A basic tomato soup has plenty of umami, but when you use roasted tomatoes, dried tomatoes, a whisper of soy sauce, and a crispy Parmesan accompaniment, each spoonful delivers considerably more. It’s comfort food taken to new heights. You can also press the easy button and garnish with a simple dusting of grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese.
Tomatoes, particularly the sun-dried variety, are laced with lycopene, an antioxidant linked to improved brain functioning.
Roasting vegetables is a hands-off approach to making soup. Plus, it adds a smoky (more umami) element to the final dish.
As with tomato soup, adding a touch of soy sauce to tomato-based pasta sauces can pump up the flavour.
In bowl, place sun-dried tomatoes and cover with 2 cups (500 mL) hot water; let soak for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 400 F (200 C). Toss bell pepper, onion, grape tomatoes, and garlic cloves with oil. Spread out on rimmed baking sheet and roast until bell pepper and tomatoes are softened and onion has darkened, about 25 minutes. In blender container, place roasted vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, 2 cups (500 mL) soaking liquid, 1 cup (250 mL) water, soy sauce, and paprika; blend until smooth.
Lower oven temperature to 350 F (180 mL). In small bowl, stir together Parmesan, lemon zest, and thyme. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Mound tablespoonfuls of cheese at least 2 in (5 cm) apart onto baking sheet and gently flatten out mounds with the back of a spoon, making sure rounds are not touching each other. Bake until cheese looks melted and golden around edges, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn cheese. Remove from oven; do not disturb until completely cooled and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Using thin spatula or knife, carefully lift crackers from baking sheet.
If needed, reheat soup in saucepan. Divide soup among serving bowls and serve with Parmesan crisps.
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.