See this? This, my friends, is fresh asparagus. It is not from Mexico. It is not from Florida. It is not from California. It is 100% LOCAL! I was super-pumped when I saw the sign for it at the farm stand on my way home from school last night. And even though it’s less than 3 days until I leave for vacation, I couldn’t resist buying 2 bunches (the season is SO short, and I’m going to be away for 11 days of it, so I have to get it while I can).
Now onto the “kashing in” part of the title (no, I haven’t betrayed my profession and decided to throw caution to the wind with me spelling). And I’m normally not a fan of gratuitous spelling errors. The photo to the right is kasha, and last night’s supper marked the first time I cooked and ate it. What is kasha? Read more about it here. I am always on a quest to try new and different grains, so on a recent trip to the bulk barn, I picked up a bit of kasha (or buckwheat groats) to try. Side note: sometime in 2011 (we don’t have anything more specific), my little town of Simcoe is getting its own Bulk Barn…and I am SO excited! They have a great selection of baking stuff, grains, and natural foods (and some candies too, I’ll admit it ) that are hard to find in town. You know you live in a small town when the opening of a Bulk Barn excites you!
So the kasha and asparagus joined forces to make a rocking side salad for last night’s supper. I was cooking for one, so cooked 1/4 cup dry kasha according to the Bulk Barn’s handy tear-off directions mistake. I steamed some asparagus in the microwave for 3 minutes (I like it tender-crisp), used part in a salad for today’s lunch, reserved 3 little spears for my chicken, and chopped the rest up and added to the kasha. I also steamed and added a bit of broccoli (trying to clean out the fridge before vacation…2 DAYS!), as well as chopped raw red onion and red pepper. I stirred in some of my fresh arugula, chives, and parsley (you can never have too many fresh herbs…expect to see A LOT of them on HHH over the spring and summer). I seasoned with salt and pepper, and my dressing was lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard and fat-free Italian dressing. I put it in the fridge for a couple hours (I had hooping class) to let the flavours blend. Other than the fact that I slightly over-salted the kasha when I cooked it (oops!), this was a delicious, fresh, spring salad.
Now what did I do with those 3 little asparagus spears and my chicken? I made asparagus and ricotta-stuffed chicken. Sounds ritzy, no? But so simple! My filling was a couple tablespoons of light ricotta, mixed with lemon zest, chopped fresh parsley and chives, Dijon mustard, garlic salt and pepper.
I cut the asparagus spears in half. Then, using my boning knife, I cut a slit in a boneless, skinless chicken breast (my knife skills could use a little work though, ‘cause I went all the way through in a couple spots). I stuffed the slit with the ricotta mixture and the halved spears. As you can imagine, it was quite a messy process!
I put the stuffed chicken breast in a small stoneware pan with some chicken broth, and sprinkled the top with Greek seasoning and garlic salt, and covered it with aluminum foil. Since I was going out to hooping class, and cooking the chicken at the same time as I’d be roasting some cauliflower (on time-cook), I didn’t want the chicken to dry out. I set the oven to cook for 45 minutes at 400.
Results? The cauliflower (roasted with the usual suspects: cumin, garlic salt, olive oil, and just for kicks, some Epicure salsa seasoning) was delicious as always – nice and brown and crispy. As I said above, other than the slightly salty kasha, the salad was a real winner. And I really like the nutty flavour of the kasha – add this to the list of delicious “alternative” grains. The chicken? It was good, but the flavour didn’t absolutely knock my socks off. Maybe it needed a bit more salt? But still a good dish. This was a perfect meal for spring – fresh, light and healthy – lots of veggies, whole grain, lean protein and even a bit of calcium from the cheese (gotta get in all the good nutrition I can before vacation)! What “other” grains do you like to cook with? I’m expanding my repertoire. So far I’ve tried kasha, bulgur, couscous, Israeli couscous and quinoa.