Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

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, we’re having it at least once a week. In some stores, you can find local asparagus, and it’s not so pricey this time of year. I remember when I lived in Sacramento, the co-op 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. 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.

I belong to a CSA, but I probably spend more on that than I would buying 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 I would 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
  • Canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno (or other chile), seeded and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, 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 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 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 more oil, if needed,  and the onion, bell pepper and jalapeno. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic, 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

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