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Mediterranean Mussels

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…

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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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Campfire Sandwiches

(or as we Campbells refer to them, tonkas)

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First off, I have no idea why we called these tonka sandwiches while I was growing up, and I have no evidence to suggest anyone else has ever referred to them as such. What we called “tonka irons” are cast iron sandwich cookers on the ends of a couple of 24-to-30-inch metal rods. You cook them in a campfire.

IMG_4613At its most basic level, a tonka sandwich is a grilled cheese you cook in the fire. But they can be, oh, so much more. Just a simple can of strawberry-rhubarb pie filling can transform two slices of bread and some margarine into an exquisite dessert that’ll have the family clamouring to go back to the campground. (Really, I’ve somehow been able to turn Teresa into an avid camper, a remarkable feat, and much of the credit goes to dessert tonkas.) Read more…

Covehead Harbour and a new lobster season

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The spring lobster season began on PEI this past week. A number of fishermen have peddler’s licenses now. After a long morning hauling traps out on the water, they load some giant tubs full of lobster on the back of a pickup truck and head into town, park in some conspicuous location, and sell the fish in plastic bags to any and all comers. It’s a good deal, much cheaper than the grocery store (I think they usually charge around $4 for a canner).

Read more…

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese & Candied Pecans

 

Many of my most prized recipes can be found in several collections of dog-eared, food-stained photocopies dating back to a cooking class I took in Brandon, Manitoba nearly a decade ago.

It was an evening class taught by two chefs: Andy Ormiston and Larry deVries. Larry had been the instructor in the culinary program at the high school I attended (though I didn’t take his class). By this time he was an instructor at Assiniboine Community College.

The class was amazing, and really solidified my growing confidence in the kitchen. There were about 18 students. Every Wednesday evening we’d meet, get a short lesson, then pair up, grab a recipe and all the needed ingredients, and get to work. About 90 minutes later we’d sit down and enjoy an amazing meal together.

What made the class particularly memorable for me was that I enrolled with my father, whose name, as it happens, is also Kerry Campbell. I think the other students got a kick out of our pairing.

Anyway, I still have all the recipes from that class, and refer to them often. This one is the best. I hope Larry and Andy don’t mind that I’ve included it here. Read more…

Grilled Kale

Teresa’s been eating a lot of kale lately. She says it’s a superfood. I wanted to try some the other night. I also wanted to get the barbecue going for the first time this season (the five feet of snow surrounding it on the back porch finally melted).

I’m a firm believer in the fact that you can grill just about anything (like mussels). So I did a quick search for grilled kale recipes and thought Rachael Ray’s looked pretty good. Basically you make a simple vinaigrette, but probably with a bigger proportion of oil in this case, to help it stick. I added oyster sauce to mine because I was also using it to marinade a striploin, and because that’s just the way I roll. Anything with sugars in it will help things caramelize and give you a nice crispy burn, which you want with your grilled vegetables–just watch it doesn’t get out of hand.

When I’m using a marinade like this to grill vegetables I usually put the veggies and the vinaigrette in a big ziploc back and shake them around. Sometimes I’ll chop up a few peppers and mix them with olive oil and barbecue sauce. The kids love that.

You can hardly see it in this photo, but we also enjoyed my roasted beet salad with goat cheese and candied pecans with this meal. I’ve blogged this recipe before, but for some reason it’s disappeared from the site. I’ll try to figure out what happened. If I can’t find it, it’ll be worth blogging again.

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Bombay Mussels

There was for a brief time a restaurant on the Charlottetown waterfront called Flex Mussels. It featured open-air dining, consistently poor service and the most incredible assortment of mussel recipes you’ll ever find. Peking duck mussels was one. As best I recall they had 18 different mussel recipes.

It had actually started as a small kiosk with picnic tables in Summerside. Then it impressed some fancy investors from New York City. And now New York is the only place left you can enjoy Flex Mussels.

Back when the PEI restaurants were still going they had one of the chefs on the radio station where I work. He prepared the recipe they called “Bombay Mussels.” Some of us took notes.

I’ve come up with a lot of ways to prepare curry mussels, and they all end up tasting pretty similar. Because, you know, it’s me. This curry ends up with a completely different flavour, mostly because of the mango. The paste you choose will also have a big influence. I get my curry paste from one of the local Asian groceries. It comes in small, 4 oz. tins good for one or two recipes. The brand is called Maesri. They have red and green curry pastes, and a masaman curry paste that comes in a yellow tin. If you look at the list of ingredients, you’ll find the reds and greens have chilies listed as the first ingredient. Masaman has garlic up first. It’s considerably milder, which works better for our taste buds around here. Read more…

Salmon with Mussel, Olive & Tomato Sauce

This dish started with a loaf of bread.

At the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning we decided to buy one of a number of beautiful, round loaves on display from a local baker, to go with the mussels we decided we were going to have for dinner that evening. But by the time we settled on this plan the baker in question was reduced down to his last three loaves, all of which were rye.

Rye BreadI love rye bread. I love slices of it surrounding a mound of shaved pastrami. I wouldn’t normally choose it as the bread to accompany most of my mussel recipes, though. The earthy, nutty flavour is a bit too powerful. So I had to choose a mussel recipe that would compliment this wonderful bread, which, as Teresa noted, had a particularly fermented flavour.

I remembered a salmon recipe I’ve made many times, a recipe I found in the very first issue of Food & Wine magazine I ever bought, in May 2008, the discovery of which immediately made the magazine one of my all-time favourite titles. You can find the original recipe for Salmon in Tomato-Olive Sauce online.

Here’s my variation. The mussels are an excellent addition. With them (and the rye bread) this meal is complete on its own. I chose my favourite California zinfandel to go with this (Painter Bridge), but wished I’d gone with a pinot noir instead. Read more…

Figs with Ricotta, Pistachios and Honey

This was part of our multi-course meal for Oscar night. We make a small production out of the Academy Awards every year. Sometimes we have people over, sometimes it’s just us. Teresa watches the red carpet and tweets on fashion. I’m happy to make myself busy in the kitchen trying to come up with elegant finger food. (I may also have snuck out for a soccer game during the red carpet this year).

I’m always looking for new recipes and ideas when it comes to finger food. Because of that, and because of an ongoing “use them or lose them” campaign involving my cookbook collection, I chose most of this year’s recipes from a magazine Teresa bought me for Valentine’s Day: Fine Cooking’s “Best Appetizers” edition.

This recipe is from that book, with my own little modifications. You could serve this as a dessert, or as a light, sweet middle course to cleanse the palate as I did. Read more…

Smoked Eel Crostini with Goat Cheese

One of the first radio documentaries I did on PEI was about the eel fishery here. Eel used to be a staple food in many island families, but you won’t find many eating it now. You will find some eel fishers though, who export their catch.

I remember the fisherman I met. I believe his name was Roy Clow. He said he’d been fishing for eels since he was a kid. When I spoke with him he would have been well into his 60s.

He showed me the hoop nets he used to catch the fish–long, interconnected concentric hoops laid along the river. He said it was the same way the ancient Egyptians used to catch eels. He hauled a wooden box up out of the water that was attached to the pier with a rope. He opened the lid and showed me his catch. Inside the box there were eels on top of eels, writhing in every which direction. Think of that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Read more…

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