Archive for April, 2017

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