Roasted Asparagus: Two Ways

easterEaster always signifies to me the end of winter and the first real springtime meal of the year. With Easter so late this year, I’m already in full swing with the spring vegetables and recipes: radishes, baby beets, and asparagus. When I see California asparagus in March, I know spring has arrived. (To get local asparagus, I’ll have to wait until at least May!) With the traditional Easter dinner always a bit on the heavy side: ham, potato salad and/or sweet potatoes, I like to counter it with some roasted asparagus to signify the new season and to lighten up the meal!

These are two ways I roast asparagus that are easy and delicious. Hardly any fat and calories and true confession, I’ve been known to make a sheet of this for a solo dinner. Balsamic vinegar is always a wonderful addition to any dish, since a little goes a long way.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and the Easter Bunny is good to you! I am taking a week or two off to celebrate my birthday as well as take part in an exciting event (check out this week’s endorsement following the recipes)!

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Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic-Shallot Butter
This recipe originally appeared in the November 2002 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Make the butter ahead of time, if you like. Roast the asparagus and toss it with the butter just before serving.

Yield: 8 servings

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 pounds asparagus spears
Cooking spray

Combine shallots, butter, vinegar, thyme, salt, and rind, stirring well with a whisk.

Preheat oven to 450°.

Snap off tough ends of asparagus. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Cover with foil; bake at 450° for 5 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Pour butter mixture over asparagus, toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter
This recipe originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Toss roasted asparagus in browned butter, seasoned with soy sauce and a splash of balsamic vinegar, for a super easy side dish that’s big on flavor.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 5 spears)
Hands-on: 7 Minutes
Total: 25 Minutes

40 thick asparagus spears, trimmed (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on baking sheet; coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until tender.

3. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat; cook for 3 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in soy sauce and vinegar. Drizzle over asparagus, tossing well to coat. Serve immediately.

Note: Finish the asparagus just before serving dinner. Cooking the butter until it browns slightly gives the dish a nutty flavor; watch carefully, though, since it can burn easily.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
three squaresThis week, I am endorsing myself! I have the wonderful opportunity to moderate a food discussion with author and food historian, Abigail Carroll, at this year’s Newburyport (MA) Literary Festival on April 26. The session is titled “The Invention of the American Meal” and we will discuss Abigail’s book, Three Squares, and the history of our American eating habits. I found her book a fascinating glance at history regarding the three square meals we eat every day.

Here is a link to the festival’s website, http://www.newburyportliteraryfestival.org. If you are in the area, I’d love to meet you in person! Hopefully I will return with a recap of the event, if all goes well!

Fish in Coconut Curry

I tend to be a creature of habit (and those who know me well won’t be surprised by this admission). Almost every Saturday, I go to my spin class, buzz home for breakfast and a shower, go to the post office and library, and then out to lunch and grocery shopping. And since I tend to have more time on Saturday nights to cook dinner, I like to buy something special. This usually tends to be fish since it is fresh and follows my rule of buying and cooking fish on the same day. So I am always looking for new and delicious fish recipes.

And this recipe doesn’t disappoint! Originally appearing in the April 2014 issue of Cooking Light (it also appears in the cookbook Global Kitchen), this warm fish dish is flavorful and relatively easy to make even for the less advanced cook. Just a little bit of chopping, toss everything together, and dinner is ready! I love Asian, Indian, and Thai foods, so with the curry powder and coconut milk, it was a perfect combination of all three. I served it with coconut rice; for my version I cook brown rice and add a little bit of coconut milk to the water and shredded coconut if I have it on hand. Grated ginger is also a good addition.

A few of my changes; since halibut wasn’t available, I used cod in replacement. Instead of light coconut milk, I used ½ cup whole and ¼ cup of water. I forgot the cilantro, but I think it would be a great addition. For vegetarians, I think you could substitute chickpeas or tofu for the fish. My only quibble was no zing! I love all things spicy, so I added some crushed red pepper to my serving, but next time I’ll add some jalapeno with the red pepper to spice it up!

fishstewpic

Fish in Coconut Curry (Mtuzi wa Samaki)
This recipe originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.  

Tanzania sits at a crossroads in the spice trade routes from India. That’s why Indian spices ended up in so many Tanzanian dishes like this fish curry. The dish originated in Zanzibar but is now enjoyed all over the eastern coast of Africa. Coconut milk enriches the curry and gives it a tropical flavor. Serve over boiled yuca, potatoes, or rice.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup sauce, 5 ounces fish, and 1 lemon wedge)
Hands-on: 20 Minutes
Total: 47 Minutes

Ingredients
1 (1 1/4-pound) skinless halibut or other firm white fish fillet
1 1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 3/4 cups chopped tomato (2 large)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup light coconut milk
4 lemon wedges
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1. Sprinkle fish with 3/4 teaspoon curry powder, 3/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add fish; cook 4 minutes or until deeply browned on bottom but undercooked on top (fish will finish cooking later in sauce). Remove fish from pan.

3. Add onion and bell pepper to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add remaining 3/4 teaspoon curry powder, remaining 3/8 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, tomato, and lemon juice. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 10 minutes or until tomato breaks down, stirring occasionally. Mash tomato with a wooden spoon.

4. Stir in coconut milk. Return fish along with accumulated juices to pan, browned side up. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Cut fish into 4 equal portions. Spoon sauce into individual, shallow bowls; top each with a piece of fish. Serve with lemon wedges and chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
416guNJMdHLI thought I was the only one in the world obsessed with Laurie Colwin and her food writing, but it turns out there is a whole new generation that is discovering her. A former essayist for Gourmet magazine, Colwin died at the young age of 48 of a heart attack. Her two books, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking sit on my writing desk as inspiration more than anything; reading her writing is like sitting down with a friend, it’s effortless. Last week’s Dining section of the New York Times included a wonderful story on Colwin and her new young followers. Here is a link to the article, I hope you enjoy!

Forcing the Season: Quinoa and Vegetable Salad

I’m not sure what it’s been like in your neck of the woods weather-wise, but here in Vermont it was an exceptionally chilly March. Temps this past weekend were more like the middle of the month more than the end of the month. Teens during the day, below zero at night, the only saving grace is it has been really sunny during the day. Wanting to shed my usual winter fare of heavy chilis, soups, and dinners, I decided to create a springtime salad dish one evening in an effort to force the season. And when I heard the forecast of a winter storm approaching, I decided there was no time like the present!

Cucumbers, tomatoes, and chick peas are my usual fare for grain salads, but I thought I would put a tabbouleh slant to things by adding some sad-looking parsley in the vegetable bin, plus some chives. Chives are my favorite alliums, and since my own chives are hidden under a pile of snow, it will be a few weeks before I can snip some. The parsley is optional; if you don’t have it on hand, leaving it out won’t ruin the recipe. Fresh mint would be delightful substitute, but only if you have it on hand.

I decided to buy red quinoa instead of the “regular” (what color would you call that, beige?) and either can be used in this recipe. I like it when I cook it in chicken broth, as it adds a lot of flavor, but since I didn’t have any on hand, I used water.

Perhaps the recipe worked; the winter storm that was to arrive ended up being just rain and the snow is slowly melting. I’ve heard the chirp of the red-winged blackbird and I can see grass outside my window—it’s not yet green, but it will be very soon!

quinoa salad

Quinoa and Vegetable Salad
Try your own version with different salad vegetables. Cooked chicken could be a wonderful substitute for the chickpeas—or an addition! For a little extra zing, top with some more fresh lemon!

2 cups of water
1 cup of quinoa
1 cucumber, peeled, sliced horizontal, seeded and chopped into half moons
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup parsley, chopped (optional)
The juice from one lemon (or more)
¼ cup chopped chives
¼ cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper

1. In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the quinoa and reduce heat. Cook until the quinoa is done cooking (30 minutes, give or take) and all the liquid is dissolved. Let it cool.

2. Add the cooled quinoa to a mixing bowl, add the cucumbers, tomatoes, chickpeas, and parsley, if using. Mix well. Add the lemon juice, chives, and feta. Top with additional lemon juice if desired. Serve over a bed of lettuce or on its own!