Friday, January 30, 2015

The Snowed-In Chronicles (Meals One and Two)

With various blizzards, Nor'easters and Alberta Clippers sailing through the Hudson Valley and Catskills, Cafe Drake HRV has been buried in snow for the last week. The latest weather forecasts predict more precipitation in 48 hours and wind chill temps as low as -20. We're not complaining, just letting you know why we've been inside for 7 days. 

One of the several symptoms of Cabin Fever is the persistent need to cook every meal, every snack, every day, a laborious process that requires diligent planning and savvy food shopping to combat boring repetitive meals. We can't just jet to the grocery store if we run out of lemons, people.

Snowed-In Sample Meal One:

You've heard the jokes about a million breakfasts of French Toast this week right? Because it seems every family in the Northeast hoarded milk, eggs and bread. Cafe Drake HRV didn't actually stock up on any of these three items, but we did have remnants of each in the fridge, and our favorite meal so far was this dark horse - Cauliflower and Rye Bread Pudding. It's so good, it's kind of crazy. Don't wait until the next snowstorm to prepare yourself. Major bonus points also for the casserole's ability to be reheated at least two times with no loss in flavor or texture.

Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F. Break 1 small head of cauliflower into small-ish florets and toss with olive oil and salt, plenty of both. Bake on a cookie sheet for about 25 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and lightly browned. While the cauliflower is roasting, whip together 5 eggs and 1 1/2 cups milk. Cut 1/2 loaf of good dark rye bread into cubes; don't remove the crusts. Place the bread in a large casserole or gratin dish and pour the egg and milk mixture over it. Press the bread down into the liquid and set aside until the cauliflower is roasted and cooled completely. The cauliflower must be fully cooled when you, now, dump it on to the soaking bread. Sprinkle over all plenty of salt and black pepper, a very large pinch of celery seeds, 1 heaping t. caraway seeds and some fresh or dried thyme leaves. Cut some sharp Cheddar cheese in to tiny, cute little cubes until you have 1 cup. Throw those in as well. Now stir to mix very well and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Cover the casserole with aluminum foil (or a lid if it has one) and bake for 30 minutes. Remove covering and bake for 10-15 minutes longer. You'll know it's ready when you see a few dark and crusty bread crumbs peeking out from the fluffy custard.

The bread pudding is equally good hot or just warm.

Our Cauliflower and Rye Bread Pudding with a roasted Italian pepper and arugula salad.

Snowed-In Sample Meal Two:

Let's get this out of the way - this one is all about bread and cheese as well. But such a different incarnation we didn't mind at all. You'll begin by rolling out some pizza dough - we use whole wheat refrigerated dough from the bakery at Adams' Farms - and baking for 3 or 4 minutes in a 425 degree F. oven. Remove dough from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

Top with large slices of capocollo. Not too many. Dot with a few pieces of tallegio cheese. Just because, again, this is what we had, in the fridge, during a blizzard.

Decorate with some roasted vegetables, something we ALWAYS have in the fridge. Above, we used red and green bell peppers, zucchini and red onions.

Enhance further with crushed red chili flakes, fresh thyme or oregano leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

Pots of fresh herbs, like the lemon thyme in our kitchen window seen above, bring bright, sunny flavors to winter shut-ins.

Bake the pizza at 425-450 degrees F. until the crust is beginning to darken and the cheese is bubbling.

Finally, top with a tossed salad of baby kale and grape tomatoes. A tart balsamic vinaigrette is an ideal counterpoint to the creamy cheese and rich cured meat.

Monday, January 26, 2015

ODEN (Japanese Winter Stew)

Pre-broiled tofu can be purchased at any Asian supermarket but it's a cinch to make at home and more cost-effective. The texture changes to a crispy and chewy cloud of bean curd goodness, perfect for gulping up the deep, rich flavors of the vegetable stew. As with most tofu preparations, draining and pressing the bean curd is key: Wrap a 14-oz. standard block of firm or extra firm tofu in a kitchen towel or paper towel. Place a heavy weight on top; we use a small cast iron skillet with a large bag of rice but anything will do, as long as it's heavy enough. After 15 minutes unwrap the tofu and re-wrap in a new, dry towel or paper towel. Weight the tofu down again for 15 minutes. Now you're ready to slice the tofu in half - horizontally - and place the two pieces on an oiled baked sheet. Lightly brush the top sides with vegetable oil and broil - on the high setting - for about 8 minutes. Flip and broil on the reverse for 8-10 minutes. be careful to not burn. The tofu is ready to be used in any recipe calling for the broiled variety.

The rich broth of our Oden is further enhanced by a slow simmering of root veggies.

While the Oden bubbles away, not quite ready to inhale yet, Arabella catches some shut-eye on the kitchen sofa before the dinner frenzy. Sweet dreams no doubt, induced by the sweet and savory scents of the stew.

Oden for dinner at Cafe Drake HRV. Serve with bowls of rice and hot mustard as a condiment.

Sliced scallions and watercress sprigs are the traditional garnishes for Oden. We used parsley leaves and slivered scallions as our green flourish.

If you haven't purchased pre-broiled (or grilled tofu at your local Asian market) you'll need to broil it at home following the instructions in the photo caption above. Once the tofu is broiled, slice into rectangles and set aside.

Pour 4 cups of vegetable broth into a snug, compact saucepan or deep skillet. (Non-vegetarians may wish to use chicken stock.) Add 4 T. tamari (or soy sauce in a pinch), 3 T. mirin, 1 T. sugar and 1/3 cup sake (or dry sherry). Add to the pot: 3-4 peeled carrots, cut into large wedges; 1/2 rutabaga, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks; 1 turnip, peeled and quartered; 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 6 wedges; 14 oz. broiled tofu, cut into smaller pieces (see top caption above) and 3-4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, left whole and pricked with fork tines.

Bring to a boil and then immediately reduce heat to low. partially cover saucepan or skillet and simmer, gently, for 20-30 minutes or until veggies are tender to your liking. 

To serve, arrange in each individual bowl, a selection of all of the ingredients. Distribute equally so no one gets disappointed! The eggs may be left whole or cut in to halves. Carefully pour some of the stock into each bowl and garnish with sliced scallions. Although atypical, a drizzle of toasted sesame oil OR chili oil is a lovely gesture.

Zucchini, Ricotta & Pesto Tart

Oh boy is this one easy. Adapted only slightly from Erin Gleason's The Forest Feast, this recipe, like all in the book, are enticing in their simplicity and use of basic ingredients. The dishes are masterfully presented to boot; the food styling, art direction and photography make this a cookbook to own! So begin with one sheet of puff pastry. Chances are it's currently frozen so set out on the counter for 40 minutes to thaw. Once the pastry dough is pliable place it on a well-oiled baking sheer.

Spread 1 cup of ricotta cheese over the dough, leaving a 1-2" border on all sides. Do the same with about 4 tablespoons of pesto, the jarred kind is fine here. Begin preheating the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cover the dough with thinly sliced zucchini. Gleason uses yellow squash and we're sure that would be great too. You'll end up using 1 thin, long zucchini. Drizzle everything with olive oil and salt. Sprinkle on a bit of crushed dried red chilies if you like. Bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is puffy and golden. A longer cooking time will ensure a flakier, less soggy crust but if you go that route, check every couple of minutes for scorching or burning.

Let the cooked tart rest for about 5 minutes out of the oven before attempting to transfer to a platter. You'll need to use a wide spatula for this and work quickly, bravely, sliding the platter under the tart as you lift it. Breakage is a real possibility here so those with less steady hands or nerves may wish to cut the tart into pieces directly on the baking sheet.

We made the Tarte Courgette a second time using fresh mozzarella instead of ricotta with excellent, albeit heavier, results.

Our tart joined a winter greens salad and Roasted Za'atar Chicken and sweet potatoes for a very hardy January supper.

Luckily we had help plowing through such a rich meal from our dear friend Kristin Ploucquet! And of course Arabella and Lloyd Page ensured we had few leftovers.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Cafe Drake HRV Kitchen Standbys

(above two photos): Baked Tempeh, Roasted Eggplant and Peppers, Brown Rice with Dried Shiso, Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Chili Oil Drizzle and Satay Sauce. Anything sound good? Click on the links here for our recipes from the Cafe Drake HRV archives: our super-easy Satay Sauce; Baked Tempeh; Dried Shiso Condiment.

(above two photos): Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas with Mexican Carrot Bisque. Our soup recipe can be found in the post below.

(above two photos): We adore egg rolls at Cafe Drake HRV, especially the kind that are baked instead of deep-fried and chocked with fresh veggies. A surplus of baked tempeh lead us to swap it for the chicken in the original recipe found here and the results were spectacular; the roasted soy product lends a chewy, meaty density to the egg rolls that makes them perfect for an entree alongside a salad and rice. Check out our original recipe here!

We will never, ever tire of a lunch of yellow rice, slow-simmered black beans, pico de gallo and creamy coleslaw. Ever.

Mexican Carrot Bisque (VEGAN!!)

This creamy, rich soup, a recent invention born like most others from a random assortment of fridge items, is an intriguing variation on carrot soup. Some of the novelty arrives from using the same amount each of carrots, onions and green bell peppers, while the dried chile and sweeter spices are unorthodox for such a soup. Our Mexican Carrot Bisque is ideal for a starter course, especially during these colder months, but it could be the star of a light supper if served with a green salad and plenty of crusty/chewy bread, like a whole wheat baguette. If you don't have any guajillo peppers in your pantry, substitute an ancho chile or pasilla chile. Going through a famine of dried chilies altogether? Use equal parts cayenne pepper and smoked paprika instead, to your taste.

Begin as usual by heating 2 T. olive oil in a large saucepan. Add to the pan 1 lb. peeled and chopped carrots, 1 large (or two smaller) green bell pepper(s) (chopped) and 1 very large onion (chopped). Cook on medium heat for 5 or 10 minutes, until the onions and bell peppers are fairly soft but not browned.

Sprinkle the veggies with 2 heaping teaspoons of cumin powder and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Drop in one large guajillo dried chile (after rinsing and removing the seeds). Stir for a minute before pouring in 6 cups vegetable stock. If you only have a quart box of the pre-made stock, use that and supplement with 2 cups of water. it'll be fine.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes or until the carrots are very soft. Allow to cool and then, in batches, puree till smooth in a blender. If you have an immersion blender, now would be the time to break it out.

Return the pureed soup to the pot and season with 1 t. salt and at least 1 t. black pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes, adjust seasoning if needed and serve hot. Potential garnishes include chopped cilantro or parsley, sliced scallions, a tablespoon of diced radishes or a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tortoni? Easiest Dessert Ever?

Easy and yet elegant. Absolutely delicious with an airy texture. The praises of tortoni are sung loud and often at Cafe Drake HRV. Given the miniscule amount of prep for such a rewarding dessert, you can go all out with presentation; decorate garishly with chocolate or salted caramel drizzle, surround with berries of all colors and sizes, place in a pool of raspberry coulis. The other option is to celebrate the season's austerity by placing the unmolded tortoni, sans garnish, on a plain white plate or saucer for a spot of white-on-white winter chic.

We shouldn't have sat on this recipe for so long but better late than never. Start with a medium-size mixing bowl and add to it 1 cup ricotta cheese, 2 T. honey or maple syrup, 1/2 t. almond extract and a small pinch of cinnamon. Whip with an electric (or rotary) beater for 1 minute or until the ingredients are combined and light and fluffy.

Line a muffin tin with 4 paper liners. (Or, as we did on photo above, use a silicone muffin pan. No paper liners required.) Fill with the whipped cheese. Sprinkle each with 1 t. finely chopped almonds.

Freeze until solid. Unmold and store in freezer, wrapped tightly in aluminum foil or freezer bags. Before serving, let tortoni stand for 10-15 minutes at room temperature.

Note: Our recipe for tortoni results in a barely sweet dessert, veering close to a savory end to the meal. Those with a sweet(er) tooth should increase the amount of honey or maple syrup to 4 or 5 tablespoons.

We're Hungry Too!

On a frigid January afternoon Lloyd seems to be dreaming of prowling in the lush gardens of Cafe Drake HRV. And his upcoming dinner.

Every meal, her own or ours, is a special occasion for Arabella.

More Cheese and Tomatoes for Dinner. Again. Plus Rutabagas!

Taleggio, Ricotta and Tomato Petite Pizza with Rutabaga and Orange Soup and Arugula Salad

Pita Tostados of Aged Jack, Pico de Gallo, Cilantro and Pickled Jalapenos


Cafe Drake HRV made the following soup twice in three days and this second variation was a great improvement on the first attempt. Since the soup is dairy-free it's suitable for vegans yet divine as well with a grilled cheese sandwich or any combination of bread and cheese (see photos above). For an elegant first course serve a small amount of the soup in shallow bowls, decorated with sourdough croutons and slivered scallions.

In a saucepan heat 2-3 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 onion (chopped) and saute for 5 minutes; don't allow the onions to become brown, only soft. Stir in 1 small rutabaga (peeled and diced), 2 carrots (also peeled and diced), 1 clove of garlic (peeled and chopped) and a generous pinch of turmeric powder. Cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring now and then to prevent vegetables from sticking. Pour in 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Toss in 1 T. white rice. Reduce heat slightly, cover and simmer boldly for 30 minutes or until the rutabaga is very soft. 

Allow the soup to cool and then puree till smooth in a blender. Return the puree to the saucepan and a medium-low flame. Add 1 more cup of vegetable broth, 3/4 cup orange juice, 1 t. ground coriander and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Simmer for 10 minutes and then add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another minute or two, adjust seasoning if needed and serve hot.

Tablescaping, a Vibrant Antidote to Winter's Austerity

The skies may be gunmetal, the ground covered in snow and ice, but candles, richly colored fabrics and your brightest dishes keep things warm inside.

Never fail to treat yourself to a festive dining tablescape. Even when setting a place for only one.

Orange, red, pink and purple offer succor from January's starkness.

Adding whimsy to your table makes you smile while eating!
Anything tastes good, sitting here . . .

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tofu Satay with Warm Brocolli Stem Slaw

Marinating the pressed tofu slices is essential in developing flavor for the Tofu Satay. If you haven't planned ahead for at least 4 hours marination in the fridge, an hour or so at room temperature will suffice.

Roasting tofu in the oven completely transforms the bean curd's texture.

Pre-shredded, packaged bags of broccoli stems are widely available at most supermarkets as well as Trader Joe's and natural food stores. Try to find one that also includes slivered carrots. To make the slaw, heat over a high flame, 2 T. vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok. When the oil is shimmering but not smoking, add 1 T. of sesame seeds along with 1-2 t. crushed, dried red chilies. Allow to sizzle for a minute before stirring in 1 bunch of sliced scallions. Now add the bag of shredded broccoli stems (or even pre-packaged coleslaw) and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly over the highest possible heat. Add 2 T. soy sauce or tamari, 1 T. sesame oil and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for only a minute more and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. If you have them, a cup of mung bean sprouts added in the last minutes of cooking add another level of flavor and substance.

Cafe Drake HRV serves our Tofu Satay Skewers over brown rice, with broccoli stem slaw and roasted sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

Be sure to serve plenty of satay sauce for dipping. Alternately, the sauce can be drizzled over the tofu skewers themselves for a more dramatic presentation.

As with pretty much all Cafe Drake HRV recipes, the tofu skewers, satay sauce and broccoli stem slaw make superb leftovers and reheat easily.


To start, drain and wrap in a kitchen towel one 14-oz. block of extra-firm tofu. Allow to rest for 30 minutes; the towel should absorb plenty of water from the tofu. Pat the tofu dry and cut into slices or cubes, squares or rectangles, whichever you prefer. It's worth noting that thinner slices of tofu will absorb more flavor from the marinade. 

Make the marinade by mixing together 1/2 t. ground turmeric powder and 3 T. soy sauce or tamari. Carefully toss the tofu with the marinade. The bean curd's delicate texture makes it easy to crumble and fall apart. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight if possible. If not, cover and let rest at room temperature for at least one hour, gingerly stirring the tofu now and then.

When ready remove tofu from marinade and thread the pieces along wooden or metal skewers, at least 4 per skewer. Lightly coat a baking sheet with oil or cooking spray and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the skewers on baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Now flip the skewers and roast on the other other side for another 20-25 minutes. The time you choose to bake the tofu will depend upon your textural preferences; a longer cooking stint, for example, creates a chewier, denser tofu skewer.

While the tofu bakes make the satay sauce by heating in a small saucepan 1 cup coconut milk (canned kind), and 1-2 t. red curry paste (Thai style, available at all supermarkets in Asian food section) and 1/4 cup peanut butter (smooth is best here). Stir very well until all is dissolved together and then add 2 T. brown sugar, 1 t. salt, 1 minced hot green chili and 1 T. lime juice. Bring to a simmer and cook on low heat until slightly thick, the consistency of heavy cream. remove from heat and serve warm or at room temperature along with the skewers.

Another Load of Lentils

Lentils. Just plain brown lentils. Make a big batch on Sunday and ensure plenty of quick, healthy meals throughout your hectic week . . . combine with vegetable broth and additional spices for soup, stuff in burritos and quesadillas or mix with equal parts cooked rice or whole grain bread crumbs to make meat-free and delicious burgers. Above, we supped on simply Crock Pot Simmered Lentils with Tomatoes, toasted rye bread, spicy creamed spinach, red pepper puree and slices of smoked mozzarella. Our no-brainer, hands-off recipe for slow cooked lentils remains one of the most popular - so GRAB IT FROM THE 2103 ARCHIVES HERE.

Quesadillas made with mid-week lentils, spiced up via sliced pickled chili peppers and ground chipotle powder.

Lentil Quesadillas, Roasted Vegetables, Spicy Creamed Spinach and Pecan and Chile de Arbol Salsa (far left).

Wow, this really was one of our favorite meals in a long time. After you make the lentils, and the quesadillas, go for it as well with our Pecan and Chile de Arbol Salsa. The basic recipe is HERE IN THE CAFE DRAKE HRV 2014 ARCHIVES, simply substitute raw pecans for the sunflower seeds originally used. The salsa is luscious and thick, surprisingly creamy. If you're still craving some spice, the Creamed Spinach is a cinch: heat 2 T. olive oil in a large skillet and cook in it, until just soft, 1 cup finely chopped onion, 2 minced cloves of garlic and 1 T. shredded ginger. Sprinkle in 2 t. ground cumin and a large pinch of cayenne pepper. Add 1 lb. (or even just a 10-oz. bag) of rinsed baby spinach. Raise heat to a medium-high flame and saute for 3 minutes. Cover and cook for another 2 minutes, adding a few drops of water if needed. Remove lid and reduce flame to low. Stir in 1/2 - 2/3 cup sour cream. Return to a simmer, cook on low for a minute and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve hot or very warm.