Thursday, February 28, 2013

Winter Kitchen Survival Tips

Situated between at least three ski mountains, Cafe Drake HRV spends most of the winter blanketed in deep snow. Major storms like Nemo call for special and extensive preparation. There's no deli around the corner anymore, people! Like all our neighbors in this frozen hamlet, we stock up before the heavy weather hits and ride it out inside, warm, snug and flush with food, coffee, liquor, batteries, candles and kitty litter. Cabin Fever is checked by a steady supply of classic movies, magazines and books (thank heavens for Shirley Hazzard's After the Fire). Leisurely prepared meals in the soft kitchen lamplight also ensure time passes happily.

Recent snowbound treats included:

Quirky Indian meal of spinach soup (perfumed with cloves and ginger), basmati rice, buttermilk curry, tomato salad and yogurt-peanut chutney.

This unusual peanut-yogurt chutney doubles at Cafe Drake as a sandwich spread or dipping sauce for toasted pita bread. You can make it in under 5 minutes. In a small bowl mix together well: 2 T. smooth peanut butter (salted or unsalted), 2 T. yogurt, 1 T. lemon juice, about 1 T. minced shallots or red onions, 1 T. minced cilantro, 3/4 t. cayenne pepper and salt to taste. You'll need at least 1/4 t. Now heat just 1 t. vegetable oil until hot. Add 1 t. sesame seeds and cook just until they begin to brown. Stir into the peanut-yogurt mixture and enjoy cold or at room temperature.

Keeping dried shitake mushrooms in the pantry is always a good idea. Inexpensive and versatile, dried mushrooms can be soaked for 30 minutes then added to many recipes for additional depths of flavor.

Breaded chicken cutlets, kale and cherry tomatoes and white cheddar polenta

Mushroom barley soup, hummus, toasted baguette slices and olives; a small tub of that latter is always kept in the Cafe Drake HRV fridge. We add them to sandwich plates, pasta sauces and martinis!

Mushroom and barley soup again, this time with salad (and rich tahini dressing) and crackers

A "hopeful salad" of pale escarole leaves with sesame dressing + leftover Chinese stir-fried veggies. Doesn't it just look like Spring on a plate?

Quesadillas with Greek yogurt, stewed cabbage, more tomato salad, pickled red onions

Random Refrigerator View XXIV

Of all the myriad potato curries in the universe, this may be the easiest to prepare. Serve with rice or flatbreads like chapatis or parathas. First, get everything you need prepped and placed near the stove. This one moves fast!
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (7-8 leaves)
  • 2 tablespoons split peas
  • 1/2 medium onion chopped
  • 1 green chili chopped or chili flakes to taste
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 medium potatoes, chopped

  1. In a medium pan, add oil and heat on medium.
  2. After half a minute, add mustard seeds and let them start to crackle.
  3. Add curry leaves carefully and mix.
  4. Add the split peas, chili and onions and cook on medium-low heat for 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden.
  5. Add the turmeric and salt and mix,
  6. Add the potatoes, 2-3 Tablespoons of water, mix well, cover and cook on low heat for 12-14 minutes, stirring every 4 minutes until potatoes are done.
  7. You can also use boiled potatoes to reduce the cook time. Add boiled potatoes in the onion mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes and serve.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Chayote Salad

Talk about soothing. The gentle flavor of chayote is combined with a bit of bite and crunch, courtesy of slivered red onions, in a Mexican side salad suitable with meals of all nations. Serve alongside black bean quesadillas for a relaxed weeknight supper.

To begin, slice thinly 1 SMALL red onion. Place in a bowl and toss well with 3 T. each of red wine vinegar and olive oil, 1/2 t. sugar, 1/2 t. salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper and 1/2 t. dried oregano. Set aside.

Boil approximately 2 lbs. whole, unpeeled chayote squash in water to cover for roughly 25 minutes. When you can easily push a knife through the squash they're done - try to not overcook. Drain chayote squash and allow to cool until you can comfortably peel them. Cut each chayote in half and then slice or chop into medium-sized pieces. Add to the marinated onions, mix thoroughly and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Best savored chilled, not cold.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

It's Not (Always) Pretty Being Easy

No spoon-brushing or tweezers were employed plating the following meals, but all were delicious. These dinners and lunches, like that pound puppy you've been considering, may not be ornamental or pure bred, but will love you just as much. Did we mention they're easy?

Cafe Drake HRV doesn't make pasta that often. When we do two requirements are enforced in these parts: 1) the pasta dish be quick from start to finish and employ no more than 2 pans 2) the pasta dish be fabulous in taste beyond conception. This Quickie fulfills both demands. We want you to start by putting water on to boil in a large saucepan. While the water heats up, pour about 2 T. of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute in that skillet 1 small onion (minced) along with 2 dried red chilies (or a t. of red pepper flakes) and 2-4 cloves of minced garlic. Stir often and then after 5 minutes add in 1 can of WELL DRAINED AND RINSED chickpeas. Cook for another minute or so and toss in 1 chopped tomato. Lower heat and simmer until tomato begins to fall apart. Throw in a handful of chopped arugula and set aside after stirring well. When the water boils add 1/2 Lb. pasta shells along with a T. of salt. Cook until al dente (or just barely tender), drain and return to pot. Stir in chickpea/tomato/arugula mixture, drizzle with a bit of your best olive oil, season to taste further with salt and black pepper and serve hot, sprinkled with Parmesan or Romano cheeses.

As long as you remember to marinate them, Cafe Drake's Taiwanese Pork Chops - thin as paper and cooking in 2 minutes - make a soulful meal when completed with rice and pickles. Want QUICK Asian pickles cukes? Here's how: Roughly peel and then slice thinly 2 Kirby cucumbers. Rub in a bowl with 1 t. sugar and 1/2 t. salt and 1 T. rice or white vinegar. Let sit for 20 minutes, drain any accumulated liquid and toss further with a dash of cayenne pepper and 1/2 t. sesame oil.

Cafe Drake made meatloaf with ground chicken, hence the lovely golden hue. Just swap ground poultry for beef in any recipe and serve the loaf with spicy brown mustard and roasted sweet potatoes (cooked alongside the meatloaf, on the same baking sheet). Did we mention this entire post was going to being both quick and easy?

The ingredients for multi-functional pineapple condiment/side salad: Fresh diced pineapple, minced and seeded habanero pepper, chopped cilantro and roughly chopped sweet onions. Season with rice vinegar or lime juice. We don't know whether to call it a relish, fresh chutney or sambol.

Street Food at Home - Cafe Drake's Torta Vegetariano

Marinated radishes happily meet toothpicks as nibblers during Cafe Drake's looooong cocktail hours, and serve double duty as crunchy condiments with beans and rice and grilled meats. If you can wait three hours to eat - and have 2 minutes to spare - here's how we do it: wash and trim the ends of 12 red radishes (or any kind you like) then slice in half lengthwise. Combine and mix with 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. cayenne pepper and 1 T. red wine vinegar. Toss now and then but basically just set aside for 3 hours. Store any leftovers in fridge.

Those delicious open-faced tortas again. Whenever we have refried beans for dinner there are always leftovers. Don't toss them, spread them at lunch the next day on slices of whole wheat baguette. Decorate with rings of red onion and plum tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper and bake until the bread is just crisp. Finish tortas off, out of the oven, with sliced jalapeno peppers, crumbled white cheese and cilantro sprigs.

The spicy pineapple salad and marinated radishes both enhanced a "kitchen sink" leftover lunch platter.

Marinated and roasted tofu. Slice blocks of firm tofu thinly and roast on an oiled baking sheet for a crispy, brown finish.

So simple, so refreshing, such complex flavors: basic Indian salaad. Mix together in a bowl a cup of peeled and diced cucumber, about 7 quartered cherry tomatoes and a thinly-sliced shallot. Season with 1/2 t. salt, some freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 t. ground cumin, a pinch of cayenne pepper and 1 T. lime juice. Stir well and let sit for about 30 minutes before enjoying.