Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How Our Garden Grows, Part I

Three days of steady, heavy rain and wind battered the Cafe Drake HRV gardens last week, only to be followed by hot, humid days and brilliant sunshine. Not the worst growing conditions it turns out . . .


1. Children of the Garlic

We always expect to see creepy kids peering from behind our thicket of tall garlic stalks, so reminiscent of a truncated corn field.
The garlic scapes have arrived just in time to adorn salads, soups and noodle and rice dishes. We also pickle at least a few jars of garlic scapes every season, as well as swap them for basil in our early Summer pesto. Pick up our recipes for Green Garlic Scape Soup and Garlic Scape Pesto from the Cafe Drake HRV archives before you leave.

Cold sesame noodles are a cinch to make at home and superior to even the best Chinese take-out when seasoned, as above, with snipped garlic scapes, slivered scallions, cayenne pepper and nutritional yeast flakes.


Cold Sesame Noodles a la Cafe Drake HRV with braised kale and mixed green salad, both assembled from the gardens.

2. Show Me the Green (Shiso)




Our shiso plants are a mixed bag of hope and disappointment this year - the tasty, multifunctional green variety has been slow to start and stunted in growth while the red (or purple) shiso seems to pop up under foot every day. A prolific self-seeder, purple shiso staked its claim in every corner of the garden, reappearing this Spring with a vengeance and growing to boastful heights, looking down and sneering at its green cohorts. The ornamental deep purple leaves are really only employed when preparing Japanese-style fermented pickles; if you wish to use them as an herb they must first be blanched or salted and left to "cure." Fingers are still optimistically crossed that the green shiso is but a slow starter, as we have big plans to use the leaves in sushi, rice balls and so much more including a fave cocktail first sampled years ago at Williamsburg, Brooklyn's Bozu restaurant and bar, The Shisito. Here's how to make one at home, provided you have a healthy shiso stash. Unlike us, right now.

Shiso-Yuzu “Mojito”
makes one drink

1 1/2 ounces Stoli Citros vodka
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 or 5 fresh shiso leaves
1 teaspoon of zested yuzu rind (or equal parts lime and grapefruit zest)
juice of 1/4 lime
club soda


Tear the shiso leaves into large pieces (reserving one whole leaf for a garnish) and muddle with the brown sugar and yuzu rind in a mixing glass (“Muddling” is the simple technique of crushing and bruising herbs and fruits to release their essential oils and flavors. Use a cocktail muddler or large pestle if you have one - the back of a spoon will work too). 

Add the vodka, lime juice, and a few ice cubes and stir. Pour into an old-fashioned glass and top up with club soda and more ice as necessary. Garnish with a shiso leaf.


3. Flower Power



Borage returned unbidden this Spring but with great delight, such are the virtues of annuals. New discovery: pruning the lanky stalks by 50% in mid-summer encourages a second blooming in September!

Borage's tiny, star-shaped flowers are among Nature's rare True Blues in hue. The leaves are edible as well, also tasting faintly of cucumber, but less attractive.

Borage blossoms won't last long; preserve them in ice cubes and add to festive warm weather drinks or candy them as you would violets.


After pulling up most of the daikon radishes we've let a few "go to seed." Literally. The tiny white flowers look lovely in salads and belie their delicate appearance with a peppery bite.

Don't know what this is but we like it in mixed arrangements!


 Vivid colors and minimal maintenance requirements make nasturtiums an essential part of the Cafe Drake HRV gardens. Added bonus: the flowers, leaves and buds are all spicy and delicious.



Sometimes the roses really are redder (or pinker) on the other side of the fence. Our next door neighbors Tom and Gina gifted Cafe Drake HRV with bunches of cut roses.

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