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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summery Pasta

Well.  Hello there.  This feels... rusty.  I won't spend too long commenting on my hiatus.  Suffice it to say I was "busy"!

Anyway!  I'm just finishing up an extra-long weekend and I've been back in the kitchen in a big way.  Amazing what you can do with a little free time here and there!  The first step was spending a little quality time on the Internet for some meal ideas.

So what's on the menu?  A delectable summer pasta by way of Smitten Kitchen.  (If you like that blog at all, you must know she's got an amazing looking cookbook out).  It is just too season-appropriate not to share with you.

The first thing that caught my eye was the farfalle:


So silly how you can like one pasta more than another just based on its shape.  But, silly or not, I love farfalle the most of any pasta!  (Fun fact: linguine comes second and orzo comes third.)

Two other ingredients, however, make this a summer meal: mint and snap peas.  Not a combination I had ever considered before (unlike the rest of the world, apparently).  But one that instantly piqued my interest.  Mint is so refreshing, but I don't often have it outside of a mojito.

Fresh mint

Chopped mint + herb shears

(The herb scissors are a godsend!  So much easier than chopping wet herbs.)

Here is the link to the whole recipe on the lovely Smitten Kitchen blog.  Inspired by her visit to Rome.  My only modification was to add some broccolini.  It caught my eye the grocery store - we usually don't have access to such exotic produce!  I added it with about 3 minutes left in the pasta cooking time.


I said the mint and snap peas really caught my attention, right?  Well, I can't lie - the ricotta and parmesan didn't hurt either...



And now here is the finished product:


Food porn close-up:

Farfalle with snap peas, broccolini and mint

I dare you not to try this!  With lots of fresh cracked pepper and a bit of sea salt.  Mmm.

Pasta plate

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fish Cakes

So, the blog has been dormant for the past four (really, has it been four?) months, but it isn't dead yet.  It has been a beautiful summer here on PEI.  It was also a very busy summer with work, weddings, family and friends visiting, beach trips, etc.  Now that September has arrived, it seems like I'll be settling into more of a routine.  Here's a new post to hopefully set the trend for runty mouse as well.

Fish cakes are an Island (and Atlantic Canadian) tradition.  They are a dish I will often order at restaurants (usually at brunch) to determine how much I like the chef.  However, homemade fish cakes are a dish I'm much more familiar with.  My mom makes a lovely fish cake with potato, haddock and egg, pan-fried and crispy, always with delicious homemade mustard pickles or chow.  My Uncle Mike makes a smashing fish cake with bacon as the star ingredient and these are always whipped up at special occasions.  At a recent family party, he brought along fish cake sliders!  Genius!  More to go around.

As much as I love them, I realized that somehow, I had never made them myself.  What?!  It was true.  So one night in the spring I fixed that.  Rather than going by a recipe, I relied on my Island roots and vast tasting experiences and created quite a reasonable fish cake if I do say so myself.

Did I write down my recipe?  No.  Of course not.  Below is my best guesstimate.  There is an ingredient list at the bottom of the post.

PEI Potatoes

Obviously the recipe starts with PEI potatoes!  Starchy white potatoes such as Russets work nicely.  I think Reds (skin on) would also work.  Something like Yukon Gold might be a bit too wet.  For many Atlantic Canadian families, potatoes are boiled nightly for dinner, so the leftovers are used in fish cakes.  We don't eat potatoes very often, so I peeled and boiled up a few pounds (probably 2-3) especially for this recipe.

Salt cod

Taking a page from my time in Newfoundland, I chose salt cod as my fish of choice (about a half pound).  For me it's the ultimate fish cake fish.  You do have to plan ahead a bit, however.  The cod is preserved by a load of salt that needs to be soaked away before it's edible.  So buy the fish perhaps a day ahead, soak it in the fridge in some fresh water, changing as often as necessary until it tastes as fresh as you'd like.  My fish only took two changes of water, about six hours apart.  I then drained it and kept it in the fridge until I was ready to cook.

Parsley and aromatics

Aromatics were up next.  Green and red onion add some nice colour.  These were sauteed in some butter until softened and just starting to brown.

(fish)cake batter

The next step is to simply mix your cooked, mashed potatoes with your salt cod and aromatics.  I added some chopped fresh parsley; Newfoundland fish cakes invariably have dried summer savoury added instead.  Use salt and fresh-cracked pepper to season.  Form into patties just like you would with burgers.

Fish cakes

These keep nicely in the fridge until you're ready to pan-fry them in a little butter, or you can pan-fry them immediately to eat or keep as leftovers (which could then be microwaved).

Making a meal out of ours, we grilled some corn and made a simple green salad with balsamic vinaigrette.  Have I told you how we do our corn?  We take fresh corn-on-the-cob, rub it with a bit of butter, add salt and fresh ground pepper, then wrap each ear in tin foil and grill it on the BBQ for 15 minutes or so.

Fish cake supper

Final product!  A simple but delicious meal.

Fish cakes and chow

And don't forget the chow!  Best part of having fish cakes!

Fish Cake Ingredients:

2-3 pounds Russet, white or red potatoes, boiled and mashed
1/2 pound salt cod, soaked and drained
1/2 cup red onion, sauteed
1/2 cup green onion, sauteed
handful of chopped Italian parsley
salt and fresh ground pepper to season
a few tablespoons butter for sauteeing onions and pan-frying cakes
Chow-chow or ketchup to garnish

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Fifth Feast

It's only April, and already I'm getting giddy with excitement for... dun dun na na: the 5th Annual Village Feast!

I'm assuming a few more readers know about the Village Feast now, given my post from last year the stunning Food Network documentary which aired in early April (trailer here).  The event has been covered in other blogs, the news, and widely spread by word of mouth.

In a nutshell, the Feast is a community-supported event in Souris, PEI, championed by local Chef Michael Smith and a wide variety of community leaders and businesses.  It is a gourmet steak dinner with all the trimmings, held (usually!) outdoors in a summer picnic setting.  The ingredients are as local as possible (depending on Mother Nature, of course) and purchased to support local primary industries such as farming and aquaculture.  The funds raised support charities both near and far.  Near includes the Souris Food Bank, Coats for Kids, and the Main Street Family Resource Centre.  Farmers Helping Farmers assist with the "far" part, using the funds to build school cookhouses in Kenya.  The hot meal prepared in the cookhouses encourages the children there to attend classes daily, and the cookhouse makes it a lot easier and safer for their mothers to prepare the meal.

I've been waiting for months to debut last year's Feast pics on runty mouse.  Thought I'd save them up to generate saliva buzz for the upcoming - fifth! - Feast on July 8th, 2012.

Let's start with the raw materials, shall we?

First up, some Island beef.  Canada AAA Striploin steaks to be exact.  (Incidentally, the excellent quality of Island beef has also been showcased this month with PEI Burger Love.  There is no better place for a part-time foodie than Prince Edward Island!  If you haven't already, get out there and try one of the creations!)


Next, the bread of breads: Speerville Mills Organic Red Fife bread... all risen and ready to go.

Risen dough

Freshly picked (and I mean freshly picked) lettuce from Farmer Becky at Fortune Organics:

Farmer Becky

The (very local) oyster shucking station:


And - my personal favorites - the strawberries and rhubarb for Chef Pedro's famous dessert.



What does this look like when it all comes together?

The meal

Strawberry-rhubarb shortcake on a nutmeg biscuit

Oh, yeah.

Now, some miscellaneous and behind-the-scenes shots from the day:

Many hands make light work:


Co-founders Alan MacPhee and Chef Michael Smith rallying the volunteer troops pre-event.  (Don't mind the film crew):

Volunteer rally

Committee chair Pat O'Connor addressing the masses:

Committee chair

We literally require the army to pull this off:  This is a Canadian Forces truck with a Mobile Kitchen Trailer (MKT) attached.  It also comes with army chefs!  A place to prepare and serve a large portion of the food.

Canadian Forces at the Feast

Chowder creation: seafood chowder for 1200 is no easy feat.

Chowder prep

Speerville's wood-fired oven being stoked up for the bread-baking:

Speerville oven

Local butchers in the on-site steak carving tent:

Meat tent

The biggest, hottest steak grilling station you've ever seen:


A new station last year: Kenyan Githeri.  The same dish that is prepared in the Village Feast-sponsored cookhouses built for Kenyan schoolchildren:


Chef Pedro giving instructions on the dessert serving:

Chef Pedro and gang

Intrigued?  Inspired?  If you want to join in the amazing experience that is the Village Feast, you can join the Facebook group here, contact for ticket info here or get information on volunteering here.  This year, it's happening on Sunday, July 8th in Souris, PEI.  Tickets are $39 and more than worth every bit for the food, the experience, and most importantly, the charities!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Santa Monica

Last stop on our California tour - Santa Monica.  What a spot!  Such a great place to truly enjoy yourself and your time off.  Sunny, blue skies, lots to do and see, and a very relaxed atmosphere that made me feel right at home, even on the opposite side of the continent.

One of the most memorable things we did in Santa Monica was rent old-school bikes and give ourselves a tour of the beaches and coast (Santa Monica, Venice, Marina Del Rey).

Santa Monica Pier

[the iconic Santa Monica Pier]

Beach bike trails

[bike rentals - best idea ever!]

Canals of Venice, CA

[canals of Venice - an easy stop on the bike route]

Pelican on roof

[lots of pelicans at Marina Del Rey]

As I mentioned, the area has a totally relaxed vibe.  The huge beaches, plentiful palm trees and gorgeous sun didn't hurt.

Venice Beach

[beach at Santa Monica]

Palm trees at dusk

[in love with palm trees]

Rock stars

[being Californian on Venice Beach]

We also hung with some locals at the Daily Pint and tried the stellar beer list there and at West 4th / Jane.  I think I've said this before, but Californians really know their beer.

@ The Daily Pint

[shuffleboarders @ the Daily Pint]

Look how much fun Hogie is having!

Carnival time!

More California posts here and here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Our trip to L.A. wouldn't be complete without a visit to Hollywood.  To me, it was as essential as seeing Times Square in New York City.  A quick ride on the Metro took us from Pasadena to Hollywood and Vine.

Even the Metro stop itself was movie-themed.  Check out the station walls and ceiling covered in old film reels, and note the "stage" in the background.

Hollywood and Vine Metro Station

A street shot at dusk:

Hollywood and Vine

The Walk Of Fame was a must as well.  It's hard to avoid, actually.  From the Metro stop all the way to Grauman's Chinese Theatre, there were hundreds of stars.

Including mine:

[the star actually belongs to Laura La Plante]

Outside Grauman's:

Hollywood friends

Blooper reel:  we took our time strolling down Hollywood Boulevard, checking out the star's names, dodging evangelical end-times promoters, partaking in happy hour, etc.  The final destination was the Hollywood and Highland centre, where there was supposedly a great view of the Hollywood sign.  We all really wanted to see the sign "lit up at night" at the end of our stroll.  Well, here it is folks:

The Hollywood sign?

Apparently a myth (made up by us) that the sign is lit up at night.

Epilogue:  before Mike and I left the city, we ended up exploring Beverly Hills and serendipitously got a shot of the sign after all (full daylight).  Mind you it was at 15X zoom through power lines, but it was still fun to see in person!

Hollywood sign

Next stop, Santa Monica.