I was very excited to see this terrific recipe from Paris-based (and Canadian) professional cook Lina Caschetto in a recent edition of the Globe and Mail. Why? Because in addition to using two of my favourite spring ingredients — asparagus and arugula — it includes recipes for five-spice mix and hoisin sauce instead of relying on store-bought versions that contain additives and preservatives. The recipe makes more than you need for this salad, but you’ll want to use both the spice mix and hoisin again — on salmon or chicken or in a stir-fry. This recipe takes a little time to make but the results are worth it; the sweet and salty vinaigrette over spring asparagus and spicy arugula is divine! You can also blanch the asparagus and make the vinaigrette ahead of time and assemble just before serving.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Make sure the feta, almonds, sesame seeds and dried spices do not contain preservatives or colour. Instead of soy sauce, use tamari, which has alcohol as a preservative instead of sulfites or MSG. I use Marukan rice vinegar. Always use freshly squeezed lemon juice instead of concentrate, which is bitter and contains preservatives.

Toast fennel seeds and peppercorns until fragrant

Add cloves, star anise and cinnamon to the fennel seeds and peppercorns and grind to make five-spice powder

Combine ingredients for hoisin and heat until it thickens

Add hoisin to other vinaigrette ingredients

Asparagus and arugula salad with homemade hoisin vinaigrette


1 bunch green asparagus, medium-sized, trimmed and washed

1 lb (500 g) arugula, washed and spun dry

3 tablespoons (45 ml) feta, crumbled

½ to ¾ cup (125 to 175 ml) shaved almonds, toasted

1/3 cup (75 ml) sesame seeds, toasted

Five-spice Mix

2 tablespoons (30 ml) whole fennel seeds

1 tablespoon (15 ml) Timut or Sichuan peppercorns

2 tablespoons (30 ml) whole cloves

2 tablespoons (30 ml) whole star anise

2 tablespoons (30 ml) cinnamon powder


1 tablespoon (15 ml) tahini

1 teaspoon (5 ml) five-spice mix

2 tablespoons (30 ml) light soy sauce

2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar

½ cup (125 ml) Korean miso paste

¼ cup (60 ml) water

1/3 cup (75 ml) honey

1 clove garlic, microplaned

Basic vinaigrette

1 shallot, finely diced

1 lemon, juiced and zested

2 tablespoons (30 ml) plus 1 teaspoon (5 ml) rice vinegar

1 tablespoon (15 ml) smooth Dijon mustard

1 lemon, juiced

2 tablespoons (30 ml) honey

½ cup (125 ml) olive oil

1 pinch each fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a medium-sized bowl of ice water and set next to the stove. Blanch the asparagus 2-4 minutes, depending on size and desired degree of doneness.

Strain over the sink and place asparagus immediately into the ice bath to cool completely. This will stop the cooking process and help maintain not only their delightful crunchiness, but also their vivid green colour.

Once cooled, strain well. Cut each spear into three pieces.

Five-spice mix

Toast the fennel seeds and Timut or Sichuan peppercorns together in a frying pan over medium-low heat until fragrant. Remove from heat and mix with cloves and star anise.

Grind the mix into a powder using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. Stir in the cinnamon.

There will be more mix than needed to make this recipe. Save the extra for later use in an air-tight jar on the spice shelf.


Add all hoisin ingredients to a small pot. Whisk together and heat over medium low, stirring often, until thickened (approximately 5 to 10 minutes). Bubbles will gently start to rise to the surface and the colour of the mixture will start to darken slightly.

Set aside to cool.

Basic vinaigrette

In a medium-sized bowl, combine all the ingredients for the basic vinaigrette and vigorously whisk together.

Add the entirety of the cooled hoisin mixture, whisking to emulsify.

Store in the fridge until serving the salad. It will keep for up to one week.


To assemble, toss the asparagus with the arugula and some of the dressing. You won’t need all of the vinaigrette, so mix and taste as you go.

Divide the salad into four bowls and sprinkle evenly with the feta, followed by the almonds and sesame seeds. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

From Lina Caschetto

This dish, which is based on a recipe from Food and Wine, takes only a few minutes to prepare and cook. I reduced the prep time even further by using fast-fry pork cutlets instead of sliced pork tenderloin. I used panko breadcrumbs and added Italian seasoning and pepper. I also opted to toss the cucumber with greens and vinaigrette instead of yogurt and dill. I think thinner slices of cucumber would work better than the ½-inch (1.27 cm) thick slices called for in the recipe, but that’s a personal preference.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Look for yogurt and breadcrumbs with no preservatives. I used Astro yogurt and PC Panko.

Dredge pork in yogurt and seasoned breadcrumbs

Fry for a few minutes on each side

Pork schnitzel with cucumber salad


1 English cucumber, sliced ½-inch (1.27 cm) thick

Kosher salt


¼ cup (60 ml) finely chopped dill, plus small sprigs for garnish

1 ¾ cups (425 ml) whole-milk yogurt

1 ½ cups (375 ml) seasoned breadcrumbs

One 1¼-pound (567 g) pork tenderloin, cut on the bias into 12 thin slices, about ¼ inch (0.63 cm) thick (or use fast-fry pork cutlets)

Canola oil, for frying


In a colander, toss the cucumbers with 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of salt.

Let stand for 15 minutes, then gently squeeze out the excess water. In a large bowl, mix the cucumbers with the chopped dill and ¼ cup (60 ml) of the yogurt and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, put the breadcrumbs and the remaining 1 ½ cups (375 ml) of yogurt in 2 separate shallow bowls. Season the pork with salt and pepper and dip in the yogurt, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Dredge in the breadcrumbs, pressing to flatten the pork and help the crumbs adhere.

In a large skillet, heat ¼ inch (0.63 cm) of oil until shimmering. In batches, add the pork in a single layer and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned and crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve the pork with the cucumber salad and garnish with small sprigs of dill.

From Food and Wine

This tasty baked pasta dish from Canadian Living is quick to make and is great comfort food. You can use mild or hot sausage and any kind of short pasta, such as penne or ziti.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Look for sausages and strained tomatoes that are preservative-free. Make sure the seasoning does not contain anti-caking ingredients and the cheese does not contain colour.

Brown sausage

Brown onion and mushrooms

Add passata and sausage, then toss with cooked penne and top with cheese

Quick-baked mushroom and sausage penne


14 oz (400 g) mild or hot Italian sausage, casings removed

1 tsp (5 ml) olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 pkg (227 g) cremini mushrooms, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp (5 ml) Italian herb seasoning

¼ tsp (1 ml) hot pepper flakes

1 bottle (680 ml) strained tomatoes (passata)

400 g penne or other short pasta

¼ cup (60 ml) chopped fresh basil

3 tbsp (45 ml) chopped fresh parsley

1 cup (250 ml) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


In Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook sausage over medium heat, breaking up with spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove sausage to plate. Set aside.

Drain fat from pan. Add oil; cook onion and mushrooms over medium heat, stirring often and scraping up browned bits with wooden spoon, until softened and no liquid remains, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, Italian seasoning and hot pepper flakes; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sausage and strained tomatoes; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large saucepan of boiling lightly salted water, cook pasta until slightly undercooked, about 2 minutes less than package instructions. Reserving ½ cup (125 ml) of the cooking liquid, drain. Stir pasta, 3 tbsp (45 ml) of the basil, 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the parsley and the reserved cooking liquid into sauce; cook, stirring until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Scrape into lightly greased 8-cup (2 L) casserole dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake in 400°F (200°C) oven until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Broil until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining basil and parsley. Serves 4-6.

From Canadian Living

This is a great recipe from Ruth Reichl’s terrific book My Kitchen Year. You can quarter a whole chicken or use chicken pieces. This takes some preparation – for a same-day dinner, make the oil early in the day and marinate the chicken in the early afternoon. Or, even better, do it all the day before.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Make sure the paprika does not contain colour or anti-caking ingredients.

Make the chili oil

Place strained chili oil and lemon slices in bag with chicken and marinate for at least four hours

Remove chicken from marinade, pat dry and sprinkle with pepper before browning and baking

Chicken Diavolo


1 chicken, quartered

2 large jalapeno chiles

2 serrano chiles

2 lemons

¾ cup (180 ml) plus 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil

2 tbsp (30 ml) hot paprika




Make chile oil by chopping the jalapeno and serrano chiles, and putting them in a small saucepan with ¾ cup (180 ml) of olive oil.  Add the hot paprika.  Grind a fair amount of black pepper into the pot and steep over medium heat for about 15 minutes.  Let it sit overnight (or all day).  If you prefer not to make the oil, you can simply buy a bottle of chile oil.

Put a strainer over a large bowl and strain the chile oil. Slice a couple of lemons and add them to the bowl. Season with salt.

Place chicken in resealable bag and pour in the oil and lemon mixture. Move chicken around to make sure all pieces are coated with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (and up to a day).

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F (260 C). When the oven is ready, heat a cast iron skillet until it’s quite hot and smoking.  Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the chile oil and pat it dry.  Sprinkle it with salt and shower it with freshly ground pepper; you need a lot. Slick the bottom of the pan with olive oil and put the chicken, skin side down, in the hot skillet. Cook until the skin is crisp and golden, which should take 5-10 minutes.  Turn the chicken over so it’s skin-side up.

Put the skillet in the preheated oven and roast about 30 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 170 degrees F (76 C) in the thickest part of the thigh.

Sprinkle with lemon juice, grind more pepper over the chicken and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

From My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl

This refreshing salad from Canadian Living features a delicious miso dressing and soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat. This is a great vegetarian entrée and also goes well with grilled fish or chicken. I halved the dressing and used 175 g of noodles and still had six servings. This would also be good with spaghetti or linguine noodles. Because miso is quite salty, I did not add the ½ tsp of salt to the dressing.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Use fresh lemon juice, real maple syrup and miso paste with no colour or preservatives added.

Miso paste flavours the dressing for this salad

Feel free to use whatever crunch vegetables you have on hand

Ginger-miso soba salad


Miso Dressing

½ cup (125 ml) vegetable oil

¼ cup (60 ml) lemon juice

3 tablespoons (45 ml) white or yellow miso paste

2 tablespoons (30 ml) maple syrup

2 tablespoons (30 ml) grated fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt (optional)

¼ teaspoon (1 ml) cayenne pepper


225 g soba noodles

1 cup (250 ml) sugar snap peas, trimmed

1 cup (250 ml) bite-size broccoli florets

1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced

Quarter red onion, thinly sliced

Quarter English cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise

½ cup (125 ml) chopped fresh cilantro (with stems)

¼ cup (60 ml) natural (skin-on) almonds, toasted and chopped


Miso Dressing: In large bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, miso paste, maple syrup, ginger, garlic, salt (if using) and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

Salad: In saucepan of boiling water, cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain well. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in separate saucepan of boiling salted water, cook snap peas and broccoli until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to bowl of ice water to chill; drain well.

Thinly slice snap peas; place in large bowl. Add broccoli, red pepper, onion and cucumber; toss with half of the dressing. Add noodles and cilantro; gently toss with remaining dressing. Sprinkle with almonds. Serves 6.

From Canadian Living

Recently my friend Lisa and I attended a class at the President’s Choice Cooking School, which took place in the Loblaws store at Maple Leaf Gardens. Chef Guy Troendlin made these delicious lobster tails, topped with a tarragon cream sauce. I couldn’t wait to try them at home and was very happy with the results. Frozen lobster tails are on the small side, so plan on two per person.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

The first challenge was to find out if the frozen lobster tails at the Bloor Street Market, where we shop, contained any additives. They don’t! Be sure to use fresh tarragon, butter that has no colour and cream with no additives. I used a white wine from Frogpond Farm with a sulfite level below 10 parts per million.

Sear the lobster tails, cut side down

Drizzle seared lobster tails with oil, top with chopped tarragon, salt and pepper and then bake

Baked lobster tails with tarragon cream sauce


Four frozen lobster tails, thawed

2 tbsp (30 ml) fresh tarragon, chopped

1 small shallot, peeled and sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

½ cup (125 ml) dry white wine

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp unsalted butter

½ cup (125 ml) whipping cream (35%)

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 450 F (232 C).

Place tip of blade of a large, sharp knife in the middle of a lobster tail. Bring the knife down, cutting the lobster shell. Loosen the meat from the shell without removing it. The tail and the shell should stay connected. Repeat with remaining lobster tails.

Melt butter in frying pan over medium heat; do not let the butter brown. Place the lobster tails in the plan, cut side down, and sear them for about a minute. Remove from pan and place tails, cut side up, on foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, tarragon, salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the same frying pan, sauté shallot until transparent (add more butter or oil if required). Add garlic and sauté for about 15 seconds. Add white wine and simmer until wine evaporates. Add cream, tarragon and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep sauce warm.

Place two lobster tails on each dinner plate and top with sauce. Serves 2.

From Chef Guy Troendlin at the President’s Choice Cooking School

This delicious recipe from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi has several steps, but the end result is well worth it. Hearty root vegetables are mashed with butter, maple syrup, spices and cooked lentils, then topped with shallots that have been braised in wine, stock and thyme. Cook’s Note: To make your own caster sugar, place regular white sugar in a spice grinder and process until it is very fine, about the consistency of icing sugar.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

I used a red wine from Frogpond Farm, which does not add sulfites to its wines. I also used Imagine stock and butter that contains only cream. Check your dry spices to make sure they don’t contain colour or anti-caking agents.

Brown shallots and then braise

Reduce braising sauce and add butter

Cook vegetables until tender

Le Puy lentils work best for this recipe because they hold their shape

Root Mash with Wine-Braised Shallots


For the shallots

2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil

1 1/3 lb (600 g) shallots, peeled

1 2/3 cups (400 ml) red wine

200 ml vegetable stock

2 bay leaves

1 tsp (5 ml) whole black peppercorns

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tbsp (15 ml) caster sugar


2 tbsp (30 g) butter

For the lentils and vegetables

1/3 cup (80 g) puy lentils

½ celery root (300 g), peeled and cut into chunks

2 carrots (300 g), peeled and cut into chunks

½ kabocha squash (300 g), or other type, peeled and cut into chunks

2 sweet potatoes (600 g), peeled and cut into chunks

5 tbsp (70 g) butter, diced

2 tbsp (30 ml) maple syrup

1½ tsp (7.5 ml) ground cumin

Salt and black pepper


Put the oil and shallots in a heavy pan and fry, stirring occasionally, for five minutes until well coloured. Add the wine, stock, bay, peppercorns, thyme, sugar and a ¾ tsp (3 ml) salt, cover and simmer for an hour. Remove the lid, raise the heat and boil until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the shallots and keep them warm. Stir butter into sauce and set aside until ready to use.

Meanwhile, simmer the lentils in plenty of water until tender (about 25 minutes), drain and set aside.

Half fill a medium pan with water, bring to a boil, add the celery root and carrot and, after 10 minutes, the squash and sweet potato. Ten to 15 minutes later, they should be done.

Drain the veg, shaking off as much liquid as possible, and mash well with a potato masher. Mix in the butter, maple syrup, cumin and cooked lentils and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, top the mash with shallots and pour sauce over the top. Serves 6.

From Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

This excellent dish from Food and Drink is simple to make and yields terrific flavour. Place garlic, butter, brown sugar, orange zest and juice in a baking dish, add the chicken, rub the chicken with coriander and bake. The result is tender chicken and a delicious orange and garlic sauce.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Butter can sometimes contain colour, so look for a brand that contains only cream. Check the label on the coriander to make sure it does not contain colour or anti-caking agents.

Place ingredients in glass baking dish

Bake until chicken is done

Roasted chicken legs with orange and garlic


8 whole cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed

2 tbsp (30 ml) unsalted butter

1 tbsp (15 ml) brown sugar

1 medium navel orange

4 chicken legs, about 10 oz (300 g) each

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander

3 tbsp (45 ml) water, plus more, hot, if needed


Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).

In a large glass baking dish, add garlic, butter and brown sugar. Using a vegetable peeler, remove 4 large strips of zest from orange and add to dish. Halve the orange and squeeze juice into dish; add halves.

Place chicken legs in dish and generously season with salt and pepper. Divide the coriander between the 4 legs, rubbing it into the skin.

Cover dish tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.

Remove from oven and increase heat to 450°F (230°C). Remove foil, baste the chicken legs with cooking liquid, stir in 3 tbsp (45 ml) water and return uncovered to heated oven.

Continue cooking until chicken is golden, about 20 to 25 minutes, checking occasionally to avoid burning.

Remove chicken from dish. Carefully squeeze any residual juice from orange halves into cooking juices. Remove orange zest. Using the back of a fork mash up the garlic cloves. Stir the sauce to combine and pour over chicken legs. If needed add 1 tbsp (15 ml) hot water to dish to loosen sauce. Serves 4.

From the Winter 2017 issue of Food and Drink

This is another great recipe from Bonnie Stern’s More HeartSmart Cooking that is tasty and is only 167 calories per serving. You can serve this as a main course or as an appetizer, using the sauce as a dip.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Use shrimp with only salt added and make sure the bread you use has no additives or preservatives. I used Ace bread. Use fresh lemon juice and a balsamic vinegar with only naturally occurring sulfites. I use Acetia la Bonissima Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, which is imported by Sarafino.

Toss shrimp with oil, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper

Assemble ingredients for hot garlic sauce

Lightly breaded shrimp with hot garlic sauce



1.5 lbs (750 g) large shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tsp (10 ml) olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp (5 ml) chopped fresh rosemary, or a pinch dried

¼ tsp (1 ml) salt

½ tsp (2 ml) pepper

2 cups (500 ml) fresh whole wheat or white breadcrumbs

Hot Garlic Sauce

1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

¼ tsp (1 ml) hot red pepper flakes

2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice

2 tbsp (30 ml) balsamic vinegar

¼ tsp (1 ml) salt

¼ tsp (1 ml) pepper

¼ cup (45 ml) chopped parsley


In bowl combine 2 tsp (10 ml) olive oil, minced garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Toss with shrimp.

Place breadcrumbs in large, flat dish. Dip shrimp in crumbs and pat crumbs in gently on both sides. Arrange shrimp in single layer on baking sheet(s) lined with parchment paper or non-stick foil.

In small saucepan, warm 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil with chopped garlic and hot pepper flakes. Add lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Just before serving, cook shrimp in preheated 425 F (220 C) oven for 6 to 10 minutes or until just cooked through.

Drizzle sauce over shrimp, sprinkle with parsley and serve. Serves 6-8.

From More HeartSmart Cooking by Bonnie Stern

This delicious recipe from Bonnie Stern’s More Heartsmart Cooking has lots of flavour from spices and roasted garlic but doesn’t have lot of fat. To flatten the chicken breasts, place them between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with the smooth end of a meat tenderizer. Unlike regular couscous — small grains of durum wheat — Israeli couscous is a toasted pasta shaped in tiny balls, about the size of small peas.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Make sure the orange juice concentrate and spices have no preservatives added.

Pound chicken breasts until they are a half-inch thick, marinate and then grill

Flattened Cumin-Grilled Chicken Breasts with Garlic Israeli Couscous



6 skinless, boneless single chicken breasts, 4 oz/125 g each

1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil

2 tbsp (30 ml) orange juice concentrate

1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp (2 ml) salt

½ tsp (2 ml) pepper

Israeli Couscous

4 cups (1 L) chicken stock

8 oz (250 g) Israeli couscous

1 head roasted garlic

Salt and pepper to taste


To roast garlic, trim about ¼ inch/5 mm off the top of a garlic head. Place the garlic cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast at 400 F/ 200 C for about 40 minutes or until tender. Gently squeeze the garlic out of the skins.

Remove filets from chicken breasts (freezing them for stir-fries or chicken fingers). Pound remaining pieces of chicken until about ½ inch / 1 cm thick

In small bowl, combine olive oil, juice concentrate, cumin, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Rub mixture into chicken breasts. Marinate for 10 minutes or up to overnight in refrigerator.

Grill chicken breasts on lightly oiled barbecue or grill pan for a few minutes per side — 3 to 5 minutes, or just until cooked through.

Meanwhile, to prepare couscous, bring chicken stock to boil. Add couscous and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender.

Stir garlic paste or pesto sauce into couscous. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Place couscous in serving dish and arrange chicken on top. Serves 6.

From More Heartsmart Cooking

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