Spaghetti with tuna (Spaghetti al Tonno). Colter Peterson/TNS
Once again, I mysteriously failed to win the lottery.
That means one thing: back to having a food budget. But I want the food I cook to taste good, no matter how little it costs.
So this week, I set out to make a handful of great-tasting dishes that were not a strain on my wallet.
The idea was to use inexpensive ingredients, but in an artful way. I cut out pricey frills and kept to classic combinations of flavour. I made sure that I got my protein. And I cooked dishes that made me smile. They may not be fancy, but they’re awfully good.
Not only are they inexpensive, but they are all easy to make. In fact, the hardest part for me was figuring out how much each one cost me per serving.
SPAGHETTI WITH TUNA (SPAGHETTI AL TONNO)
10 ounces tuna, preferably preserved in oil
2 cloves garlic
12 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1. Fill a large pot with salted water for pasta and heat to a boil. Meanwhile, drain the tuna. Peel and crush the garlic.
2. Add spaghetti to the boiling water. While it cooks, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan and add the crushed garlic. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Flake the tuna and add to the pan. Cook a few minutes, stirring constantly.
3. When spaghetti is cooked al dente, drain and add to pan with tuna. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon oil, butter and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
POLENTA WITH KALE AND GARBANZO BEANS
Note: If you want to fry the polenta, begin making it a few hours before serving, or overnight.
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal, preferably medium or coarse
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Leaves from 1 pound kale, chopped
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (16-ounce) can garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas
2 lemon wedges
1. Make the polenta: Add the salt to 3 cups of water in a medium or large pot, and bring to a boil. Have another pot with at least 6 cups of water simmering nearby. Slowly sprinkle corn meal into the salted water, stirring constantly. Lower the temperature to a very low simmer.
2. Stir frequently and add the simmering water, a ladle at a time, whenever the polenta starts to become stiff and dry. Cook until smooth and tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the butter and the Parmesan cheese until well-mixed.
3. If frying the polenta: Pour into a large, well-greased skillet or wide bowl to a depth of 1 to 1 1/2 inches, and smooth the top. When cool, cover with plastic wrap and place the skillet or bowl in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight to allow the polenta to set. Slice into 6 wedges. Melt the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. When very hot, add the polenta wedges so there is at least some room between each wedge (do this in batches if necessary). Cook wedges, without touching, until they start to turn brown on the bottom. Flip and cook until brown on the other side. Remove to a platter.
4. Make the topping: In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the kale and cook until wilted. Stir in the diced tomatoes and cook until hot. Stir in the garbanzo beans and cook until hot. Add juice from lemon wedges and mix.
5. To serve, place polenta on a plate, either fried or in semi-liquid form, and top with the vegetables.
6 baking apples such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3 cups vanilla ice cream, optional
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the apples, lemon juice, sugar and 2 tablespoons of the flour. Drain, and pour the apple mixture into a buttered 2-quart baking dish, and set aside. This may be done the day before baking, and kept refrigerated.
3. In a large mixing bowl, mix the remaining 11/4 cups flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. With a food processor, pastry blender or your fingers, work the butter into the mixture just until it comes together and large clumps form. This may be done the day before cooking and kept refrigerated.
4. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 45 minutes. Serve topped with ice cream, if desired.
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