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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, August 12

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Feature Thu Apr 17 2008

Cheap Eats with Classy Flavors

April 15 is a four-letter word to many people as they see their year’s wages summarized in divisions and multiplications that may end in a check written to the government for what is owed them, or a small refund amount that could cover the cost of a high-end item on the menu at Olive Garden. Regardless of where you stand on the scale, Tax Day is tough on everyone, which leads us to how you’ll celebrate: cheaply. This week, Drive-Thru staffers compile their best recipes that need only a few low-cost ingredients. Dine on.

Spaghetti with Sardines and Cabbage
Sardines (in oil), cabbage (cut into strips), spaghetti, garlic (chopped) and olive oil are the main ingredients.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and toss in chopped garlic. Start boiling water for pasta. When the garlic starts to smell nice, add cabbage strips and stir-fry them till tender. Boil the pasta (with salt). Add sardine chunks to the frying pan, then the pasta. Add a tablespoon or so of the boiling water to the frying pan and mix the whole thing well. Cheap and yummy. I like to add parsley and red pepper flakes.
-Yu Kizawa

When the old wallet is feeling slim, I turn to eggs. They're cheap, but they're also a complete food, rich in protein and with just enough fat to satisfy. Because my first job in Chicago was as a community journalist - which was a lot of fun, but far from lucrative - I cooked a lot of eggs in the tiny kitchen of my garden apartment. Consequently, I experimented with some unusual combinations of ingredients to jazz up my standard two-by-two plate (two eggs and two pieces of toast with butter and jelly). One of my more unusual creations: Cheesy Apple Eggs.

Cheesy Apple Eggs
3 eggs, scrambled
1 medium apple, cored and very thinly sliced (peeling is optional)
1/2 medium onion, very thinly sliced
1 tsp. olive oil or butter
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil or butter in a small, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add apples and onions; season with salt and pepper if desired.
2. When the apples and onions are soft and starting to caramelize, remove from pan.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add eggs to pan, stirring frequently to make scrambled eggs.
4. When eggs are almost finished, stir in onion and apple mixture and cheddar cheese. Heat until cheese is melted.
5. Serve with two pieces of toast with butter and jelly.
-Mandy Burrell

One of my favorite things to cook for comfort, for warmth or for times when money’s tight is potato-leek soup. It doesn’t require a ton of work, just some chopping of leeks and potatoes. And it can sit on the stove for hours, or it can be ready in less than an hour. If you sit at the table with your bowl of soup, a crusty baguette and a glass of wine along with it, you can close your eyes in between bites and pretend you’re in the Old Country.

Potato & Leek Soup
3 tbsp butter (I often use salted)
5 large leeks, light parts only, chopped
about 4 or 5 baking potatoes cubed
about a pint of chicken or vegetable broth
about a pint of water (or more broth, if desired)
1 cup of milk or heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the dark ends off the leeks, then cut the part you plan to use in half, lengthwise, to rinse the inside. Leeks tend to collect dirt. Roughly chop the leeks. Melt the butter in a soup pot, then add the leeks and stir occasionally until leeks are softened (about five minutes). Add the potatoes, broth and water and some salt and pepper. Once the liquid boils, reduce the heat and simmer for at least 45 minutes or until the leeks and potatoes are soft. Many recipes say to let the soup cool at this point so you can blend it. If you’re starving, don’t have a blender or are just too tired to bother, the soup will be fine chunky. You can always just take a potato masher to it. Add milk or cream just before serving.

If creamy potatoes and leeks aren’t your thing, there’s a whole world of inexpensive recipes in the new The 99 Cent Only Store Cookbook, by Christian Jory. The publishers would have been wise to time the release to income-tax day; instead, it comes out at the end of April. In the meantime, there are a few recipes on the book’s main web site (an artichoke-spinach bake and a morning cake made with a cake mix, eggs, lemon extract and jam). Jory’s been making the talk-show rounds, so there are a few other recipes elsewhere online. NPR has a profile of Jory, and the story of how she spotted a woman buying wine at a dollar store, then noticed this woman had fancy shoes on. So she started investigating the food section and voila: chicken pot pie from boxes and cans.
-Lori Barrett

For someone who rarely took culinary challenges as a kiddie, I'm thankful that my curiousity about rutabaga propelled me to find this recipe, as it's incredibly easy and flavorful. Sometimes people will add maple syrup to the dish to enhance its sweetness but I think the ingredients carry the dish well.

Rutabaga and Apple Mash
3c of peeled, sliced rutabaga
2 apples, sliced
3T Butter
salt to taste

Cook rutabaga slices in boiling salted water until just tender; drain. With potato masher, combine rutabaga slices with apple slices and transfer to casserole dish. Sprinkle with salt and butter. Bake, covered, at 350°F for 30 minutes.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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