Escarole Feast Cheap and Shape Shifters

It’s Tuesday already, and yesterday was the start of my $30/week experiment.  Money spent on food so far: zero sort of.  My pantry is small, but pretty well stocked with staples and I bought some things at the farmers’ market on Saturday in Burlington — bread, feta, and chevre.  Those alone added up to $21.oo. It’s a splurge item for us a few times during the summer.  Plus, the producers, Kristin and George of Does’ Leap Farm make the best chevre I have ever had.

Dinner on Sunday (for 2 people)  had enough leftovers to turn into lunch and dinner for 2 on Monday and lunch for one for today.  I think part of being frugal is to not be afraid of leftovers.  So often, I will cook one large meal and then stretch it into many meals by morphing it into other things.  Shape shifting dinners.  Here’s what I made, and you can substitute any greens you want if you don’t like escarole.

Escarole and White Beans on Pasta ($2.99 for 8 individual meals)

1 TBS olive oil (10 cents?)

1 medium onion, chopped or 2 leeks (for a sweeter flavor), white parts only, washed and chopped (mine came from the garden)

1 jalapeno, chopped (use the seeds if you like it hot. Mine came from the garden, not to brag or anything)

3 cloves of garlic sliced, minced, or crushed (all three ways produce different results, figure out what you like. mine came from our garden, so it’s FREE)

1 large head escarole, washed, but not chopped.  (mine came from my garden…wish I had a photo, it was gorgeous) or any other green you like — chard, kale, mustard greens, arugula

1 can white beans (butter beans are my favorite – $1.89 for organic at our coop)

1 box pasta, whatever you like ($1 at our Shaw’s grocery store  when they do “10 for $10”– one of the few reasons I go there)

Optional garnishes — fresh squeezed lemon juice, capers, feta or parmesan, another drizzle of olive oil.  But it will all cost you! (.20 / serving?)

Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Get your (salted) pasta water going in a large pot.
  • While that is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven type of pot.
  • Saute the onion or leeks, garlic, and jalapeno over medium high heat, stirring.
  • After about 5 minutes, when everything is softening and realeasing its aroma, dump in all of the escarole (still wet from being washed so that it creates some steam).  Put a lid on the whole pan and ignore it for a few minutes.  Open the can of beans, rinse them if you need to, dump them on top of the escarole and put the lid back on for a few more minutes.
  • By now, you should also be cooking your pasta to the toothsome al dente point – i.e. not mushy.
  • Stir up all the escarole and beans so that they are evenly distributed, and season with the salt and pepper to taste.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking liquid if you want to stir it into the finished dish later if it seems dry.
  • You can combine noodles with the vegetables in the big skillet or pot, or alternately, you can serve big shallow bowls of pasta with the veggies on top, passing the optional garnishes around at the table.

This is a great dish to serve reheated as is, or you can turn it into a stew by reheating it with some broth.  I also love it with an egg cracked on top, and steam poached: just put the lid on the pot you are using and make sure there is enough liquid or fat in the bottom of the pan so that nothing sticks.   Super simple, and super yummy.  The escarole becomes silky, with a little bit of pleasant bitternes and the garlic and jalapeno balance it all out.  Bon Ap!

Cheap Livin’ in the City

Perfect for those living in NYC and its environs, NY Magazine presents it’s “Cheap Living Guide“. A lot of the ideas are good for any big city and it’s dive bar feature on the Nancy Whiskey Pub holds a dear place in my heart. Some bits are food related, but I’m all up for anything inexpensive – especially in these economic troubling times.

Phil and I are going to try and put up a little guide to making something frugally, whether is using dried beans or making your own seitan, etc., this weekend. We’ll also be making a bunch of gifts (starting now) for the holiday season, which probably won’t be limited to $30/week rules, but we’ll get back to you on that.

Last night’s dinner was some delicious oven-baked “fries”, faux-curry chicken salad sandwiches on pilfered bagels from volunteer session and oven roasted brussel sprouts. For lunch, I whipped up some pumpkin soup in the crockpot last night and ladled it out this morning. A full report on how it tastes and recipe later.