BrokeAss Gourmet

BrokeAss Gourmet

Cauliflower Queso Fundido

  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Cook Time 33 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $8.50
  • 11 Comments

I almost didn't post this recipe. 

I wasn't thrilled with the above photo of the finished dish (we were in a rush to eat dinner and the light wasn't the best, so I just snapped a few and figured I'd edit them to my liking, but none were particularly great), and if you know anything about food blogs, you know the photos are a pretty big part of why people are compelled to read a post. 

But then, two bites into my first Cauliflower Queso Fundido-stuffed taco, embellished with a little guacamole, cilantro, and a few slivers of bright, crunchy shallot, I decided you needed to have this recipe ASAP, and I needed to get over myself. Maybe I'll reshoot the photos one day when I have more time (or next week, when I inevitably make this again). Or maybe I won't, and that will be okay too.

Sometimes it's hard not to overthink appearances. If you spend much time on social media (and if you're reading this, I'm guessing you do--or you are an older relative of mine who checks this website every few weeks to see what I'm up to, and if so, hi! I love you!) you are familiar with the bizarre, Instagram-filtered, scarily perfect world it can sometimes feel like. I almost never do my nails, but on the wrong day, a scroll through my Insta feed will have me convinced I need a gel French manicure STAT (or to get bangs, or to lose 15 pounds, or to start using self-tanner, or to somehow afford an all-white marble kitchen re-do...). I love looking at pretty pictures, but I don't always love how too much of it makes me feel about my own life.

But then comes a realization: photos are just moments. They're never the whole picture, so to speak. And sure, in the right moment, in the right light, with the right filter, things can *seem* intimidatingly perfect. The important thing to remember is that most likely, the reality is flawed, dimpled, messy, and yeah, maybe a little ugly, because that's how life works. But in this case, no bad lighting or less-than-beautiful beauty shot can take away from just how delicious this cheesy, melted, slightly spicy cauliflower thing is. 

It starts, as so many of my favorite things do, with a rimmed baking sheet of cauliflower and chopped onions in olive oil with salt and pepper.

Roast 'em until they're tender and brown.

Then layer them in a shallow, heavy-bottomed pot (or a cast iron or a baking dish), with roasted green chilies and cheese.

One more layer.

Pop it under the broiler and top with fresh cilantro.

You could just dive in with a fork or a crunchy chip, but my fave way to eat this is rolled in warm corn tortillas with all the fixings. You won't miss the meat.

Taco magic.

P.S. This is a slab of marble, not an actual marble countertop. I don't know any bloggers who actually have fancy marble countertops. We're literally faking every surface we purport to put food on. Who eats tacos right off the counter anyway? 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets $2
  • 1 medium onion, diced $1
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Pantry
  • 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper Pantry
  • 1 4-ounce can diced green chilies $2
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded jack, pepperjack, or cheddar cheese $3.50
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish Optional

Recipe Serves 2-3

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss the cauliflower and onions with the olive oil and salt and pepper. 
  3. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Roast for 20 minutes, until the cauliflower begins to brown.
  5. Stir the pan, then return to the oven for 5-7 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.
  7. While the cauliflower cools, preheat the broiler to high.
  8. In a shallow oven-proof or baking dish, spread half of the roasted cauliflower-onion mixture on the bottom of the pan.
  9. Spoon on half of the green chilies.
  10. Sprinkle on half of the shredded cheese.
  11. Repeat with the remaining ingredients for the second layer.
  12. Broil for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned on top.
  13. Top with the cilantro, if using.
  14. Serve hot, with chips or warm tortillas.

Eggless Egg Salad

I attended elementary school in the early heyday of the Lunchable, AKA the ultimate cafeteria lunchtime trade item. Tiny plastic cartons with dividers separating a stack of cheddar cheese, a stack of golden butter crackers, and some slimy pink lunchmeat (usually turkey or ham) were the Hidden Valley Elementary School fourth grader's ticket to trading her way to an optimal lunch. It was the lunchbox equivalent of a royal flush.

My lunchbox, on the other hand (My Little Ponies from first through third grade, scrunchy brown bags with my name scrawled on them, so as to not look like such a baby from fourth grade onward), with its sprouted, meatless contents never got me far in the midday meal barter game. My mother, who had embraced the whole-foods-bulk-bin-health-food-co-op approach to food in the 1980s, packed my lunch with the kinds of life-affirming foods nutritional gurus like Drs. Weil and MacDougall would have given their stamp of approval: apple "purses" (whole apples, cored and filled with peanut butter and raisins), rice cakes, sliced vegetables (she tried to get me excited by calling them "crudité," as if I cared about seeming chic and french while I ate my carrot sticks at recess), and today's subject: eggless egg salad, a creamy blend of soft tofu, turmeric (for flavor and egg-like color), onions, celery, a little mayonnaise and fresh dill. She would pack it in a little Tupperware container, with crackers (obviously not Ritz--think brick-like, seeded, bran-heavy crackers) or on a sprouted whole wheat bagel.

While I craved the sort of schoolyard clout that came with having Lunchables in my lunch (other big ticket items: fluffy, crustless white bread and American cheese sandwiches, Oreos, and any sort of flavored chip or cheese puff), I secretly loved my hippie lunches. But the other kids teased me for eating tofu (then a relatively uncommon food in American households) and so I often took to eating them in the girls' bathroom to avoid taunting. And despite my actual preferences, I asked my mother to pack me something a little more "normal" so as to spare me being called, "Tofu Girl" at lunchtime.

"That is a very stupid nickname and there is no way I'm giving you white bread and chips for lunch, Gabrielle," she told me. Gabrielle, my full first name, was what she called me when she meant business. "Just ignore the teasing and eventually they'll get bored and stop."

I pushed back. "But nobody will ever trade with me if you keep giving me all this healthy stuff!" 

"Good," she replied. "I don't want you eating their crappy food anyway."

I sighed. Eggless egg salad it was, and thus began my first lesson on the wisdom of doing something that doesn't look cool and doesn't win me any popularity points, but is the right thing to do anyway. The next day I decided to start eating lunch in the cafeteria again, opting out of the lunchtime trade. And she was right: I ignored the teasing and it eventually it stopped. 

So here's to my mom, and all moms, who stood their ground, when it would have been so much easier to just give in to their whining children. They taught us to be strong, to be true to ourselves, and to eat our gross-looking lunches out in the open, despite the naysayers. 

Eggless egg salad is one of my favorite quick vegetarian protein sources, even to this day. It starts with soft tofu (you could use medium or firm tofu, but it won't have that egg-white-like texture, plus celery, shallot (you could use regular or green onions too), fresh dill, plus cayenne for spice, and turmeric for flavor and egg-like color.

You smush up the tofu so it looks like crumbled hard-boiled eggs. This part is fun.

Stir everything together, with a little mayonnaise and mustard to bind and flavor it, as well as a little salt and pepper.

Let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (this improves the texture). 

Eat on a toasted bagel (or on lightly dressed greens, or with crackers or "crudité," or by itself). Listen to your mom. Ignore the haters.

Ingredients

  • 14 ounces soft tofu $1.50 
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (use eggless mayonnaise for a vegan version) Pantry
  • 1 stalk celery, diced small $1.50 for a bunch
  • 1/2 medium shallot, diced $0.50 for a whole shallot
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric $1.50 for 1 ounce
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper $1.50 for 1 ounce
  • 1 tablespoon (or more to taste) your favorite mustard $2.50 for 6 ounces
  • salt and pepper to taste Pantry

Recipe Serves 4-6

Directions

  1. Drain the tofu and place it in a mixing bowl.
  2. Use your clean hands to crumble it, being careful not to overwork it--a few squeezes will do.
  3. Gently fold in the mayonnaise, mixing well to distribute evenly.
  4. Str in the celery, shallot, spices, and salt, and pepper to taste.
  5. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Serve plain, with crackers, over greens, on toast, or on a bagel.

Macaroni + Cauliflower + Cheese

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Cook Time 50 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $10
  • 19 Comments

I've been thinking a lot about moderation lately. It's such an appealing concept, to eschew extremes and live in the middle, in a happy medium, where, like a 2017 Goldilocks, you have just enough (and not too much) of everything. 

In reality though, like everything else, saying you do something "in moderation" is actually much easier than actually putting it into practice, especially when it comes to food. Let's say you want to reduce the amout of sugar you eat and so you decide to make after-dinner treats something you only have in moderation. It's a breeze to say you "eat dessert in moderation" (look at you, you're so in control yet relaxed and fun!), but then friends come over for dinner one night and of course you're gonna serve dessert. But they don't finish it all, so you're left with unfinished ice cream in your freezer or half a cake on your counter. What are you going to do, throw it away? Of course not. So you eat dessert every night for a week because, well, you ought to finish it, right? And once that week is up, it's tempting to just pick up more ice cream and cake the next time you go shopping, because suddenly it's a habit. 

But we also know just completely swearing off dessert isn't the way to go, because as soon as a you make a particular food "bad" you only want it more, and that's not helpful (anyone who has ever vowed not to pick up the phone when someone you desperately want to sleep with but know you shouldn't even talk to calls knows how this feels). What, are you going to arrange your life so you're never in the same room as dessert (or "Don't Pick Up!!!")? Of course not. You just resolve, again, to have less of it.

But for the moments when that's not easy, here's my proposition: instead of completely giving in to unhealthy treats in excess and then starting the whole cycle over the next week, why not modify them a bit so they don't entirely derail your progress, thereby making it easier to stay on track? Take, for example, today's recipe: a traditional mac + cheese that happens to be about 60% roasted cauliflower.

This is not some bullshit low-fat sauce, nor do I deign to suggest that cauliflower is a reasonable substitute for pasta. I would never insult you like that. This contains both a decadent, legit cheese sauce and real macaroni--it's just tempered with a hefty dose of roasted cauliflower. It's not "healthy" per se, but it's a whole lot more so than the regular stuff. Also, because cauliflower contains so much sating fiber, you may find (as I did), that one smallish bowl is all you need.

It's not exactly Easy Mac, but it's not much harder. Start with cauliflower cut into smallish florets--ones about the same size as the pasta you're using. Toss them with olive oil and a touch of salt (be careful with the salt in this recipe, as each element gets salted individually and the cheese is salty--taste as you go.

While it roasts, cook a little pasta in salted boiling water and make a classic cheese sauce.

Fold the cooked cauliflower and pasta into the cheese sauce and add just a little bit of this recipes secret ingredient: the pasta's cooking water. 

Scrape it into a baking dish and pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes.

A touch of parsley and some chili flakes are all it needs.

The most delicious way to honor your cravings and your resolve at the same time.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cored and cut into small florets $2
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Pantry
  • salt and pepper Pantry
  • 4 ounces elbow macaroni or other small cut pasta (like penne or rotini) $2 for 16 ounces
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter $1 for stick
  • 1 tablespoon flour Pantry
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (preferably whole) $1.50 for a pint
  • 5 ounces medium or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded $3.50 for 8 ounces
  • chili flakes and chopped parsley, to garnish optional

 

Recipe Serves 2-3

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
  3. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes until tender and browned in spots. Once the cauliflower has cooked, remove it from the oven but leave the oven on.
  4. While the cauliflower roasts, cook the macaroni in salted boiling water according to package directions. 
  5. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
  6. Make a roux by melting the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and whisking in the flour. 
  7. Let cook whisking constantly for about a minute.
  8. Whisk in the milk, stirring continuously until the sauce begins to thicken.
  9. Whisk in the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue whisking until the cheese is completely melted and cook for another 2-3 minutes. The sauce should be very creamy.
  10. Fold the cooked cauliflower, cooked pasta into the cheese sauce. 
  11. Stir in the reserved cooking water until completely incorporated.
  12. Scrape the mixture into a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, until bubbly and browned on top.
  13. Serve hot, garnished with chili flakes and parsley if desired.

Garlic Sweet Potato Fries

  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Cook Time 34 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $5.50
  • 10 Comments

I didn't really start dating until junior high (and I use the word "dating" loosely--it was mostly just note-passing and hand-holding), but from the time I was in kindergarten, I always harbored at least one crush--usually a secret one, disclosed only to my closest girlfriends and usually my mom. I almost never shared my feelings with the object of my affection (way too scary!), but my feelings would churn and build inside, rendering me distracted and flustered whenever I encountered my crush of the moment.

But despite my in-the-flesh nervousness, there was no denying that having a crush made my day-to-day so much more fun. Whether I was re-routing my walk from biology to algebra so I could pass by a certain someone's locker, or doodling our names next to each other on my lab notebook (though, even in the marriage fantasies of my youth, I kept my last name), the preoccupation was more energizing than depleting.

As I got older and started to develop passions other than boys, I found I recognized the dizzy, slightly obsessive thought patterns that surrounded my artistic process. When I was excited about a play I was acting in or a piece I was writing, I'd once again encounter that familiar high school crush-like frenzy, only instead of Trevor from Western Civ, I'd become fixated on my project du jour, mulling over every detail, imaginging my future with the project.

I'm sure you're not surprised to learn that recipes and ingredients fall into the crushable category as well (remember my cauliflower obsession of 2015?). I tend to discover a dish or ingredient, and then cook it over and over again until I'm either sick of it (almost never happens) or I feel like I've perfected it. My current food crush is these garlicy sweet potato fries. Instead of the orange-fleshed garnet yams I usually use, I'm using the sweet potatoes I just cannot get enough of lately: purple-red skinned, beige-interior Japanese sweet potatoes (which are very good for you, and will apparently make you as beautiful as Olivia Munn's BTW). These have the sweet, nutty flavor of yams, but the baking integrity and firmness of regular potatoes, making them the most perfect oven fry sweet potato, in my opinion.

I like to use ones that are roughly the length I want my fries to be, and I never peel them (the skin is full of nutrients and I like its texture). I just cut them into relatively thin fries.

I toss them in olive oil, sprinkle them with salt, and bake until they get brown and crispy. Then I let them cool--do not skip this step! It helps make them crispy.

I toss them with the fixings of the ball park garlic fries my dad and I used to share at baseball games (because like all of my crushes, they remind me a little bit of my father): another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a touch of salt, chopped raw garlic, parsley, and Parm.

They're the perfect side for burgers, tacos, or even scrambled eggs. Try them tonight and get ready to start crushing.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium Japanese sweet potatoes, cut into thin fries $1.50
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided Pantry
  • salt Pantry
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced Pantry
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan $4 for 6 ounces
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped Pantry
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes, optional

Recipe Serves 2

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
  3. Spread the sweet potatoes out so they are not touching.
  4. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes on one side, then flip and bake for 12-14 minutes on the other side, until brown and crispy.
  6. Let cool for 5 minutes (this step is crucial, as it helps crisp them up!).
  7. Toss with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt, the garlic, Parmesan, parsley, and red chili flakes, if using.
  8. Serve immediately.

Hummus from Scratch

  • Prep Time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $6
  • 43 Comments

I remember the first time I had real hummus. Not the goopy stuff that comes in a tub. You know that stuff: it's more mealy than creamy, and it never doesn't taste like the refrigerator it's stored in after being opened. Sometimes it comes in flavors like jalapeño or cilantro, but no amount of flavoring is enough to make up for its lack of freshness and lousy texture. 

The real stuff, which I tasted for the first time as an eighteen-year-old in Tel Aviv, is ethereally creamy, rich with olive oil, redolent of fresh lemon, lots of garlic, and good tahini, plus just enough salt to make it pop. It was revolutionary to me just how good it was, scooped onto a warm piece of hot-out-of-the-oven pita (which was also massively different than the bagged kind my mother bought at the grocery store back in the states). The hummus was somehow fuffy and luxurious at the same time, and much more flavorful than its off-white appearance let on. 

Though many countries claim hummus as their own, the chickpea-tahini-olive oil-lemon-garlic preparation of hummus is Egyptian in origin. Its complete name, ḥummuṣ bi ṭaḥīna means "chickpeas with tahini" in Arabic. And while, yes, it is available in plastic containers at your local grocery store, hummus made from scratch us in its own category. I order it regularly at my favorite neighborhood Middle Eastern restaurant, Old Jerusalem, but making it from scratch is a very close second. Here's how:

Start with dry chickpeas. Don't give in to the desire to use canned--they're really not as good. Besides, $5 worth of dry chickpeas will last you a whole lot longer than $5 worth of canned beans.

 If you have the time, soak them overnight, with some baking soda. If, like me, you are less patient, do the quick soaking method and stir some baking soda into the chickpeas and water, simmer for a few minutes, then cover for 10 minutes. This helps loosen the peels, and as you will find, this is the key to the smoothest, creamiest hummus.

 See how easily they come off? This process takes a little time, but trust me it's worth it. 

As you can see, a few peels remain. This is okay, the majority of the rest will float up during cooking.

The beans cook low and slow. Don't worry about them getting too mushy--they're just going to be pureed.

 

After cooking for a long time, it's into the food processor with tahini, olive oil, lemon, garlic, and salt.

Don't forget the extra olive oil to garnish. No, this is not a low-fat food. Don't ever bother with a hummus that claims to be low-fat!

I like to top mine with zaatar, an oregano-based herb blend spice-and-herb blend. If you can't find zaatar, sumac, paprika, chopped parsley or cilantro, or even just  freshly ground black pepper works nicely.

Don't you just want to dive in with a hot piece of pita?

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried chickpeas $1.50 (buy in the bulk section for the best price)
  • 3 tablespoons baking soda Pantry
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to garnish Pantry
  • 1/4 cup tahini $4 for 8 ounces
  • juice of 1 lemon $0.50 
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped Pantry
  • 2 teaspoons salt (more or less to taste) Pantry
  • zaatar Optional 

Recipe Serves 8-10

Directions

  1. Pick over the dried chickpeas and remove any that are still green.
  2. Put the chickpeas in a large heavy-bottomed pot, and add enough water so the chickpeas are under about 2 inches of water.
  3. Stir in the baking soda.
  4. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
  5. Reduce the temperature to medium and let simmer for 5 minutes. 
  6. Let the chickpeas sit in the pot, covered for 10 minutes. 
  7. Turn off the heat and drain the chickpeas in a colander or strainer.
  8. Run cold water over the chickpeas until they are cool to the touch.
  9. Working in small batches, rub a handful of chickpeas between your hands to remove the peels. 
  10. Repeat until most of the peels have been removed from the chickpeas.
  11. Place the peeled chickpeas back in the pot and cover with 2-3 inches of water. Cover the pot with the lid.
  12. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.
  13. Let the pot simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  14. Once the chickpeas have finished cooking, lift the lid and use a slotted spoon to remove any peels that floated to the top during cooking.
  15. Drain the chickpeas in a colander or strainer and run cold water over them to bring them to room temperature.
  16. Place the chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor. Run the machine until all lumps disappear and the chickpeas are very smooth 
  17. With the machine running, stream in the olive oil.
  18. Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and blend until the hummus is completely smooth.
  19. Scrape the hummus into a serving bowl, and garnish with a heavy sprinkle of zaatar and a generous drizzle of olive oil.
  20. Serve with fresh vegetables, pita, pita chips, kebabs, or anything else you like.