As a food writer, I firmly believe that my audience should understand where I’m coming from in terms of my tastes in food. To account for this, I have compiled a short list of foods that I have craved within the past week. Mind you, if I listed everything I craved in the past week you’d probably get bored of reading because the wall of text would be more intimidating than the one they tore down in Berlin.
-Caprese -Apples -Grapefruit -Steak with mushrooms and horseradish -Tuna nigiri -Duck confit -Sprite -Cucumber soda -Watermelon -Bacon -Chocolate -Bacon dipped in chocolate -Strawberries dipped in chocolate -Ayran (a sour, peppery yogurt drink from the Middle East) -Potato chips -Beet salad -Fried okra -Ginger beer -Scotch -Anything with garlic -Anything with lamb -Garlic lamb -Peaches -Wilted spinach with nutmeg -Etouffee -Cantonese duck -Thai duck curry (as pictured below) -Potatoes fried in duck fat -French fries fried in duck fat -My leather shoes fried in duck fat -Pancetta -Sundried tomatoes -Pork buns -Any of my mother’s baked goods (especially berry pie, pictured above)
That should give you some idea of what you’re dealing with. By the way, I will be trying to coerce my mother to give me a few of her baking recipes to post on this blog, since I’m a terrible baker and I feel like I should have some baking recipes on a blog that’s supposed to be about all types of food.
Since I’ve been running on a fairly tight budget but still wanting to have a good time, I’ve been relying more and more on my culinary skills to save me money. For example, taking a date out to a nice steak dinner. Usually, this would cost at least $75, when you figure on ordering an appetizer, two entrees, and a bottle of wine, and that’s even before you get to tax and tip. So instead of spending near $100 for a nice evening, why not just spend $40?
This past weekend, I took a walk up to my local market and picked out all the necessary ingredients for a classy night in. Of course, steaks are essential, and there ought to be a side of some sort, as well as an appetizer and a bottle of wine. All the essentials began to come together in my basket:
- 2 approximately half pound New York Steaks. Yes, I know, they’re a bit expensive, but well worth it. These steaks are excellent in quality, especially if you like steak more on the rare side as I do. These only cost me about $16. I pan fried them, but if you prefer grilling your steaks, I would opt for rib eyes.
- 3 fist sized tomatoes. Whatever tomatoes look good are okay for this application, but go with fresh ones. If you’re at the right store, you can get these for no more than $2.
- 1 small bunch of basil. Again, fresh is the best. You won’t need a whole lot, but better safe than sorry. You can always snack on it later. My basil was just $4.
- 1 ball of fresh mozzarella. Yes, it is important to use the real, fresh mozzarella. Processed cheese just doesn’t cut it. And hey, I got mine for $2.50.
- 1 loaf of crusty bread. I personally think that bread is necessary at every meal, but this one in particular. It works as a perfect appetizer or accompaniment when simply sliced and dipped in olive oil. My bakery had it for $2.
- 1 bottle of decent red wine. Go with whatever red wine you prefer. For this sort of dinner, I would recommend a Pinot Noir, or a Zinfandel. Check the wine section: there’s usually a shelf or two for marked down wine. I found a nice bottle of Pinot Noir for just $11.
And look at that! With the exception of a few essentials that you should already have (olive oil, butter, salt, pepper), you’re set. The prices may fluctuate depending on how nice of a market you shop at and where you are, but they should generally be a little under $40.
In terms of cooking, I’ve already been over how to prepare a caprese in an earlier post (Et tu, Caprese), but it’s fairly simple. Slice the tomatoes and spread them on a plate, put a basil leaf on top of each tomato, slice the mozzarella and add the slices on top of the basil, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle lightly with olive oil. The bread needs no preparation. Just slice and serve with olive oil.
The steak is a bit trickier. I like my steak rare, so I cook it for less time. About 3 to 4 minutes on each side over high heat, depending on the thickness. And you only want to turn it once. When it’s on it’s second side and about halfway through cooking, add a nice knob of butter to the pan to melt and spoon it over the top of the steak as it melts. Finally, turn the steak on it’s side to cook the strip of fat for no more than a minute. Let the steak sit on the plate for about 5 minutes before serving so the juices don’t run all over the plate. And don’t waste the butter in the pan: drizzle it on the steak as it cools.
Simple, delicious, and about half as cheap as going out and having the same quality of meal.