I did not expect to fall in love with my air fryer. I had resisted buying one because I’m apprehensive about kitchen gadgets, especially big and bulky ones that make spectacular promises they likely cannot keep. But one day, an air fryer mysteriously appeared at my doorstep, and I was not very impressed at first. I did not see what it could do that my oven (or microwave, or any other kitchen appliance) could not already do. But I kept playing around with it because, hey, it was a free air fryer, and screwing around with anything new in the kitchen can be fun. I air fried balls of freezer-section bread dough that were rolled in cinnamon sugar and, after being drizzled with some sweetened condensed milk, they were an exceptionally tasty weeknight dessert. I developed a recipe for Cheddar Bay Shrimp Croquettes, figured I’d let the air fryer take a stab at impressing me before reverting to traditional deep frying, and realized that the machine didn’t just “cut back on calories” (as if that mattered with Cheddar Bay Shrimp Croquettes)—it made the process easier, cleaner, and possibly faster. Then I decided to play around with some air fried vegetables, and that sealed the deal: Guys, I am officially in love with my air fryer.
Putting vegetables in an air fryer—which is really just a small, high-powered convection oven—will make you want to eat them all the time. It will put an end to your struggles of figuring out what to do with vegetables at dinnertime. Even when they’re simply prepared, the air fryer makes them into something worth eating. This recipe, which takes its cues from the cumin beef at my favorite restaurant on earth, is so simple that not a single dish needs to be dirtied. Once you gather your ingredients, it literally takes less than 90 seconds to prepare. I’ve served it as a side with chicken thighs I’ve cooked low and slow in a cast iron skillet, I’ve served it with pan-fried cod, I’ve eaten a big plate of this and nothing else for dinner and not regretted a thing. If anything, I regretted not making myself more asparagus. How often does someone say that?
- 1 - 1 1/2 tsp. crushed Sichuan peppercorns, depending on how spicy you like things
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 3 Tbsp. Shaoxing wine
- 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (or 1 clove fresh garlic, microplaned)
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger (or the same quantity of fresh, microplaned ginger)
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp. cumin
- 8 oz. asparagus tips, bottoms trimmed, cut into pieces
Put the Sichuan peppercorns and sesame seeds in a quart-sized freezer bag, squeeze out the air, and seal. Use a rolling pin to crush them roughly, then add the Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, and cumin to the bag. Seal the bag and massage all the marinade ingredients together, then add the asparagus and shake well. Let marinate for at least 10 minutes, or overnight.
Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees for 1 minute, then add asparagus and cook for 10 minutes, giving the basket a shake halfway through so things crisp up evenly. Serve immediately.