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! 

 

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                                                                                            

 

Roasted Jalapeño Guacamole

  • Prep Time 15 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $5.25
  • 0 Comments

If you've been following along on Twitter and Facebook, you know I've been having a crazy Hollywood adventure the past few months.

Well, the show premiered and I'm still here. Back in my sweet city of San Francisco, in my tiny-but-perfectly-mine kitchen, thrilled to be cooking with the glorious bounty of summer produce that San Francisco's farmers markets have to offer right now. My kitchen table is currently overlfowing with ripe nectarines, heirloom tomatoes, Meyer lemons, apricots and white peaches. Every meal offers an opportunity to celebrate summer. Though I must say I surprised myself by developing a great fondness for Los Angeles, I am still quite happy to be home. 

Plus, I missed my writing coach.

And so, life goes on. The TV show is off and running (check it out Wednesdays at 8/7 Central on ABC Family!), and, save for a few trips back to LA for publicity, I am now returning to my regular life of cooking, writing and editing. 

But first, 4th of July weekend is upon us! Evan and I will spend the 4th in my hometown of Santa Rosa watching my dad's band play at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds (did I mention my father plays keyboard in a honky tonk band made up entirely of legal professionals, called Court 'n' Disaster? IS THAT NOT THE MOST AWESOME THING YOU HAVE EVER HEARD?). Whatever you have planned for this weekend, I implore you to include this guacamole.

Here, I kick my guac up one step further by fire-roasting the jalapeño, rather adding it in fresh. By holding the chile over a flame (or sticking it under a broiler), I'm able to impart a sweet, smoky flavor into the jalapeño, that adds a wonderful depth of flavor to fresh guacamole.

I don't typically add tomatoes to my guacamole, but if you wanted to, it would surely be delicious.

Finally, while canned green chiles aren't the same, they'll still do quite nicely if you prefer to skip the roasting step. 

Happy 4th of July! What are your plans for the holiday weekend?

Ingredients

  • 1 green jalapeño $0.25
  • 2 large or 3 medium-sized ripe avocados, pitted and peeled $3
  • 1 clove garlic, minced Pantry
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion (about 1/8 medium red onion) $0.50 for a whole onion
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped $1 for a bunch
  • juice of 1 lime $0.50 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt Pantry

Recipe Serves 4

Directions

  1. Use a metal skewer or tongs to hold the jalapeño over a gas stove flame, rotating until blackened (if you use a wooden skewer, make sure to soak it in water first so it doesn't catch fire). This can also be accomplished by putting the jalapeño under the broiler for a few minutes, then rotating to blacken it evenly.
  2. Rinse the jalapeño under cool running water and gently peel off the blackened part to reveal the soft flesh underneath.
  3. Slice off the stem and cut the jalapeño in half lengthwise. If you are sensitive to chile heat or are serving the guacamole to kids, carefully remove the seeds and discard. 
  4. Chop the chile finely and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  5. To the bowl, add the avocado, and mash roughly with the back of a fork. Don't go crazy though--the guacamole should be a little bit chunky.
  6. Stir in the garlic, onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Stir gently to combine.
  7. Add the salt and stir to incorporate.
  8. Serve immediately, or refrigerate, sprinkled with lemon or lime juice and covered, for up to 3 hours.