Michael Smith is passionate about cooking real homemade food. In his eighth cookbook, "Family Meals," the Prince Edward Island-based chef has compiled recipes that he loves to make for his family. Here are three recipes that are particular favourites.
The flavours of pizza are great no matter how you mix them up, and this soup has them all. The oregano, in particular, defines the iconic flavour.
"Kids love it," says Smith. "It's a straightforward tomato soup with all the things you would normally put in pizza, then you sort of brown it french-onion style."
Once they dive in to the familiar fun flavours, they'll never notice it's really a bowl of homemade goodness.
30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
2 onions, chopped
6 to 8 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (796 ml/28 oz) crushed tomatoes
15 ml (1 tbsp) dried oregano
750 ml (3 cups) or so of your favourite pizza toppings (such as sliced bell peppers, mushrooms, olives, cooked bacon)
125 g (4 oz) spicy pepperoni, thinly sliced into rounds and halved
1 l (4 cups) rich chicken broth or water
2 ml (1/2 tsp) of salt (but none if you use store-bought chicken broth)
Lots of freshly ground pepper
4 to 6 slices multigrain bread
8 to 12 oz (250 to 340 g) shredded mozzarella or pizza-blend cheese
Splash olive oil into soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring, as onions soften, 2 or 3 minutes. Pour in tomatoes, then stir in oregano, pizza toppings and pepperoni. Pour in chicken broth and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a vigorous boil for a moment, then immediately reduce heat to a slow, steady simmer and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until flavours brighten and textures soften, 10 minutes or so.
While soup simmers, toast bread, then trim to fit into ovenproof soup bowls. Set toast aside and put bowls on a baking sheet. Ladle soup into bowls. Top each with a slice of toast. Add a thick topping of cheese, then broil until cheese melts and browns, 5 minutes or so. Keep an eye on it, moving or turning tray as needed for even browning.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Spanish Omelette With Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
"Here's one of my all-time favourites out of this book," says Smith. "The Spanish omelette with pickled cherry tomatoes. That is one of the most delicious things I think I've ever come up with right there. And it's the classic Spanish omelette with potatoes in it. Eggs, we don't often give them a chance at dinner. This is a good dinner dish. Very easy to make. It's a great one."
Eggs are a great source of protein as well as being economical and nutritious.
Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
1 red onion, thinly sliced
50 ml (1/4 cup) water or tomato juice
50 ml (1/4 cup) cider vinegar
30 ml (2 tbsp) white sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) coriander seeds
15 ml (1 tbsp) fennel seeds
5 ml (1 tsp) mustard seeds
1 ml (1/4 tsp) hot sauce
500 ml (1 pint/2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
2 green onions, thinly sliced
125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
6 to 8 eggs
5 ml (1 tsp) dried oregano
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
Lots of freshly ground pepper
125 g (4 oz) feta cheese, crumbled (250 ml/1 cup or so)
Pickled tomatoes: Into a medium saucepan, measure onion, water, vinegar, sugar, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds and hot sauce. Bring to a slow, steady simmer. Continue simmering until mixture is reduced by half, 10 minutes or so. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes and green onions. Let rest for at least 10 minutes, even overnight.
Omelette: Heat a large non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in oil. Add onion and garlic, briefly sauteing to soften onion. Add potatoes and saute a few minutes longer. Cover tightly and reduce heat. Cook, sizzling slightly, shaking 2 or 3 times, until potatoes are tender and lightly browned, 20 minutes or so.
Whisk eggs with oregano, salt and pepper. Gently stir in feta cheese. Add potato mixture to bowl, stir to thoroughly coat, and return to saute pan. Cover tightly and cook until firm but still tender, 5 or 6 minutes. Loosen omelette from pan with a rubber spatula. With a strong grip and a few folded kitchen towels or a potholder, invert pan, releasing omelette onto lid (if it's flat) or a large plate. Carefully slide it back into pan and cook for another few minutes, firming and lightly browning bottom.
Slice into wedges in pan using rubber spatula. Serve with spoonfuls of pickled tomatoes.
Makes 4 to 6 servings, even 8 with smaller brunch servings.
Flaming Banana Splits
"This is a lot of fun for the guys. This is all written to challenge the guys. The dads of the world own this recipe. Take this, own it, make it yours. If it's the only thing you do at least you can set bananas on fire and impress your family whenever there's a dinner party," Smith says.
500 ml (2 cups) whipping cream
50 ml (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
50 ml (1/4 cup) brown sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) pure vanilla extract
125 ml (4 oz) bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped
30 ml (2 tbsp) rum
500 ml (2 cups) frozen strawberries
250 ml (1 cup) strawberry jam
250 ml (1 cup) orange juice
Chocolate Whipped Cream
250 ml (1 cup) whipping cream
30 ml (2 tbsp) cocoa powder
15 ml (1 tbsp) white sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract
50 ml (1/4 cup) butter
125 ml (1/2 cup) brown sugar
4 ripe bananas, halved lengthwise
50 ml (1/4 cup) dark spiced rum
For Finish and Flourish
Your favourite vanilla ice cream
Crunchy chocolate sprinkles
Crumbled vanilla wafers or the like
A few maraschino cherries
Make and chill the sauces first, even days in advance.
Chocolate sauce: In a small saucepan, measure cream, cocoa powder, sugar and vanilla. Whisking constantly over medium heat, bring to a slow, steady simmer. Remove from heat, add chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Stir in rum, then pour into a jar and chill.
Strawberry sauce: Toss strawberries, jam and juice into a small saucepan. Stirring steadily over medium heat, bring to a slow, steady simmer. Remove from heat and carefully puree until smooth with a hand blender. Pour into a jar and chill.
When you're ready for the show, vigorously whisk cream, cocoa powder, sugar and vanilla until firm, creamy peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes by hand, less with a mixer. Chill.
Here's how to safely flambe a pan of bananas and light a party on fire without an insurance claim. Roll up your sleeves and tie your hair back if it's long. Turn off your exhaust fan. Have the pan's lid nearby just in case things get out of hand. Heat your largest, heaviest skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Toss in butter. As soon as it begins to melt and sizzle, follow with brown sugar. Swirl pan gently as sugar melts into butter and begins bubbling here and there. Continue swirling for a moment or two, then lay in bananas, swirling and tossing in pan to absorb flavours.
— If using a gas stove, extend your arm, swing sizzling pan away from flame and tilt far edge of pan down and away from you. Pour rum into bottom corner with bananas. Keeping your arm extended, tilt edge of pan toward flame until alcohol ignites.
— If using an electric stove, pour rum over bananas, shaking pan to spread alcohol around, and ignite by holding edge of pan near a lit candle.
Hold steadily as flame and applause erupt. Saute as flames die down, a minute or so longer, shaking and shivering (the pan, not you!). Assemble banana splits any way you care to because at this point you're the undisputed kitchen boss.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Source: "Family Meals" by Michael Smith (Penguin Canada Books Inc., 2014).