Only The Best Ever

I. Best Ever Nachos

Maybe our fastest assembly ever as well! It's all in the details and uncanny coupling of flavors. White corn tortilla chips, leftover lentils and smoked fontina cheese. Under the broiler for a couple of minutes then doused with shaved red onions, sprigs of cilantro, quartered sweet cherry tomatoes and toasted pumpkin seeds. Finish it off with pickled jalapenos and carrots.

II. Best Ever Deviled Eggs

Nothing screams Spring like deviled eggs, especially when you add a bit of verdant wasabi paste to your usual recipe and serve, alongside steamed veggies, Bhutanese red rice and an Herbed Tahini Dipping Sauce. Let's just make the sauce already because you're gonna be using it on everything. Throw in to the blender1/2 cup tahini, 1 clove of minced garlic, the juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 t. salt, 4 T. water and a small handful each of cilantro and parsley leaves. Blend until smooth. If the dressing is too thick (unlikely) just add more water and adjust seasoning accordingly. It's also nice sometimes to add 2-3 sliced scallions to the mix.

III. Best Ever Vegetable Pakoras

After frying the pakoras, we made them the base of a salad en homage to Indian street foods like aloo chaat and bhel puri. Cafe Drake HRV's pakora recipe is pretty flawless so here it goes:

2 cups chickpea flour (aka GRAM Flour aka BESAN FLOUR)
½ cup (or just less) self-rising flour
½ t. cayenne pepper
1 t. garam masala
1 T. dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
1 t. nigella (aka KALONJI) seeds (optional)
1 T. lemon juice
1 ¼ cups peeled, diced potatoes
1 ¼ cups peeled, diced onions
3 scallions
Large handful of chopped cilantro (leaves and stems)
1-2 T. minced hot green chilies
1 t. salt (or to taste)
Vegetable Oil for frying

1.       Stir together the gram flour and the self-rising flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the chilli powder, garam masala, fenugreek leaves and nigella seeds (if using) and mix well to combine.
2.       Add the lemon juice, and then gradually add enough water to form a smooth batter that is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.
3.       Add all of the remaining ingredients except the sunflower oil to the batter mixture and mix well to coat the potatoes and onions.
4.       Heat the oil in a deep heavy-based frying pan until a drop of batter sizzles and turns brown when dropped into it. If you have a candy or deep-frying thermometer, the oil should ideally be 350-375 degrees F.
5.       When the oil is hot, carefully lower tablespoons of the batter mixture in batches into the oil and fry for 5-6 minutes, or until the pakoras are crisp and golden-brown and the vegetables have cooked through. Serve immediately, as is, or with wedges of lemon or lime or your chutney of choice.

IV. Best Ever Spa Day for the Houseplants

Herbs that over-wintered indoors get a good, long soak in the kitchen sink before beginning the process of "hardening off", or slowly re-acclimating them to an outdoor life. Soon they'll be soaking up Summer rays.

V. Best Ever Red Clam Sauce

There are at least a few reliable Pantry Meals, ones cobbled together from cans and boxes tucked away on kitchen shelves. Red Clam Sauce is a specialty at Cafe Drake HRV when the fridge is depleted! We just saute an onion, garlic and green bell pepper in some olive oil until soft and then add 1 can of tomato sauce and 1 cup of red wine. Two cans of clams are opened and the drained juice is added to the tomatoes and veggies along with salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and oregano. Everything simmers briskly for 5 minutes and then we add the reserved clams to the sauce. Finish with some fresh minced parsley and Voila!

So good with a salad.

VI. Best Ever Egg-less Egg Salad

Egg-less egg salad for a mid-Spring light supper, with toasted whole wheat bread Portuguese rolls, salad and vegan Cream of Broccoli soup.

Leftover "egg salad" and broccoli soup for lunch the following afternoon, with tomatoes, pickled red onions, fresh mozzarella and wholegrain pita crisps. You can whip up Cafe Drake HRV's vegan egg salad in about 5 minutes. It's so good you may never be satisfied with the real thin again so proceed with caution while we . . . drain 1 14-16 oz. container of extra-firm tofu and pat it very dry in a kitchen towel. Lightly squeeze the block of tofu to release more water, wring out the towel and repeat. You want the tofu as dry as possible and this is one time you don't have to worry about it falling apart on you! Because, now you're going to crumble the tofu in to a medium-size mixing bowl. If you like, press the tofu with a fork to obtain a finer consistency. Or just leave it in slightly bigger chunks. It's all a matter of taste. Stir in and combine well 1 thinly slivered scallion (or 4 T. chives), 2 T. Dijon mustard, a pinch of turmeric powder, 1 t. maple syrup, 1/4 t. garlic powder, 1 t. salt and 1/2 cup vegan (or regular) mayonnaise. If you like, season further with black pepper.

VII: Best Ever Pitbull

VIII: Best Ever Bread, Cheese & Salad Combo

Start with a good foundation, a freshly tossed salad embellished with roasted vegetables. We used Yukon Gold potatoes, parsnips and green bell peppers.

Top with some sort of cheesey toast.

At Cafe Drake HRV we're partial these days to a chewy wholegrain sandwich roll festooned with fontina and bleu cheese and fig jam.

IX. Best Ever Day at the Dog Run

Arabella makes many new friends on each visit to the Kingston Point Dog Park.

Seeing that smile makes us smile for days at Cafe Drake HRV.

Arabella can't run as fast most of the other dogs but she gets around!

Human friends are important to a pup as well.

X. Best Ever Fresh & Basic & Simple Salsa

It starts, and pretty much ends, with this - 2 tomatoes, 2 serrano chilies and 1/2 red onion, roasted in a dry iron skillet for about 8 minutes. Keep the flame medium-high and turn the veggies often. Some blackened char marks are what you're after. Throw it all in a blender with 1/4 cup vegetable stock and salt and black pepper to taste. Puree and serve with chips, as a cooking sauce for enchiladas or simply a condiment for everything.

Of course we had to make some quesadillas to compliment our nifty condiment.

Our perfect lunch, light supper or midnight snack.


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