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There is an ebb and flow to life on a farm, a comforting regularity that comes from working the land. That same rhythm is part of life at the Inn at Bay Fortune, on the east coast of PEI in Souris, where the chefs and cooks who make the evening feast start each day with chores around the 46-acre property farm.
They might dig up overwintered sunchokes, gather lovage leaves or spruce tips (the rosemary of Prince Edward Island), pick baskets of nasturtium and gin roses, or bring in bushels of organic carrots, beans and beets. No task is too menial and they eagerly pitch in to help with whatever farmer Kevin Petrie asks.
“It’s our favourite time of the day,” says proprietor and chef Michael Smith, who purchased the inn seven years ago with his wife, Chastity. They have since transformed it into a working farm and the island’s only five-star country inn. “We dive in together. We chat. We laugh and we get the job done. It’s a ritual we all love because it reinforces the connection between the farm and our kitchen, which is the very essence of our cuisine.”
Smith has just written his ninth cookbook, Farm, Fire & Feast: Recipes from the Inn at Bay Fortune. It’s filled with dishes that are unique to the region including Seared Island Scallops, Oven-Baked Salt-Crusted Halibut, Sunchoke Fries and a Wild Blueberry Maple Grunt. However, it’s also filled with stories about the people in his tight-knit community – the farmers, the fisher folk and the food artisans who all contribute to the unique terroir of the island, with all its wonderful textures and flavours.
“As cooks, we know we are mere intermediaries … we share our producers’ stories through our cooking,” says Smith, whose working farm includes eight fertile acres, multiple herb gardens, five greenhouses and a small orchard (which guests to the inn tour before dinner, often with a Rose Gin Fizz in hand).
Smith says this book is an accumulation of more than 30 years of cooking, listening, tasting and learning. “It’s taken me many years to realize the simple truth that less is more. With the farm, and the ingredients it provides, I’ve found my perfect alchemy.”
- 1 shallot, very finely minced
- 2 garlic cloves, very finely minced
- ¼ cup sherry vinegar or cider vinegar
- ¼ cup extra virgin extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh fennel seeds, lovage pollen, or minced fresh tarragon
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon pure liquid honey
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Lots of freshly ground pepper
Measure all the ingredients into a 2-cup Mason jar. Screw on the lid and shake until the contents emulsify into a smooth dressing. Reserve.
Pickled red onions
Makes 2 cups
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon pickling spice
- 2 or 3 thinly sliced red onions
Measure the red wine vinegar, sugar and pickling spice into a large saucepan. Bring to a full boil over medium-high heat. Gently stir in the red onions. Cover tightly and remove from the heat. Rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer to a 2-cup Mason jar, seal and refrigerate overnight. The pickled onions are at their best after a few days of resting and will last up to a month.
Summer salad vegetables
Farm-fresh vegetables, as many varieties as you can harvest and gather, a handful or so of each (2 to 3 pounds/900 g to 1.35 kg when prepped) such as:
- Tender fresh bean, trimmed
- Multi-hued, vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered
- Baby squashes, trimmed and halved
- Baby root vegetables (carrots, turnips, radishes), trimmed and halved
- Sweet corn, trimmed from cob
- Fresh peas, shucked
- Snow peas
- Snap peas
- Fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- Crisp cucumbers
- Cucamelons, radish pods and any other obscure varietals you can find
- Lots of freshly picked aromatic herb leaves, such as commonly available basil, mint, dill, chives, parsley, cilantro and fennel fronds, and exotic specialty varieties such as marigold, anise hyssop, lemon balm, nasturtium, shiso
- A handful or two of nasturtium, marigold, chive, borage, dill, fennel, arugula, broccoli, violet
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water.
As you prep the vegetables, sort them into two separate medium bowls: tougher-textured vegetables in one bowl (to blanch), tender vegetables in the second bowl (to be kept raw). Squashes, peas, fennel and cucumbers are better left raw. Tougher string beans, corn and baby carrots or other roots benefit from blanching.
To blanch, briefly plunge the vegetables into the boiling water, swirling gently as they brighten and tenderize, just a minute or so. Immediately drain the vegetables and plunge them into ice water, swirling and cooling them rapidly. Drain well and pat dry. Transfer to a large serving bowl.
Add the raw vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Drizzle with the herb dressing and toss to combine. Garnish with picked red onions.
Excerpted from Farm, Fire & Feast: Recipes from the Inn at Bay Fortune by Michael Smith. Copyright © 2021 Michael Smith. Photography by Al Douglas. Published by Penguin Canada®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.