Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Guest Post: Four Key Ingredients to Eat Well and Frugally at Home

Vincent Scordo is the proprietor of, a fabulous blog about Italian American cooking. Check out his Pasta Challenge, which is more than sufficiently awesome.

As I've said in the past, eating out/ordering in is a colossal waste of money, and beyond the occasional breakdown or special night out I tend not to reach for the Chinese take out menu or make reservations at our local restaurant. My other rationale for not eating out is that I simply will not get the same quality food at 95 percent of the restaurants in our immediate area (including New York City). I'm not a trained Chef, but outside some extraordinary restaurants in New York, I'll take a simple meal prepared at home, with high quality ingredients, over a mediocre restaurant experience. Eating well at home is not rocket science, and moreover, you don't always need to purchase exotic ingredients to make tasty dishes. (The ingredients need to be high quality, but they shouldn't break the bank).

Here are 4 ingredients that can help you eat cheap and well for as long as our recession lasts:

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1. Eggs
Eggs are a terrific source of protein and can be prepared in a variety of ways. My two "go-to" recipes for eggs include the basic onion and potato frittata and the cheese omelet. I often have eggs for dinner, but aim to keep my egg consumption to 1-2X per week. Also, I've gone back and forth on using organic/free range vs your typical Omega 3 fortified, Eggland, eggs and to be perfectly blunt there isn't much difference taste-wise. (Eggs taste best fresh so only buy what you're going to consume.)

2. Tuna in Olive Oil
I always keep between 3-4 cans of Italian tuna in olive oil stocked in my kitchen. My ideal tuna sandwich consists of one can of tuna (do not discard the oil!) with salt and pepper on toasted whole wheat bread. You can also add some fresh parsley and a few slices of tomatoes if they're in season. (Try it without the mayonnaise, I swear you'll like it.)

3. Pasta and Rice
My pasta and rice arsenal includes: thin linguine, angel hair or capellini, linguine, rigatoni, penne rigate, pastine, soba noodles, arborio rice for risotto, Carolina rice, brown rice, jasmine rice, and whole wheat couscous. Having the aforementioned pasta and rice on hand at all times gives you limitless possibilities, including: linguine with olive oil, parsley, and garlic, baked rigatoni with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, soba noodles stir fried with green peppers, chicken breast, and onion, brown rice with ginger, cilantro, and cracked black pepper, couscous with feta, red onion, cucumber, and olive oil, etc.

4. Whole Chicken
Buying a whole, free range, chicken is the equivalent to getting the deal of a lifetime. A whole chicken gets you two types of meat (dark and white) as well various parts which translate into various types of dishes. I purchase a whole, free range, chicken every other week and butcher the chicken according to my preferences. If I'm interested in making a whole roasted chicken, I'll simply leave the bird as is and make a rub mixture with lemon zest, salt and pepper, rosemary, and olive oil. If I have a little more time on my hands I'll butcher the bird into nine pieces and freeze the parts for various dishes throughout the week, including: braised chicken thighs with fresh mint, breaded and baked drumsticks and wings, thinly pounded chicken breast with shitake mushrooms and sherry wine, etc.


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