Beet and Chickpea Salad

Hello and Happy Friday! We’re closing out the week with a vividly-colored salad that will look smashing at summertime dinner parties and potlucks. (The fact that it’s dirt simple to make and really inexpensive will be your little secret.)

beet+chickpea salad

Pretty in Pink: Beet and Chickpea Salad

You can find it on page 53 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap”. (This wonderful cookbook is a free download at leannebrown.com.) In the print version of “Good and Cheap”, it’s on page 33. And by the way, you can find the print version at most libraries. (Strathcona County, my home library, has seven copies.)

Ingredient Notes
This is another fast & easy recipe that takes:

  • beets
  • chickpeas
  • peanuts
  • olive oil
  • lime juice
  • chili sauce

Contrary to the instructions, I took the traditional route and boiled the beets prior to peeling them. I also added some fresh dill, because I think it goes well with beets. (And because I had a pot of dill that was growing out of control.)

How Did It Taste?
I’ve made this twice and both times, proudly served it to guests. It’s an unusual combination of flavours, but it’s very good. A couple of thoughts:

  • I tried the recipe once with canned chickpeas and once with dried chickpeas that I’d cooked from scratch. The scratch ones taste much better and it’s really not that much work.
  • The dressing component calls for a teaspoon of chili sauce. I think that’s too much. I’d cut back to at least half a teaspoon (or less) and increase the amount of lime juice. You can also add some lime zest.

Time and Money
The recipe knocks together in about twenty minutes and the total cost was $3.09. This served three people quite comfortably, so I’ll peg it at $1.03 per serving.

Interestingly, this is one of those rare instances when the price per serving is actually much cheaper what’s quoted in “Good and Cheap”. ($1.75 per serving.)

A Little DIY — Using Dried Chickpeas
Here’s how you cook with dried chickpeas, in two easy steps.

  1. Measure your chickpeas into a bowl. The ratio is roughly 2:1. For example, if your recipe is asking for a cup of chickpeas, use a half cup of the dried ones. Cover the chickpeas with water and let them soak overnight.
  2. The next morning, drain the chickpeas, put them in a saucepan and cover again with water. Put the saucepan onto medium heat and bring to a boil, then simmer for about ninety minutes. Once you’ve hit the one-hour mark, check the chickpeas for firmness every fifteen minutes.

And that is literally it. Try it! You won’t be disappointed. These ones have a rich creaminess that is totally absent from the canned version. And (no surprise) they’re much cheaper.

Ta dah! We’ve now come to the end of today’s colorful salad report. Thanks for reading all the way down here. Next up is a look at how the dollars and cents of this experiment played out in the month of June. But until then, have yourself a very good weekend!
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Broiled Eggplant Salad

Did you know that in Great Britain, they call eggplants “aubergines”? Yes, they do. And I bring that up because today we’re making a salad with this unusual, double-agent vegetable.

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Broiled Eggplant Salad
(Or, in Great Britain, “Broiled Aubergine Salad”)

You can find it on page 43 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap”. (This wonderful cookbook is a free download at leannebrown.com.) In the print version of “Good and Cheap”, it’s on page 32.

Ingredient Notes
This is a super-easy recipe that takes:

  • eggplant
  • tahini
  • lemon juice
  • green onion

I didn’t deviate from the ingredient list, but I did use fresh dill, one of the suggested additions.

How Did It Taste?
Really good! The combination of the tahini with the lemon and dill is the perfect offset to the eggplant, which tends to be a little bland.

One hint: slice the eggplant about 1/4″ thick. Any thinner and they tend to get a little crispy on the edges.

Time and Money
The recipe knocks together in about ten minutes flat, and then you just need to wait for the eggplant to broil.

The total cost was $3.32, which works out to $1.66 per serving. One of the things that helped make this recipe very cheap was the fact that I grew my own dill this spring. More on that below…

The Secret Lives of Herbs
Back in March, when we were busy noshing on Banana Pancakes, I decided to try planting my own culinary herbs as an additional money-saving technique. I bought seeds for dill, rosemary and basil.

The dill came up right away, and grew beautifully. The basil also came up right away, and grew well as long as it was indoors. I’ve tried planting it twice now, and have managed — both times — to kill it by taking it outside.

The sullen and pouty rosemary didn’t even sprout.

My conclusions from this experiment are that rosemary is probably best purchased as a plant from a greenhouse, and that basil is growable but infinitely fussy, and happiest leading a sheltered life inside the house.

And that’s the end of this week’s eggplant/aubergine story, with a side trip to herbs. Thanks for tuning in, and come back later this week, when we toss beets and chickpeas together to make the world’s most colorful salad!
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Dollars and Cents: May Recap

Hello! Not long after starting this project, I decided it would be a good idea to devote one post each month to taking a look at how close my grocery spending comes to the $6 per day that I targeted.

There were 31 days in the month, but I had houseguests for seven of those days. This meant that my total grocery budget in May was $252.

I was a little nervous. I’d done really well in April, but I know full well that I’m the poster child for panicking and buying too much food when company comes.

And … that’s exactly what I did. Although I consider my restaurant and potluck spending to have been quite good in May, I really went hog wild on the grocery end of things.

The Small Bright Spot
The $31.34 you see below represents one lunch for myself and my sister at A&W, and my contribution to one potluck dinner. I’m happy with this expenditure and I don’t think I could bring it down a whole lot lower.

Actual grocery expenditures = $311.38 (ouch)
Restaurants and potluck  = $31.34
Grand total = $342.72

When everything is tallied up, my total food spending in May was $342.72. That’s $90.72 and 36% over budget. (Percentage-wise, it looks better than I thought.)

(Spoiler Alert: Things got better in June.)
Even though I spent a lot in May, I managed not to let a lot of fresh produce go bad, and some of the biggest-ticket items I bought came out of the frozen food section in the supermarket. That means they’ve been there for me to use up in June and July, helping to even out my over-spending.

I can’t say that I learned anything particularly frugal over the course of May, and I still believe that it’s important to have lots of food in the house when you’ve got guests. In my case, I was feeding anywhere from three to seven people at any given time, so flexibility was important.

Plus, there’s that whole “feeding your soul” bit, as cheesy as it sounds. You can’t beat the magic that happens with a gang of your cousins — over a plate of olives, some quality cheese and bottle of wine — while laughing your head off at some crazy piece of family history. Budget or no budget, I’d never want to cheap out on that.signature

Kale Caesar Salad

Hi!

I’ve been absent from the blog for awhile. And for this, I do apologize. I won’t give you any lame-duck excuses, but I do apologize. I’m not giving you any lame-duck recipe reviews either. Today, we’re cooking up a super-healthy version of a classic salad that dates back to the Prohibition era.

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Kale Caesar Salad
Even Julia Child would approve

You can find it on page 44 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap”, where it’s simply called “Kale Salad”. (This wonderful cookbook is a free download at leannebrown.com). In the print version of “Good and Cheap”, it’s on page 31.

Ingredient Notes
This is a fairly simple recipe that takes:

  • kale
  • homemade croutons
  • homemade dressing
  • Romano cheese

The dressing is a fairly typical Caesar salad dressing and I made three changes to the ingredient line-up. One, I substituted Polish mayonnaise for the raw egg yolk. The mayo is probably not a perfect stand-in for the yolk, but I’m just a little squeamish about raw eggs. Two, I used Giovanni’s All-Natural Anchovy Paste in place of an anchovy fillet. I like the taste of the anchovy paste and because it comes in  a tube that can be stored in the fridge, it neatly sidestepped the issue of leftover anchovy fillets. And three, I substituted mozzarella for the Romano cheese the recipe called for — because in true “Good and Cheap” style, that’s what I had in the fridge and wanted to use up.

How Did It Taste?
There’s one universal law about Caesar salad dressing. Homemade always tastes better than store-bought. Always. In fact, the gap between homemade and commercial Caesar dressing is so broad that a person might be convinced to forever banish store-bought from their table.

I’m not the world’s biggest kale fan, so even with a yummy handcrafted dressing, I went into this experiment with some skepticism.

But … my skepticism is once again proven wrong! This is really quite good. I’d happily serve it to guests and I love the taste of the homemade croutons.

Time and Money
All in, Kale Caesar Salad takes about 25 minutes to create. I made a full recipe, which came out to two fairly generous meal-size servings. The total cost for this was $5.32, which works out to $2.66 per serving.

A Little History
I had assumed that, like many other classic dishes, Caesar Salad had been invented in a restaurant in New York. Wrong! The original Caesar Salad was the creation of  an Italian-American restaurateur named Caesar Cardini. Cardini lived in San Diego, but owned a restaurant in Tijuana, as a way of getting around the Prohibition laws in the U.S.

The back story is that on the Fourth of July weekend in 1924, Cardini threw together a bunch of ingredients he had on hand and served the salad to his friends. It became a sensation. Even Julia Child’s parents travelled to Cardini’s to try out the Caesar. In her cookbook From Julia Child’s Kitchen, the American culinary icon recalls her encounter:

My parents, of course, ordered the salad. Caesar himself rolled the big cart up to the table, tossed the romaine in a great wooden bowl, and I wish I could say I remembered his every move, but I don’t. They only thing I see again clearly is the eggs. I can see him break 2 eggs over that romaine and roll them in, the greens going all creamy as the eggs flowed over them. Two eggs in a salad? Two one-minute coddled eggs? And garlic-flavored croutons, and grated Parmesan cheese? It was a sensation of a salad from coast to coast, and there were even rumblings of its success in Europe.

And that’s it! In my next post, I’ll be catching you up on how the financial end of this year-long experiment has been going. Thanks for tuning in!
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