Skillet Asparagus

Healthy Appetite Food Meal Stalk Green Asparagus

My mom’s favorite vegetable is asparagus. Between mother’s day and her May birthday we have plenty of chances to share it with her. I was a bit tired of the usual roasted asparagus we make though so I went for something quicker.

Skillet Asparagus
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 11-15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • zest from a lemon
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. You can either snap the asparagus stalks one at a time or just cut off the bottom 2″ like I do. Rinse the stalks and set aside.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the butter. Heat until the butter is melted and add the asparagus. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and black pepper. Toss the asparagus to coat it in butter and then cover the dish. Cook for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove the cover, toss the asparagus and cook for another 2-3 minutes until tender. Transfer asparagus to a platter.
  4. Turn off the heat under the skillet. Add the lemon juice to the skillet and scrap up any browned bits on the button of the skillet. Swirl the browned bits in the lemon juice and pour it over the plated asparagus. Garnish with the lemon zest and serve.

Notes:
Skinny asparagus will cook faster than the thicker ones. Choose a bunch with all similar thicknesses throughout if possible.

Lemon Shrimp with Garlic Rice

Rummaging through the freezer I came across a bag of peeled, uncooked shrimp waiting for inspiration. After looking through a couple of cookbooks and scavenging the Interwebs I came across a recipe similar to the one below. I made a few modifications and, presto, dinner was served.

Lemony Shrimp with Garlic Rice
Servings: 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt (plus more for seasoning the shrimp)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (unsalted if you can find it)
  • 2 lemons, sliced into rings
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
  • black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the rice and toss to coat with oil. Toast the rice for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the water, garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover, return to heat and reduce to low. Cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Pat the shrimp dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  4. While the rice cooks heat the chicken stock, lemon rings and paprika in a non-stick skillet over low heat until it is simmering; about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the butter and swirl it among the shrimp to create a slightly creamy sauce. Remove from the heat, add the parsley and taste. Adjust salt and pepper as desired.
  6. Serve shrimp over a generous helping of garlicky rice.

Salt “Crust” Potatoes

Like many things we try we first saw this dish prepared on a cooking show. Best I can recall it was America’s Test Kitchen however their website tells me it was Cook’s Country. They attribute the dish to Syracuse, NY. The idea is you cook small, whole, potatoes in briny water and the result is a perfectly seasoned potato. Despite the name, and the amount of salt used in preparing this dish, these potatoes taste no more salty than my regular boiled potatoes. In part that comes from the “whole potato” nature of the recipe.

I call for “baby” red potatoes here. My local megamart sells 1 1/2 pound bags of these as gourmet potatoes. I just know that they are all similarly sized and that’s a key to this recipe being a success.

Salt “Crust” Potatoes
Servings: 12-15
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 cups water
  • 2 1/4 cups kosher salt (see note)
  • 4 1/2 lbs. “baby” red potatoes
  • 1/2 stick (4 Tbsp.) unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Combine the water and salt in a Dutch oven and stir until the bulk of the salt is combined. Place over high heat until boiling. While the water comes to a boil give the potatoes a rinse and set them aside.
  2. Add the potatoes to the boiling water. Cook them until they are easily pierced with a fork, which for me is 20-25 minutes.
  3. Drain the potatoes in a colander and allow them to rest. Return the unrinsed pot to the cook top and add the butter. Once the butter melts turn off the heat and add the pepper and parsley. Swirl to combine then return the potatoes to the pot.
  4. Toss the potatoes in the pot until the flavored butter has a chance to coat all the spuds. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Notes:
I use Morton’s Kosher Salt (you know, the one with the girl holding the umbrella on the box). I vaguely remember that the original recipe suggested that different brands of kosher salt yield a different amount of salt by volume. 2 1/4 cups of Morton’s kosher salt weighs in at 130 grams, give or take a gram. If you are using a different salt then try 130 grams of it the first go around.

This recipe is based on a couple of sources including an article in The New York Times and the brief access I had to it on Cook’s Country when the episode first aired.

Seared Zucchini with Beans

Despite having hosted our friends for dinner for many of the Saturday nights over the past 20+ years I still find myself stumped fair to regularly on what to make for dinner. As a result I will often add “2 vegetables” to my grocery list with no real plan and hope for inspiration while in the produce section. Here are the results from such a recent inspiration.

Seared Zucchini with Beans
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, 1/4″ dice
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 3 zucchini, 1/4″ dice
  • 1 28 oz. can kidney beans, drained
  • 2 tsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend
  • 1/2 cup water.
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent; about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, stirring it into the onions and cook until fragrant, which should be less than a minute. Push the onions and garlic to the edge of the skillet.
  3. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and increase the heat to medium high. Add the zucchini and spread it out into a single layer. Allow it to brown on this side, untouched for 3-4 minutes. Now sprinkle the zucchini with salt and stir it to redistribute the pieces. Cook for another minute.
  4. Add the beans, spice blend and water. Stir everything together and cover. Reduce the heat to low and allow it to cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.
  5. Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Notes:
You can really use any type of bean here that you like. Hominy probably wouldn’t be my first choice but if you rinsed it then it would work.

If you don’t have the Mural of Flavors spice blend you can mix together 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander and the zest from a lemon or orange. Use 1 teaspoon of that and save the rest.

Buttered Farro

There are times when an improvisation turns into something you want to repeat again and again. This dish is one of the successes that I will continue to make once a month or so because it’s just that tasty.

It’s “origin story” isn’t very glamorous though. I realized I had some cooked farro slowly wasting away in the fridge as I was putting together the menu for one of our mostly weekly Saturday night gatherings. Since I hadn’t actually planned on making it part of dinner I didn’t pickup the additional ingredients necessary to make Farro with Mushrooms and Thyme. Luckily, a handful of pantry staples turned this from a bland grain into a flavorful side dish.

Buttered Farro
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 5 minutes (if you have precooked your farro)
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until just shimmering. Add the diced onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss with oil and saute until translucent, 5-8 minutes.
  2. Add the butter. When it is fully melted add the farro, paprika and spice blend. Toss until the farro is coated with butter and the spices are well distributed.
  3. Heat for about 5 minutes so that the farro is heated through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired. Serve.

Notes:
If you have fresh herbs such as parsley or chives on hand you could added a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped fresh herbs at the end of cooking.

Roasted Broccoli

We have tended to avoid broccoli, both in the grocery story and in our cooking. Too often the stalks you find in the grocery store are dull looking, limp things that taste of dieting and regret. Recently though we enjoyed roasted broccoli at a favorite restaurant and it was a bit of a revelation. After trying it a few times at home here’s my go-to technique.

Roasted Broccoli
Servings: 2-4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh broccoli
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

Directions:

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Cut the florets off the the broccoli stalk; cut florets into bite-sized pieces. Remove the about 1/2″ from the end of the stalk. Using a vegetable peeler remove a layer from the stem and then slice the stem on a bias into bite-size pieces.
  3. Toss broccoli pieces with oil, salt and pepper. Scatter onto a rimmed baking sheet, leaving some space between pieces.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing broccoli half-way through baking. Broccoli is done when a fork can easily pierce a floret.
  5. Transfer roasted broccoli to a serving bowl. Toss with lemon zest and juice. Adjust salt and pepper as desired.

Notes:
Any number of flavorful condiments can be used with roasted broccoli to up the flavor profile. Replace the lemon with Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil (add some sesame seeds for good measure), fish sauce, or sauteed garlic and red pepper flakes.

When cooking for just the two of us I have used an oven-safe stainless steel skillet rather than a baking sheet. As long as the skillet isn’t crowded it’ll work fine.

Savory Roasted Acorn Squash

More often than not, it seems, winter squash is prepared as a sweet addition to the meal. The addition of brown sugar, maple syrup, or <shudders>marshmallows</shudders> leave us wanting to skip dessert, arguably the best part of the meal.

We tend to head to savory end of the spectrum for winter squash prep. Here’s one of our simplest takes savory winter squash.

Savory Roasted Acorn Squash
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 35-45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 acorn squash, all close in size
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Locate and set aside 2 13″x9″ pans. There’s no prep needed in the pans.
  2. Halve the acorn squash through the stem; scoop out the seeds and fibrous pulp. Cut each half in half once again so that each squash yields 4 pieces.
  3. Toss the squash with the oil and then sprinkle the interior of each piece with salt and pepper. Lay the squash, cut side up, in the 13″x9″ pans.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Squash is ready when a fork easily pierces the squash.

Notes:
Any number of savory spices could be sprinkled over the squash before baking. Cumin, coriander, sumac or a spice blend such as za’atar would all be tasty.