Monday, August 31, 2009

Fennel & Tomato Linguine

Fennel does not make its way into our home very often. It is pretty expensive around here and my husband doesn't usually like it, so I only get it once in a while for my lunch salad.

While cruising through ShopRite this morning I spotted some fennel, two for $3. They were small, but I decided to go for it. The original plan was to keep them for myself as usual, but when suppertime rolled along I opened the fridge and there it was, that trusty fennel.
The following recipe was concocted on the spot and any resemblance to recorded and printed recipes is purely accidental. All rights reserved.

Frugal Kosher's Fennel & Tomato Linguine

1 Fennel bulb (2 if small)
1 Onion
1 or 2 Tomato
1 Large clove garlic
1 Pack Linguine

Slice the fennel in half lengthwise. If it's large, quarter it. Thinly slice each piece. Slice the onion, heat up some olive oil in a pan and add the onion and fennel, sauteing on medium heat.
After about 7 minutes get your pasta water going, don't forget to add plenty of salt to the pot.

At this point, the fennel is going from raw to cooked and is enduring a dramatic transformation in taste, losing some of that strong fennel flavor that some people dislike (case in point: my husband).

Chop your tomato and garlic and add to the pan along with some salt and pepper and a touch of savory if you have it. Lower the flame and let the vegetables cook slowly until the pasta is ready. Make sure you have enough oil in the pan to coat the pasta.

Once the linguine are done add them to the pan, stir, plate and garnish with some fresh parsley.

Enjoy! My husband did.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chicken & Chinese Noodles Stir Fry

On my weekly ShopRite visit I picked up some Chinese noodles (incidentally, the Jewish supermarkets carry the same brand of Asian noodles for $2 more). I would have preferred Japanese Udon noodles which are thicker and not as sticky but they were not in stock. I also picked up a small head of cabbage, one green pepper, a baby eggplant and some carrots.

I heated some sesame oil in a large pan and added a large onion, sliced, and the rest of the vegetables. In went some Asian spiced sea salt, black pepper, worcestershire sauce (Heinz worcestershire sauce has an OU) and a touch of soy sauce.
I let the veggies cook while making the noodles and added the leftover chicken burgers from last night's dinner, crumbling them into the pan. Once the noodles were done everything was reunited in the pan and there was much rejoyicing.

The dish was surprisingly light and delicious!

Chicken Burgers

I know what you're thinking: this dinner looks like a children's meal. Well, I would not serve chicken cutlets at a fancy dinner table but working with ground chicken is an affordable way to diversify and still end up with something tasty, nutritious and filling.
For last night's dinner I mixed 1.10 lbs of ground chicken with chopped onion, fresh parsley, salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and a touch of ground sage (when it comes to sage, always paired with chicken, a little goes a long way). I added two eggs which seemed like too much but ultimately the burgers came together and were nice and moist, there's nothing worse than dry chicken or meat burgers.

The chicken was served with roasted sweet potato 'fries', so good that before you know it you've already eaten the equivalent of three whole yams.
Slice the sweet potatoes and add olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 425 F for 25-30 minutes.

We had some leftovers and I plan on using them in a chinese noodle stir fry with peppers, eggplant and cabbage.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Eye Candy

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ricotta Omelette

I cannot remember where I found the recipe for this light omelette, its copy-pasted into my files without any attribution but I will try to look through my cookbooks and favorite websites so I can properly credit the original cook or chef.

16 oz ricotta
4 eggs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 c milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp flour or cornstarch
Minced basil and mint to taste (or use dried)
Thinly sliced tomato for top

Break up eggs and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes .

Chilled Corn Soup

This is a light and gentle soup that is served cold, perfect for a summer evening. I do not remember where I got the recipe so I'm going to improvise:

Boil some ears of corn for 5-10 minutes. Let cool and remove kernels from cob with a knife. Puree the kernels in a blender with a few cups of water or broth. Strain the mixture and discard the kernels. Add salt, pepper and dried basil to the soup and chill. Serve cold.

Monday, August 10, 2009

ShopRite Deals

I don't often shop at ShopRite because Pathmark is much closer to our home, but Pathmark fails to impress me on many levels and yesterday I spotted some great deals at ShopRite. The top deal was a 1 liter bottle of De Cecco Extra Virgin Olive Oil for $9.99, down from $13.99 or thereabouts. Olive oil is a big expense but something I cannot do without so I'm always on the lookout for bargains that will allow me to get some quality and still somehow stay within budget.
De Cecco is an excellent brand and I've never purchased their olive oil before.
Even the alleged regular price of $13.99 is a steal for 1 liter of extra virgin, even more so because De Cecco promises to use only Italian olives.
It's a not-so-well-kept secret that Italy does not have enough olives to keep up with the demand and companies must import some from Spain and Greece, but De Cecco claims to stick with the native olives. So that find definitely made my day.
(Notice all my unintentionally clever keyword placement?)


Zharkoya - Russian Stew

If it's as hot where you are as it is here, you probably don't even want to read past the title and would rather reach in the freezer for a sorbet. However, I was asked to provide dinners for someone whose spouse is out of town, and the person does not mind eating the same thing a few days in a row. Furthermore, he has a hearty meat-and-potato- type appetite so what can be better than zharkoya, a good old Russian stew.
My mother makes this stew in the winter - I believe my father taught her how- with tomato paste, cubed potatoes and meat. I wanted to add some variety so I checked a few recipes online and came up with what seemed like a decent zharkoya.
Amounts are not available but you can always use a whole bag of potatoes and a chunk of stew meat and freeze the leftovers.

A few garlic cloves
1 Parnsip
1 can tomato sauce or a few tbsps tomato paste
Broth or water

Chop the onions, cut the carrots and parnsip into chunks , peel the garlic and sautee everything in olive oil in a large pot until gently browned. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into cubes and add to the vegetables. Brown the cubed beef separately then add to the pot. Add the tomato sauce or paste, mix it in and add the broth or water. Bring to a boil, then check for spices (I use salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, savory, a hint of sage, bay leaf) and lower the heat. Forget about it for the next few hours.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Handy Mom

Our daughter's bedroom-slash-guest room was in need of a nightstand-slash-shelving but I had little $ to spend, so I resolved to turn my crafty mom mode on and start thinking.
I drove to the unfortunately named Christmas Tree Shop, a large store that sells cheap stuff that looks cheap alongside cheap stuff that might just fool you. Initially I had my heart set on a wicker table but they turned out to be pricier than I thought. I ended up purchasing a white particle board nightstand. Particle board is fine as long as nobody jumps on it, so I figured it would work for a few years.
The next stop was Michael's, the arts and crafts store, for a can of spray paint and some stencils.
Once home, I single-handedly assembled the nightstand, drill and all. I know from experience that it's easy for the nails to head the wrong way and break the particle board, but the drill and I did a fine job, if I may say so myself. The table looked fine but I had already made my big mistake: I should have painted the parts before assembling them.
I spread some plastic on the porch, changed into paint clothing and proceeded to spray paint the nightstand. My mistake here was failing to buy a mask. Once the paint was dry I used leftover white wall paint to paint stencils on one side of the nightstand.

Et voila':

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chicken Stir Fry Over Rice

The beauty of a dish starring vegetables is that you can prepare them in advance and refrigerate until you're ready to do the cooking.
Chicken stir-fry is a no-brainer but the advantage of stir fries is that it's easy to make them your own, there's no need to follow a recipe unless you're implementing an element you are unfamiliar with. It's also a great way to stretch that chicken. particularly when you serve it over a carb.

Frugal Kosher Chicken Stir Fry

1 Large Onion
1 Yellow squash, medium
1 Green bell pepper or 2 small
Fresh green beans
Fresh broccoli
1 Large clove garlic
2 Carrots
Olive Oil
Chicken Broth
Boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite size chunks

Heat olive oil in pan. Meanwhile, mix a little flour with salt, pepper, paprika, a little sage. Dredge chicken pieces lightly in the flour and fry on all sides until golden. Remove from pan.

Chop vegetables to desired sizes and put in pan. Sautee for a few minutes, add spices and a little broth and cook on a low heat until a few tablespoons of the liquid are left. Add the chicken 5-10 minutes before serving time.
I served this over brown rice one night, and the next day we had the leftovers over couscous.

Simple but delicious.

Monday, August 3, 2009

How Do They Do It?

Every time I go to the kosher supermarket (and ours is a real, bona fide super-market) I am amazed by the amount of food in people's cart- or carts! When the budget is tight- as it has been lately- I try to buy as much as possible in Pathmark, Shoprite and Walmart, but I inevitably end up at the kosher stores for meat and fish and dairy products. The fresh produce also happens to be much better in the big kosher supermarket, and often cheaper than Pathmark, surprisingly. I've tried the so-called farmer's stores around here for big pre-yom tov shopping sprees and the fruit there tends to be overripe and unusable unless you're into making your own compote or jam. Still, fresh produce is not cheap and add the meat, that bar of chocolate you must have, shabbos candles, the healthy small-packaged apple chips for your kid that you can't find in regular supermarkets, the whole wheat mezonos bread rolls, the... you get the picture.

Supermarkets are designed to lure the costumer into buying things they hadn't planned on getting and they do a pretty good job at it.
In the book "Stuffed: An insider's look at who really is making America fat" the author, a food industry insider, explains that the supermarket's favorite shopper is, surprisingly, the woman with the shopping list, because chances are she will visit every single aisle in order to fulfill that list, so the odds are that she will see and grab more items that were not originally on her list, as opposed to someone who randomly runs in for some paper towel, maybe grabs some napkins from that same aisle and then heads to the express checkout lane before he can be tempted to spend more.

What was my point? Oh yes, sorry. I do shop with a list most of the time but I am very purpose driven even when times and wallets are better and extremely aware of the limitations of our fridge and cabinets. I guess you'd call me a practical minded shopper. So my point is that I usually end up with very little in my cart, and yet that little still adds up to $65, $85.
As I stand in line I inevitable notice other shoppers' carts, overflowing with 6 milks, $55 worth of salmon in one small package, dozens of aluminum pans, chicken and more chicken and of course, cholent meat, and only one of those carts probably adds up to - I don't know, upwards of $350? I'm being tentatively conservative. So some people have food stamps, others have already payed off their mortgage, others are stocking up because they live out of town, but some of these fill up those carts week after week, and I just stand there wondering: how do they do it?