Photo: Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Get into the island spirit with these summer fresh recipes.
An enthusiastic islander (by choice), Chef Michael Smith of Food Network’s Chef at Home recently visited a Toronto restaurant to share his love and enthusiasm for life in P.E.I., specifically growing and cooking good food. Smith explained how knowing all of the people who grow your food changes your perspective when you prepare and consume it. Though he could not bring us the rich soil that grows all of the beautiful produce P.E.I. has to offer, he did share a few island-inspired summer fresh recipes.
And if you’re thinking of taking a trip to the island this summer, check out tourismpei.comfor everything you need to know!
Have a sip. Close your eyes. Remember that Christmas when you were a kid? You will. It’ll take a bit of effort though. Out on the land and down your liquor store aisles. It’ll be worth it though for just one sip of this timeless elixir!
Serves 4 expertly crafted cocktails
4 ounces (500 ml) of freshly picked spruce tips, the lime green tips of spring, preferably from a Prince Edward Island tree
750 ml of Prince Edward Distillery potato vodka or your favourite product
1 can (348 ml) of cranberry jelly
1/2 can of water a one-inch knob of frozen ginger, freshly grated 2 to 4 cans (355 ml) of freshly popped ginger ale 4 – 500 ml mason jars Lots of ice a few handfuls of frozen cranberries
Roam the land keeping an eye on your trees. Come to know them. In the spring watch as delicate lime green sprouts emerge from the branches and sprigs. Hand harvest when they’re 1″ to 2″. Clean the shoots, removing any brown tips. To infuse the booze, make a cocktail or two, share a few shots ensuring you have made enough room in your bottle to cram in your spruce tips. Wait at least a week, the longer the better. Somewhere along the way get the cranberry syrup ready.
Pop the contents of the cranberry can into a sauce pot and splash in half a can full of swish water. Bring the mixture to the simmer whisking smooth. Refrigerate in a mason jar or two until chilled and thickened into cool cranberry syrup!
When you’re ready to tipple simply half fill a round of mason jars with ice. Measure a shot of spruce tip infused vodka into each jar. Splash in 2 shots of cranberry syrup, the ginger and top the works with ginger ale. Tighten on a lid and gently invert the jar, carefully mixing the syrup into the cocktail. Stand upright – you and the drink – remove the lid and garnish with artful spruce sprigs and a few frozen cranberries to maintain the chill while you sip, share and enjoy!
Cattails are a uniquely delicious foraged treat that will easily find a place at your table. This tender spring bulb is found along the edges of marshes, ponds and other wetlands. Here their unique texture and neutral flavour is brightened with a big bold burst of balanced flavours.
Makes 2 pints of freshly foraged flavour
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar 2 tablespoons of sugar 1 teaspoon of mustard seed 1 tablespoon of coriander seed 1 tablespoon of fennel seed 1/2 cup of red onion, thinly sliced 1/4 teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce 1/4 cup of water
1/2 pound (225g) of fresh cattail hearts, stripped rinsed and sliced (cucumber or celery will work if cattails are out of season) 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
Dust off your hip waders and splash into your nearest spring swamp. Tug out a feed of cattail shoots. Back on shore strip them to their core, revealing their tasty hearts. Head for home once your buckets full.
Once safely back in your kitchen, bring the vinegar, sugar, all the seeds, red onion, and water to a simmer. Continue simmering as flavours reduce and intensify as the works reduce by half, about 10 minutes.
Fiddleheads taste like spring. Every year these tender shoots emerge from the warming earth ready to rush straight home into a pan of freshly browned butter. They’re packed with aromatic flavour, green goodness and spring optimism!
1 pound of freshly picked fiddleheads, trimmed and rinsed (or asparagus if not in season) 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of butter 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves
2 ounces (1/4 cup) of water 1/2 teaspoon of salt a few turns of freshly ground black peppercorns
Go for a stroll in the spring and don’t come home until you spot a patch of fiddleheads. Reverently harvest them, feeling a profound connection to the land and your food. Trim the tender stems close to the tightly coiled head. Thank Mother Earth and head for your kitchen.
Brown the butter. Begin by simply melting it over medium heat swirling gently until it’s a pool of evenly melted goodness. Don’t stop though! Keep on cooking and swirling gently until eventually the water within the butter heats, steams, foams and evaporates away. Once that moisture is gone the butter fat left behind can then rise even higher in temperature – past the boiling point of water – into the browning, flavouring zone. Take it as far as you dare – the deeper the colour the deeper the flavour – but be ready. The line between deliciously brown and burnt black is brief and turning off the heat to stop the cooking isn’t enough. You have to stop the butter in its tracks, that’s what the water’s for. Turn off the heat, pour the water in and stand back until the hissing dies down.
Toss in the sliced garlic, adjust the heat to medium and bring the works to a simmer. Continue cooking until the garlic softens and the flavour strengthens, just a minute or two. You’ll be rewarded with a pan of rich moist flavour ready to steam the fiddleheads.