Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

winter fruit salad

I know I’m not the only obsessive reader out there so once a week I’m going to share a list of ebooks on sale for under $3. What I really mean is: I will try to do this once a week. Association Brain Food comes first but if I can spare the time, I’ll make this a regular thing too. This post will include classics, critically acclaimed books, and other books that look to me like good reads, but that’s not all.

First, let’s go in the kitchen. Every week (at least that’s the plan), I’ll tell you about especially delicious dishes I made in the past week and recipes I’m tempted to make in the near future.

In the Kitchen

Sweet Potato Noodles with Linguica and Veggies

I never jumped on the spiralizer bandwagon because I’m in the Alton Brown camp of not buying a unitasker unless it’s the best tool for the purpose and it’s something I’d use all the time, like a citrus reamer. But, when my parents asked me for Christmas present ideas, I relented and added an Oxo spiralizer to my wish list.

Sweet potatoes were at the top of my spiralizing list. I found a recipe that included linguica and adapted it to my taste. There’s nothing like linguica, I have five pounds more in my freezer. I added red bell pepper, broccoli, and thyme to the recipe. I was amazed how fast it was to spiralize three sweet potatoes. The flavor and texture combination was a knock out. It’s a keeper.

Chicken Shawarma

This one was even better. I’ve made this chicken shawarma recipe before but forgot how good it was. Just remember you need time to marinate the chicken. We had the leftovers again last night.

I served the chicken with some fried eggplant—hunt for Sam Sifton’s comment about that—and a side salad made with grape tomatoes, cucumber, sweet onion, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, flat leaf parsley, juice from half a lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper. I made a white sauce for me from Greek yogurt, mayo, lemon juice and garlic, and a red sauce for Jim from ketchup, red wine vinegar and red chili flakes.

Roasted Butternut Squash

Chop the squash into inch-sized pieces and toss with olive oil, cayenne pepper, paprika, cinnamon and salt. If you have smoked paprika use that instead of regular paprika—I ran out (eek!) and hopefully will get a box of spices from The Spice House today. Or use whatever spices appeal to you, I mix it up all the time.

Winter Fruit Salad

Something possessed me in the store yesterday—ok, it was a sale—and I bought strawberries and blackberries from Mexico and blueberries from Chile. So much for seasonal eating. I roasted the strawberries because I was thinking they’d need the help. Then I combined them with the other berries and halved segments of a blood orange—that’s the winter part of this fruit salad. I squeezed out the juice in the orange carcass and tossed it all with some vanilla extract and maple sugar. And, of course, I whipped up some heavy whipping cream—no sugar needed there, the salad was sweet enough. Mmm mm.

winter fruit salad

On the Menu

Barramundi with Fennel, Leeks and Tomatoes

Tonight I’m making this dish but using barramundi instead of bass or mahi. I have some fennel in the refrigerator so I looked for a fish recipe to use it. I don’t always use the dill and I always add red or orange bell pepper. The sauce is like a vegetable ragout. I’ll serve it with zucchini pesto—pesto from the freezer and some roasted root vegetables I need to use (turnips, sweet and red-skinned potatoes).

Garlic Parmesan Croutons

I’ve got a drying out leftover loaf of Anadama Bread in my refrigerator. I made two loaves quite a while back so this one is perfect now for Garlic Parmesan Croutons. No recipe, just ingredients: butter and olive oil; garlic; dried basil, parsley, and oregano; salt, pepper, and Parmesan.

Cinnamon Rolls

This may not happen but if I’m in the mood on Saturday I’m going to make cinnamon rolls. I’ll store them overnight in the refrigerator and bake them on Sunday morning. Maybe. It’s not like we need the calories but the aroma will be worth the extra pounds.

Spaghetti Bolognese

It’s going to be chilly again on Sunday so it could be a perfect Spaghetti Bolognese night. The New York Times (NYT) adapted Marcella Hazan’s recipe and it looks pretty darn good to me, especially since I bought a few pounds of grass-fed ground beef at a deep discount this week. Maybe I’ll make a double batch.

More menu ideas

I can use up my other blood oranges on this recipe: Honey & Chili Chicken Thighs with Creamy Cilantro Sauce.

Two recipes from the Washington Post caught my eye:

Love the looks of these Cumin-Spiced Cauliflower Steaks.

I’ll report back next week on what turned out well.

cauliflower steaks

On the Bookshelf

As of Friday morning, these ebooks were marked down but act quickly if you want a bargain.

Cooking:

First, check out the prices on these excellent cookbooks by two celebrated chefs.

Fiction:

  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel ($2.99) – 2014 National Book Award finalist, “an audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.”
  • The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak ($1.99) – I’m a historical fiction junkie: “the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power—as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.”
  • The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch ($1.99) – A photo of an Eastern European war orphan taken by an American photographer sets off a campaign to rescue her in a novel that “explores the treacherous, often violent borders between war and sex, love and art.”
  • Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry ($1.99) – A classic I haven’t read yet about “a fatal Day of the Dead in a small Mexican town and one man’s struggle against the forces threatening to destroy him.”
  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong ($2.99) – An iconic book I’ve never read: “the blockbuster novel of female freedom and empowerment that launched a sexual revolution.”
  • The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie ($1.99) – “An exuberant one-of-a-kind novel about love and family, war and nature, new money and old values.”
  • The Purchase by Linda Spalding ($2.99) – “A Quaker family moves from Pennsylvania to the Virginia frontier, where slaves are the only available workers and where the family’s values and beliefs are sorely tested.”

In the future, I’d like to tell you about the good books I’ve read but I’m not much of a book critic. Maybe I can develop that skill. In the meantime, you can see (I think) how I rated books on a scale of one to five on my Goodreads “Read” shelf.

Amazon book links are affiliate links which allow me to earn a small commission on any sales that result from clicking. Thank you!

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This corn casserole is great in any season with fresh or frozen corn. Serve alongside Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes. It’s even good for breakfast.

mexican-corn-casserole

Here I am posting a corn recipe in the winter, what’s up with that? I know, I know, but I made this again the other night and it’s so good, I can’t put it off until fresh corn is back in season. And frozen corn is always in season at the supermarket so here you go.

The original recipe called for jarred Alfredo sauce. Sorry, but yuck. Call me a snob but I don’t like jarred sauces – too much sugar, not enough fresh-tasting flavor plus god only knows what else is in there.

Instead, I made a white sauce with Parmesan – close enough and easy enough. I also substituted feta cheese for cotija cheese. Next time I make this, I’ll add about 1/3 cup of diced red bell pepper to the onion for a pop of red in the final dish. I didn’t have any cilantro — a sprinkling of green would have been nice too.

Mexican Corn Casserole

You’ll need a large oven-safe pan, small saucepan

  • 2 tablespoons butter and/or olive oil
  • 2/3 cup diced yellow onion
  • 4 cobs of fresh sweet corn (or 2-1/2 cups frozen corn)
  • 4 oz. can diced green chiles
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup grated feta cheese
  • Optional: feta cheese, chopped fresh cilantro and chili powder for garnish

Preheat oven to 400. In a large oven-safe pan, melt the butter (and/or heat up the oil) over medium-low heat. Cook the onion in butter for 5 minutes. While that’s cooking, cut fresh corn off the cob (or thaw frozen corn) and use the back of the knife to scrape out the milk. Once the onion is tender, add corn to the pan along with the green chiles. Cook another 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the flour. Let the flour cook until it’s pasty and takes on some color, but don’t let it brown – that will take about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk and bring the mixture to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, lower the heat and continuing cooking for a few minutes or until the sauce thickens. Take off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Stir the white sauce, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and the feta cheese into the corn mixture. Smooth out the top and clean off the sides. Bake for 20 minutes until bubbly and just coloring on the top. When it’s done, if you wish, top with more feta cheese, cilantro and a sprinkling of chili powder.

Adapted from Mexican Street Corn Casserole, Lauren’s Latest.

If you suffer from samhainophobia, continue reading at your own risk.

history of Halloween

Halloween’s Celtic beginning

Samhain (pronounced SOW-in) was an ancient Celtic harvest festival celebrating the beginning of a new year before the dark of winter set in. The Celts believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth on October 31, the eve of the new year.

Some of these ghosts came back to damage crops and cause other mayhem. In an attempt to appease them, the Celts lit huge bonfires in which they sacrificed crops and animals. They wore costumes made of animal heads and skins to avoid detection by the restless ghosts and demons.

Friendlier spirits also visited during the night. The Celts set places at their table for these dead relatives and friends. They also left treats for them on their doorsteps and along the sides of the road.

The Celts believed the boundaries between the worlds of the living and dead were more permeable during Samhain, so it was a good time for the Druids (Celtic priests) to make predictions about the future. This tradition of fortune-telling remained even after the Romans took over Celtic lands.

Predicting the future

Like they did in other conquered lands, the Romans craftily combined Celtic traditions, like Samhain, with their own, in this case, a celebration of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit, trees and fertility.

A new fortune-telling tradition began around Pomona’s symbol, the apple. During the annual harvest festival once known as Samhain, young people bobbled for apples floating in water. The first person to bite into one would be the next person to get married.

All kinds of superstitions about the future became popular Halloween traditions. Scottish girls searched for images of their future husband in wet sheets hung in front of the fire. Others believed they would see their future husband’s face in a mirror if they looked in one while walking downstairs at midnight on Halloween.

Many of these fortune-telling traditions came over to America with Irish and Scottish immigrants. In Scotland, girls used cabbage stumps and apple pairings to predict the identity of their future husbands. In America, this tradition morphed into a Halloween activity loved by some little boys and girls (guilty!) of throwing cabbage and other rotten vegetables at each other.

history of Halloween - jack o'lanterns all over

Jack-o’lanterns

Today’s pumpkin mania can be blamed on an old Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Jack played a lot of tricks on the devil, like getting the devil to pay for his drinks or climb trees to pick fruit for him. Jack always managed to avoid punishment by tricking the devil into promising he wouldn’t claim his soul.

When Jack died, God wouldn’t let him into heaven, and since the devil couldn’t claim his soul, he sent Jack off into the night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the earth ever since. The Irish called his ghost, “Jack of the Lantern.”

To scare away evil spirits, people made their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips, beets or potatoes and placing the lit vegetables near their door or in their windows. When the Irish immigrants brought this tradition to America, farmers began growing pumpkins to take advantage of a new seasonal market.

Trick or treat

The American “trick or treat” tradition began in the early 20th century, but its roots go back to those Samhain animal costumes and treats left at the door for spirits. In the Middle Ages, the tradition continued: children dressed up in costumes and went from door to door begging for food, including pastries called ‘soul cakes,’ in exchange for songs and prayers said on behalf of the dead. The church preferred this practice of distributing soul cakes instead of the ancient practice of leaving food out for wayward ghosts.

Today, more than 93% of children under the age of 12 go trick-or-treating. It’s all about the candy. Halloween, the second highest grossing commercial holiday after Christmas, is the largest candy-purchasing holiday. The most popular candy in the country is (my weakness) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

history of Halloween - ghostrider

Ghouls and ghosts

Ghosts wander everywhere on Halloween, even in the White House. Mary Todd Lincoln told several friends she heard President Jackson stomping and swearing through the halls. But the White House’s most active ghost is President Lincoln.

The wife of President Coolidge saw the ghost of Lincoln looking out the window of the Oval Office. One night during World War II when Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was staying at the White House, she heard a knock on her bedroom door. After opening the door, she fainted upon seeing Lincoln standing there in his top hat.

Eleanor Roosevelt felt Lincoln’s presence when she worked at night in her study, the Lincoln Bedroom. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who also stayed at the White House during World War II, came out of his evening bath one night, naked and smoking a cigar, to find Lincoln sitting by the fireplace in his room. I wonder what they talked about.

Halloween phobias

You wouldn’t want to stay in the White House if you suffer from phasmophobia, the fear of ghosts. Samhainophobia is, as you might have guessed, the fear of Halloween. Another seasonal phobia is wiccaphobia, the fear of witches.

During the Halloween season, animal shelters don’t allow the adoption of black cats. Too many people have brought them home to use as props and then returned them to the shelter. Now that’s evil. The association of black cats and bad luck started in the Middle Ages when people believed witches avoided detection by turning themselves into black cats.

Dreadful dinner

Release your inner Michelangelo for dinner tonight — sculpt a dead hand out of meatloaf. Although a bit disgusting to look at, it’s really delicious. Enjoy your treats!

Halloween meatloaf dead hand on mashed potatoes

Two years ago on Gusto: Pumpkin Smoothie

Four years ago: Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Five years ago: Linguine with Walnut Pesto

Six years ago: Cranberry Nut Bread

Creative Commons licensed photos by Phyllis (witchy house), Brian Talbot (jack-o’lanterns) and Hartwig HKD (ghostrider).

Spaghetti squash tossed with fresh herbs, tomatoes, onions, garlic, Parmesan and other goodness – it’s like a pasta and a vegetable combined in one.

~~~

We’re CSA-less this summer. Ben and Patricia of In Good Heart Farm, our longtime CSA, had been leasing land for their farm only ten minutes away from our house. But, they recently bought a farm in Pittsboro, too far away for us to stay with their CSA.

Luckily for us, a new farm is taking over their old land—Chickadee Farms. Their CSA starts in August. Can’t wait! Until then, I’m going to the Clayton Farmers Market on Saturday mornings which is where I picked up a spaghetti squash last weekend.

I’ve been making this spaghetti squash recipe for a long time but never wrote it down until the other night. The exact ingredients usually depend on what’s in the refrigerator.

It’s an easy recipe except for one thing: cutting the squash.

Cutting spaghetti squash puts you at risk of losing a finger if you’re not careful. Make sure your knife is sharp so it doesn’t slip. I usually slice off the stem first—be careful even doing that. Then, I ease the knife through to cut it in half lengthwise.

I’ve seen recipes that tell you to stand the squash up on the cut end (where the stem was) and slice it lengthwise that way. Some people microwave the squash first for a few minutes to make it easier to slice. Whatever you do, watch your fingers!

Cooking time depends on the size of your squash. If you overcook the squash, the strands get mooshy. But if you don’t cook it enough, you’ll have a tough time getting the strands out. Test for doneness by poking a thin knife through the flesh all the way to the peel. The flesh will be tender and separate into spaghetti-like strands when it’s done.  

I forgot to reset the timer and overcooked the squash in the photo below. You can tell because the strands are short and not well defined. The texture was weird but it still tasted delicious.

If you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, try adding some basil pesto or one teaspoon each of dried herbs.

Italian-Style Spaghetti Squash

Italian-Style Spaghetti Squash

You’ll need a brush, baking sheet and large pan.

  • 1 spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds), stem removed, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1/2 (or more) red bell pepper, sliced into 2” thin strips
  • 1/3 cup chopped pancetta (or bacon)
  • Salt
  • Other options: sliced zucchini, chopped spinach
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes (or equivalent chopped Roma or canned diced tomatoes)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme and/or Italian flat-leaf parsley)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Brush cut sides of squash with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place squash, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 30-45 minutes. Let cool, about 10 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, heat oil in a large pan. Add onion, red bell pepper, pancetta and salt, and cook until the vegetables soften. If you’re including any other vegetables, add them with the onion mixture. Add garlic, cook about a minute, until it’s golden. Stir in tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and herbs. Cook until the tomatoes are slightly softened.

Once the squash has cooled down a bit, scrape the flesh with a fork to remove the spaghetti-like strands. Add the squash to the pan, combine thoroughly with vegetable mixture and heat through. Sprinkle with Parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste.

~~~

1 year ago on Gusto: Southwestern Slaw (no mayo!)

2 years ago: Zucchini Scallion Pancakes with Soy Dipping Sauce

4 years ago: Cherry Crumble

5 years ago: Eggplant Caponata

6 years ago: Hot and Smoky Baked Beans

You’ll want to eat this sauce right from the pan—an easy weeknight chicken dinner perfect for blueberry season, or whenever blueberries are in your freezer.

~~~

I’m a big fan of dishes that combine sweet and savory with a touch of salty or spicy, like poultry or pork with fruit. In the winter, I love using apples, pears and dried fruit, as in Pork Roast with Prunes, Rosemary and Red Wine. Now that summer’s here, I’m turning to berries.

A pork tenderloin recipe inspired this dish, but I used chicken breasts instead. I keep meaning to try this with chicken thighs too – less chance of them getting too dry. I thought the rosemary sitting out on our deck would go well with blueberries so I sprinkled a little on the chicken before it went into the pan. To give the sauce some background heat I added chipotle, one of my favorite staples, to the mix. I also added a bit of honey to deepen the sweetness and reduced the vinegar a bit. All my changes worked! It’s always a relief when that happens.

Take advantage of blueberry season (and store sales) by working them into your menu: breakfasts (smoothies, bagels with cream or ricotta cheese and blueberries, Blueberry Coffee CakeBlueberry Muffins), snacks, dinners and desserts (Blueberry Buckle). Blueberries are little nutritional powerhouses, high in Vitamin C, fiber and anti-oxidants. If you can get your hands on really fresh berries, spread them out on a sheet pan, freeze and then dump them into freezer bags to enjoy throughout the year.

chicken with chipotle blueberry sauce

Chicken with Chipotle Blueberry Sauce

You’ll need a saucepan and a skillet.

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons sherry or white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons molasses
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 chipotle en adobo, minced, (if you’re not a fan of heat, use only 1/2 chipotle), or ground chipotle or cayenne to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons olive or canola oil

Add blueberries to a sauce pan with the water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add vinegar, molasses, honey, chipotle and salt. Cook 25-30 minutes or until liquid has reduced by half.

Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and rosemary. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan and cook thoroughly until both sides are browned and chicken is cooked through. Cover the pan with a lid to speed it along.

Serve chicken with the blueberry sauce.

~~~

1 year ago on Gusto: Southwestern Slaw (no mayo)

2 years ago: Zucchini Scallion Pancakes with Soy Dipping Sauce

4 years ago: Cherry Crumble

5 years ago: Sweet & Spicy Glazed Salmon

6 years ago: Corn Salad & Plum Clafouti (a twofer)

This quick fish dinner with citrusy coconut flavor requires only about 6 minutes on the stove — a great option for steamy nights.

~~~

I love cooking but some nights I just want to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible. Like last night. I had other more ambitious plans for dinner, but decided to go easy on myself. Opening the refrigerator fruit drawer, I spied an orange, lemon, and half a lime. And, I knew I had some coconut flakes somewhere. Decision made: Citrusy Coconut Tilapia.

Here’s how it looks going into the pan. Pretty, isn’t it? I love those little flecks of green, orange, and yellow.

coconut citrus tilapia ready for the pan

My sides were easy too. I sliced some cabbage and onions, chopped garlic and ham, pulled out my homemade slow-roasted tomatoes, and started adding them all to the pan in stages. First the onions, then garlic, and then the rest. It’s not pretty but it’s tasty. And, once again, Uncle Ben’s 90-second brown, red, and black rice came to the rescue. I usually stay away from processed food, but, well, I’m human.

This citrusy coconut topping would be great on roasted shrimp too. Or, top a few flattened chicken breasts with it and prepare them the same way as the fish.

coconut citrus tilapia ready for dinner

Citrusy Coconut Tilapia

You’ll need two plates, one wide shallow bowl, and a medium-sized skillet. I use a microplane rasp to zest my citrus fruit.

Serves 2. Double the recipe for four fillets, except still only use one egg.

  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut – my store only has sweetened so that’s what I use
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • Zest of 1/2 of an orange, lime and lemon, finely chopped or shredded
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 fillets tilapia or the fish of your choice
  • Canola oil

Mix together the breadcrumbs, coconut, ginger, and fruit zests on a plate or wide shallow bowl.

In another wide bowl, beat together the egg and milk. Add salt and pepper.

Add flour to another plate. Dredge both sides of the fish in the flour. Shake off any excess and smooth the flour evenly over the fish. Dip both sides of each piece into the egg mixture. Then, dredge both sides with the citrus/coconut mixture.

Cook the fish in oil on medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side, or until they’re cooked through and the coating is golden, but not too dark.

~~~

1 year ago on Gusto: Roasted Green Lightning Shrimp

2 years ago: Kohlrabi Parmesan

3 years ago: Cauliflower Faux Fried Rice

4 years ago: Watermelon Cucumber Salad

5 years ago: Fish with Coconut Red Curry Sauce

6 years ago: Corn Salad and Plum Clafouti

A quick dinner of chicken, asparagus and warm spices that’s full of color and flavor.

Indian style chicken and asparagus

Now that asparagus is in season again, we’re having it at least once a week. Depending where you shop, you can find local asparagus, and it’s not so pricey this time of year, at least not in most markets. I remember when I lived in Sacramento, the coop had local (Delta) organic asparagus during the spring for $5.99/bunch. I love asparagus and I love buying organic, but not at that price.

Sometimes my buying decisions don’t follow any logic. I’m willing to pay twice as much for North Carolina shrimp, but not Delta asparagus. Yet, I consider myself a frugal shopper. But am I really? I usually cook from scratch so I save a lot of money by not buying processed food. But, on the other hand, instead of making my own chicken broth, I’m more likely to save time (but spend more money) by using Better Than Bouillon or a can of Swanson.

I belong to a CSA, but I probably spend more there than I would if I bought the same produce at the supermarket. But, here’s the thing, the farm’s vegetables are fresher, healthier (no pesticides and all that), and tastier than the vegetables at the supermarket.

Frugality is important to me but not at the expense of good ingredients. If I were wealthy, I’d always buy organic. But now I only choose organic or sustainable when it’s not that much higher than the conventional price. Twice as much? No. 50% more, maybe. 30% more, definitely.

But saving time is important too, so I don’t always make my own broth, beans, bread and other ingredients from scratch. If I didn’t have to work for a living, I might be more like the domestic goddess I aspire to be, but I’ve got bills to pay.

Have you thought about your grocery shopping habits? What do you splurge on? Where do you save? How do you make decisions about buying the humanely raised pork chops versus the regular factory pork chops? Having choices is complicated, isn’t it?

Back to asparagus. Roasted asparagus is one of our stand-by vegetable dishes. If it’s not in your repertoire, here’s how you do it:

  • Place spears on a sheet pan, toss them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then spread them out. If the spears are thin, toss them with minced or thinly sliced garlic now. If they’re thick, hold off on the garlic until later, unless you don’t mind browned garlic.
  • Roast at 425. Test the asparagus with the point of a knife after about five minutes and decide how much longer they need. Add the garlic now and give the spears another toss.
  • Once out of the oven, sprinkle on some grated lemon zest and Parmesan cheese.

Five years ago, I posted an earlier version of Indian-Spiced Chicken and Asparagus, but I’ve altered it a bit since then, so I thought, why not post my current recipe. When it’s not asparagus season, I make this with a bag of frozen sugar snap peas instead. I let the package sit on the counter and thaw before throwing them in.

Tired of chicken? Try it with shrimp. Don’t cook the shrimp first, like you do with the chicken. Instead, add them to the pan at the end since they only need a few minutes to cook. And spend the extra money on shrimp from the U.S., not Asia.

indian spiced chicken asparagus in the pan

Indian-Style Chicken and Asparagus Skillet

You’ll need a medium bowl, large skillet and plate.

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel
  • Salt
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 + 1 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno (or other chile), seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1” to 2” pieces
  • 3 scallions, sliced crosswise into 1/4” pieces
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a medium bowl, combine the cumin, fennel and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add the chicken pieces and toss together until the chicken is coated.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil (if needed), onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic, chile, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin and fennel. Cook, stirring, another minute. Add asparagus and scallions, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer for 2 minutes more.

Return the chicken and any accumulated juice to the pan and cook until the chicken is just cooked through and the asparagus is tender-crisp, about 2 minutes more. Serve sprinkled with cilantro.

~~~

1 year ago on Gusto: Roasted Shrimp and Asparagus with Black Garlic and Lemon

2 years ago (sort of): Kohlrabi Parmesan

4 years ago: Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Balsamic Tomato Sauce

5 years ago: Broccoli Cheese Soup