Mid-Summer Meals (Quick & Easy) at Cafe Drake HRV

I. Vegan Chirashizushi

When you think about it, chirashizushi, the Japanese lunch special staple of vinegared sushi rice topped with sliced raw fish, is well, just sushi rice topped with raw fish. Turns out the salty-sweet-tangy rice is the glue that binds it all together, so vegetable toppings instead of seafood make perfect sense to us. Literally, you can top the perfect sushi rice with anything edible and always have a great meal. The rice is the trick of the dish and here's how to make it perfectly, flawlessly, every single time:Rinse 2 cups sushi rice (a short-grain variety found in most supermarkets and all gourmet food shops and natural foods stores) in water several times, until the water runs clear. It's important to remove as much starch as possible from the rice before cooking. Now place the rinsed and drained rice in saucepan with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover and immediately reduce heat to lowest possible setting. Cook for about 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Cool for a few minutes while you shake together madly in a jar with a lid: 1 T. vegetable or coconut oil, 1/4 cup white or rice vinegar, 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 t. salt. When the rice is cool, pour the vinegar over all and mix well to combine. You can now use the rice for chirasizushi, nori or hand rolls, rice balls or just as a side dish.

We chose to add slivered shiso leaves to our sushi rice before topping with Gingered Carrots, Broccoli with Sesame Oil, Tomato Miso Salad, Sorrel from the garden and Cremini Mushrooms sauteed with Sake, Tamari and Sugar.

II. Cauliflower and Chile de Arbol Tostados 

A full pantry and fridge are the mothers of invention at Cafe Drake HRV. With a head of cauliflower, a can of tomatoes, some dried chilies, drying up old tortillas and a small hunk of smoked cheddar cheese on the kitchen counter, we dreamed up this heaven of a summer meal. Start by rubbing vegetable oil lightly over 6-8 small corn tortillas. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F. for about 8-10 minutes. Be sure to flip the tortillas halfway through baking time and be careful not to burn or overcook. Set aside crispy, baked tostado shells while you prepare the sauce: over a low flame, toast 12-14 whole arbol chilies in a dry iron skillet. Also add 2 cloves of garlic, whole and unpeeled. Flip and stir them frequently so all sides are brown and toasted. It should take about 2 minutes for the chilies. Remove the chilies from the skillet and transfer to a blender; allow the garlic to roast another 5 minutes or until it's beginning to soften a bit. Peel the garlic and add it to the blender along with 4 chopped plum tomatoes. Process until smooth and set aside. Now, heat 2 T. olive oil in a large deep skillet. When the oil is hot add 1 small head of cauliflower (broken into small florets), 1 sliced onion and 1 diced orange or yellow bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes and then pour in the reserved salsa. Season aggressively with salt, at least 1 full teaspoon, and plenty of black pepper. Cover the skillet and simmer, on a low flame, until the cauliflower is very soft and most of the sauce has been absorbed. Now, ladle the cauliflower mixture onto each of the tostado shells and top with grated smoked cheddar cheese. Other options include smoked Gouda or mozzarella. Sprinkle with some shredded lettuce and top with sliced red onions and a few sprigs of cilantro.

Slow-simmered black beans, brown rice and an extra (broken but not useless) tostado shell for a side dish. That's all you need.

III. Spicy Margherita Pizza (with 10-Minute Homemade Crust)

Before Baking.

After Baking.

Cafe Drake HRV's twist on the stalwart Pizza Margherita includes fresh mozzarella, beefsteak and grape tomatoes, yellow pepper pate, hot green chilies and fresh basil, oregano and thyme. Don't forget to snag our recipe for the Yellow Pepper Pate in an earlier post by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.

We just can't believe a pizza crust, or anything, could be this fast and easy to make. Granted the texture won't induce the waves of ecstasy likely to occur when tearing into a high-gluten, doughy-crisp yeasted crust, but again, it's easy, time-warp fast and, if rolled out thinly enough, similar to the cracker crunch of Sardinian pizza dough. Pre-heat your oven to 415 degrees F. In a medium bowl mix together 1 1/3 cups white whole wheat flour, 1 t. baking powder and 1/2 t. sea salt. Stir in 1/2 cup milk or plain soymilk and 2 T. olive oil. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface 10 times and shape into a ball. Cover with the bowl for 10 minutes. Roll out the dough as thinly as you can, either in a rectangle or circle. Transfer carefully to a baking sheet or pizza stone or pan, prick all over with a fork and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, top as desired and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, depending on the added ingredients.


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