We just had a discussion on Google+ about eating on a budget. Seems I need to write that book afterall. One of the strategies I've always employed is food subsidies. That just means that a cheap food subsidizes an expensive one. Restaurants do this all the time, that's why you have starches (potatoes, rice, bread) with your meats. The price of a starch is a fraction of the price of herbs, spices, aged cheese, wine and meats. Next on the ladder is most vegetables. It's a rare occasion for vegetables to cost more than $1 per lb. When was the last time you bought meat for $1/lb?
So with that in mind I'd like to focus on breads. Now if you buy the budget American white bread you may be able to get it for a dollar for a 24 oz loaf. You can make it cheaper but it's really the yeast that costs so you have to commit to buying a block of yeast to make it worth the trouble. Then there's the rising time etc.. Usually these hurdles are too much and people avoid saving money by buying bread and understandably so. However, flatbread can be easy to make and dirt cheap. Pita usually costs about $3 in the store for 10 ounces. That's a starch for the price of a meat. Pita is fairly easy to make too and I have a Wheat Pita recipe that I like a lot here at The Man, The Myth, The Legend.
However, what I'm about to show you will make even homemade Pita look expensive! I can make 8 pita at home for about $1. If I buy large blocks of yeast and 25 lb of flour I can get them down to about 10 cents each and it takes only 2 hrs from start to finish to make it. Following is how to make flatbread in 30 minutes for 1/3 the cost of Wheat Pita. How is this possible you ask? India! If you had to feed 1 Billion people and they had little to no money I bet you'd find a cheap way to do it and they have. The flatbread I'm referring to is Chapati (or Roti). To make Chapati you'll want to look around for an Indian/Pakistani market and pick up a large bag of Atta (Chapati flour). Atta is a blend of wheat flour and malted barley flour and you should be able to get it for about $1/lb if you buy a 20/lb bag. To make 8 Chapati you'll need one cup of Atta and enough water to get it to come together. Since you're paying about 33 cents per cup of Atta and water is free Chapati ends up being one of the cheapest and easiest flatbreads to make.
1. Put one cup of Atta in a food processor bowl. Turn it on and add small amounts of water at a time until it comes together in a ball. Unlike how westerners make bread (put in ingredients, then add flour to get it just right) Indians put the flour in the bowl and add water until it's just right. Be careful not to add too much water because adding flour doesn't fix it. If you're kneeding by hand just dip your knuckles in a bowl of water and kneed by punching the dough down. Food processors however do a good job and you'll be done in about 3 minutes.
2. After the dough comes together put it in a bowl and cover for 30 minutes to let it rest. During this time you can make the rest of your dinner.
3. Heat a flat comal or griddle pan to medium tempurature.
4. Roll the doughbull into a long rope then cut it into eight pieces. One at a time roll each piece into a ball then flaten and roll out into a very thin circle about 6-8 inches in diameter.
5. Lay on the griddle for about 30 seconds then flip. It will puff up if your pan is up to temperature. If it doesn't puff up wait a few minutes before cooking the next one.
6. Brush a little clarified butter on them when done. This is optional but it gives them a nice flavor. See my recipe on how to make clarified butter (Deshi Ghee).
Recipe originally posted on recessionchef.com
I love rich food and I've come to love the mix of a rich sauce with meat over rice. You get this a lot with Thai curries, Indian Curries, Persian Korescht, and Afghan Quormas. This seems to be a very good format and economical too. Spices cost a lot but you don't need many and rice is cheap. Add meat of some sort and you have a great meal for a decent price. Living in the Pacific Northwest means that we have very limited selection of Persian restaurants and even when you do find one it's probably overpriced and low on quality. When I'm in Orange County I always eat at the Caspian Restaurant in Irvine not only for the environment but for the Fesanjoon.
Fesenjoon (slang for Khoresht-e Fesenjan) is a "stew" made up of a sauce from walnuts and pomegranate syrup/juice. It's wonderfully tart and deep. You add chicken and serve over Basmati rice. Not everyone likes it but it's one of my favorite things to eat.
I've eaten Fesenjoon at many restaurants and tried making it on many occasions. I've been somewhat successful but my Fesenjoon doesn't taste like the Caspians which is wonderfully smooth without being too sweet. Last week I ran across kshar.net, a site run by man determined to bring Persian culture to the masses. What brought me to his site was a three part series on Fesenjoon. His cooking style is a bit loose so you have to pay close attention to what he's doing to get similar results. He also doesn't argue about what SHOULD be, it's your food make it how you like it. He seems to be intent on letting a few ingredients talk as apposed to having many ingredients fighting for attention - I agree with this philosophy.
With that in mind I made Fesenjoon the other day. Following is the pseudo recipe.
- 2.5 c of walnuts
- 1 c of water
- 2 c of pomegranate syrup or 1/4 c pomegranate molasses and 1/4 cup sugar*
- one onion diced
- 2 lbs of chicken thighs
- 2 cups of basmati rice
For the sauce place a portion of the walnuts in the blender with a little water and blend. If they're too dry to blend add more water. Keep adding water and nuts until they're coursely ground. You don't want a smooth paste here or you won't taste walnuts.
Once their ground place them in a pot on the stove and cook them on medium-high while stirring to keep from burning
Add pomegranate syrup and sugar - see my note below and turn to medium-low and simmer for 1.5 hours minimum. The sauce will get darker the longer you simmer it
Heat oil in saute pan until hot, add onion and saute until browned. Dark sauces want browned onions, not just golden
Add perhaps a teaspoon of turmeric, then add chicken thighs, brown on both sides and set aside
When the sauce has been simmering for 1.5 - 2 hrs add it to the chicken and simmer again for another 60 minutes. Turn the chicken over on occasion to baste in the sauce
The oils from the walnuts will rise to the top (and be green colored like olive oil) and the chicken will get a bit of a crust from the sauce on it
Let cool and put in the refrigerator - this is a second day dish
The next day put the saute pan back on the heat and warm gently on medium-low for about an hour
Serve over basmati rice
* Note on syrup vs molasses. I bought a large jar of pomegranate syrup made in Slovenia. This looks like a jar of cranberry juice but you can tell the liquid is definitely thicker. It was already sweetened with sugar and two cups seemed about right. Adding sugar made the sauce overly sweet. If you have pomegranate molasses (common) you'll want to put in 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar as well. Adjust flavors accordingly.
A lot of times Fesenjan cooked at home and sometimes in restaurants is pasty and/or so tart you can't eat it. The pastiness seems to be from people undercooking it. Don't get impatient and eat it too soon, you'll be sorry. This dish can be eaten same day but it's much nicer the next day.
A couple of things that seem to make a difference
- Put the pomegranate syrup in with the walnuts from the beginning
- Don't grind the walnuts too fine so the sauce still has a walnut taste
- Cook the sauce for a long time. It will get darker and richer as time goes on
- Add Pomegranate syrup/sugar according to your taste
- Don't get crazy with ingredients - you don't need cardemon, coriander or any of that other stuff.
Chicken is probably the most boring tasting animal on the planet, that's why when we don't know what something tastes like we say it tastes like chicken (meaning it has no strong flavor). However, chicken doesn't have to be boring at all and with a little work we can pick a good chicken, keep the flavor by cooking it right and even add to it using some specially selected herbs and vegetables.
This recipe's purpose is to molest the chicken as little as possible and add subtle other flavors. The chicken also contributes by giving up a certain amount of it's juices and the runoff from the garlic and rosemary paste which drizzles down into the potatoes and shallots making for a very nice accompaniment.
This time around I waited about 20 minutes into the roasting and added sliced Sweet Potatoes which was very nice. Also instead of using just Yukon Golds I found a bag of mixed tiny potatoes at the store comprising of Yukon Golds, Purple and Red Bliss. The best tasting out of these three in this recipe is the Yukon Golds so this mix doesn't add to the quality of the meal however it does make it pretty. Yukon Golds just have the right amount of waxy texture and the right amount of starch to soak up the chicken's juices and yet hold themselves together.
Try out the recipe and let me know what you think.
We have some meals around our house that we cook often but there's no recipes attached to them. This is in part because it's all by taste and also because I haven't gotten serious enough to focus on making them recipes. One of those meals is Barbecue Chicken Pasta. This might seem out of left field until you realize that most people have no problem eating Barbecue Chicken Pizza. For the pasta rendition we substitute noodles for the pizza dough and add in some nice caramelized veggies. We're not exactly forging new trails here with grilled chicken, boiled noodles and sauce. However, what makes this meal a bit more complex and the reason I don't have a proper recipe for it is the sauce. There's a million jarred BBQ sauces on the store shelves but the problem is that none of them fit this dish. Most are too smokey, too hot, have too much vinegar bite or are too sweet. Since I just knocked out the four dominant flavors of BBQ sauce you may wonder what my vision is. I want a sauce with no smokiness, no heat, a touch of sweetness to complement the caramelized onions and peppers, a touch of zippiness and a whole lot of tomato flavor. What I want is a BBQ flavored tomato based sauce that's bright and lively but not overpowering. You'd think that with 30 million jarred bbq sauces that someone would have that combination but so far I've not found it.
Following is the very rough recipe. I'm not happy enough with it to put it in the recipebook on this site. Later when I get the sauce dialed in I will but for now it's just a blog post. Forgive me for being just a bit vague on things.
Barbeque Chicken Pasta
- 2 lbs chicken breasts sliced once horizontally (3/4" thick)
- 4 medium red bell peppers in 1/2" slices
- 3 medium sweet (Maya, Vidalia or Walla Walla) onions sliced 1/2" wide
- 1 lb penne pasta
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 3 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 tbs salt
For the sauce (in order of need):
- 3 tbs butter
- 1/4 cup minced onion
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 4 cups tomato ketchup
- 1/4 cup squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 4 tbs Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 3 tsp kosher salt or fresh ground sea salt (cut in half if you're using table salt)
- 2 tsp dry mustard
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- Put olive oil in large straight sided saute pan over medium heat until hot
- Add sliced red bell peppers and saute for 10 minutes
- Add sliced onions, continue sauteing until both peppers and onions have carmalized (30 more minutes at least), stir occasionally
- In heavy bottomed frying pan place vegetable oil over medium heat until shimmering
- Place two chicken breasts in the pan and grill until brown, flip and repeat on opposite side. Remove to plate and add more. Grill until all chicken is done.
- Melt butter in medium sized sauce pan over medium heat and heat until foaming, add onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes
- Add all other sauce ingredients and reduce heat to medium low and simmer
- While sauce is simmering cut the chicken breasts 1/2 wide and add to the onions and peppers and turn the heat to low
- Place large stock pot or sauce pan full of water on high heat. Add the salt and bring to a boil
- Add penne noodles and cook until al dente (10 minutes)
- Add pasta to onion, peppers and chicken.
- Fold bbq sauce into the other ingredients
- Serve in pasta bowls with fresh grated parmesen.
Just as a warning I use a 12 inch saute pan with 3 inch sides and these ingredients just barely fit.
My mother has been bugging me about putting up my Macaroni Salad recipe so she can make it and you know what they say, if your mother tells you to do something you should listen - and share.
This is the first recipe in a series that's a result of my tackling each item of the standard American BBQ feast one at a time. I'm fairly happy with it so now I can move on to other things like BBQ beans or Potato salad. Considering the weather I probably won't finish them until next summer.
I'm not straying too far from the standard base of macaroni, mayonnaise, vinegar and some form of sweetener. In my rendition I swap sweetened condensed milk for some of the mayonnaise and the sweetener. I also add sweet peppers (bell or otherwise), red onion, carrot and celery.
As with a lot of cooking it's not so much the ingredients you choose but the balance they create and I really like this salad. I make it each Sunday and eat it for my lunch. Those of you who know me know that I don't put up recipes unless I'm satisfied and I rarely am so take this one serious. That does not mean however, that I won't still be playing with flavor balances in the future.
Without further ado here is the recipe - Macaroni Salad
After a great deal of time I've put the Moussaka recipe up. The negative to posting photos of really nice meals is that it's inevitable that someone will want the recipe. An interesting story though - I lost my Moussaka recipe. So the one I just posted is a work in progress that's a result of taking some other online Moussaka recipes and twisting them to match my memory. I'm sure I'll have to modify it as time goes on to get it tasting the way I originally had it. However, for now this one is pretty good.
In the future I'll be playing with pealing the Eggplant, breading and baking it. Primarily because the part of the Moussaka my kids like the least is the Eggplant skin. I'll also be playing with the spices, potatoes and wine. I've given hints about the Bechamel and I'll be playing with that more to decide exactly how I want it. I've folded in beaten egg whites and added grated cheese to it for added bulk and have liked the results.
Continue to my Moussaka Recipe.
I have a few more Cinderella pumpkins in the garage and needed to use up some of the puree so this is the result. I made these a few years ago and they were a big hit so here we are again. The basic recipe is really easy if you have pumpkin puree around. If not you can take the meat of a pumpkin cut into cubes and brought to a boil in 3/4 cup of milk then simmered until the pumpkin meat is tender. Once that's done (or you bake your pumpkins like I do) just follow the recipe. The Custard recipe comes from The Good Food Channel in the UK so I oppologize ahead of time if you're not used to metric measurements. Any decent set of measuring cups have both metrics and American Standard measurements on it. Sugar is measured in weight (as it should be) so you'll need a scale or you can go online to find a converter.
- 375g pumpkin puree
- 125ml double cream
- 3 large eggs
- 60g caster sugar
- 35g soft dark brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 50g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Puree the pumpkin and 125ml of milk in the blender. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and cream together then add the pumpkin puree/milk mixture, the caster sugar and brown sugar and all the spices. Definitely use fresh grated nutmeg in this recipe, you can thank me later. Add the melted butter and pass the mixture through a fine sieve.
Cut off the tops of 8 munchkin pumpkins and scoop the seeds and strings out. Fill the pumpkins to about 1/4 inch below the surface and place in a large roaster. Fill the roaster with water to about halfway up the sides of the pumpkins. Place in a 170c degree oven (325 Fahrenheit) for about 35 minutes or until the custard has set. The surface should feel firm when pushed and liquid should not ooze out from under the top. I put 35 minutes as a general measurement but I think it takes longer than that, I haven't measured. Just start looking at them when they've been in for 35 minutes and cook them until done. When done grate some more fresh nutmeg on the top and let them cool.
I've imported four more recipes from my old site to my new one - Pizza dough, Persian Jeweled Rice, Boniatillo and Gulab Jamon. Quite a mix for sure but they're the ones that have been requested the most so they come first.
The Pizza Dough recipe has served me well and for Italian style thin pizzas cooked on a stone it's been the best recipe I've come across. The dough is easy to work with and cooks up nice.
Persian Jeweled rice is probably the most elegant and regal way that I've ever had rice. The ingredients list is a bit harder to come by since I've specified some brands but the results are very nice.
Boniatillo is a Latin American sweet potato dessert that's fairly simple and surprisingly good. You use the orange sweet potatoes (often misnamed Yams in the store) along with some citrus flavors to make a nice dessert with the perfect balance of sweet and savory.
Gulab Jamon is an Indian (dot not feather) dessert often found in Indian restaurants.
In uploading these recipes I've found that my photography skills have improved remarkably. In fact I feel a bit ashamed at uploading these photos but as soon as I make each again I'll take new ones.
It's been a while since I put up any recipes but I recently hosted the end of the quarter potluck for my classes and so in doing that spent most of a day cooking. On occasion I have a vegetarian student and I pull out the old favorite - Pumpkin and Mascarpone Lasagna. It also just so happened that I had just enough pumpkin left from my second to last pumpkin of the season. The recipe calls for 2 lbs which is quite a lot and I had exactly that.
The nice thing about this recipe is that it's nice, light and a bit exciting. The reaction you have after eating this is the same as the reaction from Butternut Squash Ravioli - you wonder why people limit themselves to boring meat/cheese and red sauce noodles. The flavors are bright and exciting, meat or cheese lasagna is boring and drab. Maybe it's not for everyone but so far every person I've fed it to really liked it and in addition it's good for most vegetarians (has dairy and eggs) and like many non-meat foods, it's cheap. In fact as I made it the cost is roughly $1 per slice of lasagna and half that cost comes from cheese. Shop around and you may be able to make it for less.
The Recipe: Pumpkin and Mascarpone Lasagna
Note for anyone not willing to eat eggs they can just leave them out of the Bechamel. It will be less fluffy but still very nice.