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Broke and Hungry

Broke and Hungry is a recently launched blog written by my good high school buddy Jeff. Given that he’s a city planning and public policy whiz kid (in addition to consulting, check out this new firm he just launched–the guy’s been doing a lot of launching, now that I think about it), it was a pleasant surprise to see him start a food blog. But I couldn’t be happier to see him focus some of his energy on food and cooking. After a day at work, there’s often no greater joy than being in the kitchen.

Bruschetta from a recent Broke and Hungry smorgasbord

Bruschetta from a recent Broke and Hungry smorgasbord

The concept of his blog is high quality cooking at super low, post-grad-school-friendly prices. Each post breaks down the cost of the meal. Of course, the same meals reproduced in different areas of the country would likely cost more or less, but the posts still drive home the point that great food is totally affordable.

His blog got me thinking about the individual costs of my meals, and inspired me to bring my lunch to work every single day this week. And tonight, as I threw together a 30 minute meal (I had to hustle–it was already 6:30 and No Reservations was on at 7!), I committed the recipe to memory so I could share the procedure and the cost here. Check out my amazingly cheap meal after the jump.

And take a gander at Broke & Hungry, and get inspired to start cooking at home!

No Reservations Spaghetti with Spicy Shrimp and Lemon

  • 1/3 lb thick spaghetti
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried red chili flakes
  • 1/2 pound 21/25 wild caught shrimp, peeled and deveined, then seasoned with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 large red slicer tomato, large diced
  • Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • Few glugs sauvignon blanc, or between 1/2 and 3/4 cup
  • 1 cup loosely packed whole flat leaf parsley leaves

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta, and cook for two minutes fewer than the package directions recommend.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil, gather the rest of your ingredients. Ideally, the pasta should have about 8 minutes left to cook when you finish the rest of this dish. In a large saute pan, add the olive oil, garlic and chili flakes. Heat these slowly over medium low heat. Once you smell the garlic, increase the heat to between medium and medium-high. Add in the shrimp, and cook about 30 seconds per side. Remove to a medium sized bowl. Add in the chopped tomatoes and any tomato juice, wine, lemon juice and lemon zest. Raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil. Reduce by about 2/3. Season with salt and pepper.

Using tongs, add in the pasta straight from its own cooking water. Do NOT drain the spaghetti–you need the residual bit of pasta water to help tighten the lemon and wine sauce. Cook for 30 seconds, tossing together. Add in the shrimp and parsley, cook another 30 seconds to a minute, then bowl it up and serve. All kinds of delicious. So delicious, I didn’t want to get up and take a picture of the dish before I ate it.

So what’s the cost breakdown here?

spaghetti ($.60)

olive oil ($.10)

garlic (negligible–a few cents at most)

dried red chili flakes (negligible)

1/2 pound 21/25 wild caught shrimp ($4)

1/2 large red slicer tomato ($.50)

zest and juice of 1 large lemon ($.70)

few glugs sauvignon blanc, or between 1/2 and 3/4 cup ($.63-$.94)

flat leaf parsley leaves ($.05)

That totals up to $6.89, but let’s be generous and call it $7 in case you use more pasta, have an extra shrimp, or even an extra glug of wine to help wash it all down. Being a fat kid at heart, let me assure you that this was a healthy serving of pasta–very filling! Not too shabby for a quick, delicious dish that also incorporated sometimes pricey shrimp.

Here’s a few tips I thought of as I was writing this recipe out:

– When you’re shopping for the week, try to find good deals with things that are on sale, and then buy them. Sounds obvious, but many people won’t buy something because they think they won’t use it. The shrimp I used here are a perfect example. At $8 per pound, these wild caught domestic shrimp were a steal, and I didn’t want to pass it up–so I bought what I wanted, and figured if I couldn’t use it within a day or two, I’d freeze it. It’s never a bad idea to buy well-priced meats and just freeze them for later! Same concept goes for certain fruits and veggies. Summertime fruits like peaches, berries, apricots and cherries can be bought on sale, then frozen later for smoothies or desserts. When I see heavily discounted carrots or onions, I’ll buy them, chop them up, and throw them into my “stock bags” in the freezer–big plastic bags I keep filled with parsley stems, onion scraps, chicken carcasses, and all the other necessary makings for stock, so that I can cook up a batch or two some weekend.

– You’ve probably heard the rule that you shouldn’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink. This is true–but only up to a point. Don’t be afraid to buy a bottle of cheap sauvignon blanc or merlot (NOT cooking wine, but actual wine from the wine section of a store) and keep it in your fridge. That way, you’ll always have a “dry white wine” on hand to cook with. If you can use it up within a few weeks, it shouldn’t oxidize so much that the flavors are off. But trust me, there’s absolutely NO NEED for you to be cooking with some $36 Sancerre. Don’t believe me? Check out this article from September’s Food & Wine.

This recipe is a great example of why it’s essential to have a well stocked pantry if you’re going to cook at home. Most of the items–parsley, lemon, chili flake, garlic, even pasta–are things I always have around, because they’re easy to tailor to many things. This recipe would’ve been delicious with chicken or even high-quality oil packed tuna, instead of the shrimp–whatever mild meat I might’ve had on hand. Keeping your pantry stocked with commonly used spices and basics will give you a huge leg up if you start cooking at home. Invest in these items up front–it’s totally worth it.

One Response

  1. Thanks for linking me!

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