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Seafood Bruschetta

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One of the chic-est restaurants in PEI is a place in downtown Charlottetown called Sim’s Steakhouse. I’m told this is where politicians and business people take you when they want to impress you (like I would know).

The decor is great. Over the years I’ve waffled back and forth several times as to whether the food was worth the prices they charge on those somewhat rare occasions when Teresa and I go out. (I did discover my favourite potato dish there years ago, though they’ve long since stopped offering it on the menu.)

Anyway, Teresa and I found ourselves there in the winter of 2016 and that’s when we discovered the seafood bruschetta on the appetizer menu–scrumptious, decadent, with this wonderful yielding bite to the bread. We loved it so much we went back a week later just for an appetizer.

The last time we were there the recipe seemed to have changed somewhat. But this is our close approximation of the meal we had last winter. You don’t have to broil the bread this way, but it really ups the decadent factor. Teresa handles the bread when we make this, using a recipe from Margo, a family friend.

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Seafood Bruschetta

For the bread:
• loaf of French bread (I used a baguette for the batch in these photos, but prefer the softer texture of a good French loaf)
• about 2/3 of a can evaporated milk
• butter
• a couple cloves minced garlic
• grated Parmesan cheese

For the topping:
• 1-2 tbsp olive oil
• clove garlic, minced
• 1 shallot, chopped
• half a red onion, chopped
• about half a pound of scallops, and the same amount of raw shrimp, shelled
• can of crab or fresh lobster meat if you have it
• 2/3 cup cream
• a few tbsps white wine
• tbsp butter
• 1-2 tbsp chives
• a couple roma tomatoes, chopped
• salt & pepper
• juice and grated zest from a lemon
• goat cheese
• Parmesan cheese

seafood_bruschetta_05To make the bread:

1. Turn on the broiler on your oven. In a large bowl, combine about 2/3 of the can of evaporated milk with an equal amount of melted butter. Mix in the garlic.

2. Cut the bread into thick slices, about an inch thick. Soak each slice in the milk mixture, as if you were making French toast. Lay the slices on a rimmed baking sheet or cake pan. Add the leftover liquid to the bottom of the pan. Cover with Parmesan cheese.

3. Broil about four minutes per side, or until each side is golden.

NOTE: You can make this part a lot easier by just brushing the bread slices with some olive oil and throwing them on the grill.

To make the topping:seafood_bruschetta_04

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Sweat the garlic, shallot and red onion until it’s just beginning to soften. Add the fish and sauté about a minute. Add the cream and the wine and simmer until the liquid has reduced by about half. (It will continue to thicken once it’s taken off the heat).

2. Remove the pan from the heat. Add all the remaining ingredients except for the goat cheese and stir. Spread the goat cheese on top of the bread. Top with the seafood and Parmesan cheese and serve.

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Summer Veggie Pot

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[This is the best way to use vegetables fresh from the garden. I made this twice in one week. Both times, our 13 year old asked for seconds. Possibly thirds. Of vegetables! IT’S THAT GOOD!]

When I was growing up my Nanna & Grandpa had a small acreage outside Brandon, MB where, on a hobby basis, they tried their hands at producing all sorts of different kinds of food. There was a fenced-in area where Grandpa raised two cattle. Further back on the property was a small pond which he stocked with rainbow trout. Every night in summer he would make the lengthy walk to the back of the property to feed them. The fish would begin to jump as soon as Grandpa knocked on the small pier three times with a metal bucket. That was the signal for the fish that dinner was about to be served. What he fed them, I have always been told, was a product called “Purina Trout Chow.” I never saw the bag to confirm this.

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Spring lobster season 2016

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No recipe today, just gratuitous lobster photos from the spring season that ended at the end of June. We didn’t get to the wharf as often as we usually like to. So we made the most of the opportunities we had.

I packed up my propane lobster cooker (I think it was actually designed in order to deep-fry a turkey!) and brought it up to my mother’s cottage in Savage Harbour. She bought the lobster at the local wharf for my birthday.

The great thing about having lobster at the cottage is you can boil or steam it using ocean water. One of the best ways to cook lobster….

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Grilled Bell Peppers

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This is less of a recipe, more of a simple technique for grilling that brings easy results. Our kids have always loved peppers done this way. It kind of marks the first meal of the summer season when I make these. Of course they’ll go with anything.

The cost of peppers at our local grocery stores was high all winter, but has come down somewhat, just in time for barbecue season. Read more…

Crispy Beet & Sweet Potato Hash

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This meal started off with a catfish fillet. I haven’t seen those sold on PEI in years. I like the meatier texture–it reminds me a bit of monkfish that way. Haven’t seen monkfish on PEI in years either.

So with catfish that doubles for monkfish, and the last pound of mussels they had at Mike’s Queen Street Meat Market (where I get all my mussels now; we’ll talk about Mike’s another time), I decided to make this curried monkfish with mussels recipe from Chef Ramsay. (Here’s my own variation on that using apples and fennel.) Read more…

Manhattan Mussel Chowder

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This was going to be a Long Island chowder, which lands somewhere between a traditional, creamy New England chowder and a tomato-based Manhattan. (I was drawing on this recipe for inspiration.) But in the end I decided to forego the cream, so it’s a straight-up Manhattan chowder, only with mussels.

Two flavours give this a wonderful kick: some Old Bay seasoning, and smoked fish. I used a smoked haddock filet instead of bacon (which would be so good in this, but this is a pescatarian-friendly recipe).

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Turnip, Potato & Blue Cheese Soup

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I remember when the Food Network was full of shows in which chefs actually tried to teach you how to cook at home. When it was more instruction than spectacle. I miss that channel.

The first time I had access to the Canadian version of the Food Network (which I understand differs from the network in the US), Emeril Lagasse was probably at the height of his popularity. It would have been just before they put him on a sitcom or whatever they did, for whatever reason only a television executive could fully understand.

Emeril’s schtick got old fast, and I was never a big fan of his “pile everything on top of everything else” style of plating, but he featured some great recipes on his show. When I was younger and a potato soup with breadhome-based freelance writer I could occasionally just turn on the tv at random times during the day and find some new recipes. Might have done a little too much of that come to think of it, which may be why I’m no longer a home-based freelance writer.

Anyway, it was during one of those times that I turned on Emeril, and I think I got my two favourite soup recipes of all-time from the same episode. Read more…

Sambuca Salad

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I was explaining to Teresa the other day that so many of the things I make tend to match a limited set of flavour profiles. For instance, most of the vinaigrettes I make tend to taste like this one, because I’m so fond of using oyster sauce as an emulsifier.

Teresa told me she didn’t mind this about my cooking at all, but I told her I was going to try to break out of the mould this year, and try things from time to time that use flavours, techniques or something else I’m not used to. To try to surprise her and myself, and expand my culinary horizons at the same time.

Now having said all that, there’s nothing particularly radical about this salad. But I almost never make a creamy dressing. Once I decided to make one of those, my next decision was that it should use the liqueur Sambuca–it has an anise flavour, like Ouzo, they set it on fire in bars and get people to drink it. Read more…

Mediterranean Mussels

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A quick post to try to get back into the swing of things and show some love to this recently-neglected blog. If you look through my collection of mussel recipes you’ll see lots that use a tomato base. You can’t really go wrong combining mussels and tomatoes, and if you include a broth you’ll definitely want to equip your guests with spoons, because they’ll want to leave their bowls empty.

This is based on a Greek recipe called mussels saganaki, with a couple further Mediterranean twists–bell pepper, which evokes a bit of Spain, and fennel seed. I love what fennel seed can do to a dish. I find using an anise-flavoured liqueur like Ouzo spreads the flavour around too much. Using fennel seed, it doesn’t really combine, but every few bites you get this wonderful burst of intense flavour. Read more…

Grilled Lobster

Brought these 1-1/2 lb. lobsters from PEI to share with family in Manitoba. Grilling them like this is a good way to make them go farther (you can serve 1/2 lobster portions) and makes it easy for lobster novices to get into them.

These were fully cooked ahead of time. Sometimes I’ll half-cook them in a pot of boiling salted water and finish them on the barbecue.

With a good pair of kitchen scissors, split the lobsters in half length-wise. Crack the claws as well. You can also clean out some of the tamale and remove some of the insides to make these easier for your guests to eat.

Mix together olive oil with a little fresh lemon juice, minced garlic and chopped cilantro. Baste the lobsters, and use a spoon to get some oil mixture in each of the claws.

If your lobsters are already fully-cooked, grill these open-side down until the meat is starting to show some coloration, then serve. If they were only half-cooked in advance you may need to flip them shell-side down to finish cooking.

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