May Meals & Moments: The 2014 Edition

A new perspective was gained while assisting Matt with measurements for upcoming garage roof repair.

Cafe Drake HRV didn't take as well as Matt (seen strolling above) to walking sideways across a 45 degree angle in blustery weather 25 feet above the ground.

One of the things we love most about residing in the Hudson River Valley - we left our water bottle in the nature preserve behind Cafe Drake HRV and it was still there when we returned the following day.
The sorrel has come up in the garden!

Then again these few plucked leaves pretty much left us with a bare plant. Oh well, it's early in the season still and they added such a bright lemony flavor to a roasted mushroom salad.

above two photos: We just love the pale, blue-toned light on rainy days in the Hudson River Valley. So do the plants and shrubs.
Okra may be our favorite veggie OF ALL TIME here at Cafe Drake HRV but we know many of you have a different reaction to this polarizing semi-tropical plant and its inherent mucilaginous qualities. Two tips to reduce the slimy texture when pan-frying okra pods involve cleaning only with a damp towel, just as you would mushrooms, and cooking at an initial high heat to brown and "seal off" the cut slices.

Here's a quick introductory dish for those new to cooking okra. Don't let the simplicity fool you - this is a side dish perfect with any sort of entree but also capable of taking center stage in an Indian vegetarian dinner. Simple Pan-Fried Okra with Indian Seasonings: Start with a pound of okra pods; select those no longer than 3-4 inches if possible. Snip the tiny ends off with your thumb and wipe briskly with a damp cloth. Do not rinse. Trim the stem ends as little as possible, literally shaving off just the uppermost portion. Slice the okra into 1/2" rounds and set aside. Heat 2-3 T. vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is quite hot toss in 1 t. cumin seeds and stir for a minute or until they turn dark. Now add the okra and stir frequently until lightly browned. Add 1 thinly sliced onion and 1 chopped fresh green chile and cook for 5 minutes. When the onion has softened stir in 1 diced tomato, 1-2 t. salt, a large pinch of turmeric powder and about 1/2 t. cayenne pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover skillet and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Check now and then for scorching and only if needed, add a tablespoon or two of water. Remove from heat and serve hot with rice, bread or both, liberally sprinkled with minced cilantro. Add more salt if desired.

That's our spicy, fragrant okra dish you see above at 9 o'clock. With basmati rice, whole wheat paratha, yogurt, chana dal, carrot soup and fresh tomato chutney.

 What else have we been eating in May? Take a look at the crispy Millet and Scallion Pancakes below and just try not to make them. Cafe Drake HRV lifted the following recipe from the pages of Bon Appetit's January 2014 issue devoted to healthy but not punitive meals.

First, cook 3/4 cup millet in boiling salted water until tender, no longer than 20 minutes. This technique of cooking grains like pasta delivers astonishing results, just be aware that some of the millet grains will retain a slight crunch. This is desirable. Drain the millet and set aside to cool for a few minutes while you - see above - stir together in a large mixing bowl 2 beaten eggs, 6 T. buttermilk, 3 T. cornstarch, 1 T. sesame oil (the toasted kind) and 1 1/2 t. salt.

Now mix in the cooked millet and 6-8 sliced scallions or an equivalent amount of chopped Chinese or garlic chives.
Heat 2 T. vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet over a medium-high flame. Add heaping spoonful of batter to the skillet, press down to 1/4" thickness and cook until golden brown. You'll need about 3 minutes per side and the work must be done in batches. Remove cooked pancakes to drain on a paper towel or newspaper and proceed to use up all the batter - it doesn't keep in the fridge. Add a few drops more oil as needed and lower heat slightly if necessary.

The millet-scallion pancakes can be eaten as a knosh with cocktails, served with a salad for a first course or as we did above and below, enjoyed as a novel alternative to rice or noodles. We crunched ours up at Cafe Drake HRV beside tomato salad, red chili chutney and stir-fried vegetables and tofu.

As you gain confidence in your frying and flipping technique saucer sized pancakes are inevitable. And impressive if serving to guests.

above two photos: super fast and screaming Spring with a riot of colors and textures, Cafe Drake HRV's Asian Primavera Stir-Fry is a classic. Use an assortment of veggies on hand and add chopped cubes of fried tofu in the last couple of minutes cooking. We buy the packaged, all-natural fried tofu and soak it in warm water for 5 minutes prior to use. This removes much of the excess oil. Just squeeze dry and toss in the pan, again, at the end of the cooking time. A minute before finishing any Asian stir-fry is also the moment to add seasoning. Mix and match depending on your mood: toasted sesame oil, tamari or soy sauce, mirin, sweet chili sauce, rice vinegar, oyster sauce etc.

Here's a quirky little salad we invented last week to compliment our veggie and tofu stir-fry and millet pancakes: quarter or halve about 2 cups of cherry tomatoes and mix in a bowl with 1 T. toasted sesame oil, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 1 thinly sliced onion and 2 T. nutritional yeast. The flavor is a gleeful surprise, reminiscent of a vegan Caesar dressing!


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