Posted by: Sara S. | March 9, 2009

Downturn Dish: Our blog launches a new weekly recipe feature

Today we introduce a new feature of our blog: The Downturn Dish. Every Monday we will post inexpensive, recession-friendly recipes from local chefs and culinary entrepreneurs as well as friends, family and Hard Working contributors. In addition to these weekly posts, we will maintain a separate Downturn Dish page complete with resources. We believe that, as the crisis deepens and you aim to save more money, you should not have to sacrifice in the kitchen . So please enjoy Monday’s inaugural post, care of Chicago’s own The Chopping Block. Bon appétit!

When Shelley Young, founder and owner of The Chopping Block–a cooking school and retail store–opened her business, she had a mantra: “Food is a catalyst for friendship.” As the country faces dire economic times, it’s important to remember that cooking is an excellent way to keep your friends and family close. But Young knows it’s not easy for many families to maintain their pre-recession eating and food shopping habits. For that reason, she chose to share three hardy recipes, which she calls “Fast and Frugal,” that are great for family dinners. With ingredients such as steak and chicken, these recipes do fall on the more expensive end of our recession recipes spectrum, so be sure to stay tuned for cheaper veggie and grains dishes in weeks to come. Below, Young provides the cooking blow-by-blow. If you’d prefer a live, in-person demonstration of these recipes, there is a “Fabulous and Frugal” class at The Chopping Block’s Lincoln Square location on March 25 at 7pm (cost of $75)!

If you have a recipe you’d like to share–send it our way: hardworking at chicagopublicradio dot org

Homemade Whole Wheat Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Pears and Blue Cheese

For the pizza dough:

1 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons warm water

1/2 cups warm water (110-115º)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 3/4 – 2 cups whole wheat flour

Pinch sea salt

In a medium sized bowl, combine yeast, honey and water. Allow to sit for about five minutes or until yeast becomes foamy.

Add remaining water, olive oil, flour, and salt. Work with your hands until the dough forms a ball that comes away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until double in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Punch down the dough and knead it on a lightly floured surface for one minute. Roll the dough very thin into a circle or a rectangle. Place dough on a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal or on a cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Prick with a fork to prevent bubbles, and brush lightly with olive oil.

Bake until the dough is mostly crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread with the caramelized onion and sprinkle with the pears and blue cheese. Continue to bake until the toppings are hot and the cheese is melted, about 5-6 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.

For the caramelized onions and other toppings:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 red onions, sliced thin

1/2 cup sherry wine

1 teaspoon thyme, rough chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup blue cheese

2 ripe pears, medium dice

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. Sauté the onions until they are nicely caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. If browned bits of fond build up on the bottom of the pan while caramelizing, deglaze with a touch of water. Once the onions are caramelized, add the sherry and reduce until dry. Stir in the thyme and season to taste, with salt and pepper.

Chicken Pan Roast with Artichokes and Peas

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

4 chicken thighs

Sarah’s sea salt and pepper to taste

2 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1 onion, sliced thin

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

1 teaspoon herbs de Provence

1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika

1 cup artichokes, quartered

1/2 cup peas

Heat a heavy wide pot over medium high heat and add the oil. Season the chicken thighs with the salt and pepper and sear them, skin side down, until golden brown and crisp. Flip them over and repeat. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and layer the potatoes, overlapping slightly, on the bottom of the pan until it’s covered. Season the potatoes with salt, pepper. Scatter the sliced onions, garlic cloves, herbs and paprika on top of the potatoes and place the seared chicken on top. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook the chicken until the meat is tender and no longer pink, about 40 minutes.

Uncover the pot and scatter in the artichokes and peas. Cover the pot and cook until they are warmed through.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Balsamic Glaze and Warm Cous Cous and Raisin Salad

For the marinade:

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1 orange, juiced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 pounds skirt steak, excess fat trimmed

Lime wedges as needed

Mix together the lime juice, orange, juice, garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a shallow baking dish. Marinate the skirt steak for about 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Remove the steak from the marinade and season each side with additional salt and pepper. Grill the first side until caramelized, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and repeat. Continue to cook until the steak is done to your liking. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing into very thin slices against the grain. Serve with the lime wedges and couscous salad.

For the couscous salad:

2 cups couscous

2 cups boiling water

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup parsley, rough chopped

Place the couscous in a heat proof bowl and pour in the boiling water. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and allow the couscous to steam until all of the water has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Mix in the raisins, pine nuts, feta cheese and parsley. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.


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