In Italian parlance, the word minestrone means “big soup.” This recipe certainly fits the bill with a hearty spring vegetable-and-bean soup that delivers big-time flavour and nutrition. If available, fiddleheads can be used instead of asparagus.
Nutritionally overachieving asparagus is rich in a range of nutrients, including folate, vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
Don’t compost leek tops and asparagus ends. Bundle them up and stash them in the freezer along with other veggie trimmings, such as mushroom stems, in an airtight container. When you’ve collected enough, use these scraps to make vegetable stock.
In large saucepan over medium, heat oil. Add leeks and yellow pepper; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in asparagus and garlic; heat for 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper; heat for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, beans, and broth to pot. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in spinach and lemon juice and heat for 5 minutes.
Tourtière is, for me, the dish that best represents Québec. It can be traced back to the 1600s, and there’s no master recipe; every family has their own twist. Originally, it was made with game birds or game meat, like rabbit, pheasant, or moose; that’s one of the reasons why I prefer it with venison instead of beef or pork. Variation: If you prefer to make single servings, follow our lead at the restaurant, where we make individual tourtières in the form of a dome (pithivier) and fill them with 5 ounces (160 g) of the ground venison mixture. Variation: You can also use a food processor to make the dough. Place the flour, salt, and butter in the food processor and pulse about ten times, until the butter is incorporated—don’t overmix. It should look like wet sand, and a few little pieces of butter here and there is okay. With the motor running, through the feed tube, slowly add ice water until the dough forms a ball—again don’t overmix. Wrap, chill, and roll out as directed above.
My love of artichokes continues with this classic recipe, one of the best ways to eat this interesting, underrated, and strange vegetable. Frozen artichoke hearts are a time-saving substitute, though the flavour and texture of fresh artichokes are, by far, much superior and definitely preferred.
Cervelle de canut is basically the Boursin of France, an herbed fresh farmer’s cheese spread that’s a speciality of Lyon. The name is kind of weird, as it literally means “silk worker’s brain,” named after nineteenth-century Lyonnaise silk workers, who were called canuts. Sadly, the name reflects the low opinion of the people towards these workers. Happily for us, though, it’s delicious—creamy, fragrant, and fresh at the same time. Cervelle de canut is one of my family’s favourite dishes. It’s a great make-ahead appetizer that you can pop out of the fridge once your guests arrive. Use a full-fat cream cheese for the dish, or it will be too runny and less delicious.