We're Back with THREE MONTHS of Vegetarian and Vegan Meals!!

So our sabbatical from the blogosphere stretched out longer than anticipated, but we never stopped cooking and snapping photos of our kitchen adventures. The best have been collected and archived here in an upcoming series of mammoth posts, our first since the end of March.

It's wonderful to be back with all of you. Please take a look at what we've been up to at Cafe Drake HRV and send us your own updates. Especially pretty pics of food!

I. Some Summer Kitchen Essentials at Cafe Drake HRV

Kale grows so profusely at Cafe Drake HRV that the towering plants, with green stalks the size of banana leaves, tend to take over their allotted space in the garden bed. A solution to a summer overflowing with these boundless greens was shared by a local librarian and fellow gardener - simply pick the leaves from the cut stalks and toss in a zip-lock bag. Pop in the freezer and the following day, with the bag still sealed, crush the frozen kale with your fingers and store in the freezer for up to 6 months! When you need it, the kale is already broken into small, manageable pieces ideal for adding to soups, stews and stir-fries. Unless the kale is very dirty avoid washing it before freezing; any lingering moisture can turn your garden greens into a soggy, slimy mess when thawed.

A pitcher of iced tea in the fridge is a Cafe Drake HRV summer requirement. David's Tea's North African Mint, a current passion, is a spicy yet soothing blend of herbs, spices and mellow green tea leaves. The tea doesn't need any embellishment but we always throw in a few sprigs of fresh mint and lemon balm. That's you do when living in a field of delicious but invasive herbs!

How did it take us so long to discover smoked basmati rice? Imagine the nutty, sweet scent of really really good basmati mixed with a natural whiff of wood smoke and you'll have an idea of the heaven that is this product. It's best to prepare simply with just an ingredient or two to complement the complex flavor and aroma: rinse 1 cup of smoked basmati rice several times, until the drained water runs clear. Add to a saucepan with 1 2/3 cups water, 1 T. coconut oil, 2-3 whole cloves and a few whole black peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to lowest possible setting and cook, tightly covered, until all liquid has been absorbed. You can check on that after about 18-20 minutes. Let rest, still covered, off the heat for 10 minutes then fluff with a fork and serve hot or warm alongside any sort of curry.

Chive blossoms, rinsed very well and drying, before being infused with white wine vinegar to create Chive Blossom Vinegar. All you need to do is pack 1 pint or half-pint jar with rinsed and dried chive blossoms, top with white wine vinegar and cap the jar. Leave in a shaded spot for 4 weeks, shaking the jar gently now and then. Strain using a fine-mesh sieve and a layer of cheesecloth, discard the spent blossoms and store the gorgeous lavender-hued vinegar away from the sun. We usually add a pinch of salt and sugar each to brighten the already vivacious flavor. Use, not sparingly, for salad dressings and as a general seasoning.

Chamomile seems to prefer sunny but not scorching weather and its delicate, perfumed blossoms are now wilting away during a prolonged heatwave. Not to worry as Cafe Drake HRV wisely plucked and dried bunches of the herb in anticipation of pots of soothing, apple-scented tea all winter long.

Herbs and edible flowers add fresh vitality and unexpected flavors to salads. Varieties seen above include borage flowers, red-veined sorrel, lemon balm, micro mustard greens, savory and nasturtium petals. Thanks to Esther Lok for the above photo of Cafe Drake HRV garden goodness!

We're blessed here in the country with visits from friends in the city. Doubly blessed when old friends bring treats from Brooklyn. Above, onion bialys from an old favorite hangout, Peter Pan Donuts in Greenpoint.
Of course flowers from the cutting garden are Kitchen Essentials.
Micro Harvest A: Tiny Tom tomatoes, syrup-sweet Honey Drop cherry tomatoes and ground cherries. The latter are related to tomatillos - note the similar paper lantern-like casings - but taste like candy. Popular in home gardens until the early 20th century, the tiny fruits were made into jams and baked in tarts.

So-called Wild Arugula and Red Sorrel, when freshly picked, create an assertive salad, both spicy and sour. This is our first season growing the "wild" variety of arugula and we're sold on its peppery flavor and elegant, thinner leaves. Blessed with an abundance of the versatile green, we whipped up a big batch of Arugula Pesto for the freezer and can't wait to thaw it and toss with linguine on some arctic February night, relishing and remembering the taste of Summer. Here's how to make it: soak 1/2 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds in water to cover overnight. Drain and add to a blender of food processor along with 1 clove of garlic (chopped), 2 huge handfuls of arugula leaves (rinsed well), 1/2 cup or so of fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup of olive oil, a pinch of sugar, a dash of fresh lemon juice and salt and black pepper to taste. Process until relatively smooth. Enjoy immediately, refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for later use, tossed with pasta, dolloped atop soups or spread lavishly on crostini.

A beautiful view from the kitchen window isn't absolutely essential, and often not even possible, but it never hurts. While cooking, or just washing dishes, we like to keep a close eye on our tomato patch. This season we're growing several heirloom varieties including Goldie, Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Honey Drop, Bumble Bee Cherry, Tiny Tom, Black Krim and others.
Indian Limeade - zesty and just a tad sweet - is a more satisfactory alternative to cloying lemonade. At least we think so. Try it by mixing together in a saucepan, over low heat, 4 cups water, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 t. salt. Stir just until the sugar dissolves, no more than a minute or two, then remove from heat. Pour the mixture in a pitcher - it shouldn't be really hot at all - and add 1/4 cup lime juice. Add 1/8 t. white pepper, a dash of cumin powder and stir again to combine. Serve cold over ice with a thin slice of lime.

II. Indonesian Dinners Just Feel So Right in the Summer or, We're Ga Ga for Gado Gado

Gado Gado is one of the very few Indonesian classic dishes fairly well known to Westerners. Basically a melange of fresh, raw vegetables, boiled eggs and (sometimes) fried tempeh, it's also the easiest to prepare. Think of it as a salad platter with a savory peanut-coconut dipping sauce, an antidote to often lackluster crudites plates. Typically the assortment of veggies would include sliced cucumbers, mung bean sprouts, thinly shaved carrots, shredded cabbage and perhaps a few tomato wedges.

Sometimes we up the Gado Gado game when serving as an entree by embellishing on the basics. Our platter above was assembled from a Roasted Eggplant Salad, pan-fried tempeh, roasted cabbage, marinated cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, steamed cauliflower and green leaf lettuce.

Of the many variations on the all-important "dipping" sauce, this is the one we've found to be best, patchwork-assembled from from several others but containing the best elements of each. 

Begin by adding to a blender and processing until smooth 1/4 cup coconut water, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1-2 T. brown sugar or dark agave nectar, 2 t. white vinegar, 1 heaping t. smoked paprika, 1 t. lime juice, 1 clove of garlic and 1-2 small hot green chilies.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 T. vegetable or coconut oil over a medium-high flame. Add the paste from the blender and stir-fry, constantly, for one minute. Stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 t. salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5-10 minutes, or until the oil rises to the surface. You'll need to stir the mixture often to prevent burning as it will become fairly thick. 

Finally, stir in 1/4 cup coconut milk and heat for another minute or two. Check for seasoning and adjust as desired. Serve the sauce warm with your choice of vegetable accompaniments. Sambal oleak is the ideal table condiment if you prefer a bolder spice level.

If you like the looks of our version above, you'll find the recipe for our eggplant salad HERE in the Cafe Drake HRV archives. Vegetarians can simply replace the fish sauce with tamari or soy sauce. Click HERE for our instructions on roasting cabbage wedges and HERE for our primer on frying tempeh in the authentic Indonesian manner.


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