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.


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