Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Old is New

Don't ya just love it when a seemingly defunct or tired restaurant in your neighborhood gets a clean overhaul and actually IMPROVES on the previous establishment?  Me too.  That's what happened this past weekend at Old Fields in Greenlawn, NY.  Just minutes up the road from our home.

source: NY Times
The joint near the railroad tracks in Greenlawn used to be called the Old Fields Inn.  The new owners, local restauranteurs David and Christine Tunney, trimmed the name a bit and really cleaned up the place that has been a mainstay in our neighborhood for over 50 years.  And pretty much everybody used to say the same thing about the place.  Great marinated steak...and not much else.

Well, they've kept the great marinated steak and done an overhaul on the menu that is one of the finest pub-food restaurants I've seen in a long while. 

We started out at the bar for cocktails. Hendricks gin martinis straight up with 3 olives.  Gia's dry, mine not so much.  I like to taste a little vermouth in my martini.  They were both excellent.  I can't stress enough how important it is to have tasty olives (or onions or whatever) in the martini.  A bad batch of olives can ruin an otherwise hard to screw up cocktail.  I tend to judge a joint on how well they make a martini. Old Fields passed with flying colors.

Then we moved to a booth in the bar room near the fireplace.  Very rustic and cozy.  We each started out with a salad.  A cucumber and tomato salad made with fresh lemon and extra virgin olive oil for Gia, and a nice Caesar salad for me.  I tend to judge a joint on how well they make a Caesar salad.  Old Fields passed with flying colors.

For entrees, Gia went with the marinated strip steak served with creamed spinach and a twice-baked potato.  I went with one of the specials for the evening.  A Guinness stew with big chunks of pot roast and root vegetables, served with crusty bread.  It was really, really good.  I tend to, you know the drill.

We topped it off with some strawberry shortcake for dessert.  I'm not a fan, but I tasted it and it was fresh as all hell.  Very nicely done.

One of the things I'm dying to try on the menu the next time I go back is a big burger served between two grilled cheese sandwiches.  Oh yeah!  That, my friends, is comfort food.

I guess my point is, sometimes you can be more than pleasantly surprised by trying a local joint that you had previously overlooked.  I doubt any of you will get to Greenlawn, NY anytime soon. But if you do, Old Fields is a great options for an excellent meal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stuffed Peppers

I found this recipe here - a new favourite blog of mine.  Maybe it's just the heritage that's close to home.  I've been meaning to make this for a while now but every time I pull out the ingredients and re-read the recipe I end up too strapped for time - it's a bit time consuming if you do it all from scratch, but very worth it.  And since fall seems to be upon us here in Saskatchewan, and I'm on a week of holidays, a nice hot casserole type meal was just the thing for yesterday's supper!  It is very similar to a cabbage roll, the same filling just stuffed in a pepper instead - and way easier than fooling around with cabbage leaves!  I served it with creamy mashed potatoes and steamed carrots with a honey ginger glaze!

Ingredients:1 lb lean ground beef  (I used ground bison, and I'm thinking you could also do it with ground chicken or turkey)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 grated onion
1/2 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream and it didn't seem to have an adverse affect)
1 cup cooked rice (1/3 cup raw)
5 large peppers, cut in half or 10 small 
I also added a clove of minced garlic.  After tasting I also decided that hot pepper flakes should be added the next time I make this.

Sauce:1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 pepper, chopped (I just used the left over tops and bottoms I cut to make the pepper sit flat)
5 Tbsp flour
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 small can tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste  

And if you're short on time or just don't care to go to the extra work of making a sauce of scratch a can of tomato soup would work just fine.  I made the sauce from scratch (I usually do) and it was worth it - nice fresh flavours!

1. If you do not have leftover rice, cook about 1/3 cup rice in 2/3 cup water and a bit of salt, until done.
2. Spray medium sized roaster with cooking spray.
3. Prepare peppers. If peppers are large, simply cut in half and remove stems and seeds. Shave off the pointed/top part so that they sit better. If using small peppers, cut the pointed section off, remove seeds and stem. Arrange in roaster, flat sides down.
4. In a large bowl, mix ground beef, seasoning, onion, sour cream and cooked rice. This works best by hand.
5. Fill Peppers.
6. In large skillet, cook chopped onion and pepper until soft.
7. Add half of the broth. Mix flour and the rest of the broth in a sealed jar and add to sauce.
8. Stir in tomato paste, salt and pepper to taste. Stir sauce until it comes to a boil and thickens.
9. Pour over filled peppers and bake at 350F for 75 -90 minutes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Grilled eggplant with tomatoes and mint

I've gotten to a certain comfort level in the kitchen lately.  And that has to do with seeing a recipe that I like, or having had a meal that I liked, and then kinda figuring out how to do it myself without having to follow a recipe for it.  There are pluses and minuses to that kind of system.  The pluses have to do with with working within that comfort level. The minuses sometimes add up to a final product that is clearly not what the recipe intended.  Which sometimes turns into a plus.  Huh?

photo credit: Smitten Kitchen

From the wonderful folks at Smitten Kitchen, here's a recipe for a bruschetta-style dish that most folks would consider a funky appetizer.  I saw it and immediately thought it would make a nice dinner for Gia, since she is a huge fan of eggplant grilled on the barbecue.  And she is trying to eat healthier, so I thought some eggplant "steaks" topped with this fresh mix seemed appropriate.

So I tucked it away in my memory banks for the next time I did a grocery shopping.

Then I made it tonight.  I didn't re-glance at the recipe, so I had some things off.  I added some diced kalamata olives instead of capers.  Okay. And I also added a diced cucumber that had been peeled and seeded.  And some diced green peppers.  But that's about it.  The rest of it was pretty loyal to the extremely simple recipe.  Fresh and funky.  If you dig eggplant, you may want to give it a go.  Gia loved it, and that's all that mattered to me.

By the way, I don't dig eggplant.  But I had some of the tomato/mint/feta mix as a side salad.  To a great big patty melt.  Because that's how I roll.  Oh yeah!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Leftover Soup

I'm a huge fan of leftover soup. Not actual soup leftover from a previous meal. No. I mean soup made from leftovers. It's a great way to make a simple soup, and a great way to use those leftovers that you worked so hard to not eat from an earlier meal.

Case in point.

On Wednesday night, I made a dinner of Thai food for the two of us.  Larb (Laab), which is a Thai meat (beef, pork or chicken) salad, and some aromatic rice served in romaine lettuce wraps.  If you are interested, my recipe for it is right here

I love Larb, but even while I'm eating it freshly prepared I'm thinking about the soup I'm going to make with the leftovers for lunch the following day.  Which is exactly what I did today.  Here's what I came up:

Fuzzy picture taken with my phone

Leftover Larb(Laab) Soup - super easy

  • 1 cup beef broth/stock
  • 1/2 tsp garlic chili sauce - like this one
  • 1 tsp lime juice - freshly squeezed
  • 3-6 tbsp leftover Larb (recipe)
  • 3-6 tbsp leftover rice - any cooked rice will do.
Just through all the ingredients above into a pot and heat them all up until you got a nice simmer going.  I'm a little vague up there with the portions for the leftover Larb and rice.  I like a lot of stuff in my soup, so I tend toward the larger portions.  But if you want it more broth-like, then feel free to use less. It's the greatest combination of salt from the broth and fish sauce, tang from the lime and spice from the garlic chili sauce.  The leftover Larb will have marinated overnight, so the mint really shines through as well.

It's my favorite soup, and the true beauty of it is that it only takes about 5 minutes to prepare.