Sunday, August 04, 2013

Summer in the Country

Isn't this what an August dinner should look like? Buried beneath all that chimichurri sauce are a couple of crispy-skinned broiled chicken thighs, along with braised cabbage, chicory/frisse salad, toasted French bread and a dollop of leftover tomatillo-arbol chile salsa. Chimichurri is an Argentinean sauce indispensable in summer kitchens everywhere. Our favorite recipe can be found here on the always useful Chow site.

Don't run out of tomatillo-arbol chile salsa in a couple of days like we did. Find Cafe Drake HRV's recipe here and DOUBLE it!

After toasting the bread during the last few minutes of broiling chicken thighs (do it all in the same oven at the same time), Cafe Drake HRV likes to press the crisped bread into the accumulated pan juices and rendered chicken fat for extra richness and rustic flavor.

We're growing plenty of slightly bitter greens such as frisse, chicory, baby escarole and endive in the Cafe Drake HRV garden patch this year. (And some in wide, shallow containers as well!) Salads assembled from such sharp flavors are best tamed with sweet elements - sliced Vidalia onions, orange sections or honey-based dressings.

The bounty of squash blossoms continues. Check out our recipe for a saffron-hued rice pilaf of just prepare them the traditional way - rinse, remove pistons, pat dry, dip in beaten egg, roll in seasoned dry bread crumbs and shallow fry in olive or vegetable oil (4 T. should be enough for 10 blossoms or so) until crispy. Drain on paper towels and dust with your finest finishing salt.

Chinese takeout almost feels healthy plated with roasted yellow squash and cabbage salad from our fridge. The ease and complexity of flavor has always kept Cafe Drake HRV's famous Toasted Red Chili Sauce a secret recipe. Until now. As above drizzle over virtually any savory foods as a spicy finishing sauce and don't limit it to Asian meals either; a tablespoon stirred into ground turkey or beef makes the best burger on the grill. Don't blink now or you'll miss the instructions. It's that simple and fast. Put a handful of dried red chilies  - or just the flakes if that's all you have - and roast in a dry skillet until just beginning to smoke. Stir frequently; you want roasted not burned chilies. Transfer roasted chilies to a blender and process for 30 seconds or so with 1 cup of mild oil; both canola and grape seed would be ideal. Pour into a glass jar, seal and store in the fridge for a week before using. Make a bunch because you'll find endless reasons to use it, both as a seasoning drizzle and a base for spicy stir-fry dishes.

Sweet and salty, our roasted corn salad is also a cinch to make. Take 3 or 4 cobs of unshucked corn and roast in a 350 F degree oven for 20 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, remove shucks and silks; they should peel away like a breeze. Cut corn kernels from cob and toss in a large bowl with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper to taste, 1/2 peeled and seeded cucumber (diced), sliced onions and torn oil-cured black olives (obviously, remove pits first). Allow 1 hour for flavors to meld, adjust seasoning if needed and serve chilled but not cold. Non-required elements might include toasted pine nuts, shredded lovage leaves or any other chopped fresh herbs handy.

Forever patient and well-mannered, Arabella waits in the shade for her Daddy to finish his quick picnic snack as seen below. Cafe Drake HRV always brings along water, bowls and doggie biscuits for our best canine friend.

Not a glamorous picnic but a tasty one that still allowed us the bucolic pleasure of eating in a flowering field, overlooking the wide Hudson. The food - chimichurri sauce, whole wheat pita bread, roasted chicken thighs and corn salad - could only taste better under these conditions. At Poet's Walk, Rhinebeck, NY.

Fresh garden greens and trimmings, soaked in ice water, become crisp and refreshing salads.


(above two photos) Dear friend Ruth Kopelman stopped by recenly for a casual late-summer meal at Cafe Drake - garden salad, Thai green curry and rice. Dessert was fresh pineapple sorbet and moist, rich cookies baked by Ruth.

Inviting but too hot; looking at the screen door at backyard at high noon.


(above two photos) A slow-grower borage hits its high notes in late July; some stalks are over 4 feet tall!

Dog Day Afternoon

Sunhats and walking sticks of all sizes await our more active house guests at Cafe Drake HRV.

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