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.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Quick Fixes: Fast Vegan Snacks and Suppers

I. Wasabi Edamame Hummus with Watercress

Get your protein and leafy greens in one creamy, piquant bite with a dollop of our ultra-healthy, verdant hummus. At Cafe Drake HRV we enjoy as a dip with chips and raw veggies, spread thickly on toasted bread for open-faced sandwiches and even tossed with cold noodles for an unexpected pasta salad. Honestly, we just devour it with a spoon sometimes. Dump all of this in a blender: 12 oz. of shelled edamame (briefly cooked according to package directions), juice of 1 large lemon, 1-2 t. powdered wasabi, 1-2 T. hot Chinese mustard (the prepared kind, not the powder), 1/4 cup tahini, 1/4 cup vegetable broth, 1 t. salt and a large handful of rinsed and roughly chopped watercress. Blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender container as needed. If absolutely necessary add more vegetable stock to aid in blending, only one tablespoon at a time. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired; you can toss in more salt, mustard, wasabi powder, whatever you like and just re-blend for a few seconds.

II. Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

So what happens when we're desperately craving Eggplant Parmesan at Cafe Drake HRV but can't even contemplate the multi-step process making it requires? The answer is a whopping plate of nearly as satisfying Eggplant Stacks. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. while slicing crosswise 1 large or 2 smaller regular eggplants. Brush a baking sheet with oil and place the sliced eggplant on it. Bake for 10 minutes, flip the eggplant and bake 10 more. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Arrange a few of the eggplant slices in a wide circle in the middle of the same baking sheet. Sprinkle with vegan or regular grated mozzarella and a few roughly chopped cherry tomatoes. Festively strew some basil leaves and a few chopped oil-cured black olives on top. Season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Repeat until all of the eggplant has been stacked and finish with more grated cheese. Return to the oven and bake for about 15 more minutes or until the tomatoes are just breaking up and the cheese is fully melted. Run under a hot broiler for 1 minute to brown the cheese. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving hot with garlic bread or spaghetti marinara. Optional garnishes include more basil leaves and a few rinsed capers.

III. Pizza, Ridiculously Fast

(above photos) It doesn't get much faster or simpler than Pizza Margherita, and yet the minimalist creation always satisfies on a deep, primal level. The best tomatoes and freshest, most fragrant basil you can find are the true keys to success. At Cafe Drake HRV we roll out prepared whole wheat pizza dough and bake it for a few minutes, unadorned, before proceeding with toppings. This prevents a soggy crust and lends extra crispiness to the browned edges. Yum. Vegan mozzarella is shredded over the crust and layered with sliced, ripe tomatoes. After baking, the pie is finished with fresh basil leaves from the garden, a drizzle of olive oil and some crushed red chilies.

This darker, denser pizza is actually perfect for fall meals, evoking the forest floor with dense, meaty portobello mushrooms and woodsy herbs like rosemary and thyme. Tofu chevre, basil pesto and sliced red chilies add flavor, freshness and heat!

IV. Falafel From the Box Mix!

Falafel mix from the supermarket is one of the easiest quick fixes for a hungry but tired home cook IF you skip the laborious and messy deep frying finale. Instead, spray a baking sheet with cooking oil, prepare your falafels and spray them well with more oil. Bake for about 25 minutes in a 375 degree F. oven until brown and crisp around the edges. Flip halfway through the cooking process. Cooking time may vary depending on the consistency of the mix so check frequently to make sure the patties aren't burning or drying out too much.

While the falafel patties are baking, you'll have the time - and free hands - to whip up a salad and tahini sauce.

Peanut and Red Chile Tofu with Peppers

Extra-firm tofu is sliced and skillet-fried until golden and crisp.

After sauteing peppers and onions and chilies, the tofu returns to the pan along with a sweet finishing sauce.

Trust us, that spicy, sweet tofu is in there somewhere, buried beneath pea shoots and sliced, dressed radishes. A bowl of rice is all you need to complete this quick, weeknight-friendly meal.

Let's begin my mixing our sauce in bowl. Simply whisk together and then set aside: 1/2 cup maple syrup or brown sugar, 3 T. hoisin sauce, 2 T. ketchup, 2 T. rice or white vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 2 T. tamari or soy sauce, 2 t. sesame oil, 1 t. cayenne pepper and 1 heaping t. ground ginger.

Next, by pat dry one 14-16 oz. block of extra-firm tofu. The firmer the better here so the sprouted variety, sold at all natural food stores and most supermarkets, is an ideal choice. If you can't find it just go with regular extra-firm; tofu labeled simply as "firm" won't hold up well when pan fried.

Slice the tofu into triangles (as seen above) or cubes or rectangles. Try to get around 12-16 pieces, all similar in size. If you need lessons in tofu butchery there are plenty of online tutorials!

Heat 2 T. coconut, grapeseed or peanut oil in a wide non-stick skillet. A well-seasoned iron skillet is another excellent option. When the oil is very hot add the tofu and cook, without flipping, for a couple of minutes. Keep the heat steady and at medium. Flip the tofu pieces and brown on at least two sides until golden and crispy on the outside. This should take about 10 minutes total. Remove the tofu to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.

Return the skillet to the stove and add 1 more T. of oil. Increase the heat to medium-high. Toss in 6-8 whole dried red chilies and stir for 30 seconds or until they begin to darken. Quickly add 1 onion (thinly sliced) and 1 green or red bell pepper (also thinly sliced.) Stir often until the veggies are just softening. Return the tofu to the skillet along with the pre-mixed sauce. Cook for a minute or two. The sauce should become glossy and thick. Throw in a large handful of roasted, unsalted peanuts and stir to combine.

Remove from heat and serve hot with rice. Garnish if you like with sliced scallions or snipped chives and, if available, fresh young pea shoots.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Parippu (South Indian Lentil, Veggie and Coconut Stew)

Veggies, ground spices and coconut milk add depth of flavor to the simmering lentils.

Onions sauteed with whole spices and curry leaves are added to the stew just before serving. This last-minute embellishment, typical to almost all dal recipes, is known as a tarka.

Dal is the ubiquitous side dish of seasoned lentils served with virtually all Indian meals throughout the subcontinent. Of the hundreds of varieties this particular dal is a favorite at Cafe Drake HRV; we add fresh vegetables to make it even more substantial, and when eaten with rice and a salad, our thick, hardy stew is a complete meal. Successful substitutions for the yellow squash include zucchini, kohlrabi, chayote squash or cubed daikon. In the absence of any of these, just make something else tonight.

Begin by rinsing very well 1 cup masoor dal (red lentils), available at all supermarkets in the dried bean section. Transfer the lentils to a medium saucepan ans cover with 2 cups water and 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (the thick canned variety). Bring to a boil over high heat and skim off any foam that accumulates on top. You'll need to do this at least a couple of times so keep that slotted spoon near the stove!

Now add 1/2 - 3/4 t. turmeric powder, 1 roughly chopped onion, 1 small tomato (also roughly chopped), 2 sliced hot green chilies, 1 roughly chopped yellow summer squash, 1 t. ground cumin and 1 t. ground coriander. Reduce the heat, cover the saucepan partially and simmer until the lentils are very soft and falling apart. Stir frequently to avoid burning and add a bit more water if needed. The lentils should reach the desired consistency in about 35-40 minutes.

Remove the lentils from the heat and season with salt to taste, at least 3/4 t. and probably more. 

In a small skillet or saucepan, heat 2 T. coconut or vegetable oil over a medium flame. When the oil is hot toss in 1 t. black mustard seeds. Cover immediately and allow the seeds to pop. Once they've just stopped popping, add 1 t. cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds, darkening at least a shade or two. Add to the skillet 10 fresh or frozen curry leaves and cover again. Be careful as the moisture from the curry leaves will cause the oil to splatter. Finally, add 1 finely chopped onion to the pan and saute until golden, lowering the heat as needed.

Dump the contents of the skillet into the pot of lentils, stir to combine and heat gently over a very low flame for a few minutes. Check for seasoning, adding more salt if desired.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Necessity of Our Favorite Comfort Foods

Ed. Note: An older post from March 2016, shelved before our 3-month break from publishing.

I. Burger, Fries and Salad

Green Leaf Lettuce, Cherry Tomato and Kirby Cucumber Salad with Miso-Ginger Dressing

Some of the best dressed veggie burgers this Spring are accessorized with only a dab of vegan mayo and sweet onions. 

At home you're not forced to choose between fries or a salad; you can have both! Healthier fries for this dinner were oven-baked and made from rutabagas. Here's how to do it: preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. while you peel 1-2 medium-size rutabagas. Slice the rutabaga into rounds, stack the rounds and then cut into thin batons (1/4" wide). Toss with olive oil (around 2-3 T.), salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Roast in a single layer on a baking sheet for 15 minutes. Be sure to flip the fries now and then to ensure even browning. Serve hot with additional salt if needed.

II. Cassoulet for Chilly Spring Nights

Cafe Drake HRV loads our "alternative" cassoulet with root veggies and ditches the sausage, duck and organ meats common in traditional versions without stinting on flavor or richness. We draw from a wide variety of vegetables when customizing each casserole - onions, parsnips, rutabagas, celery root, parsley root, turnips, carrots, sunchokes, sweet potatoes and butternut squash. 

After the vegetables and beans have cooked until tender, the cassoulet is topped with bread crumbs, minced herbs and olive oil and browned under the broiler. You'll find our original post with the full recipe HERE.

Leftover cassoulet with salad, quinoa and grilled bread

III.  When In Doubt, Make Tostados. Everything will be Fine.

For all you carb addicts out there, we present Jerusalem Artichoke Tostados.

Black Bean and Vegetarian Sausage Tostados with tangy Avocado and Peanut Salsa. The salsa recipe can be found HERE on Rick Bayless' online treasure trove of authentic Mexican recipes.

IV. Any Sandwich Topped with Creamy Coleslaw and Sided with More Carbs Is OK with Us.

Tempeh Reuben Sandwiches with sides of salad and leftover baked ziti.