Most of the time, I eat food that is pretty basic. Michael Pollan sums up my day to day style of eating pretty well with his seven word statement: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." Yet, sometimes I like to mix it up a bit, and hit my cookbooks for ideas. Thus I found this recipe for roasted asparagus with almonds, capers, and dill, in Yotam Ottolenghi's book, Simple.
Spring is here, and you will find young, fresh asparagus at most stands at the farmers' markets, or in the bins at your food coops or grocery stores. Engage in the dance of spring by buying a bundle, and try this recipe for roasted asparagus with almonds, capers, and dill. The golden brown almonds add a phenomenal crunch, and the bloomed capers a salty brine. It is worth taking the extra steps to dress up your asparagus and do something beyond mere roasting. Finally, the sprinkle of dill brings notes from an herbal garden to remind you that, yes, indeed, spring is here.Jump to Recipe
Why one should "eat food, not too much, mostly plants," and try this recipe for roasted asparagus, capers, and dill.
When our marriage was fairly young, my husband and I traveled to Florida to visit my husband's parents, who had retired full time to the Aventura area near Miami. During that visit, we spent one day visiting one of my Grand-Aunts. My Grandma Fannie was one of three sisters, the other two being Renee and Beattie. As a child, Renee made an impression on me because she always dyed her hair. Every time I saw Renee, her hair was a different color, sometimes red, other times blond or brunette, or even platinum. In contrast, Beattie had been a business woman, which was rare in the days when women rarely held jobs and were stay at home moms. Therefore, Beattie made the bigger impression.
When Dan and I visited Beattie, she lived alone in an apartment in a high rise building, somewhere near the Miami area. After entering her apartment and settling onto the sofa, Beattie offered us a beverage as well as a dish of ice cream. Now, at this point in the story, you should know that Beattie had been a vegetarian her whole life. She ate carefully, and was early to juicing. To further put this in perspective, she had been a vegetarian, long before I had ever heard of Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe. Lappe's book, published in 1971, was the kick-off for me beginning to learn about nutrition and vegetarianism. Another book with great impact, published in 1977, was The Book of Macrobiotics: The Universal Way of Health, Happiness & Peace, by Alex Jack and Michio Kushi.
But back to our visit with Beattie. While we ate our dishes of ice cream, my Grand Aunt revealed that her vegetarian diet was a thing of the past. Ice-cream was now the food of choice for Beattie. In fact, if my Grand-Aunt was being entirely truthful, this was now the only food she ate. Life was short, so why not just eat the food she loved. I don't remember which was her favorite flavor, but I like to think she loved them all.
What made me think of this story is that I, and all my fellow baby-boomers born in 1949 are turning 70 this year. Approaching this grand age, it would be easy to turn my back on cooking, and only eat prepared foods. I could be lazy and get in the habit of ordering take-out every night. I could turn my back on the whole thing, follow in Beattie's foot steps, and start eating only Ben and Jerry's, Hagen-Dazs, McConnell's, or Van Leeuwen's ice cream. In reality, on the ride back to my in-laws' apartment after our visit with Beattie, I felt sad to think that choosing to just eat ice cream was a sign that Beattie had given up on her life.
In contrast to this choice of an all ice-cream diet, on a recent trip to Arizona to hike in Sedona and visit the Grand Grand Canyon, my daughter-in-law made a fabulous veg forward breakfast one morning, before the day's adventure. We were staying in an air b and b, and had food shopped in a coop type store in Sedona a few days earlier. "Isn't it funny how all food coop type stores have the same coop smell," my daughter-in-law exclaimed. " "How true," I agreed, thinking of our own Park Slope Food Coop.
We descended upon the grocery store as if we had not seen real food in a long time. During this shop, my lust for fruit was fulfilled, my son and daughter-in hit the veggie section and made sure to add a dozen eggs to our cart, and her dad made certain to have a supply of avocados. Eggs were served in the morning with a full array of cooked veggies. I could not have felt healthier with that meal, especially after a few days of meals eaten out at restaurants.
So, the upshot is that if you find yourself bored with eating the same old same old, go to your cookbooks, or recipes on the internet. To paraphrase Kamala Harris, when I see something I don't like, I try to change it. Applying this to one's diet, if you don't like the food you are eating, be proactive and broaden your horizons. Make the effort to try something new in your food life. Try this recipe for roasted asparagus with almonds, capers, and dill, save the ice-cream for a special dessert, and enjoy!
Roasted asparagus with almonds, capers, and dill
A new asparagus recipe for Spring, when you see fresh bundles of asparagus in the markets.
- 1-½ lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- salt and black pepper
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- 3 tbsp baby capers, dried with a paper towel
- ½ cup dill, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Mix the asparagus with 1 tbsp of oil, a generous pinch of salt, and a good grind of pepper. Arrange on a large parchment-lined baking sheet, spaced well apart, and roast for 8-12 minutes (timing will vary depending on the thickness of the stalks), until the asparagus is soft and starting to brown in places. Transfer to a large serving plate and set aside.
Put the butter into a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the almonds and fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the almonds are golden brown. Pour the almonds and butter evenly over the asparagus.
Add the remaining 2 tbsp of oil to the saucepan and place over high heat. Once hot, add the capers and fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously, until they have opened up and become crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the capers from the oil and sprinkle them over the asparagus, along with the dill. Discard the oil and serve warm.