The Snowed-In Chronicles, Part Two: Eating During Winter Storms

January and now early February have brought raging winter weather to the Hudson River Valley. With proper planning and scheduling, we're keeping the fridge and pantries full at Cafe Drake HRV, allowing for festive meals to offset the sensation of being buried alive beneath all this snow and more snow! Food shopping between storms is essential to feed our dinner cravings for novelty and variation.

Yukon Gold and sweet potatoes are pan-fried to obtain a crispy, browned exterior. We then added 2 small chicken sausages, a glug of white wine and simmered gently for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes were soft and creamy inside.

If one chooses to eat meat, here's the way to do it - as a side dish, or flavoring agent, a mere co-star to potatoes and a well-dressed salad.

Verdant veggies like tomatillos and serrano chiles add brightness to snowed-in dinners. Simplest Salsa Verde ever: after removing their papery husks, cut about 12 tomatillos into halves, smaller ones may be left whole. Place on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish and toss in 2-3 green chilies (jalapeno or serrano, whole or in large chunks), 1/2 a red onion and 2 cloves whole garlic. Mix all with some vegetable oil, salt and black pepper. Roast at 425 degrees F. for 15 minutes or until the tomatillos are soft. Blend everything, along with a large handful of cilantro, until pureed. Add more salt to balance the flavors and enjoy as a dip, condiment or sauce for chicken, fish, enchiladas etc.

Cafe Drake HRV's salsa verde with brown rice, lentil loaf, salad and braised red cabbage.

Cafe Drake HRV's Mashed Chickpea Salad has the consistency of a rich, creamy tuna salad. The flavor is oddly reminiscent as well thanks to a few tablespoons of vitamin and mineral-rich nutritional yeast. The recipe can be found in our archives HERE.

Those odd little squares seen above, resembling food from a planet other than Earth, are actually puffed glutinous rice known as mochi. Baking the pounded rice for just 15 minutes results in chewy and crispy puffs of earthy goodness. Our favorite brand is Grainaissance and can be purchased in virtually all natural food stores.

T-shirts take off the chill indoors for Arabella Page, seen here patiently waiting for lunch.

The above two photos don't do justice to our delicious, wintery, rib-sticking Lentil Loaf, served with an escarole salad and garlic bread. Many lentil and bean loaf recipes involve a burdensome ingredients list and the hassle of separately pre-cooking at least two elements. Not this one, which can also be turned in to lentil burgers; instead of baking in a loaf pan, simply pan-fry over medium heat, in 2 T. of olive oil, for about 3-4 minutes per side. This is how we do it: in a food processor or blender, place 2 cups cooked lentils (regular brown lentils), 1 chopped onion, 3 cloves of garlic 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 egg, 1 T. Worcestershire sauce and plenty of salt and pepper to taste. Puree until you just have a moist, well-combined mixture. A matter of seconds. A 14-oz. can of cooked lentils (or chickpeas) can be substituted for the two cups of home-cooked lentils. Now just pat the mixture into a well-oiled loaf pan, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving with anything, from mashed potatoes and gravy to ketchup and mustard.

(above two photos) Dense, soul-satisfying winter food, a delicious consolation for weeks of frigid nights and gray, snowy days, demands an occasional lighter touch. Japanese Cucumber Salad, with its bright and clean flavors, is a brisk counterpoint to heavy stews and casseroles: peel and seed two regular cucumbers and then slice thinly. Place in a colander and toss with 1 t. salt. Set aside for an hour and then rinse lightly. Press as much water as possible from the cukes and transfer to a mixing bowl. Toss with 2 T. toasted sesame seeds, 1/2 t. dried red chili flakes, 1 T. tamari or soy sauce and 2 T. plain/unseasoned rice vinegar. You can enjoy immediately or store in the fridge for a day or two.

Hey, let's make Okonomiyaki at home! These savory pancakes, an Asian food staple hailing from Osaka snack bars and harried home kitchens, are so easy to make you might regret ever having paid (up to) $10 for one at your fave Japanese restaurant. Begin with a mixing bowl and add to it 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup water, 1 egg and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and then stir in around 1 cup minced veggies.

We used red cabbage, carrots and scallions. The vegetables should all be finely chopped. Stir to combine and, if the batter is too thick, add another tablespoon or two of water. The consistency should be pourable but not runny.

Heat 1 T. of oil in a non-stick skillet for 1 minute or until the oil is hot. Keep the heat consistent and not above medium. Pour in the batter and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the pancake is ready to flip. Just like the breakfast variety, you'll know when the time is right by the appearance of tiny holes in the batter and a firmness to the edges. Flip and cook another 3 minutes or until browned and completely set. Using two spatulas is easier.

Our recipe makes one large okonomiyaki which can be cut into 3 or 4 ample servings, or plated whole. The traditional topping is a wacky but perfect combo of drizzled barbecue sauce and thin mayonnaise. Often shaved dried fish flakes or toasted nori is then sprinkled across as well. Since okonomiyaki is essentially the pizza of Japan, an endless variety of ingredients may be employed including calamari, shrimp, ham or fried tofu.

And then this happened. Did we just shatter your illusion of consistent perfection at Cafe Drake HRV? Well now you know we're human too.

What is this? An action photo on Cafe Drake HRV! Making fried rice with short-grain brown rice and sprouted wheat berries. Learn more about sprouting grains from our 2013 post HERE.

Fried Rice, Broiled Tofu and Parsnips and Japanese Cucumber Salad.

above two photos: Even okraphobes tend to adore our okra curry. By following Cafe Drake HRV's instructions for Bindi Masala, the often loathed veggie loses the majority of its sliminess and absorbs a load of flavor from a bare bones ingredients list! Head over to our 2012 Archives and grab the recipe now.

So the snow keeps coming, the driveway remains buried and the food supplies are dwindling. Our solution at Cafe Drake HRV turned out, like so many masterpieces borne from lack rather than largesse, to be a revelatory curry, one we'll be serving forever, both rich and nourishing, a perfect storm of health and a wealth of flavors. Heat 2 T. vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is quite hot add 1 t. black mustard seeds and cover the skillet. Wait until the mustard seeds have almost stopped popping then immediately add in 1 T. whole coriander seeds, 4 dried red chilies, a large dash of asafetida/hing powder, 1/2 t. ground turmeric powder and 10 or 12 curry leaves (fresh or frozen). Watch out as the curry leaves will splatter oil everywhere once they hit the skillet! Cook for a few seconds and add 1 cup water to the skillet. Stir in 1 t. tamarind paste or 1 T. lemon juice. Now add 1 rinsed and drained can of chickpeas. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes. Pour in 1 cup coconut milk (canned), along with 2 cups of steamed broccoli florets, and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes. Finally, season with plenty of salt to taste and up to 1/4 cup minced cilantro. Scallions or slivered red onions are a prefect but optional flourish.


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