The Downturn Dish

March 13, 2009

As it turns out, Americans are trying to save money during the recession. And since people are unwilling to see fewer movies and sports franchises are unwilling to negotiate cheaper contracts, both the general populous and George Steinbrenner need a way to reduce living costs. Food is one place to cut. WBEZ's Adriene Hill did this story about rise in hot dog sales. Cooking cheaply is another money-saving strategy that people have turned to. But, gee, doesn't Ramen get boring? To help reader their food costs -- and sodium levels -- we've launched a new feature of our Hard Working series called The Downturn Dish. Each Monday and most Wednesdays on the Hard Working blog, chefs and contributors alike will share their favorite cheap recipes and frugal food tips: The goal is to help you feed yourself or your family for under $10 per recipe. Throughout the week we will also have other cost-cutting, food-related posts aimed at getting you through the recession with your bank account and love handles intact. Check out the blog, post your own recipes or recommendations, and join your fellow WBEZ enthusiasts in getting through the dark times a bit easier. And after the jump, see what our first chef had in store: recipes for whole wheat pizza with carmelized onions, pears and blue cheese; chicken pan roast with artichokes and peas; and grilled skirt steak with balsamic glaze and warm couscous raisin salad. Homemade Whole Wheat Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Pears and Blue Cheese For the pizza dough: 1 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast 1 tablespoon honey 2 tablespoons warm water 1/2 cups warm water (110-115‚º) 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 1 3/4 - 2 cups whole wheat flour Pinch sea salt In a medium sized bowl, combine yeast, honey and water. Allow to sit for about five minutes or until yeast becomes foamy. Add remaining water, olive oil, flour, and salt. Work with your hands until the dough forms a ball that comes away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until double in bulk. Preheat the oven to 425‚°. Punch down the dough and knead it on a lightly floured surface for one minute. Roll the dough very thin into a circle or a rectangle. Place dough on a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal or on a cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Prick with a fork to prevent bubbles, and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake until the dough is mostly crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread with the caramelized onion and sprinkle with the pears and blue cheese. Continue to bake until the toppings are hot and the cheese is melted, about 5-6 minutes. Cut into slices and serve. For the caramelized onions and other toppings: 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons butter 2 red onions, sliced thin 1/2 cup sherry wine 1 teaspoon thyme, rough chopped Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 cup blue cheese 2 ripe pears, medium dice Heat a sautƒ© pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. Sautƒ© the onions until they are nicely caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. If browned bits of fond build up on the bottom of the pan while caramelizing, deglaze with a touch of water. Once the onions are caramelized, add the sherry and reduce until dry. Stir in the thyme and season to taste, with salt and pepper. Chicken Pan Roast with Artichokes and Peas 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil 4 chicken thighs Sarah's sea salt and pepper to taste 2 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds Zest of 1/2 lemon 1 onion, sliced thin 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence 1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika 1 cup artichokes, quartered 1/2 cup peas Heat a heavy wide pot over medium high heat and add the oil. Season the chicken thighs with the salt and pepper and sear them, skin side down, until golden brown and crisp. Flip them over and repeat. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium and layer the potatoes, overlapping slightly, on the bottom of the pan until it's covered. Season the potatoes with salt, pepper. Scatter the sliced onions, garlic cloves, herbs and paprika on top of the potatoes and place the seared chicken on top. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook the chicken until the meat is tender and no longer pink, about 40 minutes. Uncover the pot and scatter in the artichokes and peas. Cover the pot and cook until they are warmed through. Grilled Skirt Steak with Balsamic Glaze and Warm Cous Cous and Raisin Salad For the marinade: 1/4 cup fresh lime juice 1 orange, juiced 3 garlic cloves, sliced 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper to taste 2 pounds skirt steak, excess fat trimmed Lime wedges as needed Mix together the lime juice, orange, juice, garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a shallow baking dish. Marinate the skirt steak for about 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Remove the steak from the marinade and season each side with additional salt and pepper. Grill the first side until caramelized, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and repeat. Continue to cook until the steak is done to your liking. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing into very thin slices against the grain. Serve with the lime wedges and couscous salad. For the couscous salad: 2 cups couscous 2 cups boiling water Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 cup raisins 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled 1/4 cup parsley, rough chopped Place the couscous in a heat proof bowl and pour in the boiling water. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and allow the couscous to steam until all of the water has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Mix in the raisins, pine nuts, feta cheese and parsley. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
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