Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Succor of Friends or, A Surgical Interlude

Miette is no longer the only feline in the Mckeever-Duys household. Presenting . . . Jefferson!

Susan's storybook 18th-century home is surrounded by various lawns, gardens and shaded nooks and knolls.

Lovely brunch courtesy of chef Susan - goat cheese, bacon and vegetable frittata, green salad with radishes and pumpkin seeds, toast and homemade black raspberry preserves (all fruit plucked from the grounds).

Jefferson and Rosemary have quickly becomes Besties.

Anyone who couldn't be coerced into slipped table scraps by that face is No one we want to know.

Just what a weary, frazzled and anxious Cafe Drake HRV needed most - a Bloody Mary before noon.

Cafe Drake HRV's daughter Arabella arrived in Danbury, CT. at 6AM for major hip/knee surgery. Lucky for us our dear friend Susan lives 10 minutes away. Imagine the comfort of spending our time waiting to pick up Arabella from the vet on Susan's chic garden patio. With this spread!!
Sweet Sloane's early childhood bed has become a lawn ornament.


Susan swaggers in front of one of several out-buildings on her Brewster, NY property.

One of dozens of unusual wild and cultivated plants grown by Susan.

Susan's Guest House located behind the main residence.

Above two photos: a couple of equine residents at nearby Tilly Foster Farm.

Susan's home photographed from her hilltop.

Above 4 photos: with Susan and Sloane at Tilly Foster Farm, Brewster, NY

Loofahs Aren't Just for Scrubbing Backs

One of the odder shaped Asian vegetables for unaccustomed Western eyes such as our own has always been the luffa, also known as luffa squash, ridged luffa, ridge gourd and Chinese okra. Spongy to the touch and lined with vertical ridges, luffa is much less intimidating to prep and cook than might be expected. The subtle flavor is somewhere between an English hothouse cucumber and zucchini but the pleasantly bouncy texture is the real draw for us. Also, the veggie's versatility. Anyone accusing luffa of blandness must try Serious Eat's recipe for Steamed Luffa with Garlic and Chili Pepper which employs a cooking method perfect for preserving luffa's charming tender/spongy mouth feel.

India has long treated luffa with respect where it's generally served as a "dry curry", a vegetable side dish without sauce. Here's how we did it: begin by trimming ends of one luffa (about 1 foot long) and removing the spiny ridges with a vegetable peeler. Leave the skin on between the ridges as it cooks to a silky smoothness. Slice the luffa into coin shapes, 1/2" thick. Heat 2 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and when the oil is hot add 1 t. cumin seeds. Allow to sizzle for a few seconds then add 1 thinly sliced onion. Lower heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, browning only lightly. Add a large dash of turmeric powder, 1 chopped tomato, 1 clove of minced garlic and a sprinkle of powdered ginger. Cook for 2-3 minutes then add in the sliced luffa and at least 1/2 t. salt. Stir well and reduce heat to low; cover skillet and cook gently for 15 minutes or until the luffa is soft but not mushy. Stir now and then to prevent burning and add only a few drops of water as/if needed. In the last 5 minutes of cooking sprinkle with cayenne and black pepper and stir again. Serve warm with wedges of lemon if desired and adjust saltiness to personal tastes. An overall useful side dish, served with rice and a bean or lentil dish this would make a light vegetarian entree.

Cooking to the Beat

Great soundtrack to a less than great but highly amusing 1969 film also released as Cult of the Damned. In the same micro genre as other cotton candy colored and fluffy "thrillers" of the era such as Picture Mommy Dead and The Big Cube, this camp fest sports more professional heft with a cast including Roddy McDowell and Jennifer Jones.  It won't be cheap or easy to score a copy of this vintage LP but well worth it. Listen to a sample here.

As you might have guessed we're huge soundtrack fans at Cafe Drake HRV and none stir our pots more than the sinister lounge sounds of gialli - 70s Italian murder mysteries. Piero Umiliani's macabre circus themes mixed with groovy stripper beats hits all the right notes in his eclectic score for Mario Bava's Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970, top photo). That old work horse Ennio Morricone of course churned out hundreds of soundtracks beyond his iconic theme for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; some of his most poignant compsotions can be found in The Night Train Murders LP (bottom photo). Both are available for free on Spotify and on heavy rotation every time we devote ourselves to risotto or manicoti.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Truly Random Meals and Recipes

Above three photos: Cafe Drake HRV's version of Cobb Salad (romaine lettuce, sliced turkey breast, bleu cheese) with Parsley and Oregano Dressing and Green Chile Corn Muffins. To make our top August 2013 house dressing, roughly chop 1 bunch of parsley and add to a blender container along with about 4-5 T. fresh oregano leaves, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, salt and black pepper to taste and 1/4 cup white wine vinegar. Blend until relatively smooth then, with machine still running, slowly drizzle in 1/2 - 3/4 cup olive oil. You should use less oil for a sharper flavored dressing and more if your tastes run milder. Should keep well for 5 days refrigerated but always shake well and allow to sit at room temperature for a few minutes before using.

Caraway & Red Pepper Chicken: Are we really sharing this recipe that induces swoons from every single dinner guest at Cafe Drake Brooklyn and HRV? Today's your lucky day and it's so positively simple you're sure to feel doubly lucky. Begin with roughly 2-3 lbs. of chicken parts - we prefer whole leg quarters as above, or thighs and drumsticks. If you wanna use chicken breasts that's your business, just make sure any poultry is skin-on and bone-in. You'll do best to line a large baking sheet - or two smaller ones - with aluminum foil for easier cleaning afterwards. Place chicken on baking sheet(s) and squeeze over all a plentiful amount of fresh lime or lemon juice. Follow this with a legendary dusting of kosher salt. Salt Bravely, Keep Calm and Carry On! Now sprinkle the chicken pieces with cayenne pepper and just a bit of smoked paprika. Finally, make it rain with 1 T. of caraway seeds; be certain each poultry piece has plenty. Peel and chop in halves 3 or 4 carrots and place on baking tray around chicken, along with the juiced limes (or lemons). Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F. for roughly 40 minutes or until skin is deeply browned and crispy. Timing will vary. Serve hot or very warm and drizzle accumulated pan juices/rendered chicken fat over the finished dish.

Caraway and Red Pepper chicken quarters plated with rice, tindora, parsley sauce and onion salad.
How to Make Dinner When Exhausted with Lyme Disease: Boil until just barely al dente 1 box of whole wheat ziti and drain. Toss with 1 jar of Newman's Own marinara sauce (or your fave flavor). Throw in a cup of finely grated Fontina cheese. Toss again until cheese melts. Season further as you will with chopped fresh herbs, shaved red onions and cayenne pepper.

Here's what we did with all that leftover rice. Cold, we tossed it with diced red onion and Swiss cheese cubes and all the remaining parsley sauce. Stuffed it into parboiled green bell peppers and baked for 30 minutes.

Just mentioned stuffed pepper with pea shoots, white bean and zucchini salad, pickled jalapeno peppers and roasted parsnip "fries".

Day & Night on the rooftop of Jen and Ben's swank new home in Williamsburg. The old Domino factory and bridge of our daily lives of two decades made Cafe Drake HRV wax nostalgic upon seeing again on such a mild August afternoon and evening. Then we hit the unforgettable/unforgivable traffic.

World's Largest Zucchini Blossom?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Wonderful World of Arabella Page

Above: Arabella adores new chew toys sent by her Mimi.

Same Old, Same Old. Different Sofas, Different Rooms.

Above 3 photos: on the rooftop of Jen and Ben's condo in Williamsburg, BKLYN

Waiting patiently and quietly while humans eat always leads to rewards. With Miki S. in Brooklyn, NY.

All that pasta made Arabella thirsty!

Arabella always finds the comfiest spot in the house.

And Goodnight, Everyone. xoxo, Arabella

Random Refrigerator Views XXVII

Front Door of Refrigerator

Politics doesn't make for any stranger bedfellows than the fridge shelves at Cafe Drake HRV, a sort of visual metaphor for our ADD kitchen tendencies and antidote to the overgroomed, publicist-styled refrigerators of celebrities. (Though we do always wanna see what they have inside!)