Archive for March, 2013

The April 2013 issue of Food and Wine features pasta recipes, and this puttanesca—made with sun-dried tomatoes and a fresh hot chile—is spectacular. Olives, capers, anchovies, chile and garlic are sautéed in olive oil, then combined with almonds, sun-dried tomatoes and crushed canned tomatoes. Cook the pasta until it is almost done and then add it to the sauce, with some reserved pasta water (the recipe suggests adding three cups of water—I added far less, as I didn’t want a runny sauce). Stir in fresh herbs, add a spritz of lemon zest and juice and you have a puttanesca that is every bit as good as the one made by your favourite trattoria.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

I was very excited to finally find sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil that did not contain additives or preservatives. The brand is Allessia and I found them at the Bloor Street Market. Check the ingredients of your olives—I used President’s Choice green olives stuffed with garlic, which are all-natural. Unico capers, anchovies and crushed tomatoes don’t contain additives or preservatives. Make sure your almonds are preservative free and look for a white wine with a sulfite content of less than 10 parts per million. Finally, be sure to squeeze your own lemon juice—the concentrates are bitter and contain chemicals.

Saute the olives, chile, capers, garlic and anchovies

Add the sun-dried and crushed tomatoes

Add the slightly undercooked pasta and some pasta water

Fresh chile puttanesca


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3 ounces green olives, such as Castelvetrano, pitted and chopped (½ cup)

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon drained capers, chopped

One 2-ounce can anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped

1 Fresno chile or jalapeño, seeded and minced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

½ cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

½ cup canned crushed San Marzano tomatoes

¼ cup sliced almonds

1 cup dry white wine

1 pound spaghetti

¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup torn basil leaves

½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


In a large pot, heat the ¼ cup of olive oil. Add the olives, capers, anchovies, chile and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until sizzling. Add the sun-dried and crushed tomatoes and the almonds and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until pliable but still hard in the center, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 3 cups of water.

Add the spaghetti and the reserved cooking water to the sauce and cook until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the parsley, basil, lemon zest and lemon juice and serve in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil. Serves 6.

From the April 2013 issue of Food and Wine

If you enjoy hot and spicy stir fries, try this recipe from Food52. Gong Bao chicken, sometimes called Kung Pao chicken, is made with chicken, chiles, peanuts and a variety of other ingredients, depending on the recipe. In this recipe, the deeply satisfying heat comes from dried red chiles and Sichuan peppercorns. Sichuan peppercorns are a hot, fragrant type of dried peppercorn that, when ground, is one of the ingredients used to make five-spice powder. Once you assemble your ingredients, this dish cooks in less than 15 minutes. I served it with steamed rice and sautéed baby bok choy.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

I didn’t have Chinese cooking wine, so I used a sweet rice cooking wine made by Kikkoman. I also substituted balsamic vinegar (with no sulfites added) for the Chinese dark vinegar. Use tamari instead of soy sauce, and look for a low-salt brand to reduce the sodium in this dish. I used cashews instead of peanuts and they worked just fine.

Assemble your ingredients before you start to cook

Partially cook the chicken and remove from pan

Stir fry the chiles, peppercorns, garlic, ginger and scallions

Return chicken to pan and add sauce

Gong Bao chicken with steamed rice and baby bok choy


2 chicken thighs, deboned and cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes (if yours are tiny, you may want to throw in 1-2 more)

½ teaspoon (2 mL) beaten egg

2 teaspoons (10 mL) cornstarch

1 pinch salt

1 teaspoon (5 mL) Chinese cooking wine

2 teaspoons (10 mL) dark soy sauce

2 teaspoons (10 mL) brown sugar

1 tablespoon (15 mL) Chinese dark vinegar

1 tablespoon (15 mL) cornstarch

6 tablespoons (90 mL) of water or stock

½ cup vegetable oil (125 mL)

1 generous handful of peanuts

2 green onions, chopped into 1-inch (2.5 cm) lengths

4 garlic cloves, skin removed, smashed and chopped

6 slices of ginger

8 red dried chiles, chopped

4 teaspoons (20 mL) Sichuan peppercorns


In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, cornstarch, salt and wine. Toss with the chicken to coat and set aside. Can be refrigerated for up to 12 hours.

In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, cornstarch and stock. Set aside.

Add the oil to a large non-stick skillet or wok and heat until shimmering. Add half the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until half-cooked, about 2 minutes. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.

Drain off all but 2 tbsp (30 mL) of oil in heated wok, throw in chiles, peppercorns, garlic, ginger and spring onion; stir-fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes; add peanuts and stir-fry for another 1-2 minutes.

Return chicken to pan and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Add the reserved sauce and simmer until the sauce thickens and the chicken is cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Garnish with ground Sichuan pepper; serve with rice. Serves 2.

From The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2

This recipe from the March 2013 issue of Chatelaine is another quick weeknight supper. Slice a pork tenderloin into half-inch rounds and then pound flat. Quickly sear the pork in a skillet, remove it, and then make a quick pan sauce with marmalade, soy sauce and chili flakes. Return the pork to the pan, toss in some sliced oranges, heat through, and you’re done. This would be great served with rice – I served it with roasted sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

The two ingredients in this recipe that may contain additives and preservatives are the marmalade and the soy sauce. I used Wilkin & Sons Tiptree pure orange marmalade and tamari, which is preserved with alcohol instead of the sodium benzoate used in most soy sauces.

Slice oranges

Slice pork tenderloin and pound flat

Sear the pork until browned and just cooked through

Make the pan sauce, return the pork to the pan and add the oranges

Pork a l'orange


1 orange

1 large pork tenderloin

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 tbsp canola oil

3 tbsp marmalade

2 tbsp light soy sauce

¼ tsp hot-red-chili flakes

2 green onions, thinly sliced


Cut orange in half, then slice into thin half-moons. Stack and cut into quarters. Set aside.

Slice pork into 1/2-in. rounds. Sprinkle both sides of meat with salt and pepper.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high. Add oil, then meat. Cook until lightly browned, 2 to 3 min per side. If meat is browning too quickly, reduce heat to medium. Transfer to a plate. Cover meat loosely with foil to keep warm.

Add marmalade, soy and chili flakes to pan. stir until saucy, 1 minute. Add orange, pork and juices to pan and cook until meat is warmed through, about 2 minutes Transfer meat and orange to plates and spoon sauce overtop. Sprinkle with green onions. Serve with rice. Serves 4.

From the March 2013 issue of Chatelaine

This is another recipe from the Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2 – the cookbook written by visitors to the Food52 website. Mujaddara is a dish of lentils, rice and caramelized onions, and it’s delicious. This recipe combines it with an Indian-spiced yogurt topping. I served the mujaddara with tandoori shrimp; it would be great with chicken or as a vegetarian main dish. You can also make it ahead and reheat it in the microwave.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Check your butter, yogurt and spices. The butter should contain only cream and the yogurt should contain no artificial ingredients. Make sure the spices do not contain colour or anti-caking agents and use freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Look for small green lentils

Caramelized onions add sweetness to this dish

Mujaddara is a mixture of lentils, rice and onions

Mujaddara with spiced yogurt, served beside tandoori shrimp


For the Mujaddara

¾ cups Puy lentils (aka French lentils, the tiny dark brown ones)

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup jasmine rice

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 cups onions (about 3 medium onions), halved and thinly sliced

For the yogurt

½ cup Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cumin (freshly ground, if possible)

½ teaspoon coriander (freshly ground)

½ teaspoon spicy paprika or aleppo pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Juice and zest of half a lemon

¼ teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put lentils, ½ teaspoon salt, and 4 cups water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer lentils until soft but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside. Rinse pot.

Add rice, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 cups water to the pot, set over medium heat, and bring to a boil. When water begins to boil, cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook for 17 minutes until perfectly cooked. Remove from oven, uncover, and fluff with a fork. Set aside.

While rice cooks, set a wide, deep sauté pan over medium-low heat and add butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter has mostly melted, add onions and toss to incorporate with butter and oil.

After 5 minutes, onions will have softened slightly and started to release their liquid.

Raise heat to medium and cook 10 to 12 minutes more, until onions are very soft and browned. Add water by the tablespoon if pan gets too dry or if onions start to stick. When onions are well browned, add last tablespoon of olive oil and raise heat to high. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes, until bottom layer of onions has charred and crisped; try not to stir too much, or onions won’t crisp up.

Combine rice, lentils, and most of the onions in large serving bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes, to marry the flavors together. Taste, and add more onions if desired. Meanwhile, make the yogurt: mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

If mujaddara has cooled significantly, reheat in a low oven or even in the microwave for a couple minutes. To serve, plate a big scoop of mujaddara and top with a dollop of yogurt. Serves 4.

From the Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2

My dear friend Anne Marie gave me a copy of The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2 for my birthday (thank you again, AMQ!). I wasn’t familiar with the Food52 phenomenon, but have since learned that two Brooklyn food writers, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, started the Food52 website to essentially “crowd-source” a cookbook. Anyone could submit recipes to the site, readers would vote for their favourites, and one recipe from each week of the year (hence the “52” in the title) made it into the cookbook. It worked out so well they have now published a second volume, which organizes the recipes by season.

Food52, Volume 2 contains many interesting recipes and combinations I would have never thought to try, such as this linguine with tinned sardines, fennel and tomato. Thinly sliced fresh fennel and garlic are caramelized in oil from the can of sardines. Then add the tomatoes, vermouth, sardines and lemon juice. Toss cooked linguine with the sauce, top with some toasted breadcrumbs and lemon zest and you’re done. A couple of tips: The original recipe called for the garlic to be sautéed first, but, as the cookbook points out, it tends to burn by the time the fennel is done, so add the garlic after the fennel. Also, I found the sauce to be a little too lemony, so you may want to add it a tablespoon at a time and taste until it’s right for you.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Look for sardines packed in oil with no other ingredients and for tomatoes that contain only salt. Use fresh lemon juice and breadcrumbs with no artificial ingredients (I made my own in the food processor using day-old bread).

Fennel, tomatoes, sardines, garlic, lemon zest and breadcrumbs

Saute the fennel in oil from the sardines

Add tomatoes

Add the sardines and cooked linguine

Linguine with sardines, fennel and tomato


Kosher or sea salt

1 tin sardines packed in olive oil (about 4 ¼ oz.)

Extra virgin olive oil

2-3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed, and roughly chopped

1 small or ½ large bulb fennel, fronds reserved

¼ teaspoon red chile flakes, or more to taste

1 cup canned peeled tomatoes with their juice, gently crushed

2 ounces white (dry) vermouth

1 medium lemon, juice and zest

1/3 cup toasted breadcrumbs

¾ pounds dry linguine


Bring a very large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.

Open the sardine tin and drain a tablespoon or so of the oil into a wide skillet (the amount of oil in the tin will vary by brand, so add additional extra virgin olive oil if necessary to make up a tablespoon). Warm the oil over medium-low heat.

Trim the fennel and slice the bulb very thinly (a mandoline works great here). Add to the skillet with a sprinkle of salt, raise the heat to medium, and cook until the fennel is soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the garlic, cooking until fragrant. Add the chile flakes and let them sizzle for a minute, just until fragrant, then add the tomatoes with their juice.

Cook until the liquid is reduced, then add the vermouth and let that reduce slightly.

Add the sardines to the skillet with the tomato and fennel mixture, breaking up slightly but leaving some chunks. Zest the lemon and combine a tablespoon or so of zest with the toasted breadcrumbs, then set aside.

Juice the lemon and add the juice to the pan. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.

Add the linguine to the boiling salted water, cooking it until it is just short of al dente. Using tongs, transfer the linguine to the sauce to finish cooking, adding a little bit of the starchy pasta water and tossing gently to combine. (You’ll want to leave this a little wet, as the breadcrumbs will soak up the sauce and dry the pasta out a bit once you’ve added them.)

Transfer the pasta and sauce to a large warmed serving bowl (or individual pasta bowls), add a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle on the toasted breadcrumb-lemon zest mixture, and garnish with picked small fennel fronds and the remaining lemon zest. Serves 2-4.

From The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2