Scallops with ginger, lime buerre blanc sauce

When I saw this recipe, I knew I needed to make it, as soon as possible. And man, I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a bit more expensive than the usual gourmet on a budget features I write about, but spending the extra money is worth it. I found scallops on sale (which happens fairly often) so I feel confident using that price, making it more affordable.

So this recipe fuses Asian flavors with French techniques: with the cilantro, lime, and ginger and a classic French sauce (that sounds oh so intimidating, but isn’t) – beurre blanc. A friend who isn’t terribly into cooking pretty much made the buerre blanc while I was searing the scallops, so yes, reader, you can do it too. There’s even some Italian in there with a gremolata.

Budget: $18, serves 4, $4.50 a person.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet meals. (more…)

Pints of kimchee

So, everyone’s been writing about kimchee it seems. For the uninitiated, kimchee (or kimchi) is fermented, spicy cabbage that is the backbone of Korean cooking. Instead of making cabbage kimchee, I went with a cucumber kimchee from Ming Tsai that seemed a little less high maintenance than other recipes I was finding. While it took the better half of an afternoon (plus a day of fermenting time), I’m glad to have 3 jars of kimchee in my fridge to add to rice, noodles, sandwiches, burgers, and maybe pizza or with eggs for breakfast? Please leave any other ideas you have with kimchee in the comments.

If you’re interested in the process, recipe details after the jump.

Editor’s note: Between the Internet being down at my apartment and then getting sick (hopefully it was just a 24 hour bug) blogging hasn’t been happening. So my apologies for the lack of posts this week, but I’m back! (more…)

Eric Ripert's roast chicken (his is prettier, there's a reason he's 3 star Michelin chef)

Eric Ripert's roast chicken (his is prettier, there's a reason he's 3 star Michelin chef)

I kind of love Eric Ripert, his philosophy on food, his accent… anyway I also love his new PBS show, Avec Eric. He shows you what’s happening at Le Bernardin, visits a location where they are making something, and then goes back to his kitchen to cook what he’s been inspired by. One episode (you can watch all of them on his Avec Eric website) focused on traditions, and he cooks his grandmother’s roasted chicken recipe. Sold. So I present to you his roast chicken, with some of my own humble modifications.

Budget: $16, serves four to six, so $2.67 to $4 a serving.

Note: Since I bought a chicken from the farmer’s market, it was vastly more expensive than what you’d find at the grocery store. You could easily find a 4 lb chicken for $5, not the $13 I spent. Since this recipe is so simple, I feel you need to buy quality ingredients because there isn’t anything else to cover up sub-par ingredients. That being said, this would be cheaper with a bird from the grocery store.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet meals.

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Burnt carrot salad: best salad of your life?

Burnt carrot salad: best salad of your life?

This salad might sound OK, something you might try, maybe. It might sound kind of ordinary, but it’s actually quite the opposite. After I made if for my boyfriend, someone I had to win a bet with in order to get him to eat a salad for the first time, he couldn’t stop singing it’s praises. “You know I don’t really love salads, I mean yours are good and all, but this is great, I would eat this every day, hands down.” Yeah, that’s a ringing endorsement from a non-salad fan.

I’ve adapted this recipe from an Argentinian grilling recipe, by making it simpler. I’m not frying goat cheese, no thanks. I also like this salad because it takes an ingredient I usually use as a background flavor and brings it way up front: carrots. With this salad, you caramelize, sort of pan fry carrots to get a great crispy crust that brings out the carrots’ sweetness. Really, this is fancy dinner-worthy, cheap, and easy to make. I’d even say it’s healthy.

Budget: $7 to serve 4 people. Yup, that’s $1.75 a serving, I can eat it as a main course but since it’s a salad, and you’ve saved so much money, of course it works well as a side too.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet meals. (more…)

Saffron mussels

Steamed mussels with saffron

It’s getting warmer, and while I love mussels anytime of the year, they seem like an especially spring dish to me for some reason. I don’t make mussels myself too often, just because you need to cook them and eat them all in one day, you can’t save some for leftovers. But, as mussels are actually a pretty cheap thing to cook for seafood, at about $5 for 1 pound, it’s a great ingredient for gourmet on a budget.

This recipe, from Epicurious, calls for saffron, which is the most expensive spice on the planet. But, as a little goes a long way, the price doesn’t end up being that much for this dish, making it fit within a reasonable budget.

Budget: $16 for 4 servings; or $4 a serving.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet dishes. (more…)

Fancy mac and cheese

Fancy mac and cheese

I love comfort food taken up a notch, and it’s what a lot of restaurants like to do. They take your mom’s meatloaf and make it with veal and bison, and all of a sudden it’s transformed into something more than it was. A lot of chefs have done this with mac and cheese: a luxurious dish that can be made even more fancy by the addition of a few other ingredients. So I’m jumping on the bandwagon. And, while it’s warm today, the past few days have been cold and snowy, which left me craving comfort food like mac and cheese to warm me up. And apparently I’m not the only one.

I found the recipe on Epicurious, and modified it a bit (lobster doesn’t quite fit in with a gourmet on a budget dish). Truffle oil, my friends, is what makes this recipe especially amazing.  OK, it’s black truffle flavored olive oil, but it’s all I could find, and probably afford.

Budget: $15 for 4 to 5 servings; or $3 to $3.75 a serving.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet dishes. (more…)

Doro Wat

Doro Wat

I love Ethiopian food, and probably eat it once every two weeks or so. It wasn’t soon after getting into Ethiopian that I thought about cooking it. My resolve got stronger once I went into Dukem’s market and saw they had injera bread and  berbere spice mixes for sale, which without I probably would be unable to cook Ethiopian. Making my own injera bread? I don’t think so.

So I settled on making Doro Wat, the national dish of Ethiopia, mostly because once I thought about my favorite dishes from Ethiopian restaurants they were vegetarian platters that involve 5 individual stews – which would probably take me days to cook. This, at a little over 4 hours, was more manageable. I divided the recipe by 3 so I wouldn’t have leftovers for weeks (it serves 12), got rid of the hard-boiled eggs (never really been a fan of random hard cooked eggs in dishes – salads, fried rice, etc) and substituted dry white wine for sweet wine because it’s what I had on hand.

My jumping off point to find Ethiopian recipes was here, it was merely a coincidence that the recipe I chose came from the Washington Post. The Doro Wat was pretty great, if not very pretty to look at (nor is much of Ethiopian food, when you’re poor you’re not really worrying about the presentation of your food). The berbere spice mix did a lot to make it taste authentically Ethiopian, and while the dish was spicy the sweetness of the onions cooking for 4 hours helped balance out the flavors. I ended up having to make my own nitir kibe, or spiced butter, because I couldn’t find any at Dukem, but that worked out fine. It was satisfying to make my own Ethiopian dish successfully, but with the over 4 hours I spent making it, I think I’ll be ordering takeout from Ethiopian restaurants more than I’ll be cooking the cuisine myself.

winter squash risotto

For your valentine: winter squash risotto

Light those candles, dim the lights and make this for your valentine: winter squash risotto. I don’t have a link here, because this is sort of a U Street Girl original. Not that I’ve invented risotto, but this is the way I make it, I’ve played around and this is what works for me.

Risotto, to me, is perfect food to cook for a special occasion. It’s very tasty, luxurious, but also homey and relatively simple to make. Plus, once you’ve mastered the base recipe, you can add whatever you want: shrimp, asparagus, broccoli, chicken, pesto, etc etc. It just requires your full attention for a half hour. Plus, this version is sort of vegetarian, if you want to use veggie stock. Where the hell else can you get a gourmet Valentine’s day meal for less than $10?

Budget: $7, makes 4 servings so $1.75 a serving. I know you’re only serving two so you could cut in half and then it’s only $3.50, but I like having the leftovers.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet dishes.

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I, like everyone else on Facebook, have been tagged a few notes called “25 random things about me.”  While I find it cute, I wasn’t really compelled to write my own list. However, this morning when I read one of my favorite food blogs, Mighty Appetite, I saw that the blogger Kim O’Donnel had taken that concept and twisted it, she’s written a list of 25 random kitchen things about her. Now that’s my kind of list.  I’ve expanded it beyond the kitchen to be about food, so I could write about my food experiences outside of the kitchen as well. I cut it to 10 because I’m lazy.

  • I’m currently having a love affair with olives. I think I’ve been eating at least 10 a day. I’ve been going through jars at a rapid place and am always ordering them when I eat out. I love restaurants like Jaleo that give you olives to eat in lieu of bread.
  • At the beginning of the spring I buy fresh herbs with all intentions of tending to them and having fresh herbs to cook with through the end of the year. They wilt by the end of the summer.
  • Growing up, my favorite dish was an Italian casserole my dad made: penne, tomato, Italian sausage, and mozzarella cheese. He makes it for me every time I’m home and it makes me oh so happy. However, I’ve never made it for myself.
  • My family has a vegetable garden as well as a few fruit trees and now I miss not having my own fresh eggplants, tomatoes, zucchinis, lettuce, strawberries, blueberries, and pears every summer. The U street farmer’s market is an OK substitute.
  • I’m a sucker for a good, full bodied red wine. Recent favorites have been a Tempranillo from Spain, a Malbec from Argentina, and a Pinotage from South Africa.
  • The Food Network, an old roommate, and my competitive nature forced me to start cooking seriously. I just had to one-up her great creations in the kitchen and match her aspirations to go to cooking school. She took a few classes at Le Academie de Cuisine, I’m still working on it.
  • I’ve had several dining partners over the past few years, and it’s great to have a foodie friend who will go out and try whatever restaurant you’re into. It’s a bummer though, when you’re both broke and can’t afford to go out to the really nice places you want to eat at. That’s where cooking together comes in.
  • I don’t know how to use a charcoal grill. I wish I did, but my father is territorial over the grill or something (must be a man thing) and never taught me how. I think this makes me deficient in someway.
  • I have foodie crushes on Jose Andres, Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain, Mark Bittman, and Alton Brown. I recently had a dream where Anthony Bourdain was my boyfriend and I woke up happy. Real life boyfriend did not seem to mind this because he understands my foodie crushes.
  • I used to hate onions, mushrooms, and fish. Now, I’ve given them all a chance and I love onions and most fish. However, I still hate mushrooms.
Spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs

I love me some America’s Test Kitchen, and in an episode I saw last weekend they made spaghetti and meatballs. So I decided it was time to make some as well. Let me be honest, I’ve had trouble with meatballs in the past. I’ve tried to pan-fry them, but I’ve found that as you try to cook them on each side they don’t look as round but more octagonal. Plus, they didn’t cook all the way through, and when I was trying I wasn’t making my own sauce, and even so, wouldn’t have thought to continue cooking them in the sauce.

Of course, America’s Test Kitchen has the answer: cook the meatballs in the oven and then finish them in the sauce. Genius. I modified their recipe a little bit because I didn’t want to use pork sausage for the meatballs, just beef. Otherwise I stayed true to the recipe.

This takes time, about an hour and a half for me. But man, is it rewarding to have made your own sauce and have meatballs that are round. And, it’s very filling and comforting, good food for a cold day like today. Plus, this recipe, which I halved for the sauce but not for the meatballs, could feed an army. They say it serves 8, but I would say it could easily serve 12 if not more. The leftovers are going in my freezer for another cold day.