BrokeAss Gourmet

BrokeAss Gourmet

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

  • Prep Time 10 minutes (plus 1 hour waiting)
  • Cook Time 1 hour
  • Estimated Cost $6.50
  • 2 Comments

As summer begins to wind down, and the nights start to get cooler (or, if you live in San Francisco like I do, they remain at the cool, steady 62 degrees they have been since April), I find myself already feeling wistful for easy summer living: flowy sundresses, refreshing seasonal beers, and fresh, beautiful summer fruit, at the peak of ripeness.

Pretty soon it will be too cold to wear those sundresses, and, before we know it, we'll be eagerly awaiting the release of fall and winter brews at the local taphouse. 

And, yes, nobody will be able to shut up about the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

But there is still time, my friends, to enjoy sweet summer fruit. Even better, if you have a couple of hours to spare, there is time to put that wonderful fruit in a time capsule so you can enjoy it all year round. I'm talking about homemade jam here.

This simple strawberry jam is made a touch more sophisticated with the additions of tart-balsamic vinegar and spicy, freshly cracked black pepper, which play so nicely with sweet strawberries, but if you are a sucker for the plain stuff, feel free to omit them. Additionally, this jam jells up the old-fashioned way, requiring no pectin, and relying instead on sugar, lemon juice, and time. Make enough of it now, and you can go ahead and cross holiday gifting off your to-do list. 

This jam is phenomenal spread on toast, but my favorite way to eat it is with something savory, such as creamy, mild cheeses (think goat cheese, triple creme, or even regular cream cheese), or as a glaze for roast chicken (use it in place of the balsamic sauce in this recipe).

I recommend using 1/2-pint mason jars (or equivalent) with fitted lids and seal rings, but if you plan on using the jam immediately, feel free to simply store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and chopped $6
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar Pantry
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 3 tablespoons juice) $0.50 for a whole lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Pantry
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar Pantry 
  • Pinch of salt Pantry

 

Recipe Serves 30

Directions

  1. Combine the strawberries and sugar in a bowl and stir to combine.
  2. Let sit for 1 hour.
  3. Wash with soap and hot water, and thoroughly dry 6 1/2-pint mason jars (or equivalent) with fitted lids and sealing rings. Set aside.
  4. Combine the sugar-strawberry mixture and lemon juice in a medium pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer until the jam begins to jell, about 30 minutes.
  6. Add the pepper and balsamic vinegar, and salt to the jam. Stir well and cook for another 5 minutes.
  7. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
  8. Remove the jam from heat.
  9. Ladle the jam into the prepared mason jars and seal the lids tightly.
  10. Submerge the sealed jars into the boiling water for 10 minutes to form a good seal (do this in batches if your pot isn't big enough to boil all 3 jars at once).
  11. At this point, the jam may be used once cooled, though it is best after at least 24 hours.
  12. Store the jam for up to a year.

Best Ever Roast Chicken Legs

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Cook Time 45 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $6
  • 0 Comments

I had been wanting to try Thomas Keller's famous method for roasting chicken for a while now, but the truth is that these days, I am usually only cooking for one or two. This summer has been so full-to-the-brim with travel, that when we're home, if we're not ordering takeout at 9 PM after arriving home from the airport, we're eating quinoa with olive oil and calling it a night. The idea of roasting a whole chicken seemed like a little much for right now, but I wondered if I could make it with my favorite cheap and individually-sold cut of chicken: the legs.

As it turned out, I definitely could, and, hallelujah, I am now a convert. This is, without a doubt, the best roast chicken I have ever eaten. The skin was outrageously crisp, the inside unbelievably juicy and my belly satisfied beyond belief. Better still, the preparation was absurdly simple.

The trick is in salting the chicken liberally (like, more liberally than you would think), tucking a little garlic and a variety of optional additions like butter, a drizzle of olive oil and/or fresh herbs, and cooking the chicken at a very high heat.

I usually think of roasting chicken as being a relatively low and slow process (350 degrees for 45-50 minutes) but this process calls for a high and slow cooking technique. I was afraid the chicken would overcook or burn, but my fears were immediately assuaged the moment I tasted it. 

I ate one leg for dinner, paired with roasted root vegetables and a kale salad, and the second leg cold, at a picnic the next day, where it held up mighty fine.

Ingredients

  • 2 whole chicken legs $6
  • 4 whole cloves garlic, peeled, ends removed Pantry
  • 2 pats unsalted butter Optional
  • 1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, thyme or rosemary, chopped, Optional
  • salt and pepper Pantry

Recipe Serves 2

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
  3. Use paper towels to carefully dry all sides of the chicken.
  4. Place 2 garlic cloves under the skin of each chicken thigh. 
  5. If desired, also place a pat of butter, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and/or fresh chopped herbs under the skin as well.
  6. Make sure the chicken skin is securely pulled back over the garlic and butter/herbs, if using.
  7. Place the chicken legs in the prepared pan and sprinkle salt all over the skin, adding a bit of pepper as well, to taste.
  8. Roast the chicken for 40-45 minutes, until the skin becomes very crisp.
  9. Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve hot.

I have always loved vegetables. As a child, I happily wolfed down salads, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots and just about everything else my mother put in front of me. Unlike my little brother who could really have done without the baby carrots my parents tucked into his lunchbox, I was a veggie lover from the start 

These days, I'm happy to report that my brother eats most veggies with gusto. But it's not uncommon to encounter adults who claim to simply dislike most or all vegetables. Sure, they might occasionally reach for a cheese-covered or deep-fried appetizer that started out as a vegetable. Do onion rings count? they ask. But vegetables for the sake of vegetables? A resounding NO.

I'm going to go out on a limb (note the plant-based expression) and suggest that perhaps the people who claim to dislike vegetables are talking about limp, boiled-until-mushy vegetables. You know the ones. The previously frozen, margarine-glazed, often microwaved vegetables that were seemingly on every table in the 1980's. Convenience vegetables that served to round out a meat and starch. Sure, hate those. I hate them too. They're gross.

But if that's all you think vegetables are capable of, you are in for a treat. With a little good olive oil, some basic flavoring agents (we're talking garlic, onions, chili flakes, salt, pepper, lemon, etc.) and some very simple techniques, you can transform your Farmer's market haul into a deeply flavorful, addictively good dish, that is so much more than a side dish. Here's how.

Start with the good stuff. Cooking vegetables well starts with the freshest possible veggies (for help navigating the produce section, I like this handy guide from Wisebread). 

Don't fear fat. Really, don't. Obviously it's important to show some restraint, but a little bit of fat (especially a heart-healthy one like olive oil) not only makes vegetables much more palatable, it also helps our bodies absorb their nutrients.

But, getting back to how good it makes veggies taste: you haven't lived until you have had broccolini tossed liberally in olive oil and roasted at a high heat with lemon, chile flakes, and salt. The florets crisp and each stalk takes on a lovely, gently caramelized taste. The olive oil seems to coax every single flavor molecule out, and it inevitably ends up being your favorite thing on the plate.

Another great fat to work with is brown butter. Simply cook a few pats of butter (I usually use unsalted butter so I can control the saltiness of the final dish) in a pan just until it begins to brown then remove from heat and toss with roasted or sautéed veggies.

Don't forget salt. Perhaps the most common mistake made by novice cooks is not using enough salt. Salt is a conduit for flavor. Whatever you add it to tastes more like what it is, because salt emphasizes its innate taste. Take a pinch of salt (don't use a shaker--salting with your hands gives you much more control) from high above food to make sure it distributes evenly. And don't forget to taste as you go. Nobody knows your taste buds like you do, and, even if you don't think so, you know how much salt is too much. My general rule is that food is salted enough when it's nearly too salty, but not quite.

Cook at a high heat. Most vegetables taste better with a little bit of color. A hot, heavy-bottomed pan (like a cast iron pan) over high heat, or an oven turned up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit will yield a fabulously tendercrisp product with gorgeous caramelized edges. 

Flavor it up. I love adding chopped garlic, freshly ground black pepper, chili flakes, and lemon to just about every vegetable I cook. But thinly sliced fresh chilies, fresh rosemary or thyme, chopped shallots or onions, or citrus zest also make for wonderful add-ins. Check out what's in your fridge or pantry and add accordingly.

Toppings aren't just for ice cream. I always top my cooked vegetables with some sort of extra flavor element. Whether it's a whisper of grated Parmesan, chopped fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, basil, or mint, toasted bread crumbs or chopped toasted nuts, cooked veggies deserve a little extra love just before serving. 

How do you like your veggies? Let me know in the comments! 

 

A little careful planning and a discerning eye can help you stock your kitchen with healthful real food without giving you cause to declare bankruptcy. 

I'll admit it: I love Whole Foods. The stores are clean and pleasant to shop in, the salespeople are knowledgeable and helpful, the produce is beautiful and always fresh, and the meat and seafood departments are impeccable. Yes, Whole Foods is notorious for being expensive (California stores got into big trouble for overcharging recently), but I have found that with a little bit of planning and insight, it is indeed possible to complete a Whole Foods shop without bankrupting yourself. Read on for my tips and tricks for getting out of Whole Paycheck with most of yours still in the bank. 

Shop on the outside aisles. The outside aisles contain the bulk section, the produce section, the meat and seafood counters, and the dairy and egg refrigerator cases. These are the best things to shop for at Whole Foods. Not only do they tend to be the healthiest items in the store, but Whole Foods also has a great selection in (and often very good sales on) these departments. The prepared, processed, and packaged foods tend to be where the highest-ticket items are. If you want affordable cookies, crackers, bread, and shampoo, head to Trader Joe's. They're not worth buying at Whole Foods.

At the meat and seafood departments, go with the cheapest items: Whole Foods has very high standards for all their products, so even their least expensive cuts of meat and seafood are very high quality. Opt for chicken thighs and drumsticks over breasts, and sirloin, flank, and skirt steaks over ribeye. Get the sole over the wild salmon. And while you're in the meat and seafood department...

Ask the butchers and fishmongers to help you out. In addition to being knowledgeable about the products they sell, the people behind the meat and seafood counters are the ones who clean, de-bone, skin, filet, grind, and trim the proteins they sell. As such, don't be shy about asking them to do some of the prep work for you. If whole fish are on sale, buy them (they're much cheaper per pound than skinned, pre-cut fish filets or steaks), and have the fish monger clean, skin, and filet them for you, free of charge.  

Buy in-season produce for the best prices. There’s a simple reason why a locally grown tomato in July costs less than a flown-in-from-Chile tomato in January: airfare. When we buy fruits and vegetables grown near where we live (which is only possible when they’re in season), they cost less because the produce doesn’t have to travel as far. Whole Foods generally has most of their produce available year-round (often flown in), but they also work with many local farms to bring in the best of the best when it's in season. Though my preference is to buy as much produce as possible at my local farmer's market, the on-sale, seasonal stuff available at Whole Foods is also very good.

Learn to love the bulk section. Some of the best deals at Whole Foods can be found in the bins of the bulk section. When you buy in bulk, you are paying only for the food itself, not packaging, so the pricing is significantly lower than pre-packaged goods. It's great for when you need a lot of something, but it's also wonderful for when you need only a little (why buy a twenty-four-ounce package of walnuts when you only need a quarter cup of them for a recipe?). It’s worth the annoying twelve-seconds it takes to wrap a twist-tie around a plastic bag and write the product code on it. Invest in a pack of cheap jumbo-size mason jars to store things like flour, sugar, rice, beans, pasta, oats, nuts, and dried fruit from the bulk section. Keeping them in an airtight container like a mason jar will keep them fresh for longer.

Shop like a European. I know this isn't possible for everyone. When you have a nine-to-five job and children and errands, it can be hard to regularly practice the classic European way of shopping, which is to keep a pantry stocked with basic non-perishables, and then augment a few times a week with small quantities of fresh items: a piece of meat or fish, here, some cheese and eggs there, and whichever fruits and vegetables are gorgeous and seasonal. It means more frequent stops at the store, but when you can, this is one of the most cost-effective ways to shop. Since it requires you to grocery shop on an as-needed basis (as opposed to the more traditional American style of filling a cart with enough food for two weeks), you are far more likely to actually use all of what you buy (how many times has the lettuce you optimistically bought a week ago been left to turn to mush in your crisper because you never got around to eating it?). Nothing is sadder than a compost bin full of never-used produce gone bad.

Remember, these principles can be applied to other supermarkets and health food stores too. Whole Foods is obviously the most ubiquitious whole food grocer in the United States, but, if you're lucky, there are other good options available where you live as well. Remember: just because a store is generally expensive doesn't mean it has to be off-limits. A little careful planning and a discerning eye can help you stock your kitchen with healthful real food without giving you cause to declare bankruptcy. And whatever you do, don't forget your reusable bags

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Grilled Strawberry Shortcake

  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Cook Time 5 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $9.50
  • 1 Comment

We should all grant ourselves freedom from complicated, involved cooking on this day and instead focus on enjoying the fun with our friends and family as much as possible. 

There are times when spending hours slaving in a kitchen is really worth it. Thanksgiving, Rosh Hashanah, a special romantic meal. But not on the Fourth of July. This is, of course, not to say that the Fourth of July doesn't deserve wonderful food--that's not the case at all. But it's a holiday celebrating freedom, and as such, I think we should all grant ourselves freedom from complicated, involved cooking on this day and instead focus on enjoying the fun with our friends and family as much as possible. 

With this in mind, I bring you what I believe is my cleverest, easiest summer dessert yet: grilled strawberry shortcake. It's really, really simple. All you need is cubed, storebought pound cake, though I suppose if you are more ambitious than I, you could make it yourself (if you don't eat gluten or are paleo, try this coconut flour version), plus fresh strawberries and bamboo or metal skewers. 

After being assembled, the skewers get grilled very briefly, just long enough to char the berries and crisp the cake. Then I top the finished product with a dollop of whipped cream (whipped coconut milk is also delicious and dairy-free/paleo and makes a good substitute for traditional whipped cream. Sprigs of fresh mint are lovely but totally optional.

Hey, you're grilling anyway. Why not throw your dessert on the grill too, while you're at it?

Ingredients

  • 1 10.75 oz. pound cake (I used one from Sara Lee) $4 
  • 30 fresh strawberries, cleaned and stems removed $4 
  • whipped cream, for serving $1.50 for a pint of heavy whipping cream
  • about 10 skewers (bamboo or metal)

Recipe Serves 6-8

Directions

  1. Use a sharp knife to cut the pound cake into 1-inch cubes.                                         
  2. Slide the pound cake and strawberries onto the skewers as pictured.                          
  3. Grill on a lightly oiled grill pan or over a gas or charcoal grill, over medium-high heat, just until the strawberries char and the cake gets slightly crisp.                               
  4. Serve immediately with whipped cream