Five Budget Recipes to Score – Twin Cities

Inflation is dominating the news, and all that seems to be talking at the (virtual) New York Times Cooking headquarters is how much groceries cost.

I’ve picked five profitable recipes I love for this week’s deals. And here are some rules of thumb for when you’re thinking about food and current grocery prices: Stay away from meat (which is up sharply, especially beef) or make recipes that use it in smaller amounts. Go for vegetables and beans, which are less affected by inflation. Canned tuna is your friend, as are anchovies, which can bring incredible flavor to your kitchen.

Chicken and Zucchini Meatballs with Feta

Chicken and zucchini meatballs with feta cheese. Ground beef is less expensive than steaks or chicken breast, and you can stretch it out with additional ingredients, like the always inexpensive seasonal zucchini. Food stylist: Monica Pierini. (Linda Xiao/The New York Times)

Generally speaking, meatballs are an inexpensive way to eat meat: ground beef is less expensive than steaks or chicken breast, and the meat is “stretched” with additional ingredients. A little goes a long way. In this great recipe from Ali Slagle, the addition is zucchini, always cheap and plentiful right now.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 45 minutes

  • 3 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 large shallot, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, basil, parsley, or dill, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and drizzling
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
  • 4 ounces feta cheese

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut 2 of the zucchini into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Transfer to a plate, season with salt and reserve.

2. Working over a large bowl, using the large holes of a box grater, grate the remaining zucchini. Grate 1 shallot half into the bowl as well. Add the panko, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and use your hands to mix until combined. Add chicken and herbs and gently stir until combined.

3. Lightly grease a baking sheet. With wet hands, shape chicken mixture into 16 meatballs (about 2 to 3 tablespoons each) and place on one side of baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, pat the sliced ​​zucchini dry, then lightly coat with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with pepper.

5. Coarsely chop the remaining half of the shallot and transfer to a small bowl. Add lemon juice, season with salt and stir to combine.

6. Add the sliced ​​zucchini to the other half of the baking sheet, moving the meatballs around, if necessary. Bake until meatballs are cooked through and zucchini is golden brown on the bottom, another 15 to 20 minutes. For browner meatballs, grill for a few minutes, if desired.

7. Meanwhile, crumble feta cheese into shallot mixture. Add 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Stir, breaking up the feta a bit, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

8. Eat the meatballs and courgettes with a drizzle of feta sauce and more fresh herbs.

Cold Tofu Salad with Tomatoes and Peaches

Salad on a white plate.
Cold salad of tofu, tomatoes and peaches, with basil and mint. This dish is best served with vegetables or with rice noodles mixed with a little dressing. Food Stylist: Smirnoff Fairies. (Linda Xiao/The New York Times)

Fresh fruits and vegetables have been less susceptible to inflation, which makes this wonderful Silky Tofu Salad from Hana Asbrink a good option for dinner. Serve with vegetables or rice noodles mixed with a little dressing.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 20 minutes

For the salad:

  • 12 to 14 ounces silken tofu, chilled
  • 2 to 3 medium ripe peaches
  • 3 to 4 medium ripe tomatoes
  • flake sea salt
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
  • Black pepper

For the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

1. Prepare the tofu: Carefully drain the tofu in its packaging, then remove it. Gently wrap with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to absorb excess moisture, and place on a plate.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the peaches and tomatoes: remove the pit and cut each peach into 1-inch-thick wedges, then core and cut each tomato into 1-inch-thick wedges. Arrange tomatoes and peaches on serving platter, pour tomato or peach juice from cutting board onto plate. Season generously with flaky sea salt to draw out the juices.

3. Remove tofu from paper towels and return to plate. Using a large spoon, scoop out mounds of tofu over the tomatoes and peaches. Season tofu with flaky sea salt.

4. Prepare dressing: In a small mason jar, combine dressing ingredients, cover and shake to combine. Pour 4 tablespoons of the dressing over the tomatoes, peaches, and tofu. Extra dressing may be served on the side.

5. Just before serving, gather the basil and mint leaves and chop coarsely. Top the salad with chopped herbs and black pepper. Serve immediately, being careful to get any extra dressing and juices off the bottom of the plate.

Pasta with tuna, capers and spring onions

This Melissa Clark dish says “I’m having a light meal on a Mediterranean island,” and you can buy most of the ingredients at Costco. Cheap and stylish, and easy to do too.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes

  • Salt
  • 12 ounces long, thin pasta, such as bucatini, spaghetti, or linguine
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 6 to 10 anchovies, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 cup fresh herbs, such as parsley and dill, or celery leaves, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 1 can (5-6 ounces) tuna, drained
  • Red pepper flakes, to serve
  • lemon wedges, to serve

1. In a pot of boiling, well-salted water, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and chives and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the anchovies and capers and cook until the anchovies melt and the capers and garlic brown, 2 to 3 minutes more. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water, let it reduce until a little is left in the pan, then add the pasta and herbs and toss well to coat. Add the tuna and stir well.

3. Serve with red pepper flakes on top, more herbs, spring onion leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing.

Vegan Coconut Ginger Black Beans

As well as being hugely versatile and climate friendly, beans tend to be quite affordable, especially if you start with dry beans. You can fuel yourself lavishly with recipes like this one from Ali Slagle, which combines black beans with coconut milk, a classic combination found in many kitchens.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes

  • 2 cans (15 ounces) black beans
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin or coriander
  • 1 (3-inch piece) fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 can (13 ounces) whole coconut milk
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plantain chips or toasted coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest plus 2 tablespoons juice (from 1 lime)
  • Hot sauce, for serving (optional)

1. Rinse 1 can of black beans and set aside. In a large saucepan, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add the cumin and half the ginger and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes. Add rinsed black beans and remaining whole can of black beans (including liquid) and coconut milk; season generously with salt and pepper.

2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender and mixture is flavorful, 15 to 20 minutes. (If you want a thicker consistency, mash some of the beans with the back of a spoon while the mixture cooks and simmer longer.)

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, crumble plantain chips into small pieces. Add the lime zest and a few generous grinds of black pepper, and stir to combine.

4. Remove beans from heat. Add the remaining ginger and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the lime juice a little at a time until the beans taste bright but the coconut flavor is still rich. Top with the seasoned plantain chips and serve with hot sauce for added flavor.

Caramelized Onion Noodles

This recipe from Francis Lam checks a lot of boxes. It is profitable. It’s a make-ahead, much of it (the sauce will keep in your fridge for weeks). It’s customizable for eaters of all ages. It is an excellent vehicle for leftover meat and vegetables. And it’s completely delicious! Do it!

Yield: 2 servings

Total time: 20 minutes

  • Salt
  • 6 ounces Chinese broccoli (or other cooking vegetables), cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 10 ounces fresh noodles (or 6 ounces dry pasta)
  • 6 tablespoons caramelized chive sauce (find recipe online), or to taste
  • 3 to 4 ounces cooked chicken, ham, tofu, mushrooms, or anything meaty you like, sliced, warm
  • 2 soft-boiled eggs, broken in half
  • Oyster sauce, to taste
  • Soy sauce, to taste
  • Raw ginger or hot pickles of your choice, julienned, for garnish

1. Put water to boil in a pot and salt it well. Cook Chinese broccoli until tender, about 4 minutes. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and dry them well. Keep the water boiling.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions. As soon as they are drained, return them to the empty pot, turn off the heat and garnish with 6 tablespoons of the caramelized chive sauce or to taste. Season with salt, if desired.

3. Divide noodles among bowls and top with Chinese broccoli, chicken (or protein of choice), and eggs. Drizzle oyster sauce over Chinese broccoli and season the eggs with a few drops of soy sauce. Top with a few pinches of julienned ginger or pickles, and serve immediately.

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