Friday, August 9, 2013

Keeping Cooking Inexpensive

Several years ago, when my cooking skills were so poor that dinner consisted of cooking a frozen fish, making rice, and steaming frozen vegetables nearly every day, a friend and I had a conversation about cooking a whole meal for a loved one. We both agreed that by the time one buys the necessary spices, herbs, and the main ingredient, it is actually less expensive to just go out for dinner.

This certainly can be the case -- if one does not have a kitchen stocked with basics, branching out from the regular menu items will often require many additional items, even if only a tablespoon is needed for each. I'm sure it also didn't help that we chose to tackle Martha Stewart recipes, which are always delicious, but also always consist of extra-long ingredient lists.

Years later, my cooking skills have not improved much, but my approach has: when planning a special meal, I search for recipes with ingredients I already have at home. We've slowly improved our spice collection to cover the basics, and we almost always have fresh and frozen vegetables and fruits, so I scratch recipes off my list if they require me to buy more than the main ingredient and one additional item. Buying two items instead of eight brings down the cost of the meal significantly, making it far more economical than going out to eat.

Patiently hoping for seafood (or any) leftovers.

If one does not have many options in her kitchen already, seafood makes for a great meal without many additional seasonings. Here's an easy swordfish recipe a family friend made for us recently, which requires just two ingredients. It seems impressive to those served, but is actually very easy -- the very best kind of recipe there is, if you ask me.

Swordfish: Cover in mustard, grill (or bake) for about 5 minutes on one side, then 2-3 minutes on the other for an inch-thick steak.

This is excellent for summer grilling, and pairs well with sweet corn (on the cob, of course). To me, it's a meal that perfectly embodies long summer days by the water... I hope you get to enjoy a couple of those wonderful summer days this weekend.

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