Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Another Super Simple Pasta Dinner for Fall: Spaghetti with Roasted Vegetables, Tomatoes and Cranberries

It all starts with the best, most perfect late-season heirloom tomato you can find. In our case this one was plucked from the plant a couple of days before the first hard frost. You'll need a 1 1/2 lb. whopping specimen like this or the equivalent amount in smaller tomatoes.

Chop the tomatoes coarsely and cook over a medium heat - with 1 chopped onion, 2 cloves of minced garlic, a couple of dried red chilies (torn into pieces) and a handful of fresh herbs (we mixed basil and oregano) - in plenty of good olive oil until thick and soupy. Season aggressively with salt and add a pinch or two of sugar to balance out the tomatoes' acidity. For a deeper flavor add up to 1/2 cup wine or vegetable stock while simmering the sauce.

While the tomatoes are cooking, and your pasta cooking water is being brought to a boil, roast at 425 degrees F. in the oven, about 4 cups chopped broccoli and 1 large red onion. This is the easiest step of all: toss veggies with olive oil and salt and black pepper and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. They'll need around 15 minutes in the oven and it's a good idea to stir once during cooking time. After removing from the oven, toss the roasted veggies with a handful of dried cranberries; the residual heat while soften the fruit.

Now it's time to combine the tomato sauce with 1 lb. of cooked pasta. Save about 1/4 cup of the salted pasta cooking water and add it along with the tomato sauce.

Add the roasted veggies and cranberries as well and toss in the pan over a low flame. Serve the pasta in large wide bowls as an easy entree, with a side salad and cheese plate.

You don't need to re-heat the leftovers either, as this pasta is quite tasty served cold as well!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Only 12 Days 'Till Halloween!!

As usual, we celebrate the upcoming holiday with a few pics of our favorite Scream Queen of the Silver Screen, Barbara Steele. If you haven't already, now would be the perfect time to peruse her oeuvre of scarily stylish horror film performances - Black Sunday, Nightmare Castle, The Ghost, The Long Hair of Death, An Angel for Satan, Shivers, Silent Scream, Terror Creatures From Beyond the Grave among many others . . .

Friday, October 17, 2014

More Mix and Match Meals at Cafe Drake HRV

Sausage rarely appears on Cafe Drake HRV menus but we had to try Adams' Farms' seasonal and house-made special - Apple and Chardonnay Sausage. Of all the cooking methods for sausage this is hands down our favorite, yielding a moist interior and slightly crisp outside: prick sausage all over with a sharp knife and then place sausages in large skillet without oil. Add a roughly chopped onion and cook over medium-low heat until browned on both sides. No need to add oil as any pork-based sausage will render enough fat for cooking. After a few minutes add just 1/2" of water or so to the skillet, cover tightly and reduce heat to low. Simmer covered until sausage is cooked thorough and all water is absorbed.

Pan-fried cabbage, bell peppers, onions and tart green apples made a worthy side dish to the sausages.

Clockwise from bottom center: chana dal; sliced Pink Brandywine tomatoes from our garden; steamed millet; herbed tahini sauce; house-pickled carrots and roasted cauliflower.

A fave spice blend for roasting cauliflower includes smoked paprika, ground cinnamon, a pinch of sugar, salt, black pepper and ground cumin.

Our Green Tahini Dressing is more than just healthy and delicious, it's beyond multi-purpose. Serve it on salads, with steamed or roasted veggies or fish, over all sorts of grains, spooned on baked potatoes, tossed with pasta. But let's just stop there and direct you to the recipe in the May 2014 Cafe Drake HRV archives in case you missed it first time around.

We'll miss our heirloom tomatoes from the garden this winter but we're already planning to expand Summer 2015's back yard crop.

A recipe for Burmese Chopped Vegetable Salad, culled from a 1980's cookbook penned by members of Atlanta's Cathedral of St. Philip, is actually quite authentic to those we've sampled in Burmese restaurants in Queens, NY. Universal enough in flavor to be served with most types of meals, here's how to make it: begin with heating 1 T. vegetable oil in a small skillet over a medium flame. Gently fry 4 sliced cloves of garlic until brown and crisp. Stir often to avoid burning; any blackened garlic will be inedible. Set aside to cool while you mix in a large bowl the following veggies, all diced - 2 green bell peppers, 1 red bell pepper, 1 very firm and tart green apple (peeled and cored), 2 cucumbers (peeled and seeded), 2 scallions and 1 small red onion. Now stir in the fried garlic and its oil + 2 more T. of vegetable oil, 3 T. lime juice, 2-3 t. soy sauce and 1-2 T. minced cilantro and/or fresh mint leaves. let rest for about 15 minutes before serving, preferably chilled.

Our turkey meatloaf tastes far better than it looks. And it's healthier than most as well; rolled oats and a tablespoon of powdered flax replaces the bread crumbs. A moist, flaking texture is ensured by adding lots of grated carrots and onion.

Turkey Meatloaf, Brown Rice, Arugula Salad and Burmese Chopped Vegetable Salad.

Leftover slices of meatloaf for lunch, with our Green Tahini Dressing and whole-seed mustard as condiments.

From the still sparkling mind of Mollie Katzen, changing the way we eat as humans now almost 40 years since the original Moosewood Cookbook, a new addiction - Pecan and Ginger Biscuit Bites.

So easy to make! Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a Magic Bullet or other processor/grinder, grind to a paste 1/2 cup pecans and 1/2 cup crystallized ginger. Set aside while you mix in a large bowl 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. salt and a pinch or two of dried powdered ginger and cayenne pepper. Add in the pecan paste along with 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 1/3 cup buttermilk. Stir and then mold with your hands in to a solid dough. The dough may be a bit loose, or too dry; if needed add a tiny bit more flour or buttermilk to obtain a soft but firm dough. Transfer dough to a well-floured surface and shape in to a rectangle, 1/2" thick. With a butter knife cut biscuits into 1" square shapes. Place dough squares on ungreased baking sheet and bake, in the center of the oven, for 10-12 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before savoring, on their own, with soup or stew or drizzled with honey.

Ginger-Pecan Mini Biscuits with Black Eye Pea and Shitake Mushroom Stew, Baked and Marinated Tofu Steaks and a Cafe Drake HRV Garden Salad.

The biscuits can also be frozen and re-heated for just a few minutes in a 350 degree F. oven. Try them with omelets. Or on a cheese plate.

And now we begin preparing a traditional Sri Lankan laksa, the nation's famous noodle soup. A nasty cold and screaming sore throat dictated a medicinal dinner of chicken soup, so laksa sprang to mind at Cafe Drake HRV! Shrimp paste, or ground dried shrimp, is a subtle but key flavor in any laksa. We used the brand above - cheap, available at any Latin or large supermarket and of reliably good quality.

This is what you get after grinding 3 tiny dried shrimp in the Magic Bullet. If you're not already, consider adding dried shrimp to your spice rack. Their slightly salty, briney flavor is a component of many Asian and Latin cuisines.

Rau ram won't last much longer on our front porch so it's time to harvest and enjoy as much as possible before the next hard frost kills the plants completely. It's also known as Vietnamese Coriander and also, laksa, as its pungent, almost smokey flavor is essential to authentic versions of the soup.

Good for what ails you, a steaming bowl of laksa! Swimming in a broth of coconut milk, chicken stock and spices like coriander, turmeric and cloves are cubes of chicken and tofu, snapped long beans, onions, garlic, shards of ginger, scallions and dried and fresh hot chilies.

"Just wake me when dinner's ready please." - Lloyd Page

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Pit Bull in Autumn, Part I: 2014 Edition

A year ago in mid-October, Arabella Page was still recovering from a serious and involved surgery on her hip and knee, housebound for almost three months. Today she strains eagerly at the harness, excited to celebrate Autumn. Outside.

The deeply forested river trail behind Cafe Drake HRV holds endless fascination for all of us here.

Still, sometimes we need to take a break, to stop and appreciate all that is around us.

"What is around the bend?"

Answer: Another stunning view of the Hudson River.

With her chestnut coat, Arabella blends well with autumnal colors and Fall's golden light.