Monday, June 30, 2014
It's hot out. You need a drink. We need a drink.
There's a couple of ways to incorporate the refreshing coolness of cucmber into America's beloved summer standby cocktail, The Gimlet. One, you can infuse your vodka with cucumber slices by simply soaking 1/2 a peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber in 3 cups of gin (sealed in a jar) for 3 days and then strain through a coffee filter or, two, you can craft a cucumber simple syrup that should keep in the fridge for at least a week. We've talked about alcohol infusions A LOT here at Cafe Drake HRV in the past so let's make the syrup.
Bring one cup sugar and one cup water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for one minute and remove from the stove. Stir in 1/2 of a regular cucumber, shredded, seeded but unpeeled. A box grater works well for this and buying a seedless cucumber makes things even simpler.
Steep the grated cuke in syrup for 30 minutes; strain through a fine mesh sieve and push down on the cucumber bits to extract as much liquid, flavor and bright green color as possible. Allow to cool before using. Store in the refrigerator, tightly covered.
To make the Cucumber Gimlet, add, per person, to a cocktail shaker: 2 1/2 oz. gin, 1 oz. cucumber syrup and a healthy squeeze of lime juice. Add some ice to the shaker, shake and strain into cocktail glasses. Serve straight up with garnish of choice - lime peel, cucumber slice, or as we did above, a single borage flower. Note that the herb borage boasts a pronounced cucumber flavor in both its leaves and flowers.
When a tamer drink is appropriate, try mixing the cucumber syrup with seltzer for a surprisingly adult soda.
Vodka may be substituted for the gin and white rum makes a spectacular novelty drink.
Sure, it may not be purely authentic Thai cuisine, but this Thai Chicken and Pepper Stir-Fry is a dead ringer in flavor and heat for the ubiquitous takeout menu item. Only better, way better, because it lacks the suffocating sweetness and gooey sauce sloshed about at bogus Thai slop houses.
If you spend just 10 minutes doing your mise en place, this dish will come together in only 5 more. So, read the recipe through once, prep veggies and sauce and let's go!
Heat 2 T. vegetable oil in a large, non-stick skillet or wok over high heat. When the oil is almost smoking add 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut into 1" cubes or long, thin strips) and let sit, undisturbed, for one minute. Now begin to stir-fry quickly while adding 4 cloves of chopped garlic. Cook for just a minute and then add 1 large red onion (thinly sliced), 1 green bell pepper (very thinly sliced), 2-3 small green chilies (chopped coarsely) and about 4 T. ginger (cut into matchstick pieces). Stir fry for a minute before adding 4 T. fish sauce, 2 T. oyster sauce and 3 t. sugar. Again, mix these three ingredients together in a small bowl before beginning the cooking and Life will be much easier.
Stir fry just until chicken is cooked through. It won't take long. The veggies should retain a slight bit of crunchiness though none of their raw flavor.
Remove from heat and drop in a handful of fresh Thai basil leaves. Regular basil is fine as well. Sprinkle liberally with cayenne pepper and stir a final time.
Serve hot with rice. Above, Cafe Drake HRV enjoyed our spicy Thai chicken alongside jasmine rice, salad greens, sliced yellow tomatoes and braised kale.
So easy and tasty we've been making this a lot during hot weather and loving the briefest exposure to a hot stove. A vegetarian variation created by Cafe Drake HRV is delightful as well: substitute extra-firm tofu for the chicken, also cut into pieces the same size, approximately 1" cubes. (You MUST use extra-firm tofu for best texture.) Nix the fish sauce for 3 T. soy sauce instead and use vegetarian oyster sauce (available now at all Asian markets).
|Garlic scapes abound in late June at Cafe Drake HRV.|
|Dried garlic stored by the stove for easier access. Fresher than can be believed is the taste of garden foraged garlic.|
|And more garlic scapes.|
|Just pulled garlic curing in the sun; the fresh kind needs to dry for at least a week before being ready for cooking.|
|Our trusty owl protects young plants from garden marauders.|
|The last of the viable lettuces, at least until the cooler days of September. We kept these going by planting in a large, shallow container, moved a couple of weeks ago to semi-shade.|
|Give us 12 square inches of yard and we'll create a tarragon patch! This herb loves hot weather, bright sun and moist soil.|
|Salad Bowl in the Lawn!|
|Those who love only dappled light have found a happy home on the front porch.|
Sunday, June 29, 2014
|Odds are pretty good that while you're here visiting Cafe Drake HRV, Arabella's stretched out somewhere, maybe napping, maybe just chilling.|
|At some point our pit bull mascot managed to haul herself from one sofa to another. All the way in the next room. Go Arabella!|
|" A world without throw pillows is no world I wanna live in." - Arabella Page|
|Begin with fresh red/purple shiso leaves, snipped at the base and soaked in cold water. Change the water at least twice, maybe three times, swishing leaves with vigor to dislodge any dirt nestled in the herb's deep grooves.|
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
|Quesadillas for Dinner. Again. Yup. With Broccoli Vinaigrette, leftover White Beans with Shallots and Herbs (grab our recipe HERE), rice, Tomato-Poblano Salsa, Yogurt Crema and Jicama Salad|
|The quesadillas are the easy part. Cafe Drake HRV drove a purist route recently with just slices of smoked Gouda cheese and chopped cilantro.|
Monday, June 23, 2014
Kristin joined us for Sunday morning coffee and lavender pruning. Snipped flowers were tied in to bundles and left hanging to dry on the front porch. Very soon herbal sachets will be found in the nooks and crannies and linen drawers of Cafe Drake HRV.
We were also lucky enough to have Kristin P. accompany us to Montgomery Place's annual Summer Porch Party and Fundraiser this month.
Where's the Chicken?? Can you spot our crackling, burnished poultry thighs in the two photos above? Cafe Drake HRV typically serves meat in the manner more of side dish than entree, two tiny chicken thighs per plate. We fill the rest of that valuable real estate with salad, veggies and whole grains. Above, 5-Spice Roasted Chicken Thighs were baked atop a cookie sheet strewn with sliced red bell and poblano peppers, onions and carrots. The roasted vegetables, rich and sweet from the chicken fat, were balanced by steamed brown rice and a mizuna and tomato salad. A lavish garnish of mint and cilantro leaves, sliced green chilies and scallions completed the Vietnamese-themed dinner.