Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Roast Chicken Quarters with Israeli Spices

Two simple olive oil marinades
Roasted Tomatoes with Za'atar and Fresh Herbs add an acidic contrast to the richer roast chicken and can be prepared in the oven at roughly the same time. Plan on 20 minutes at 400 degrees F. Turn the tomatoes over once during their cooking time. Seasonings might include whole, peeled garlic cloves, chopped onions and of course salt and black pepper. Two large pinches of sugar also draw out the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Roast Chicken Quarters, Roasted Tomatoes, Roasted Potatoes and Herb Salad

The following recipe, also adapted from Janna Gur's The Book of New Israeli Food, will serve 4-6 people.

Begin with 8 pieces skin-on, bone-in chicken quarters, 4 legs and 4 large thighs. Sprinkle lavishly with salt and black pepper on both sides. Toss half with one of the marinades below and half with the other. Seal in plastic bags and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Bake in a 400 degree F. oven until the skin is crispy brown, about 35 - 40 minutes. 

Serve warm or at room temperature festooned with sprigs of fresh herbs such as cilantro, dill and/or mint and lemon wedges.

In warmer months, grill chicken outside if desired or possible.


Combine in a small bowl: 1/2 cup olive oil and 3 T. sumac.


Combine very well in a small bowl: 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 T. ground allspice, 1/2 t. ground nutmeg, 1/2 t. cardamom seeds, 1/2 t. ground cinnamon, pinch of ground cloves, pinch of cayenne pepper and 1 T. honey or agave syrup.

Filfel Chuma (Libyan Hot Sauce)

This thick hot paste from the ancient kitchens of Libyan Jews goes with ANYthing! It's spicy alright but not painfully so, an ideal condiment for egg dishes, rice and beans and grilled or roasted meat, poultry or fish. Because it keeps in the fridge for weeks, when covered with a thin layer of oil as per directions below, it's handy to always have a supply chilling on your shelves. Try it as a flavor booster by stirring a tablespoon into simmering soups and stews or marinara sauce. Cafe Drake HRV has just slightly adapted the recipe from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur.

To make 1 cup or so, put all of this is a food processor or blender and whir until you have a smooth paste: 10 cloves of minced garlic, 2 t. cayenne pepper, 2 T. sweet paprika, 1 t. caraway seeds, 1 t. ground cumin, 1/2 cup oil, 2 T. lemon juice and 1 t. salt.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Spaghetti with Oyster Mushrooms & Ricotta + Roasted Baby Eggplant

Here's a money-saving tip: fresh oyster mushrooms are 75% cheaper when purchased at Asian markets rather gourmet grocery stores and supermarkets. A high turnover rate also ensures optimum freshness.

Lots of garlic required for this pasta!

Sizzling garlic and dried red chilies for this Sicilian-inspired pasta entree.

Tender, sweet baby eggplants can generally be found at Indian and Asian markets for a song. We paid $1/lb. for these beauties.

Pan-fried mushrooms are added to the cooked pasta.

We also added about 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese.

Looks like we got the perfect char on the roasted eggplants.

Early arrivals in the Cafe Drake HRV gardens - lovage and mint - are a stunning team combined with eggplant.


Put a large saucepan of water over a high flame, and when it's boiling, add plenty of salt and 1 box or package whole wheat spaghetti noodles. Cook until al dente, or just tender; drain and do not rinse. Reserve before draining at least 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.

While the water is heating and the pasta cooking: heat 3-4 T. olive oil in a skillet until hot. Over a medium flame saute 4 cloves of chopped garlic for a couple of minutes; do not let the garlic brown. At the same time toss in the skillet 2-4 whole dried red chilies, broken into pieces. These will add flavor but little discernible heat. After 2 minutes add 1 lb. or so of fresh oyster mushrooms, or a mixture of whatever type you have or want. Toss well and turn up the heat. Cook, stirring almost constantly, for 3-4 minutes. Adding salt will help the mushrooms release some of their liquid. Cook until all liquid has been absorbed and then season aggressively with salt and black pepper. This isn't a ton of mushrooms for a pound of pasta so they should be quite salty!

Return drained spaghetti to the large saucepan and stir in the mushroom mixture. Combine well. Now stir in 1- 1/2 cups ricotta cheese. Slowly stir in some of the reserved cooking water, just enough to make a thin, creamy coating for the noodles. Toss very well, check for seasoning and serve hot or warm. Top with grated Parmesan or Romano cheeses and additional black pepper if desired.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. while you toss 1 1/2 lbs. of trimmed baby eggplants (just remove the tops/stems) with olive oil, cayenne pepper and at least 1 t. cumin powder. Cut larger eggplants in halves or prick all over with a sharp knife. Smaller ones, leave whole. If you're going to have to cut most of the eggplants into halves, it's easiest - and less messy - to do this before tossing with oil and spices.

Place eggplants in a single layer on a large baking sheet or two smaller ones. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring a couple of times. The eggplants should be very soft and slightly charred when done. Remove pan from oven and while hot, drizzle with 1 T. honey. Mix well, right there on the baking sheet. Make it rain salt and black pepper over all. Toss again and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish generously with chopped lovage and mint leaves. Basil makes a good substitute for the lovage. Also, a drizzle of one of your finest aged balsamic vinegars wouldn't be out of place either.

How Our Garden Grows . . .

Forsythia bushes turn green so quickly we always cut and savor the bright canary foliage that marks the arrival of Spring at Cafe Drake HRV.

Rau ram a/k/a Vietnamese cilantro can be "rooted" in water. We purchase the cut herb at Asian markets, trim with a sterile knife and place in small containers filled with water. After a week or two, tiny white roots appear and then the entire cutting can be planted. Now indispensable in the Cafe Drake HRV kitchens, rau ram does require special growing conditions to be noted - warm, humid air, lots of water and shade from the mid-day sun. This method works with a handful of other herbs but be sure to change the water EVERY day or you'll end up with rotting, wilted cuttings and no root growth.
Thinning seedlings is such sad work for us, but necessary to allow veggies and flowers to mature fully. At least with radish sprouts, seen above, they end up not on the compost heap but atop salads and soups. Hint: rinse and place a small, artfully arranged mound on your next cheese plate.

Soon our many varieties of lettuce and Italian salad greens will need thinning as well. And like radish seedlings they'll be consumed with glee.

Severe pruning to the ground and heavy mulching helped peony (seen above) and raspberry bushes survive a long, harsh winter.

Mint surprised us this Spring by popping up early and weathering two late-season snow storms.

Lovage is far more resilient than we gave credit.
Now that the days are warmer Lloyd feels confident sticking out his tongue at Old Man Winter. Not so much, last week.

Comfy lounge chairs for all sunbathers are available at Cafe Drake HRV.

"Why won't these silly seedlings behind me GROW already??"

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Caulifower & Pasta Salad + Tomato Pachadi

Our Fusion Cauliflower and Pasta with pappadums, braised kale and tomato pachadi.

As most Indian rice main dishes are served with a yogurt condiment, why not do the same with pasta? Above, a tomato pachadi added a creamy element to an otherwise light meal. Similar to North Indian raitas, pachadis differ in the inclusion of a cooked element. This is a dish to make again and again! So let's do it together: heat 1 T. vegetable oil in a skillet and add 2 dried red chilies (torn into pieces), about 1/4 t. asafoetida (also known as hing powder), 1 t. black mustard seeds and 1 t. urad dal. Cook, covered, until the mustard seeds pop. When the urad dal has turned golden in color, add 1 diced tomato, 3 sliced scallions and 2 chopped green chilies. Stir fry for a couple of minutes and then remove from heat; allow pan to cool slightly. Stir in two cups plain low-fat or whole milk yogurt and 1/2 t. cayenne pepper. Season to taste with salt and allow to rest at least 30 minutes before serving.

Kale get the Indian fusion treatment as well, slowly stewed with garlic, ginger, tomatoes and green chilies.

The pasta is superb chilled as well, served as a salad entree, making it a new staple of summer picnic baskets. Here's how to make it:
Bring to a boil a large saucepan filled with water, add a lot of salt and then 2 cups small elbow noodles or small pasta shells. Cook pasta until just al dente, or still firm, about 7 -9 minutes. In the last 4 minutes of cooking time, add to the water 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into small florets. Drain all in a colander but do not rinse. While waiting for the water to boil and the pasta/cauliflower to cook, heat 4 T. vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet until very hot. Add 2 t. each of black mustard seeds and urad dal (split white lentils) and cover pan until mustard seeds stop popping. Continue to fry over a medium flame until urad dal is golden brown. If you don't have urad dal you might substitute sesame seeds but the cooking time will be far shorter. Add 1 finely chopped onion and 2-4 small green chilies. Cook for a couple more minutes, just until the onions lose a bit of their rawness. Add pasta and cauliflower to the skillet. Remove from heat. Toss with 1-2 t. poodhi powder (available at all Indian markets), salt to taste, freshly ground black pepper and 1/2 cup minced cilantro, both leaves and tender stems. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Just Another Lunch of Lucious Leftovers

Chicken with Chinese Chives and Chilies, Rice, Watercress and Campari Tomato Salad and Creamy Sesame Carrot Soup. Sound good? So let's make the soup: begin by peeling and chopping coarsely 1 lb. of carrots. Chop 1 large onion. Heat 2 T. vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and when hot, saute together the carrots, onions, 2 dried red chilies and 2 T. minced or grated ginger. Cook for just a couple of minutes, stirring frequently, before adding 4-5 cups water and 2 T. uncooked white rice. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a steady simmer; cover pan partially with lid. After 20 or 30 minutes, whenever carrots are soft, stir in 2-3 T. soy sauce or tamari. Remove from heat and allow soup to cool slightly before blending until smooth. Return soup to pot and season with salt (if needed) and white pepper. Simmer gently for 5 minutes to allow flavors to blend. A minute or two before serving, stir in 1 T. toasted sesame oil. Leftovers freeze well.
Thought that was easy? Check out our Chicken with Chinese Chives and Chilies. It's as simple and fast as heating 3 T. vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok, non-stick preferred. When the oil is hot, add 1 sliced onion, 3 cloves chopped garlic and 2-5 sliced green chilies. It's all about how hot you dare to make it. Cook over high heat for a couple of minutes and then add 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small, 1" pieces. Stir-fry for a minute before adding a splash of Chinese cooking wine or sake. Add 2 T. oyster sauce and stir until chicken is almost cooked through. This happens quickly. In last minute of cooking add 1-2 cups finely chopped Chinese chives, garlic chives or ramps. Season to taste with salt and black pepper and serve hot or warm with rice or noodles.

A Really Really Quick Trip to Crooklyn

Cafe Drake HRV LOVES conducting canning and cooking classes at Brooklyn Brainery but the endeavor requires mental energy galore. Nothing nicer than coming "home" afterwards to an instant Old Fashioned, courtesy of Benifer.

Ruske's delightful Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

A buffet at Chez Ben and Jen included, besides the Chicken & Broccoli and Veggie Fried Rice seen above, Kale Salad with Shallots, Baked Ham, Asparagus and Mac-n-Cheese!

Arabella and Daddy both slumber with ease on the World's Most Deluxe Inflatable Bed!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Reiner, Esther & Lola Visit Cafe Drake HRV

Q:What makes a holiday weekend even more special? 
A: A visit from good friends!

Arabella welcomed Reiner, Esther and Lola with her usual enthusiasm for head petting, tummy scratching and human pillows . . .

Lady Arabella Page even managed to photo bomb Lola and the Easter Cookies. Look closely . . .


Even typically photo-shy Lloyd Page managed to get into the spirit of things . . .

Lots of tasty meals both at home and at local eateries, below a few glimpses sneaked around the Cafe Drake HRV dining table:

Dhokla, a Gujarati steamed, savory chickpea flour cake. It's what's for dinner!

Fish marinating in a garlic and turmeric dry rub, later simmered with coconut milk and red chilies.

Reiner & Lola on a (very) short-distance phone call . . .

Mornings were spent at the Catskills Animal Sanctuary and the river and forest paths behind Cafe Drake HRV (as below) . . .


 Lola even picked for us flowers from the woods . . .

And a few pics from the lens of Esther Lok . . .

Reiner & Lola meet a 44-yr old donkey!

A dinner of basmati rice, black-eye pea curry, fish with coconut sauce, arugula salad and dhokla.

Lola is ready for ricotta torte.

Nice to have a hand setting the table.

Don't be disturbed by a quick first glance. Moments later we were all scratching the stomach of this napping 900-lb. pig at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary.