Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A New Go-To Salad Plan

This isn't a recipe but rather a set of instructions for building a dynamite "base" for salad. The finished dish will look (and taste) differently on every table, dependent entirely upon your creativity and the veggies available. First, start with 1 small-medium red onion. Slice thickly. You'll want around one cup total. Now pit and tear apart into halves 3/4 cup Kalamata olives. Add both to to a large mixing bowl.

Add to the bowl and mix with onions and olives: 3 T. olive oil, 1 T. balsamic vinegar, 1 t. apple cider vinegar and chopped red or green chilies to taste. Whisk together before adding the primary salad components.  Finish by seasoning further with salt and black pepper.

Option One
Add to the above salad base: 3 cups lightly steamed broccoli florets, 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley (very roughly chopped), 1-2 sliced roasted red bell peppers

Option Two
2 cups thickly sliced cucumber, a handful of halved cherry tomatoes and chopped romaine lettuce

Option Three
1/2 lb. lightly steamed green beans (left whole but ends trimmed), 2 cups very roughly chopped cilantro, 1 avocado (sliced thinly or cubed) and toasted pumpkin seeds

Option Four
Whatever you want. Whatever you have.

The Best Bean Burger for Your Freezer

Our Pinto Bean BBQ Burger, thawed and warmed in the microwave, rests atop a skillet-toasted gordito (thick corn tortillas found at Latin markets). Vegan Jack cheese, sauteed peppers and onions and snipped micro-greens grown in the kitchen window add extra panache.

This super simple meal is completed with another warmed gordito, roasted sweet potato wedges, salad, cranberry chutney and a pickled jalapeno.
A freezer stocked with homemade veggie burgers isn't just a good idea; it's almost a necessity for fast, high-protein weeknight meals. At Cafe Drake HRV right now we have Black Bean and Wild Rice Burgers, Sunflower Millet Burgers (grab recipe HERE from the 2011 Cafe Drake archives) and the Pinto Bean BBQ patties featured here all frozen in zip-lock bags, ready at a moment's notice when the mood strikes. For optimal texture frozen burgers should be thawed overnight in the fridge, but they can also be cooked directly from the freezer in a microwave or lightly oiled skillet.

This recipe from Terry Hope Romero's Protein Ninja cookbook is a current favorite because it's chewy and hefty and boasts the universally loved flavors of BBQ sauce.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Very Easy, Very Vegan Dinners: Sweet Potato Nachos

Garden Salad and naked Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges

And now . . . Roasted Sweet Potato Nachos! Don't worry, the sweet potatoes are under there somewhere.

 Because now more than ever we need Comfort Food . . .

It's been a long day. You really just want to drink your dinner. Or maybe get immediately prone with Lifetime Movie Network. Or just go to bed without eating. Don't do it. You deserve a healthy and soul-satisfying dinner, one that nourishes and fulfills those indulgent cravings.

It's Cafe Drake HRV and our Sweet Potato Nachos to the rescue. You're gonna love these so trust us, add any ingredients you don't have to your next shopping list. Opening the door to a carefully-stocked pantry and fridge is key to making fast, easy meals a real possibility.

More a suggestion than an actual recipe, here's how to do it: Clean but do not peel 2-3 medium size sweet potatoes. Slice each sweet potato into 8 wedges. If some are much larger than others, slice horizontally. You want all of the wedges to be as close as possible to the same size. Toss very well with 2 T. olive, vegetable or coconut oil and sprinkle with salt, black pepper and chipotle or ancho chile powder. Place the sweet potatoes in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, using two if needed. Roast for 15 minutes in a preheated 400 degrees F. oven. Flip the wedges and continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until browned and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

While the sweet potatoes are roasting, simmer 1-2 cups of pre-made vegetarian chili for about 5 minutes. Since ease is our goal tonight, you can also microwave the chili until piping hot; a good quality canned chili is fine here. (Our favorite brands are Health Valley and Fantastic Foods and we always grab one without kidney beans. Another stand-by here is a cache of zip-lock bags of homemade chili in the freezer.)

When the sweet potatoes are roasted, transfer to a platter or individual plates and immediately top with the hot chili. Drizzle vegan or dairy sour cream or plain yogurt over all and then festoon freely with sliced jalapeno peppers, chopped cilantro and diced red onions. Sprinkle your favorite hot sauce over all and sit down and enjoy your guilt-less guilty pleasure.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Ramen, the Real Deal

(above two photos) For dinner at Cafe Drake HRV our ramen bowl included broiled tofu, red chilies, chives and sorrel from the garden and pickled mushrooms.

A less spicy lunch the following day was reheated ramen and broth with the addition of stir-fried bok choy minus the chilies.

In case you didn't already know, the success of any ramen bowl is dependent upon the flavorful broth that plays the starring role. In Japan traditional broths would be made from pork; the lengthy process involves roasting bones and fatty cuts of meat along with aromatic veggies. You can create complex and earthy flavors however from a vegetarian broth based around mushrooms and umami-enhancing kombu seaweed. So let's begin there.

In a large pot bring to a boil 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, a three-inch piece of kombu seaweed and a handful of dried shitake mushrooms. Kombu is a dried seaweed available at all Asian markets and natural foods stores, valued for boosting the flavor of many broth-based Japanese dishes, but you can leave it out if you wish. Once the broth is boiling, reduce heat and gently simmer for about 15 minutes. Set aside for an hour or two and allow the mushrooms and kombu (if using) to infuse the stock.

With a slotted spoon remove and discard the kombu. Remove as well the mushrooms. Chop finely the soft bits, tossing away the tough, woody stems. (They've done their job of enriching the broth by now.) Place the chopped reserved mushrooms in a blender with 1 cup of the broth and puree until silky smooth. Return the puree to the stock pot along with 1 thinly sliced onion, 1-2 T. grated ginger and 3-4 T. tamari or soy sauce. Simmer over a low flame for 15 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent. Now stir in 1 heaping T. of white miso paste, mixing well to dissolve.

The recipe pretty much ends here. As we said earlier, it's AATB, or All About The Broth. How you complete the ramen bowl is a wide universe of opportunity. Let your creativity and on-hand ingredients dictate the final result. Every bowl will be different we predict. Basically, assembly involves: 
1) heating or re-heating the ramen broth and lading about 2 cups each into wide or deep bowls 
2) placing cooked ramen noodles, prepared according to package directions, in each bowl (Allow around 3-4 oz. dried ramen noodles per serving.)
3) adding toppings of choice. 

Tried and true garnishes might include slivered scallions, minced chives, a dollop of horseradish or Chinese mustard, shredded shiso leaves, diced radishes or toasted sesame seeds.

Leftover noodles and broth should be stores separately in the refrigerator. Rub any cooked noodles with a drop of vegetable oil to prevent sticking.

Note: If you'd like to crown your own ramen bowl with broiled tofu, as seen above, scoop our recipe from the Cafe Drake HRV archives RIGHT HERE.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Postcards From Our Meat-Free Kitchen

Whole Wheat Gnocchi with Vegan Mozzarella is one of the quickest suppers to assemble, ideal for weeknights or any night you get a late start on dinner. Boil packaged gnocchi for a few minutes, just until they bubble to the surface. Place the gnocchi in a single layer and sprinkle with grated cheese and a pinch or two of nutmeg. Bake briefly at 375 degrees F., uncovered, to allow the cheese to melt and become bubbly. Serve hot ot warm drizzled with olive oil and crushed red chilies.

Reheated pizza for lunch is never a bad idea.

Whole Wheat Pizza with Pesto, Garden Tomatoes and Sliced Red Chilies

Homemade Pizza in 20 Minutes! First, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. and place inside a large baking sheet, turned upside down. Over a medium flame, add 2 T. olive oil to a skillet. Add 2 cups thinly sliced Cremini mushrooms and a healthy pinch of salt. Stir-fry until the mushrooms are soft and most of the released liquid has been absorbed. Season with thyme leaves and oregano. Remove from heat and stir in 1 large garlic clove (finely minced or pressed). Remove the baking sheet from the oven - be careful as it will be scalding hot - and still keeping the baking sheet overturned, place atop 1-2 whole wheat flat breads or wraps. We generally use whole wheat lavash bread at Cafe Drake HRV but even a large whole grain tortilla will suffice. Lightly cover the pizza crust of your choice with shredded mozzarella (dairy or vegan). Spread the mushroom mixture evenly over the cheese and return to the oven for 6-12 minutes, depending on the type of pizza base used. Transfer the pizzas underneath a hot broiler and cook for 30 seconds, being careful not to burn. Serve the pizza piping hot and festooned with crushed red chilies and minced chives. Finish with a swirl of your best olive oil.

Mushroom Flat Bread Pizza with Heirloom Tomato Salad and Steamed Veggies

Will we ever stop making tostados you might ask? Unlikely. The three pictured above are packed with serious heft and a boatload of protein from refried beans and tofu salad. Looks like we got our greens in for the day as well with a tomatillo salsa, cilantro sprigs and roasted broccoli. If you're curious, even a tad dubious, about our Tofu Salad, don't be; just try it. The recipe is HERE in the Cafe Drake HRV archives and has become a favorite of many visitors, including those with a previous tofu aversion.

Sometimes lunch is just a big old delicious mess! Leftover Rotini with Lentil Bolognese and Tomato and Romaine Salad with Homemade Vegan Ranch Dressing and Chia Seeds

Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, we're always in the mood for roasted cabbage at Cafe Drake HRV. You'll find our basic recipe and instructions HERE in the archives, but don't stop there. Try topping the blackened, smokey cabbage with diced tomatoes, red onions, croutons and your favorite creamy dressing for a nifty, nutritious take on the classic Iceberg Wedge Salad.

A verdant summer meal of Whole Wheat Linguine with Pumpkin Seed and Parsley Pesto, Roasted Broccoli, Romaine Salad and Guacamole.

Arabella isn't fooling anyone at Cafe Drake HRV with that seemingly nonchalant expression. This pit bull is a veggie lover!!

This summer stir-fry is a staple at Cafe Drake HRV. Onions, thin slices of seitan, fresh corn and slivered green chilies are pan-fried briefly over a high flame, then finished with a squeeze of lime juice and a handful of mint leaves.

Light, bright flavors and nutritious combinations characterize our Japanese "small bites" dinners. Above, Brown Rice, Steamed Broccoli with Carrot Dressing, Broiled Peppers with Miso, Tofu En Brodo, Sake-Braised Green Beans and Hot Mustard

Tofu En Brodo, as we call this mash-up of Italian cooking technique and Asian ingredients, is made by very gently simmering extra-firm silken tofu in a rich broth of dried mushrooms and soy sauce.

Roasting any vegetable with a miso dressing adds tons of complex umami flavors but bell peppers respond especially well. Try it yourself by mixing 1 T. miso paste to 3 T. olive oil and tossing with 1 lb. of seeded and halved green, red, yellow or orange bell peppers. Roast at 400 degrees F.  for 15 minutes or so until the peppers are soft and beginning to blacken at the edges

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tomato Bulgur Pilaf with Eggplant Salad and Carrots Casablanca


Either as a side or main dish, this moist, tangy pilaf steals the show. For an entree, stir in 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or black-eyed peas before serving.

To begin: heat 1 T. olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-low heat. Add one small onion (diced), 2 cloves of garlic (minced) and 1 large cinnamon stick (broken in at least three pieces). Stir fry until the onion darkens a shade or two. Add a little more oil if the onions or garlic begin to burn.

Stir in 1 t. smoked paprika, 1/4 - 1/2 t. cayenne pepper and 2 heaping T. tomato paste. Cook for a minute, stirring constantly, before adding 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth, 1 cup chopped tomatoes and 1 cup coarse-ground bulgur. (Wherever you purchase your bulgur it will be designated as coarse, medium or fine.)

Bring everything to a boil and sprinkle in 1/2 t. salt and plenty of black pepper to taste. 1/2 t. turmeric added to the pot is entirely optional but lends the pilaf a lovely orange tint and add increased nutritional value. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet and cook for around 15 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and let rest, still covered, for 5-10 minutes. Fluff the pilaf with a fork and then stir in a handful each of roughly chopped mint and parsley leaves. The bulgur should be soft but still retain a bit of chewiness. Season with more salt and pepper as desired before serving warm. When this pilaf is the focal part of a meal at Cafe Drake HRV, such as a light luncheon, we present the pilaf heaped on plates and surrounded with condiments - lemon wedges, slivered onions and a variety of pickles.


Peel and cut into 2" pieces 1 lb. of carrots. If the carrots are thick, slice horizontally as well to create batons. Place the carrots in a skillet along with 1 T. olive oil, 1 t. agave nectar or maple syrup or honey, 1/4 t. salt and 2/3 cup water. Cover the skillet and cook the carrots over high heat until the water is mostly absorbed and the carrots have a glossy, glazed look. This should take about 10 minutes or just less.

Stir in 1/3 - 1/2 cup pitted and torn oil-cured black olives. Cook for one more minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and sprinkle with chopped chives. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

At Cafe Drake HRV we sometimes follow the same recipe but swap out the carrots for beets. If making this version, the peeled beets should be cut into julienne slices, very thin. Increase the water to 1 cup and adjust salt and sugar according to personal tastes. Beets Casablanca truly sing when garnished with minced tarragon leaves.


In a large mixing bowl combine well 1 small preserved lemon (sold in brine, jarred), 1 T. lemon juice, 1 clove of garlic (very finely minced or pressed), red chili flakes to taste and 2 T. sultanas or dried currants. Set aside while you slice 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 lbs.) into rounds, no thicker than 1/2".

Transfer the eggplant slices to a large baking sheet (or two smaller ones if needed) and toss lightly with olive oil. Roast in a single layer in a preheated 400 degree F. oven for about 15 minutes. Flip the slices after about 10 minutes to ensure even cooking. The eggplant is done when very soft in the middle.

Add roasted eggplant to the mixing bowl and stir gently to combine with other ingredients. This is best done with your clean hands to avoid breaking up the eggplant too much. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve either at room temperature or slightly chilled, on its own or atop lettuce leaves.

A hardy, vegetable-based dinner at Cafe Drake HRV - Tomato Bulgur Pilaf, Chickpea Flatbreads, Stewed Fava Beans, Eggplant Salad and Carrots Casablanca.

Monday, October 03, 2016

We Get By With Little Visits From Our Friends!

above two photos: Susan and Sloane spend some Quality Sofa Time with Arabella Page

above four photos: Sharon and Pete stopped by Saugerties this summer and we got the thrill of meeting young Gabriel!

On a visit to the Hudson Valley, all the way from Ann Arbor, Mae Skidmore finally got to meet Arabella in person. A long-distance admirer of our daughter, Mae found the fondness equally returned by Arabella.

above two photos: Arabella always enjoys a weekend with Reiner Lang, Esther Lok and Lola. This time Lola brought her a new friend named Pablo!

(above photos) It was a packed house at our 4th of July Vegan BBQ 2016!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Sour Cream Enchiladas (VEGAN)

Enchiladas with all the Trimmings: Yellow Rice and Peas, Charred Broccoli, Sauteed Yellow Summer Squash, Black Olives and Serrano Chilies

The Sour Cream Enchiladas above were made with a red salsa of tomatoes and dried guajillo chilies, but are equally gratifying prepared with a green tomatillo salsa. Mole sauce can also be substituted for the salsa in the recipe below. For potlucks or large buffet meals, why not make one of each? If you're pressed for time use store-bought jarred salsas.

After removing from the oven, we scatter the hot enchiladas with slivered green chilies and chopped cilantro. Thinly shaved red onions and diced radishes also good options

Silky and smooth tofu sour cream, whipped together in less than 5 minutes, lends the enchiladas a luxurious richness in taste and texture. Dairy sour cream of course may be used as well.

Begin the enchiladas by making the tofu sour cream. Store-bought vegan or dairy sour cream are both options but in our opinion less flavorful. Add to a blender and process until smooth as velvet: 3 T. raw cashews (soaked for 6-8 hours), 1 12-oz. package of silken firm tofu ( i.e. the Mori-Nu brand ), 3 T. lemon juice, 2 t. apple cider vinegar, 2 t. white miso and 1 t. agave nectar.

Transfer the sour cream to a mixing bowl and stir in 4 T. chopped chives (or 1/3 cup thinly slivered scallions) and a small handful of finely chopped cilantro. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired. Often we prefer a tarter taste and add up to another tablespoon of lemon juice.

Now preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a saucepan gently heat - do not allow to boil - 1 cup of your sauce of choice (green, red, mole). One at a time, place 6 corn tortillas on a cutting board and brush both sides of each with a bit of the warm sauce. Put about 3 T. of sour cream in the middle of each tortilla, sprinkle with grated vegan mozzarella or Jack-style cheese and roll up. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and place them all, seam-side down in a lightly oiled baking dish. Cover the enchiladas with the remaining sour cream and bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and scatter across the perfectly browned enchiladas any of the following: diced red onions, sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, diced radishes or black olives. 

Serve with extra warm sauce on the side or your favorite salsa.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Tunisian Chickpea and Rice Casserole

Our Tunisian Chickpea and Brown Rice Casserole is a spicier riff on the original recipe in Julie Hasson's excellent cookbook Vegan Casseroles

Here's how we do it: preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and spray with oil an 8" square casserole dish or another close in size. Heat 1 T. olive oil in a skillet over a medium flame. When the oil is hot, add 1 cup minced onion and 4-5 cloves minced garlic; saute for 3 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent. Sprinkle in 1 t. ground cumin and 1 t. caraway seeds. Saute for another minute or two and then remove from heat.

Add the onions, garlic and spices to a large bowl along with 1 15-oz. can chickpeas (rinsed well and drained), 1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked brown rice (short or long grain, it matters not), 1/2 cup chopped dill, a handful of chopped parsley and 1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes.Stir to just combine the ingredients and flavors and set aside while you whisk together in a smaller bowl 1/3 cup tahini, 2/3 cup hot water, the juice of half a lemon, 1/2 t. cayenne pepper and 3/4 t. smoked or regular paprika. Season to taste with salt.

Now, pour the tahini sauce into the other ingredients and stir, this time very well, before adding salt and black pepper to your taste. Transfer everything to the prepared casserole dish and bake, covered with foil or a lid, for 10 minutes. Remove the covering and bake an additional 15 minutes or until very hot throughout.

Allow the casserole to rest at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before serving. If the casserole appears too runny let it sit for an additional 15 minutes, in which time the rice will absorb any excess liquid.

A very compatible casserole that can be served with just about any non-starchy side you can imagine, at Cafe Drake HRV we like it with a crunchy contrast, usually a parsley and onion salad or marinated cucumbers and olives. Also excellent with pickles or roasted or grilled long hot peppers.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Garden Glimpses

September has arrived, the light is changing, the nights turning cooler and already here in the Hudson River Valley, the growing season is waning. Soon we'll be harvesting the final tomatoes and string beans and chili peppers from the Cafe Drake HRV gardens, while the zinnias, asters, lettuces and other salad greens should thrive for another month or so. We just wanted to share a few pics of Summer 2016's bounty, less abundant than previous years due to persistent heatwaves and scarce rainfall, but satisfying in the way that only comes from nurturing a plant from seed through harvest.

Micro-Harvest #1 - Venetian Purple String Beans, Yellow Wax Beans, Black Raspberries, Tiny Tom Tomatoes and Matchbox Chili Peppers

The zinnias and bachelor buttons are always the first to bloom in the cutting garden.
Lloyd poses with blue flowers of the borage plants, an always reliable perennial.

Although not a favorite at Cafe Drake HRV, Black-eyed Susans are certainly prolific. A few sprawled in a vase makes a colorful and adequate arrangement in late Summer.

A quirky bouquet!

New to the garden this year was the Indigo Rose tomato. All the fruits have the characteristic swath of deep purple but otherwise ripen in a variety of shades along the red color spectrum.

Green suits Arabella, wouldn't you agree?

A booming bed of Russian kale and flourishing herbs (from lower left, counter clockwise: salad burnett, thyme, marjoram, oregano, chives and yellow sage).

Another bed of robust herbs. From lower center, counter-clockwise: pineapple sage, tarragon, lemon balm, anise hyssop and Thai basil.
The garden's security guard, Lloyd Page, stands alert and ready to remove any trespassers.

A veritable field of shiso. Blessed with surplus, we sell bunches of the Japanese herb to a nearby sushi restaurant whose chef strives for local ingredients.

Still on security detail, Lloyd often pulls long shifts.

The coveted and revered Green Zebra tomato was one of our bumper crops this year.

As big as a saucer, Goldie tomatoes, when fully ripe, are more of a deep orange; their creamy flesh is akin in color and texture to a cantaloupe.
Petite arrangements are perfect for bathrooms and bedside tables.

above two photos: In the height of the season, flowers are tucked in open table spaces throughout the house.
Assorted fruits from the Tomato Patch including Green Zebra, Black Krim, Honey Drop and Bumble Bee Cherry.

Lloyd takes a break in the shade of the shiso plants.

above and below: the biggest and the smallest of the tomatoes grown at Cafe Drake HRV.

No shortage of berries this summer.
A few potted plants.

This pink begonia has grown as large as an exercise ball!

Thai basil is an herb that can be both dried and frozen successfully. Lucky for us since we're inundated with it.

These four perennial herbs - marjoram, oregano, tarragon and chives - seem to grow back stronger and larger every Spring.

Gorgeous, deep violet flower petals are an added bonus to our Venetian purple string bean vines.

Prickly, sprawling and tall, cardoon is sort of a garden bully if you ask us.

Raspberries and more raspberries.

So very many raspberries.