Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ham and Feta Blue Corn Nachos

Begin by arranging tortilla chips (of any color or kind) on an ovenproof platter or baking sheet. Loosely arrange chips in a single layer. Top with 2-3 slices of Virginia ham, cut into very thin slivers. Dot everything with crumbled feta cheese.

Repeat everything above, making two or three layers of cheese and ham. Finally, top with more cheese (no ham this time) and lots of minced onion (red, white, matters not). Broil for 3 or 4 minutes or until cheese melts and chips and ham begin to brown. Remove before burning!

For a fresher, lighter chance of pace, top hot nachos with quartered cherry tomatoes, cilantro sprigs, sliced fresh serrano or jalapeno chilies and a drizzle of your favorite hot sauce.

How Our Garden Grows: Part VI

What host doesn't love receiving bouquets from guests? This summer we're bringing to dinner parties bunches of abundant kale, clipped in the gardens minutes before we dash to dine. Above, two bountiful varieties - Tuscan and Lacainato.
Our assistant gardener takes a short break from yard work. Lloyd often needs an hour or so in the cool of the house before returning to his garden patrol.

Hosta plants may not be the most exciting foliage in the gardens, but their cool, deep green leaves are soothing to tired eyes. The short-lived flowers, with their dramatic, long stalks, lend whimsy to table arrangements.

Forever harvesting mint to be dried and enjoyed throughout the winter, as a seasoning and herbal tea.

Our nascent cutting garden plot exploded in July. The four photos above were snapped a couple of weeks ago; today, the number of blooms and new growth has tripled.

July has also brought Cafe Drake HRV Asian long beans, sometimes referred to as "yard long beans" or "asparagus beans." We were surprised to discover they also sprout lovely, delicate white flowers.
Just two varieties of chili peppers growing at Cafe Drake HRV this summer.

A nightly ritual at Cafe Drake HRV is a cocktail or glass of rose wine, in the garden, with Lloyd and Arabella.

These poblano peppers will soon be ready to pick.

Long beans drip from vines amidst a jungle of tomatillo bush branches.

Our neighbors' Rose of Sharon bush is growing over the fence. We're not complaining.

Various Asian stir-fry greens planted in part-sun are thriving despite pin-pricked leaves, an annoying calling card from a plethora of garden pests. Such is the life of an organic farmer! Above: red mustard, amaranth, boy choy, tat soi and mizuna.

Long beans easily grow to 2 feet or more in a few days. The vegetables thicken and become tougher if left too long on the vines.

Flowers, vegetables, berries . . . Summer Lives at Cafe Drake HRV.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Slow-Roasted Oven Tomatoes

Oven-roasted tomatoes (and onions) with Pesto Linguine and Broccoli

Because the oven will be in use for about 90 minutes, energy efficiency dictates you make this recipe in bulk. Better for you! The sweet, slightly smokey tomatoes will keep refrigerated for up to a week, and over those 7 days you'll enjoy them cold, reheated or at room temperature, as a side dish, stuffed in sandwiches and wraps, chopped and tossed with salads, sliced on pizzas and even quickly pureed and added to soups, stews and sauces for an extra depth of flavor.

Start with a dozen or so plum or small-ish regular tomatoes, any variety will do. Slice in half horizontally. Dump on a large baking sheet - or two smaller ones - along with 1 or 2 sliced white, yellow or red onions. Cut the onions horizontally as well into large, thick rings. Throw in 12 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled. Toss all with olive oil. Don't go overboard but you'll need enough to fully coat the veggies. 

Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet along with the garlic cloves. Place some of the tomatoes on top of the onions. Sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper and, if you wish, a few pinches of sugar or a drizzle of honey. Roast at 315 degrees F. for 70-90 minutes, turning the tomatoes over only once during cooking.

Allow the tomatoes to rest about 20 minutes before serving, keeping warm covered with a dish towel if desired. The customization possibilities are dizzying - sprinkle with cinnamon and cayenne pepper for a vague North African flavor profile, scatter fresh herbs or grated Parmesan over the roasted tomatoes etc etc etc.

Monday, July 28, 2014

We're Trying to Cut Out Wheat. Trying . . .

Now it's been confirmed that wheat products not only make you fat, and are difficult to digest besides, Cafe Drake HRV is slowly banishing baked goods and traditional pasta from our menus. Or at least reserving for special "treats". Like pizza, and maybe bagels, once a week. The rolls above are whole wheat but turns out that's only nominally better than white processed flour. AnyWAY . . . we were hungry, it was lunch time, the fridge was depleted and this is what we came up with and it was delicious: leftover braised Swiss chard spread on split whole wheat Kaiser roll and topped with crumbled feta, sliced onion and halved cherry tomatoes.

Baked until crispy the rolls are further adorned with buttermilk dressing, olive oil, salt and pepper and from the garden, snipped sage, savory and basil leaves. Total Prep Time: 7 Minutes!

Sublime Sun Tea

Sun tea only gets more refreshing with the addition of mint and basil leaves from the garden. A small cinnamon stick provides a subtle taste surprise.

Don't forget about your sun tea! On a sunny, steamy day the tea will turn bitter if left to steep longer than 5 or 6 hours.

A Steakhouse Dinner, Cafe Drake HRV Style

Tofu steaks, or really, slabs of sliced tofu, are transformed into chewy, toothsome richness via a good long soak in a robust marinade and then oven roasting. For the meatiest texture possible, bake on a lightly oiled cookie sheet at 385 degrees F. for at least 45 minutes. Flip once during cooking and, if you can be bothered, basting with marinade super-charges the flavor. Grilling will give you the nifty cross-hatch markings but a softer final product. A go-to marinade can be as simple as a bit of oil, a good amount of red wine vinegar, some salt and pepper and crushed garlic.

While we're rethinking and re-imagining this whole steak house concept, why not swap pan-braised chard for the ubiquitous creamed spinach side? Just rinse and roughly chop a bunch of Swiss chard and pan-fry for a minute or two, along with some thinly sliced onion, before adding a small amount of vegetable stock. Cover skillet and cook on low for a few minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Season aggressively with salt, and timidly with grated nutmeg, before serving hot.

Cafe Drake HRV Interprets the Classic Steakhouse Dinner: Baked Tofu "Steaks", Baked Potato with Yogurt-Buttermilk Dressing and Braised Yellow Chard.

Can't forget the Tomato and Onion Salad, generally one of only a couple of vegetable items on old-school steak house/meat temple menus.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Spondikes Meet the Carnies: A Classic Cafe Drake HRV Weekend

Cocktails are in order upon Ms. Amee's arrival. Tonight it was all about the Shiso Collins: gin, shiso syrup, lime juice and shiso leaves from the garden.

Our Southern-style cornbread keeps warm in an iron skillet.

Local free-running chicken thighs were BBQ'd for dinner. Cafe Drake HRV marinated the poultry for 8 hours with a dry rub of dark brown sugar, kosher salt, ground nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin and smoked paprika. Roast at 425 degrees F. for 35 minutes and you've achieved the perfection of moist flesh and crackling crispy skin. Boneless? Skinless chicken? Don't even consider it. In fact, find another website - we're not for you. Really.

Bryan waits patiently for all to arrive at the groaning dinner table, laden with BBQ chicken, cornbread, coleslaw with capers and lovage and garden-fresh braised kale.

Chicken served family-style, with cornbread and roasted Vidalia onions and okra from our garden.

The Kids chill Saturday morning with iPads and coffee table books.

We're all Carnies at the Bindlestiff Circus at Der Spiegeltent at Bard College.

Chinese Tofu with Cilantro

Cilantro, also known as coriander and Chinese parsley, is essential to authentic Chinese cuisine. Our stir-fry recipe for a fast vegetarian entree is in the style of Taiwanese cooking. It's mildly spicy but feel free to add more of each type of chile to satiate your need for heat. Serve with rice and a salad or veggie side dish for a meal in mere minutes.

Begin with a 12oz - 1 lb. package of firm or extra-firm tofu. Go for the latter if given a choice. Drain the tofu and wrap in a dish or paper towel. Press gently to extract as much liquid as possible without crushing the delicate bean curd. Now cut the tofu into cubes about 3/4" in size.

Set aside the tofu and in a small bowl, mix 1 t. cornstarch with 1/4 cup water. Stir to combine well.

Heat 2 T. vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok over medium heat. When the oil is hot add in 1/2 small green bell pepper (cut into thin slices), 2-4 dried red chiles (whole), 1-4 sliced hot green chilies and 1/2 salt. Stir fry for a minute then add the tofu. Stir once and reduce heat to low.

Drizzle 2 T. tamari or soy sauce over the tofu. Re-stir the cornstarch mixture quickly and add to the skillet. Drop in 1 cup finely chopped cilantro. Raise the heat just a bit and stir gently to incorporate all ingredients. The sauce should thicken and when it does remove the pan from heat. Add more salt if needed and ground black pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Our recipe for Chinese Tofu with Cilantro utilizes three types of peppers - green bell, fresh hot green chilies and whole dried red chili peppers. The creaminess of the tofu absorbs much of the heat but if you prefer a milder flavor, reduce amount of chilies used and seed and de-vein before adding to the skillet.

After the skillet contents are drizzled with tamari or soy sauce the dish is almost finished.

A heaping pile of minced cilantro is required as the herb's flavor diminishes when cooked even briefly.

A slurry of cornstarch and water thickens and binds the sauce. Use the extra "gravy"  to spoon over your rice or noodles.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Light South Indian Dinner on a Sultry Night

The long days of Summer continue to stretch the sun until dinner time. Kristin sits down to snack on a Gujarati-inspired light meal around 8:30 with light still streaming through our dining room windows.

Basmati rice, pappadum and a warm yogurt and chickpea flour curry with moong dal fritters.

All we needed to complete the meal was a salad (lots of arugula and fresh herbs from the Cafe Drake HRV gardens) and a peach salad somewhere between a fresh chutney and chunky relish. Kristin wowed us with a dessert of toffee ice cream and sweet strawberries.
Sound good? Look good? Well make it already! Our recipes can be snatched from the Cafe Drake HRV archives below.