Ultra Mega Cheap Ass Hobo Monday: Salad Calpurnia June 2, 2009Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking Challenge, Food, Garden.
So here we are. The long-awaited Thursday Night Smackdown June Hobo Monday event. This month, though, it’s an extra challenge – feed two people for $3.00 or less.
I know, right? Don’t worry, though – we can do this. After all, May’s entry was only $1.09 per serving. So now we have a title to defend.
Not that I’m competitive or anything.
So anyway. Here we are. Gotta come up with a meal for the two of us that costs us less than $3. One of the easiest ways I know to keep costs down is to make use of the garden. After all, that’s food growing out there!
But it’s early – no tomatoes yet (I could easily make a meal of fresh tomatoes!), the green beans are barely sprouting, and the sweet peas haven’t even blossomed yet (any day now, I’m sure!).
That leaves baby spinach and baby leaf lettuce and radishes.
Salad. Salad will work. What kind of salad will make a satisfying dinner AND cost less than $1.50 a serving to make? My favorite salad has got to be Caesar, but we’ve got red and green leafy lettuce, and let’s face it – if we were to run out and buy romaine, we’d take a pretty good chunk out of our $3 budget.
Well, how about if we start with a spinner full of fresh, thoroughly washed lettuce, straight from the garden?
While the lettuce is draining, scrounge around and see what else we’ve got.
A while back, we found some mini pastas at Sam’s Club – bags of wee little dried tortellini and raviolini – I think it’s intended to be used in soups, but hey, it’s pasta. A 2-pound bag of it was something like $6.
Think of it as a busman’s holiday for Peeps – this was ravioli he HADN’T had a hand in making.
And how about the rest of a bag of croutons – we do love those Texas Toast croutons – yeah toast!
Oh, hey, when we were shopping the other day, we found a Manager’s Special – chunks of pecorino romano for $6.99 a pound. Sure, we’ll take a hunk!
I like shredding fresh cheese – the good stuff – on top of a dish. The flavor is so much better than the dried grated stuff, and it actually takes a lot less for an equivalent flavor – it’s definitely worth paying a little more, pound-for-pound. And when you find the good stuff cheap, well, just score that a win!
Speaking of scoring. . . even the dog gets lucky when we shred cheese – some of it invariably ends up on the floor.
And he’s got a big tongue – he finds every little cheese crumb.
So while we’re stepping over the cleanup crew, the water comes to a boil and we drop the raviolini. This is going to need to cook for about 15-16 minutes, even though it’s so teeny.
In the meantime, the salad is cleaned and has drained sufficiently, so we toss that in a large bowl, along with a coarsely chopped red onion.
And we get the rest of our mise en place.
This is the rest of the bag of croutons, a couple of tablespoons of crumbled bacon and exactly 1/2 ounce of our freshly shredded romano – yes, I weighed it.
We also made up some salad dressing – this is what I like to call Calpurnia dressing – it’s not quite caesar (no egg coddling here!), but it’s certainly full of the same flavors – and it’s easy.
Combine in a pint jar, then shake: 1/2 jar (about a cup or a little less) light olive oil, 1 tsp. Worcestershire, juice from 1/2 lemon, 1 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar, about 1/3 -1/2 cup mayonnaise, some fresh ground black pepper, 3-4 Tbsp. grated parmesan, and 4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled, minced, and pulverized with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Combine all ingredients and shake the dickens out of them. Let the dressing sit for at least an hour or so before serving, then store in the fridge. Just remember that the olive oil will solidify when cold, so you’ll want to take it out to come up to room temperature well in advance of your dinner.
Where were we?
By now, the pasta should be about done – drain it and rinse thoroughly under cold water. This is going to go into the salad, so you won’t want it hot – you’ll wilt those tender baby lettuces!
Toss together the lettuce, onion, pasta, bacon bits, and croutons, along with a couple of good grinds of coarse black pepper, along with some of our Calpurnia dressing – start with about 1/3 of the jar, and add a little at a time as needed. It’s going to depend on how much lettuce you use and how much dressing you like on your salad, I guess. You can always add more, but you can’t add less, right?
Divide the salad between two plates, sprinkle with some freshly grated cheese and more black pepper, as you like.
We actually had enough left over for a lunch for me – I always pick more lettuce than we actually need!
This was a delightfully light dinner, perfectly suited to a summer evening – light, yet filling.
Even though this June evening was chilly, windy and overcast, we still enjoyed this salad with little pasta bites and the flavorful dressing.
So. The numbers. Did we stay within the budget? We didn’t actually go out and buy anything for this meal, and for the most part, it was made with pantry staples. However, a few items may not actually be staples in every pantry:
Lettuce – picked from the garden – $0
Pasta – 1 1/2 cups of dried filled pasta from 2-lb. bag – $.60
Bacon – 2 Tbsp. from 1-lb. package – $.16
Croutons – the rest of the bag – $.15
Fresh romano cheese – 1/4 ounce shredded – $.10
Seriously, if they’re not staples in your pantry, well, do you want me to take you shopping?
light olive oil
white wine vinegar
GRAND TOTAL FOR 2 SERVINGS (plus lunch): an embarrassing $1.01. For two of us.
Seriously, how do I keep spending so much money at the grocery store, anyway?