When I first started cooking, and not just the delicious dishes my mother and grandmother had handed down, but really exploring flavors on my own, it was at a time in my life when I didn't have a lot of cash. So I'd read my various food magazines (this was pretty much before food blogs) or trawl the pages of cookbooks I was working on and I'd think, that would be a delicious meal if only I could afford to buy all those ingredients.
And then I came upon a cookbook author and chef who seemed to speak to my predicament -- the desire to expand my flavor and cooking know-how without buying out the grocery store. Vibrant and complex flavors, as I found in Rozanne Gold's fantastic 1-2-3 volumes, can come from just three ingredients. Now these are not necessarily thrifty ingredients, and some can be quite pricey. But being able to keep it to three ingredients meant being able to cook more than one new dish a week. Eureka!
I'm back to watching my grocery bills, and so I've been thinking a lot about Ms. Gold's approach. Many of her recipes call for ingredients that aren't "processed foods" but do include several elements: anchovies with capers in brine, garlic oil, flavored vinegars and so on. I thought of her when I had Mr. Lemon pick up Ras el Hanout on his adventures to Brooklyn's Sahadi's Grocery. (We call it going to the souk, and it really can be as exotic and exciting.) One ingredient, but so many spices in this delicious Moroccan staple that literally means "top of the [spice] shop."
So here's a dinner with 2 dishes, 6 ingredients (not counting olive oil, salt and pepper), that takes about 25 minutes from start to finish. Easy as 1-2-3. Thrifty as $5.
Pork Chops with Ras El Hanout
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 pork chops, bone in
Combine the Ras el Hanout and olive oil and spread on all sides of the pork chops. Let sit for 10 minutes while you get the grill ready. Grill until white inside, about 8 minutes a side.
Grilled Collards and Potato
5-6 large collard leaves, rinsed, thick rib removed and torn into large pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablspoons olive oil
4 small potatoes (white or red, but waxy), thinly sliced
Create a "bag" with tin foil, using two sheets. In the bag toss the sliced potatoes, olive oil, garlic, and torn collard greens. Add salt to taste. Cook over direct heat, 20 minutes on the grill.
Easy and healthy dinner on the grill
Investing in spices is worth it for this dish
A balanced meal in two steps
On sale pork chops find a new flavor from Morocco