There is a constant challenge as a Peace Corps Volunteer to keep your diet varied and cheap. In the summer this challenge is a LOT easier, since fruits and vegetables are available and inexpensive. In the winter this is much harder. I find this most challenging when I am cooking for a larger group of people, because I have to prepare multiple dishes and since usually its a crowd of other Peace Corps Volunteers, I also want to keep the per head cost as cheap as possible.
In a recent dinner for six people, I made the following: pasta salad, Italian chicken, marinated cucumbers and a tomato and onion tort. The total cost for this meal was about 250 lei, not counting the Italian spices. This breaks down to about 45 lei per person, for a huge filling and balanced meal; with enough leftovers for lunch the next day, for all of us.
The pasta salad was pretty simple, pasta, oil, fresh tomatoes and sautéed onions and garlic. I sautéed the onions and garlic in a little sunflower oil (that’s what’s cheap and available here), until they were browned and then added them.
No fry, Italian ‘fried’ chicken
For the chicken, I used a recipe I found, called No fry, Italian ‘fried’ chicken. For the bread crumbs I didn’t use any cheese, in an effort to keep the costs down, since Parmesan is quite expensive here. I also choose not to use drum sticks and instead used breasts (again for cost saving reasons), which I cubed before ‘frying’ (baking).
The Recipe is featured below and here: http://portandfin.com/no-fry-italian-fried-chicken/
8 chicken drumsticks (bone in, skin on)
3 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp each fresh rosemary, thyme and sage, chopped
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs*
4 Tbs honey
4 Tbs apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 400.
Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix olive oil and fresh chopped herbs together in a large bowl. Add chicken drumsticks and rub olive oil mixture into the meat.
Place breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. One by one, dredge each herbed drumstick in the italian breadcrumbs, pressing the crumbs on to the meat to form a light crust.
Once all drumsticks have been coated, place the chicken in the oven and cook for 25 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix honey and apple cider vinegar together.
After 25 minutes of baking, remove the drumsticks from the oven and rotate each piece. Cook for an additional 25 minutes (could be slightly less or more, depending on the size of your pieces).
In the final 5 minutes of cooking, brush each piece of chicken with the honey and vinegar mixture.
1 cups dried breadcrumbs (4 pieces stale bread, whizzed through a food processor until fine)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp parsley
1 tsp kosher salt
2/3 cup parmesan, grated
Quick Marinated Cucumbers
For the cucumbers I used a recipe called, Quick Marinated Cucumbers. I found that for this dish the garlic didn’t really infuse with the cucumbers and at the end the garlic was just at the bottom of the bowl. I think next time I would slice the garlic finer and allow it more time to marinate with the other spices or maybe even saute the garlic to release some of the flavor. Overall thought the cucumbers were great – light, delicious and healthy.
The recipe is featured below and can also be found here: http://imagecooking.com/2014/06/19/quick-marinated-cucumbers/
2 pounds of small sized cucumbers
1/2 Tablespoon of salt + 1/2teaspoon or to taste
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tablespoon of white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
2 cloves of garlic
Small handful of fresh dill (optional)
quick marinated cucumbers
Wash cucumbers, and snip off the ends of each. Slice each cucumber into fours horizontally. Place sliced cucumbers into a large bowl.
Add to the sliced cucumbers:
1/2 Tablespoons of Salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 Tablespoons of oil
1/2 Tablespoons of white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
2 cloves of garlic
and a small handful of fresh dill (optional)
Add another 1/2 teaspoon of salt or to your taste.
Tomato and Onion Tort
The tart was probably my favorite thing I made. It was delicious! I think next time however I would have made it thinner, rather than having two or three layers of tomatoes. I think it would have been better to only have one layer of tomatoes and onions and have a thinner tort. I choose to use tomatoes and onions rather than zucchini, but I am sure it would have been delicious with zucchini as well.
Also for this recipe I did not use the wine and ended up having to triple the amount of water suggested. I also substituted dill rather than rosemary in the crust, (since I had fresh dill available) and it was still delicious!
The recipe is available below or here: http://www.thedomesticandthewild.com/market-tart/
1 3/4 cups flour, for a firm hearty crust
or 1 cup oat flour, 3/4 cup faro for a flaky crust with a mellow taste.
Time: 30 plus 30 minutes-overnight refrigeration
Yield: makes an 11-12 inch tart
1 3/4 flour (see above recommendations)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp rosemary, leaves removes, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp white wine
1. In a big bowl, combine the flour, salt, and rosemary.
2. Add the olive oil and butter and mix together by hand until it has the consistency of wet sand.
3. Add the wine and mix together. If it is too dry, add a little water.
4. Knead the dough by hand for a few minutes until it comes together as a ball.
5. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer the dough to an oiled pan, then using your fingers, press firmly into the bottom and all the way up the sides to form a crust.
7. Top with filling of your choice leaving a 1 1/2 inch border all around.
8. Fold edges of dough over the filling. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Time: 45 minutes plus about 35 minutes baking
Yield: makes a 11-12 inch tart
1 zucchini, cut into thin slices
1/2 cup goat cheese
1 tbsp chives, chopped
1/8 tsp lemon peel, finely grated
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp rosemary, leaves only, chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1. Spread the zucchini out over several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle uniformly with coarse salt and let drain for 30 minutes.
2. Combine goat cheese, lemon peel, lemon juice, chives, rosemary, parmesan, salt and pepper.
3. Spread the cheese mixture over the bottom of the dough, leaving a 2 inch border. Shingle the zucchini over the cheese mixture starting at the outside edge. Drizzle with olive oil.
4. Fold the border of the dough over the filling. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees. 30-40 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Minutes until the crust is golden brown.
When we served dinner, our Moldovan friend Igor, who was joining us asked, “Where is the bread?” We all laughed, because to us as Americans we have carbs in the pasta and probably would not have bread on the table with a meal like this, however in Moldova it is unusual to have any meal without bread on the table.