Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween from Cafe Drake HRV

Good Dog, Bad Cop

Arabella, Police Dog

Haunted Tour of Hurley, NY

Difficult imagining a more archetypical Halloween landscape than the tiny hamlet of Hurley, with its collection of 17th-century stone houses, brooding giant elm and oak trees and ancient graveyard. Cafe Drake HRV learned plenty of local history, all of it bloody and creepy of course, on the annual Haunted Hurley walking tour. Congrats to the Hurley Heritage Society for organizing the event and many thanks for serving freezing short-term tourists hot cider and apple cider doughnuts by candlelight!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

OMG Only 2 Days Till Halloween!

Random Tastiness

The time has come, either we say goodbye completely to our once flourishing herb garden or we preserve its bounty via drying and freezing. Turns out dill and tarragon can be tossed into airtight freezer bags and frozen without significant loss of flavor. Darkening and textural changes mean the herbs are best used in cooked dishes. Just thought you might like to know. Hey, it's better than nothing until the new growing season.

Looks good enough to eat, eh? It is if you happen to be a dog. Arabella LUVS the canine Halloween cookies sent from her grandmother.

Although we like it served with toast points as a cocktail knosh, Sunflower and Tomato Pate is even better spread on homemade pizzas in lieu of regular sauce and baked with favored toppings. Cafe Drake HRV makes it by tossing all of this in a mini food processor and pushing a button:
1 1/2 cups fresh tomato 
3 dates (chopped)
½ cup of sunflower seeds 
1 clove garlic or ½ t. garlic powder
3 T. lemon juice 
½ onion
1 T. chopped oregano or basil leaves (or mixed)
salt to taste

The above two photos document a rare occurrence at Cafe Drake HRV. Cake Baking. Way out of our comfort zone, we chose an easy recipe and further simplified. Arabic Yogurt Cake is both sweet and moist, a fitting finale to an indulgent cooler weather meal. Best served with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream but gluttons should feel free to top slices with vanilla ice cream.

Dissolve  1 cup water and 2 cups sugar and 6 whole cardamom pods (broken open with the edge of a knife or your palm) in a sauce pan, mixing well.  The syrup will be cloudy at this point.  Place over high heat, uncovered.  When the mixture comes to a roiling boil and the surface is engulfed in bubbles, set the timer for 2 minutes.  Then stir in 2 T. orange juice and return to a boil for 10 to 15 seconds.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter.  Use some of it to grease the sides and bottom of the 9 inch square pan.  Keep the rest for later use.

Mix 1 3/4 cups fine semolina, 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 t. baking soda in a bowl.  Add 2/3 cup plain yogurt and use your fingers to work it into the flour, forming a thick batter.

Transfer the batter to the cake pan and use a spatula to distribute the batter.  Dip your fingers into the leftover butter and gently pat the surface of the batter to smooth out the top. 

Bake the cake in the center of the oven for 3o minutes until golden.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Place the syrup and 2 more tablespoons of butter over medium flame .  Warm the syrup, just until the butter melts.  While the syrup heats, cut the cake into 8-12 pieces in the pan.  Once the butter melts, stir in 1 T. orange flower water and immediately pour the syrup over the top of the cake.  Set aside and cool for about an hour for the cake to absorb the syrup.  Serve at room temperature.

South Indian inspired supper of dal, brown rice, yogurt, salad, mint chutney, pappadum and tomato and sunflower pate.

The tastiest and tidiest plate of nachos we've had in a long time. Courtesy of Ruth Kopelman, old friend and Hudson Valley neighbor. We ended a cozy meal in Ruth's Woodstock home with her latest inspired creation, Carob Banana Coffee Almond ice cream. Homemade. Natch.

A Couple of Things to Feed Your Guests While You Finish Dinner

It's unfortunate that your guests are slurping cocktails on the sofas and you're stuck in the kitchen perfecting dinner's finishing flourishes. Or, behind schedule as the night yawns wider. If you're in the weeds at least you (and everyone else) will feel better passing the time with Baked Ricotta with Herbs. Good with all manner of cocktails or wine, serve either cut into small squares or in the casserole itself, accompanied by buttered rye bread or simply a dish of olives. Begin by preheating the oven to 425 degrees F. while you mix together 2 cups of ricotta cheese, 2 T. or so minced fresh herbs of choice and a pinch of salt. Spread the ricotta into a lightly oiled, shallow casserole dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes or so, let cool slightly and serve sprinkled with your best finishing salt.

Olive oil and bread for dipping is hardly a novel concept, but the satisfaction of a fruity and/or peppery fine oil is hard to top. So boost the pre-dinner experience even higher by seasoning oil with equal amounts mixed of dried thyme, toasted sesame seeds and finely chopped or ground toasted almonds. Season to taste with a coarse high-quality salt and plenty of red pepper flakes.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Everything's Falling Down All Around Us

A necessary evil, renovation is rarely fun to live alongside. Even more unsettling was our contractor's advice to "be careful and watch out for animals" possibly emerging from within shattered walls. Apparently overnight below freezing temperatures mean one last chance for creepy crawly things to seek the warm shelter of Cafe Drake HRV! We'll keep you posted and fingers crossed we're not hosting our next cocktail party for a pack of racoons or a murder of crows.

Quick & Easy Autumn Dining at Cafe Drake HRV

Above two photos: Vegan Dinners Never Tasted So Good. Good enough in fact we guarantee a meal free of carnivorous cravings. Brown rice, roasted veggies, baked buttercup squash, fried green tomatoes and tofu dressing/dipping sauce. To make the dressing just add all of this to a blender and press the button: 12 oz. of soft or silken tofu, 10-15 chopped cornichons (gherkins), 1/2 cup assorted fresh herbs (try basil and mint together, or oregano, parsley and thyme), 3 cloves chopped garlic, 3-4 chopped scallions (green and white parts), 1/2 cup vegetable oil, salt and black pepper to taste and a few splashes of white wine or cider vinegar.

Ripe for stuffing, autumnal squashes are easiest prepared by baking in a 400 degree F. oven until soft, sliced in half, seeds scooped and halves placed in a small casserole with an inch or so of water. Season when done. Or stuff. Or scrape flesh for soup. Or peel, chop and toss with pasta and cheese.

Salsa verte, or verde, no relation to the spicy Mexican sauce made from tomatilloes and green chilies, takes a couple of minutes to whip together, keeps well refrigerated for a week and is especially fond of fish and poultry. While a few fresh herbs are holding on in the Cafe Drake HRV gardens, we're keeping a steady supply on hand. Let's begin by throwing, once again, everything in a blender or food processor: 2 or 3 generous handfuls chopped parsley, about 4-5 T. fresh oregano leaves, 1/2 cup of chopped green bell pepper, salt and black pepper to taste, a couple of tablespoons rinsed capers, a generous slug or three of olive oil and a splash of white wine vinegar or lemon juice. Blend or process until semi-smooth. The French version - sauce verte - is equally delish but you'll need to swap the oregano for fresh tarragon leaves and add a couple of anchovies. Or not. The sauce may be further amended with 1/4 cup or so pitted and chopped green olives.

Let's make this Fall breeze of a Venetian pasta entree in steps: Local red bell peppers, onions and eggplant are first roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper until tender but not overly browned.

The roasted veggies are tossed with hot pasta, more salt and pepper and 1 cup ricotta cheese.

About 1/2 cup of reserved pasta cooking water is stirred into the pasta over a very low flame, creating a creamy sauce, rich but restrained. A final enthusiastic sprinkling of ground cinnamon ties the dish together, before being served in warm bowls, drizzled with more olive oil and grated Romano cheese.

As above, another Northern take on an Italian standard, minestrone. Cafe Drake HRV prefers the thinner Milanese version, less aggressive with garlic and tomatoes, more refined on the palette, appropriate when the appetite is lighter. A real recipe would be impossible for us as we make the soup differently with every pot, but the essentials involve briefly frying harder and more aromatic vegetables in olive oil as a starting point, using a good flavorful stock (either vegetable, chicken, turkey or beef), adding a few chopped tomatoes in the last half half hour of cooking, a slow but steady simmer on the pot and allowing free reign to your own creativity. For example, we mix and match the following veggies with impunity: sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, parsnips, green bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, tiny green peas, fennel and string beans. Two musts are onions (or leeks) and garlic. We go light on the latter to appreciate the full flavors of the other ingredients. Start the longer cooking vegetables in the  beginning of course and add the pasta element about halfway through - broken spaghetti is a nice homey touch; arborio rice or orzo brings more elegance to the table.

Only 10 Days Left till Halloween

Let's hope this holiday finds us all looking half so good, lighting black candles for our Halloween festivities.
(Image: Delphine Seyrig, Daughters of Darkness, 1973)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Besties Still Nesting Together

Quick Layover at Jen and Ben's Billyburg Pad

In town to teach two classes on canning and Indian cuisine - dal specifically - Cafe Drake HRV was able to grab a couple of quick minutes catching up w/ J&B . . . a brief bar crawl before dinner.

Arabella serving her best editorial/couture pose in Jen and Ben's chic new condo.

A Visit from Julianne

Julianne Zaleta (check out her natural perfumes and more at Alchemologie) paid Cafe Drake HRV a visit this week and brought along as gifts two of her delicious alcoholic creations - Shiso Vodka and Pistachio Vodka. In the photo just above we mixed the shiso vodka with club soda and lime for a tart and herbaceous cocktail designed to whet appetites before dinner. Plenty of fun on the recent agenda including day tripping through Kingston, Hudson, Saugerties and Rhinebeck, and of course, the obligatory hike along the Hudson River behind CDHRV.

Arabella Page always welcomes guests to her home with warm affection. And mood lighting.

The Landscapes at Innisfree

Cafe Drake HRV traveled to Innisfree Gardens near Millbrook, NY as part of an afternoon luncheon and field trip graciously hosted for the volunteers of Montgomery Place. Of all the gardens we've swooned over in the Hudson Valley, few combine majestic, moody vistas with smaller, more intimate outdoor "rooms" to greater effect than the vast grounds of Innisfree. Broadly Asian landscape design, a graceful central lake, unusual water features and a genius intermingling of autumnal colors with stern evergreens.The gardens close for the season next week but we'll return to soak up more inspiration in Spring.