels like 2011's Kale Salad i.e. just about everywhere. On every menu. Wherever you go. So we re-mixed the classic cold Spanish soup by using equal parts fresh tomatoes and cantaloupe chunks along with the other traditional components - red peppers, cucumber, parsley, garlic, soaked bread cubes, olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. The results were outstanding and instructive; namely, we learned you can go in either direction according to the mood of your mouth. If you want it sweeter, the cantaloupe flavor will be highlighted by adding small amounts of sugar and lemon juice. Prefer something more savory? Spike with smoked paprika and additional salt to taste.

Thank you Adams Fairacre Farms for providing the Hudson Valley with locally grown and reasonably priced organic pea shoots. Surely the best sprout or micro-green around. Cafe Drake HRV throws them in salads, sandwiches and uses as a garnish for everything except brownies!

A lone bratwurst (poached then pan-fried for a crispy skin) nestles behind braised sweet potatoes, salad and corn and herb muffins.

Weren't we just talking about pea shoots? Above, gracing a colorful green salad alongside raw squash blossoms and oil-cured black olives.

These corn and fresh herb muffins get better with age. Store in freezer and thaw (this should take 15 minutes or less) when you want. Cut in half and toast lightly. Slather with butter, olive oil or our favorite, cottage cheese whipped with more minced herbs, sliced scallion and salt and black pepper.

Bratwurst and braised sweet potatoes return for lunch at Cafe Drake HRV, this time with leftover mushroom rice from the night before.

Roasted Veggies - red bell peppers, long beans and zucchini

Chickpeas and chana dal, roasted veggies, toasted potato rolls and green salad with peaches and cilantro.

Never had a recipe for our house dressing and never will. It's so fast and easy to whip up a batch of any size we've dubbed it Rush-In! The basics for Russian/Rush-In dressing are thus: combine in a large bowl equal parts mayonnaise and ketchup. Thin with a drizzle of either lemon juice or white wine vinegar. Stir in until well blended minced cornichons or pickled gherkins, some rinsed capers (chopped) and fresh parsley and tarragon. You can always use dried tarragon but it's an essential herb here. Season with salt and black pepper and just a pinch of sugar. Rush-In dressing was simply made for romaine or iceberg wedge salads.

Our Rush-In Dressing and pea shoots turn a simple turkey sandwich into a masterpiece between bread.

Why do we always love the naughty ones most at Cafe Drake HRV ?

Soup and a Sandwich for lunch. Specifically, turkey and pea shoot on whole wheat kaiser roll with "rush-in" dressing, cantaloupe gazpacho, corn puffs and peach and cucumber salad.

Pan-fried flatbreads of Sikkim.

Sikkimese flatbreads with chickpeas, salad, peach relish and roasted broccoli.

Yup. Leftovers.

Our version of Chinese sesame noodles, pea shoots, eggplant and zucchini.

Oven-roasted eggplant slices dressed with lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, green chilies and garlic.

Cafe Drake HRV respects the integrity of zucchini pulled from the garden minutes before hitting the frying pan. Slice thickly 1 lb. of slender, young zucchini squash and fry quickly over high heat in 3 T. of olive oil. After a minute throw in 2-4 torn dried red chilies, a couple of cloves of minced garlic and plenty of salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet and cook for 5 minutes. Remove lid, raise heat to a high flame and stir constantly until just squash is just tender. Squeeze half a small lemon over all, toss again and serve warm or at room temperature.

Makinglarge amounts of dried bean dishes ensures a never empty fridge for at least a week. Amazing how significantly the flavors can be tweaked with arbitrary garnishes as above - chopped Vidalia onions, lime wedges, borage flowers and green chilies.


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