The idea: Have a dinner party without breaking the budget
The plan: Three couples, three dishes, $60 total
The goal: Make your dish for under $20. (We originally set the bar at $10, but that began to seem a bit impossible for a main course feeding 6 people.)
My assignment: Appetizers for 6.
Hello, we represent $20 worth of food. Twenty bucks doesn't go as far as it used to.
I decided to try out my new Baba Ganoush recipe on my unsuspecting dinner companions. As a back up plan, I also made your basic "Tomatoes with Mozzerella, Basil, and Balsamic Vinegar." You know, just in case my attempt at recreating Fatina's recipe was a horrible blunder in judgment.
I dutifully grilled my eggplant on the grill. (It later exploded from the heat. Note to self - prick eggplant with a fork before grilling, to let steam escape.)
I assembled the dip just like Fatina had showed me, and it was actually looking (and tasting) pretty darn good. I had a bit of extra time left before we had to leave for the party, so I thought I might tackle one more thing... Pita Bread!
For my birthday, my brother Matt got me a gift card to Barnes & Noble, which I used to buy myself a new book: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It just so happens that I made a batch of dough while my family was in town, and it just so happens that the book contains a recipe for easy pita bread, so I thought I'd give it a whirl (and bought back-up Naan just in case).
My favorite thing about this book is that once you've made the dough, you just grab a hunk of it from your fridge, dust it with flour, and throw it in the oven. No extra rising time, no extra kneading, no additional bread responsibilities.
Which is just how I like it, because really, who has time to babysit bread dough all day?
For the pita bread, I cut off a grapefruit sized hunk of dough, stretched it into a ball, and rolled it out to a 1/8 inch uniform thickness. After about 5-10 minutes in a 500 degree oven, it puffed up and browned beautifully. No fuss pita bread! I love it!
I even had time to shower and change clothes before our dinner party that night (which I'm sure was greatly appreciated by our dinner companions).
Appetizers: Tomatoes With Mozzerella, Basil, and Balsamic; Baba Ganoush with Homemade Pita Bread
Main Dish: Chicken with Saffron Rice and Golden Raisins (Fantastically delicious, and I think this may have been the first time I've actually had saffron.)
Dessert: Warm Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding with Strawberries, Raisins, and Fresh Ground Nutmeg (We got to grate our own nutmeg over the dessert with a grater! Super cool.)
Total food tab? $60. Proof that we can still eat well, chat into the wee hours and thoroughly enjoy ourselves even during a recession? Priceless.