Friday, March 27, 2009

La Cucina Povera (Or, Recession Eating)

There is an Italian phrase I came across recently that appeals to the cooking mood I've been in lately: la cucina povera. Literally, it means "peasant cooking," but the figurative meaning is more of a "make-do-with-what-you've-got" idea -- making meals from what you've already got in your fridge or pantry.

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I got this Idea in my head recently to try and go an entire workweek without buying one single food item. The goal: shop for groceries on Sunday afternoon, and then no purchases again until Friday night (when we always go out to dinner. I wasn't about to be that povera in my cucina, capiche?...)

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I didn't talk it up a whole lot here at the Blog, because I honestly wasn't sure we'd be able to do it. The plan included packing lunches every single day, and cooking dinner every single night, and frankly, I've tried it before and failed miserably. (Okay, maybe not failed, per se. But I couldn't stick with it for very long. I blame elaborate meal plans and overly-ambitious recipes.)

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This time around? We are going simple. I make a list of 5 or 6 meals, then buy all the ingredients on Sunday, plus fixings for brown-bag lunches. (Cafe de la Steele serves only turkey and cheddar or PBJ for lunch, so take your pick.)

Steven even got to pick out his own "lunch items." Inexplicably, he chose fruit cups and applesauce. I obliged him, and he ate every last bit of it. (We might have one cup of the mandarin oranges left, but he also eats them for snacks, so I don't expect it to last much longer...)

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Dinners were basically whatever I could scrounge up -- I bought a whole rotisserie chicken and used half of it to make chicken soup, and the other half is set aside for tarragon chicken salad. (Was set aside, anyway, until I ate up all the grapes.)

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I don't exactly remember which night we had this meal, but chicken soup and grilled cheese sandwiches are a pretty darn good combo. (Also, yes, I burned the grilled cheese. So sue me.)

(Actually, don't sue me. That won't jive well with the whole "saving money" thing...)

The cucina povera origins of this meal were as follows:

Bread and cheese for our brown bag lunch sandwiches became grilled cheese sandwiches.

Half of a bag of egg noodles left over from a not-so-good attempt at Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff (O, Crock Pot, I will avenge thee yet...) became the noodles for the soup.

A frozen (and forgotten) bag of peas and carrots in the back of the freezer became the rest of the soup, and all I had to buy was the chicken itself and the broth. (And in the future, I think I will keep chicken broth, or at least bouillon cubes in the pantry. Handy thing to have around...)

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In retrospect, I would not have diluted the chicken broth with water, and I might have also added a chicken bouillion cube. The soup ended up a bit bland, BUT! I am not counting it a loss since I made up the recipe out of my own little noggin.

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And I am mighty proud of me for that.

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Chicken Noodle Soup For A Recession
2-3 cups shredded roasted chicken (rotisserie is fine)
1 onion, chopped
black pepper
butter
1 bag frozen peas and carrots
1/2 bag egg noodles
2 cans chicken broth
1 cube chicken bouillon dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Melt butter in large stockpot. Toss in onion and cook for 3-4 minutes or until translucent. Toss in chicken and saute until warmed through. Add chicken stock and chicken bouillon and bring to a boil. Add frozen veggies and egg noodles, and cook until noodles are done. Season to taste. (Side note: I am so terrible at "seasoning to taste." Do they give classes on seasoning things? Does this mean I have no taste?)

We calculated our savings for the past two weeks of "Recession Eating", and our little peasant kitchen ended up saving us close to $200. I am completely hooked. Saving money is extremely fun.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Your Soup looks WONDERFUL!

Good job Chef Heather!