Saturday, February 28, 2015

We Need Our Fresh Greens

Everyone should seriously consider growing pea shoots as an antidote to Winter's heavier foods and gunmetal skies. The tender leafy greens take up very little sunny real estate in the home, needing only a few inches of counter or windowsill space with streaming daylight. Larger,older shoot can be stir-fried for an authentic Chinese treat and the smaller stems and leaves used for salads and garnishes. Many a stodgy meal of sturdy grub at Cafe Drake HRV has been brightened by a few shoots strewn across too beige plates.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweet and Spicy Tempeh

Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass stalks are two items you may not have in your fridge or freezer. Once you've grabbed from your local Asian market - or a well-stocked supermarket or gourmet store - proceed with the recipe. While there are no acceptable substitutes for either, both kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass will keep for a few months if stored in the freezer, tightly sealed.

Tempeh, with its slightly sour and fermented flavor, can be a hard sell to some people, the same  people who inevitably love it at Indonesian restaurants. The simple explanation is that Indonesian cooks generally marinate the tempeh for an hour or so and almost always deep fry it before adding to recipes. At Cafe Drake HRV we find that baking works just as well.

Sweet & Spicy Tempeh with Rice, Salad and Sambal Oelek (a chili paste condiment).

Leftover tempeh with stir-fried veggies, sprout salad and white corn tortillas.

Begin by preparing the tempeh. Cut one standard package into thin rectangles, no thicker than 1/4". In a large zip-lock bag mix the marinade: 1/2 cup coconut water, 1/2 t. turmeric powder, 1 T. soy sauce, 1 t. ground coriander and a splash of rice vinegar. Add the tempeh to the marinade, seal the bag and marinate for one hour at room temperature or as long as overnight refrigerated. Now and then gently shake the bag to ensure all pieces receive soaking time.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the tempeh slices on a lightly oiled baking sheet in a single layer. roast for 15 minutes, flip the pieces and roast another 10 minutes. The tempeh should be nicely browned and dry in texture. Set aside.

Heat 3 T. vegetable oil in skillet; non-stick would be best. Over medium heat fry 1 red onion (thinly sliced), 2 cloves of garlic (minced), 1 small red bell pepper (cut in to very thin slices) and 2-4 hot green or red chilies of choice. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring often, before adding 2 t. grated ginger, 4 kaffir lime leaves (straight from the freezer is fine), 3 T. brown sugar, 2 lemongrass stalks (peeled, bottom 1/3 minced finely) and 1 1/2 T. soy sauce. Stir like crazy to avoid sugar burning and now add 1/3 cup water. Add the reserved, baked tempeh and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for a couple of minutes then cook another 5 minutes, uncovered.

If the pan becomes too dry add small bits of water at a time. Adjust seasoning as desired and serve hot or very warm.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Messy Plates. Tasty Meals.

The styling in these photos won't win any beauty contests but rest assured all meals were delicious. In honor of the recent reevaluation of our airbrushed beauty standards (i.e. unretouched photos of Cindy Crawford, Beyonce, Keira Knightley) we're celebrating at Cafe Drake HRV a few plates that might not look perfect. But pretty much are once you try them. Above, fettuccine with tomatoes, onions and roasted eggplant, smothered by an arugula-ricotta salata salad.

A bowl of Carolina-style tomato and okra soup may appear banal without a garnish; in fact, the spicy stew didn't require one other than the misshapen (but light and fluffy) biscuits and roasted asparagus and bell peppers.

Don't let the monochromatic scheme fool you; there's a riot of arresting flavors in Cafe Drake HRV's Winter Salad of Kale and Scallions. Rinse and tear into pieces 1 small bunch of kale, discarding the tough stalks. Place in a steamer and steam for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. The kale should be soft but not mushy and still retaining its deep green color. While the kale is steaming make the dressing by mixing together very well, in a bowl or blender, 2 T. dark miso, 1 T. sesame oil, 2 T. lemon juice, 2 T. water and a large pinch of salt. When the kale is done, toss it while still hot with the dressing. Set aside for at least 1 hour or refrigerate until ready to eat. Good both chilled and at room temperature. Just prior to serving toss the kale again, this time with 3 sliced scallions, white and green parts.

Delicious but murky-colored, our Cinnamon Cauliflower looks especially grim next to a bright cilantro and mint chutney. It tastes great though, with deep, intriguing flavors and a delightful crusty texture. Here's how you're gonna do it: preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Toss the florets from one small head of cauliflower, on a large baking sheet, with 3 T. olive oil, 1 t. sesame oil, 1 t. ground cinnamon, 1 t. smoked paprika, 1/2 t. cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Roast in a single layer for 25 minutes. Serve hot or very warm.

A lot of undecorated goodness on a plate: basmati and black pepper rice, tomato salad, kale and scallion salad, sambar, cinnamon cauliflower and green chutney.

The non-photogenic okra and tomato stew again, this time around with toasted whole wheat dinner rolls.

Once again, don't judge a plate by its looks. A wintery supper of mashed potatoes, roasted tofu, green salad and baked apples and onions really hit the spot on a cold February evening.

When dinner plates seem just too too humble and boring, add a few micro-greens and call it a day. In our case we didn't stop there; the "cherry" on top of our mise en scene is in fact, a gigantic caper berry!

It's all about roasting in the winter months. Cold days and nights make us crave the denser, concentrated flavors of roasted vegetables and fruits. The warmth from the oven, spilling in to the kitchen, is a cozy bonus. Please do try these Roasted Apples and Onions. Here's how: start with two red apples. Remove tip top and bottom and then slice into rings. Don't peel. Remove seeds. Toss 1 large red onion (sliced in to thick rings) with apples, 2-3 T. olive oil, a dash of salt and black pepper and 1/2 t. ground coriander. Roast, in a single layer, on a large baking sheet for 20 minutes in a 425 degree oven. Flip the apples and onions once, halfway through cooking. When done, toss apples and onions with a small handful of dried cranberries. Superb alongside sausages, pork chops, or baked beans.

All the elements of this chaotic, unfortunate looking plate made for one pretty much perfect lunch at Cafe Drake HRV: toasted whole wheat kaiser rolls, olives, an arugula salad with cherry tomatoes and radish sprouts, tuna salad and our very own smoked paprika hummus.

Lazy, messy nessy dinner that just happened to be our favorite so far of 2015! Broiled Tomatoes with Honey and Cinnamon, Sweet Pea Shoots, Spinach and Feta Casserole and Bulgar Pilaf with Cabbage. It wouldn't be fair to not share the casserole recipe: cook one 10-12 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach according to package directions. Allow to cool then squeeze out as much water as possible. Place the drained spinach in a large mixing bowl with 3 eggs, 2 T. sour cream, about 3/4 cup plain bread crumbs, 4-6 oz. crumbled feta cheese, around 2 T. dried dill, a large shake of ground nutmeg and salt and black pepper to taste. Salt with care; feta tends to be very salty in its own right. Mix everything really really well and then spoon in to a small, oiled casserole dish. Bake for around 45 minutes, uncovered, or until the casserole is very firm when pressed in the middle. Perhaps best when warm from the oven, our Spinach and Feta Bake also makes stellar picnic basket fodder.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Building a Perfect Tostado

Part I: Don't overdose on calories and saturated fat when baking the tortillas brings results almost as perfect as deep-frying! Lightly oil both sides of several small corn tortillas - however many tostados you wish to make - and place them on a large baking sheet. Use two smaller baking sheets if needed. Toast in a pre-heated 400 degree F. oven for 5 minutes. Flip the tortillas and toast another 5-8 minutes. Check them often in the final minutes as they have a tendency to burn. You can do this part up to a day in advance; just store the completely cooled tortillas in a sealed plastic bag. When you're ready to eat, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Top each toasted tortilla with 2-4 T. of beans - pinto, black, whole or re-fried. (Above, we used slow-simmered pinto beans seasoned with ancho chile powder, onions, garlic and tomatoes.) Now lightly top the beans with some grated cheese, again your choice: Cheddar, Monterrey Jack, smoked Gouda are all appropriate.

Part II: Bake the tostados just until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Remove promptly from the oven and top with shredded cabbage, sliced fresh or pickled jalapeno peppers, and diced red onion. Drop a heaving teaspoon or two of sour cream on each. Drizzle all with your favorite hot sauce.

Part III: Eat with your hands, like a slice of pizza, but keep a fork handy to scrape up all the delicious tidbits from the plate. At Cafe Drake HRV we rounded out the tostado meal with roasted veggies tossed with cumin and oregano.

SharMar Leeper Snaps Some Pics at Cafe Drake HRV

Cafe Drake HRV was honored by a visit from Sharon Marianetti-Leeper, during another erstwhile snowstorm no less, and further gifted with a few snapshots from her visit. Below, we captured the photographer herself. Thanks for the pics, Sharmar!

Finally, Okonomiyaki Perfected!

First things first: Arabella thought our former attempt at okonomiyaki more than delicious and couldn't be bothered to observe our second effort. "Why improve on perfection when you can nap instead?" - Arabella Page

This time around we used shaved Brussels sprouts, scallions, carrots and red bell peppers for our Cafe Drake HRV okonomiyaki, Part II.

Our recipe, linked below, makes two large savory pancakes. Count on one per hungry dinner guest, or 1/2 - 1/3 a pancake if served with side dishes and rice.

Cafe Drake HRV boosted the protein of our okonomiyaki dinner with edamame, braised with onions, ginger and tomatoes.

The finishing touches make the meal. In the case of okonomiyaki, this means BBQ sauce, mayo and toasted nori seaweed. Not nearly as weird as it sounds, the combo of embellishments makes so much sense on the palette. Grab our recipe for this classic Japanese dish RIGHT HERE.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Stuffed Poblano Peppers and Salsa Borracha

Let's start off making the salsa borracha, a heady sauce of tomatoes, dried chilies and beer that can be enjoyed with tortilla chips or used to blanket enchiladas and other casseroles. Soak 2 dried guajillo chilies (or ancho or pasilla chilies) in hot water for 15 minutes. Remove from water, reserve soaking liquid and remove the seeds. Tear in to small pieces and set aside while you saute 1 chopped onion, in a little vegetable oil, until soft. 

Add to the pan or skillet 2 cloves of chopped garlic and 1 large tomato, diced. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes before adding 1 cup light beer (any sort of pale ale will do) and 1/2 cup of the reserved chile soaking liquid.

The beer will foam violently but continue to cook at a steady simmer until the tomatoes have broken up. Remove from heat and when slightly cooled, pour in to a blender along with a handful of chopped cilantro, 1 T. sugar, two large pinches dried oregano and salt and black pepper to taste. Puree until smooth. Taste and adjust salt and other seasonings as desired.

A lighter beer is best for the salsa. We used a Pale Ale from Saranac.

On to the Stuffed Poblano Peppers! Rub 3 or 4 large poblano peppers (or 5-6 small ones) with just a bit of vegetable oil and place on a baking sheet. Broil for around 10 minutes, flipping the peppers, once, after 5 minutes. As soon as they're cool enough to handle, peel them. The tough, papery skins should slip off fairly easily and this step is essential. To seed or not to seed? At Cafe Drake HRV we leave them in; the seeds are quite tender, have no unpleasant "mouth feel" but do increase the heat level of the poblanos. Your choice. Either way, make a long slit in each of the peppers and stuff them with 1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese (cut into cubes) and 1/2 cup white cheddar cheese (grated).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover the bottom of a small casserole dish with the salsa borracha. Carefully place the poblano peppers on top. If any cheese is falling or peeking out, stuff it back in to the peppers. Drizzle more of the salsa over the top of the peppers and cover with foil or a lid. Bake for 15 minutes and then uncover the dish. Bake an additional 20 minutes uncovered. Remove peppers from the oven and allow to cool 5 full minutes before serving. It may be easiest to remove the peppers with a spatula as they will be very soft and floppy. Serve topped with a little more salsa and, optionally, sour cream. The stuffed peppers are greatly enhanced with a pinch of finishing salt but this too is strictly option.

The Finished Product is a substantial platter of, still, lighter-than-usual Mexican fare: toasted whole wheat tortillas, black beans stewed with chipotle peppers and cocoa powder, stuffed poblano peppers with salsa borracha, a green salad and guacamole.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Shake Shack for Lunch? No, Shakshuka.

Shakshuka, a venerable North African/Israeli invention of eggs cooked in a thick sauce of tomatoes and peppers, remains far lesser known in North America than other Mid East standards, such as a falafel, hummus and baba ganoush. Many restaurants in Jaffa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Cairo devote their entire menu to this single dish! Variations are subtle but plentiful and like the best iconic foods, shakshuka is malleable and open to interpretation and revision. Cafe Drake HRV's home-style version begins with about two T. of olive oil heated over a medium flame in a cast iron skillet or shallow casserole as above. We used an aged non-enamel Le Creuset pan; cast iron while traditional isn't essential but if you choose to finish the shakshuka in the oven you'll need to begin with an ovenproof pan. When the oil is hot, add 1 diced red onion and an extravagant dash each of cumin and caraway seeds. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the onion is beginning to soften.

Add 1 green bell pepper and 1 red bell pepper. The peppers may be diced, rough cut or sliced into thin slivers. Cook for a few minutes to extract flavor.

Now stir in 1-2 large tomatoes, diced. Also add 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro, stems and leaves both. Many toss in a handful of parsley here as well but in our opinion it's unnecessary. Do as you wish. Stir well.

Sprinkle the contents of the skillet with up to 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder, a dash of sugar and salt and dried red chili flakes to taste. Cayenne pepper is a fine alternative to the dried chilies. In Israel, fresh hot green chilies are a popular addition. Add 2/3 cup of water and reduce heat. Cook uncovered until you have a wet, slightly chunky sauce. Stir occasionally and add more liquid if required. The tomatoes should have broken down before you proceed and the process will take approximately 15 minutes. Once you have a nice saucy consistency, lower the flame to VERY LOW. Make 2-4 indentations in the sauce and carefully slip in to each 1 egg. It helps if you break the eggs, one at a time, into a teacup and then slide in to the sauce. Cook over a low flame until the egg whites are just set. The yolks will be runny. Serve hot or warm.

Just before enjoying, add a few dollops of plain Greek-style yogurt to the shakshuka. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and finish with a dusting of coarse salt.

What a feast! At Cafe Drake HRV we savored our shakshuka with toasted pita wedges for soaking up the soft eggs and spicy sauce, Mediterranean olives, raw almonds and Manchego cheese.

Despite its breakfast connotations, shakshuka seems most popular as a lunch or brunch item in the Mid-East and Africa. When served with bread, olive oil and a salad, shakshuka makes an extraordinary Sunday night supper. Or so say we.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Savory Spelt Indian Crepes

Commonplace but hardly unassuming, the trio of scallions, cilantro and green chili peppers add unusual depth of flavor to these crepes.

Spelt is a nutritional powerhouse, an ancient grain new to most home kitchens. If you don't care to use it, substitute a mixture in equal parts of all-purpose and whole wheat flours.

The elusive, fleeting tang of the crepes derives from a dollop of yogurt in the batter.

A well-seasoned iron skillet is the best Western cooking tool for making Indian crepes outside the East. Failing that, at least a non-stick skillet must be used.

The finishing flavoring agent - a heady melange of dried chilies, mustard seeds and curry leaves fried in oil - floats atop a large pot of sambar. The sour, spicy legume stew is the standard accompaniment to these sorts of crepes in South India, for example, uttapams and dosas.

Spelt crepes with sambar, basmati rice and cilantro and mint chutney.

Delightfully crispy on the outside, smooth and soft inside, the crepes surprise with the unexpected burst of freshness from the green chilies and scallions.


In a mixing bowl combine well: 1/2 cup spelt flour, 3 very thinly sliced scallions, 1 T. finely minced hot green chilies, 1-2 T. minced cilantro leaves and stems, a large pinch of turmeric powder and salt and black pepper to taste.

Now stir in 1 T. plain yogurt (whole milk preferred) and 7 T. water. Yes, just count them out. If the mixture is too thick, which is unlikely, add another tablespoon or so of water.

Set aside while you heat just a teaspoon or so of vegetable oil in a small iron or non-stick skillet. Heat the pan slowly over moderate heat. When the oil is heated, add 2-3 T. of the batter to the pan, spreading out as thinly as possible in a circular motion. Cook until browned on one side, carefully flip and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. 

A few things that can happen:

1) The crepes are browning/burning before cooking through? Reduce the heat.
2) The crepes are sticking to the skillet and can't be flipped? It's possible you're turning them too soon. It may also help to drizzle in a bit more oil.
3) The crepes are remaining too wet and raw on top? You haven't spread the batter thinly enough. Try again; with these, the second time's the charm.

Serve hot or warm with chutney as a snack or as part of a more complete Indian meal with sambar or any sort of dal or bean dish. A raita, or even plain yogurt, is a perfect condiment as well.