Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Holidays from Lloyd and Arabella Page

Over the cold Thanksgiving/Hanukkah weekend both Lloyd and Arabella sought out warm spots at Cafe Drake HRV . . . in the kitchen and in front of the furnace vents. 

Parmesan and Black Pepper Biscuits

Biscuit/Crackers Have Chilled in Fridge and Ready for the Oven

You're gonna need plenty of cocktail nibbles close at hand now the holidays are upon us. Lucky for you - and all those friends and family who drop by last minute for seasonal cheer - these tiny biscuits can be made ahead, frozen and then reheated quickly in the oven. By the time you're finishing stirring that pitcher of martinis the biscuits will be warm and crispy! Further bonus points include their diminutive size; individual plates not required. 

Begin by letting 1 stick of unsalted butter (or 1/2 cup) come to room temperature, generally about 2-3 hours on the counter. When softened, mix the butter well with 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, 1 t. salt and lots and lots of coarsely ground black pepper. Seriously, make it rain. If you like things spicier add up to 1/2 t. cayenne pepper and mix again. Knead in 1 cup unbleached white flour and work the dough until it forms a large ball. Take tiny portions from the dough and roll into balls about 1/2" only in diameter. Flatten gently with your hand and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle all with a bit more grated Parmesan and some paprika if you like. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour before baking in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove when the crackers/biscuits are browned lightly.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Hanukkah from Cafe Drake HRV!

Check back this weekend for our latkes post!

Happy Thanksgiving from Cafe Drake HRV!

October Posts We Forgot to Post: Mofongo Two Ways and The Sausage That Never Went Away

Sure it was heavy handed - but not atypical of Latin Caribbean cuisine - to serve mashed and seasoned green plantains a/k/a mofongo with rice. Protein and greens courtesy of spicy chicken sausage and escarole, slowly fried and then braised together in same pan.

Mofongo in its simplest incarnation logs very little hours in the kitchen and is such a welcome respite from mashed or roasted potatoes. Cafe Drake HRV's bare bones version might more appropriately be dubbed fufu after the popular Cuban mashed preparation of yellow plantains. Start with 2 or 3 green plantains that have turned yellow, somewhere in between the bright green stage required for tostones and not yet at the speckled black finale necessary for perfect sweet fried maduras. Peel the plantains and cut into 2" chunks. Boil in salted water until tender and soft, about 15 minutes at full boil. Drain well and return to cooking pan with 1 T. butter and 2 T. olive oil. Begin to mash coarsely while stirring in 4 cloves minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste, a few pinches dried oregano, about 1/4 cup orange juice and 1 T. orange zest. Serve warm. (When feeling festive we add 1/2 cup chopped and pitted green olives to the mix.)

Arabella Interlude: The Lady in Red

And another link of this damn sausage ended up on yet another lunch plate of arroz amarillo, yellow split pea soup, lentil sprouts and braised escarole.

More chicken sausage with rice, soup, salsa and fried mofongo cakes.

As above:  leftover mofongo, too stodgy to reheat and serve in its original incarnation, should be mixed with just a handful of rice flour and 1 beaten egg, shaped into patties and fried over medium heat in a non-stick skillet until crisp and browned on both sides. A good substitute for potato or rice side dishes and sublime for breakfast, topped with a poached or fried egg.
Bright flavors and seasonal colors make the combination of long beans, broccoli and grape tomatoes perfect for roasting.

Polish Cabbage Soup, Quick Meatball Vindaloo and Chickpea Bulgur Pilaf

Polish cabbage soup is one of the best remedies we know for a cold, dark night. Countless recipes abound but none deliver more flavorful comfort than ours. Begin by by gently cooking 2 sliced onions, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 bay leaf and about 1 t. caraway seeds in 2 T. butter and 1 T. vegetable oil. As soon as the onion begin to turn golden, add 1 medium-size head of cored cabbage, either cut into thin shreds or small pieces. Don't let the onions brown deeply or burn as either scenario will throw off the final taste of the soup.

Continue cooking the cabbage over a medium flame for about 10 minutes. Early on, sprinkle with salt, just a few pinches to help the veggies release their water; we'll season to taste closer to the end. After 10 minutes stir into the vegetables 1-2 T. sugar, 1 T. paprika (smoked is best but regular is OK) and 1 t. ground black pepper. Add 6 cups water or vegetable or chicken broth and 1 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or canned) and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered for about 45 minutes or until the soup has reached your desired thickness. Cafe Drake HRV prefers a thicker soup but one still yielding spoonfuls of sweet, rich broth. At the end of cooking, season generously with salt and more black pepper as needed. If you have a thing for dill, now's the time to stir in a few tablespoons, freshly chopped. (Also, dried dill is acceptable here. 2 t. should suffice.)

The final result as seen above. Enjoyed with cheese and cornbread.

Cabbage soup should keep well in the fridge for one week. Above, reheated with toasted cornbread, pinto beans, yellow squash and pickled jalapeno pepper.

Our cheater's version of Quick Meatball Vindaloo begins in a large mixing bowl. Combine well with your hands 1 lb. ground beef, 3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs, 1 egg and salt and pepper to taste. Less than 1 t. of salt is not recommended. Now mix in thoroughly a paste made by combining and pulsing all of these ingredients in a food processor: 2 large handfuls of chopped cilantro, 2 chopped green chilies, 1 small chopped onion, 1 T. chopped ginger, 4 cloves chopped garlic and 2 T. red wine vinegar. Vindaloo is a Goan dish of Portuguese extraction - the red wine vinegar and garlic, both European contributions to Indian cuisine, provide not only the dish's characteristic flavor profile but also a touch of authenticity. When all is mixed set aside and add 2 T. oil to a large, deep skillet. Heat over a medium flame and fry 1 diced onion until golden brown. Toss in 4 cardamom pods (tap the pods open first or "bruise" with a knife ), 1 cinnamon stick and 4 T. vindaloo curry paste. Yes the paste is from a jar, no we don't normally suggest such things, let's deal with it and move on. Remember, we're cheating here and not judging ourselves after a long day! So now add 3/4 cup water and 1/2 cup diced tomatoes. Stir well then add the beef mixture by rolling into balls approximately the size of golf balls. Place the meatballs gently in the vindaloo sauce, cover the skillet and cook on low heat for 20-30 minutes. At least twice during cooking turn the meatballs (gently with a pair of tongs) so all sides are coated with sauce.

Cook on a LOW flame. Baste the meatballs with vindaloo sauce to keep them moist.

Cheater's Meatball Vindaloo is ready when the sauce has reached the consistency of thin gravy. Cafe Drake HRV likes this best with other easy and quick components as above - basmati rice, green salad, pappadums and banana raita.

Remember those earlier posts featuring slow-cooked pinto beans and our own iron skillet cornbread? The two photos above show a lazy Cafe Drake HRV creative twist on leftovers. Reheat wedges of cornbread on a baking sheet, sliced open and topped with pinto beans and shredded aged cheddar. Enjoy hot with salsa, sliced onions and sprigs of cilantro. Did we just invent Cornbread Nachos?

Our Chickpea and Bulgur Pilaf begins with roasting/frying 1 can of drained, rinsed and drained again chickpeas. After final rinse place the chickpeas on a dish towel and rub very gently to dry, or just leave out, covered with a paper towel, for 2 hours. Once peas are nice and dry gently fry in a skillet with 2 T. olive oil; keep heat medium-low and even and stir or shake pan frequently. You can do this while bringing 3 cups of well-seasoned vegetable (or chicken) stock to a boil in a saucepan. Once boiling add 1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat, 1 t. salt, 1 bay leaf, 1 diced carrot and 2 sliced scallions. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Let the bulgur rest for 10 minutes covered, then fluff with a fork. Add chickpeas to the bulgur along with 1/4 cup minced dill, lots of fresh ground black pepper and 1 cup plain yogurt. Stir well, cover again and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Your roasted/fried chickpeas should end up nicely browned and sorta crispy.

Homemade apple sauce is super easy to make. Cafe Drake HRV cooks ours down quickly with just a pinch of sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice and a minced hot chili pepper.

By no means bland, our protein-rich pilaf does benefit from assorted condiments, any you have on hand will do or make a fast onion relish like Cafe Drake HRV.

Spinach salad with tahini dressing doesn't hurt either.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Help! We Need an Intervention.

Someone please stop us from enjoying so frequently the toasty cheesey goodness of quesadillas. Blank canvases for inspired cooks, tortillas with melted cheese are a welcoming backdrop for just about any ingredient you can insert. An easy and quick preparation only lures us further to these lazy lunches and dinners. We've taken the first step by admitting our problem here at Cafe Drake HRV and have found (pictured below) a few methods of at least pretending we're adopting a healthier approach to quesadilla consumption.

above two photos: All you really need with quesadillas to make a complete meal is a tossed salad! Bonus points for salsa.

above two photos: Like their close kin the Sandwich, quesadillas love being next to a steaming bowl of soup.

Cafe Drake HRV got a wee wee bit more ambitious with the accompanying salad here, tossing in shaved red onions, toasted pine nuts and roasted sweet potato cubes.

The quesadilla at its simplest, just melted cheese and corn tortilla. Perfection with salsa, stewed yellow squash, slow-simmered pinto beans and chipotle salsa. Scratch the intervention on second thought. This is one habit we don't want to break.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cafe Drake HRV Denizens Prepare for the Season

Camel cable knit sweaters are a classic choice for chestnut-hued Arabella Page.

A. also stays cozy inside via throws and blankets.

Actually True: for the first time this year, today, Lloyd Page found and played with his favorite Christmas season toy.

Lemongrass Chicken Cutlets

Just make these. Buy the ingredients and do it. You won't believe, truly, how much flavor these juicy cutlets harbor, so much that only rice and a green salad is needed to complete the meal. Leftovers make great sandwiches and, when shredded, enliven any pasta dish.

Get started by chopping and adding to a food processor the following: 4 cloves of garlic, 1/2 red onion (or 2-3 shallots), 1 stalk lemon grass (remove outer leaves and chop lower 2/3 of the stalk), 2 T. rice wine or dry sherry, 2 T. sugar, 3 T. fish sauce and 1 T. vegetable oil. Process to a fine paste. Rub paste all over 1 1/2 lbs. of thin chicken cutlets. Pour all into a plastic bag, seal very tightly and refrigerate for a few hours. Remove from fridge and marinate at room temperature 1 hour before cooking.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and scatter profusely with either sliced Chinese garlic chives or 4-5 scallions, green and white parts. Preheat broiler while you make the dressing by whisking together in a deep bowl: 1 t. dried red chili flakes, the juice of 4 limes, 1 T. minced garlic, just under 1/4 cup sugar and 4-5 T. fish sauce. Mix until the sugar dissolves completely. Set aside and Place the chicken cutlets on prepared baking sheet. Broil for 5 minutes per side with the pan positioned 3 inches or so under the heat source. Try not to overcook.

Slice the cutlets - if desired - and serve with rice. Top cutlets with shredded lettuce and shaved raw onions. If you have it, fresh mint or cilantro only enhances the Vietnamese flavor profile. Serve dressing on the side or carefully drizzled over salad greens.

The Briefest of Brooklyn Visits: Bennifer Edition

In town for DP Chutney Collective deliveries and teaching duties at Brooklyn Brainery, Cafe Drake HRV made the most of our limited time in the city relishing a few of our favorite - and most missed - NYC delicacies . . . real pizza, fresh baked bialys, Shanghai soup dumplings and best of all, a home cooked meal by our hosts Jen and Ben.

Arabella is always happy spending time with her Auntie Jen.

We got a helping hand deflating the world's comfiest (and most tricked out) air mattress.

Feeling right at home, as usual.

This homemade lentil and kielbasa soup was sooooo good.

A ridiculous delicious starter was a loaf of perfect crusty bread with peppery, robust olive oil for dipping, seasoned to perfection via sliced green chilies and finishing salt.

If you look close you'll spot Ben creating a side dish we couldn't stop eating, a melange of roasted autumnal vegetables.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tomato Coriander Soup

Such an easy soup, this stalwart Indian starter needn't be confined to the first course. Besides being a perfect way to open a meal, it's substantial enough to co-anchor a quick dinner or lunch partnered with tomato soup's best friend, the sandwich. Those seeking richer flavors should add 2 or 3 tablespoons of heavy cream to the soup just before ladling into bowls, rarely a mistake in chilly weather.

Begin by heating 2 T. of vegetable oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. When the oil is hot, add 1 small red onion (chopped), 1 large can of plum tomatoes (crushed lightly, your hands will suffice for the job) and 2 bay leaves. Cook over a medium flame until the onion is soft; do not allow it to brown. Stir in 2 cloves of garlic (chopped), 2-3 dried red chilies (broken in pieces or substitute 1 t. crushed red pepper flakes), 1 t. black pepper (whole or crushed), 1 T. tomato paste (optional), 1/4 cup or so cilantro/coriander (chopped) and 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock. Stir very well to combine ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. You won't need to stir very often but check now and then.

Allow the soup to cool slightly then puree until smooth, in batches if necessary. Return the silky smooth soup to the pot and heat for an additional 5 minutes over a low flame. Lastly, season to taste with salt. We generally need about 1 teaspoon. Serve in warm soup bowls, garnished with additional chopped cilantro or slivered scallions.

Above photos: Cafe Drake HRV savored our Tomato Coriander Soup alongside green salad and our patented East Indian Trading Co. Chicken Salad sandwich. Does it get easier than this? Combine the shredded  meat from 2 cooked chicken breasts with around 4 T. mayonnaise and 2 T. mango chutney. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and lots of paprika. Heap on toasted rolls with lettuce and sliced red onions. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro.