Back in the fall, Christina Chaey, an editor at Bon Appetit presented me with a challenge: How would you stretch $30 at Whole Foods into five family dinners? My first reaction: HAHAHAHAHAHA! Can’t be done. (Whole Paycheck anyone?) My second: You know…this kind of use-it-or-lose-it exercise is always useful, no matter where I’m shopping. Plus, I had just returned from a “root-to-leaf” type workshop at Stone Barns, where we had made our own ricotta, stretched a few carrots into a healthy fritter dinner, and whirled the tops from those carrots into pesto using a bike-powered blender. I mean, really, did I have any excuse not to test my resourcefulness? (Bonus: My mother, who has never wasted a penny or an ounce of food in her life, would be so proud.) I accepted the assignment and headed off to my local Yonkers Whole Foods. You can head over to BA to read about how me and three other food types approached the challenge, but here’s a more detailed breakdown, including shopping list, meal plan, and recipes.
A few notes: I was told I could rely on a pretty substantial pantry which is why you’ll see things like olive oil, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, an array of dried spices, and garden herbs (the weather was still warm when I did this) included in my recipes. Also, here is where I might lose a little street cred — I didn’t actually have to cook the meals, I just had to plan them, which is why what you’re reading below is a collection of very roughly sketched recipes. If you have questions, please leave them in the comment field and I’ll do my best to answer them, but I’d also love to know: What would be on your $30 shopping lists?
Meal 1: Pizza with Egg, Ricotta, Kale
Pizza dough (whole wheat or all purpose flour + salt + sugar + yeast)
4 or 5 leaves kale, torn (all stems saved for stock)
Red pepper flakes
Dollops of Homemade Ricotta (3 ½ cups milk + cream + Lemon juice)
Chives from garden
Roll out pizza dough and bake about 8 min. Top with kale (that’s been tossed in a little olive oil and onion & garlic powder) and then crack eggs carefully on top. Bake another 5-6 minutes until eggs are set. Top with ricotta & red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, before serving. (Save leftover ricotta.)
**Could also do this with chickpea flour for socca pizzas, depending on how well stocked you are. (What, you don’t keep chickpea flour in your pantry?)
Meal 2: Frittata with Potatoes, Sausage, Peas
4 potatoes, sliced
5 eggs whisked with a little milk if any left
1 sausage link, crumbled and cooked
Handful frozen peas
Par boil potatoes about 5 minutes. Layer on bottom of cast iron skillet. Fry in a bit of olive oil; pour eggs on top and stir in cooked sausages and peas. Cook until bottom set; finish in broiler, about 3 minutes.
Meal 3: Whole Wheat Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Kale
1 ½ onions (save outer layer of onion + skins)
Whole wheat linguine
4-5 kale leaves, torn
Olive oil or butter
Salt & pepper
Thyme from garden
Caramelize sliced onions in a little olive oil over super low heat until sweet (45 min). Prepare pasta according to package directions, adding kale at the last minute. Drain, toss with butter or olive oil) and top with onions, salt, pepper, and thyme if you have it.
Meal 4: Avgolemeno with Foccacia
4-5 cups chicken stock (water simmered on stovetop with chicken bones, 1/4 onion, onion skins, kale stems, salt about 2 hours; then strained)
Salt & pepper
Dill (from garden)
Pizza dough (flour, yeast, sugar, salt)
Roll out pizza dough let sit and rise a bit. Press fingers into the top to create divets. Top with salt and pepper. Bake at 475°F-500°F for 15 min. Meanwhile, beat eggs in a bowl. Heat chicken stock, remove from heat. Temper eggs: Stir 1/2 cup hot stock into whisked eggs, then whisk eggs back to soup. Serve in bowls with fresh dill and focaccia for sopping.
Meal 5: Rice, Beans, & Sausage
¼ large onion, chopped
Salt & pepper
1 ½ cups wild country rice
2 cups chicken stock (from Meal 4) + 1 cups water
2 cans black beans, drained
1 sausage, crumbled and cooked
whatever kale is leftover
(fresh herbs – thyme, oregano)
Saute onion in olive oil, add salt, pepper, spices. Add rice, 2 cups chicken stock, 2 cups water, cook until firm-tender. Toss in beans, sausages, kale, and herbs.
Meal 6: Carrot Pancakes with Carrot Top Pesto & Leftover Ricotta; Buttered Minty Peas on the side
ricotta (if left over)
salt & pepper
mint (from garden, optional)
salt & pepper
Directions: Make pancake batter with egg, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder. Toss in grated carrots and fold in any leftover ricotta. Fry in oil. Meanwhile whirl olive oil, carrot greens, garlic powder, salt, and pepper until saucy. Top pancakes with pesto and any leftover ricotta. Serve with heated peas that have been tossed with butter, salt, and mint. (This is an adaptation of the Stone Barns fritters — for their version we whirled Parm and fresh garlic into the carrot top pesto, but those two ingredients were out of my budget.)
Photo by Laura Murray for Bon Appetit.