Friday, October 8, 2010

Local, Fancy Dinner Party for $15

Kim Bingham comes to the Economical Eater from her blog, Lighter and Local. She focuses on searching out and using local produce, meats, and products with a goal of simpe, better, eating.

It’s a catch-22. You want to share a meal with friends. You want it to be elegant, and you want to do it at home. You want to use the best of fresh, local ingredients you can come by. Let’s be honest here, you want to impress the guests as well.

This fall, you can throw a fancy, local, small dinner for four that surely looks difficult, but really isn’t too hard at all. The best part? It will only cost you about $15 to make.

Now, I’m assuming you have some staples in your kitchen - olive oil, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, butter, flour, eggs, sugar and a couple of common spices. Those staples, they’re not included in the overall price. If you had to buy everything, I’d estimate this at about $25 for the entire meal. This meal was priced out, in season, in September at the local farmers’ market. If you do it out of season, things will cost more.

You’re serving a “Fall Harvest” dinner tonight. You menu includes the following:

-Pear and Carrot Salad with Maple-Cinnamon Vinaigrette
-Pumpkin Risotto
-Pear Calfouti

Here’s the rundown of what I paid for the ingredients I’m pricing into the meal:

At the farmers’ market:
Pears (5) - $2.75 for all five, from Farmer Dave’s in Dracut
Pumpkin (1 sugar) - $2.50, from Farmer Dave’s in Dracut
Carrots (1 bunch) - $3, from Heron Pond Farm in N.H.
White Onion (1) - $0.50, from Heron Pond Farm in N.H.
Garlic (1 head) - $0.75, from Middle Earth Farm in Amesbury

At the grocery store:
Arborio Rice - $2.50 for a box, we’re only using a cup, so $1.25

Chicken Broth (low sodium) - $0.75
Parmesan Cheese, fresh - $1.50 (we’re only using a ¼ cup)

Maple Syrup - $3 for a small bottle (we’re only using a ¼ cup)

Your prices could differ from mine once you get it together. All of it will range between $15 and $30. The recipes require a little work, but are elegant without being complicated. You’ll get plenty of “ooh’s and ahh’s” for a lot less than if you went out for the evening!

First Course: Pear and Carrot Salad with Maple-Cinnamon Vinaigrette 
(A combo of Giada’s Shaved Carrot and Pear Salad with Curry Vinaigrette and Choosing Raw’s Maple-Cinnamon Vinaigrette) 

Pear and Carrot Salad with Maple-Cinnamon Vinaigrette 
Yields: 4 servings

-1 bunch carrots (about 6), peeled
-2 large pears, peeled, seeded, quartered

Directions: Using a vegetable peeler, cut carrots into ribbons for salad. Take pears, slice into thin slices, put both into a bowl and set aside.

Maple-Cinnamon Vinaigrette:
-½ cup olive oil
-2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
-¼ cup maple syrup
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
-3 tablespoons mustard
-¼ teaspoon salt
-Pepper to taste

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a food processor (or you can mix by hand), and pulse until dressing is emulsified. Toss carrots and salad with dressing.

Main Course: Pumpkin Risotto 

Pumpkin Risotto
Yields: 4 servings

-2 1/2 tablespoons butter
-3/4 cup sweet onion, chopped
-1 cup Arborio Rice
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 cups chicken broth, plus 1 cup water
-1/2 pumpkin, roasted
-1/8 teaspoon of sea or kosher salt
-1/8 teaspoon of pepper
-Dash ground nutmeg
-Dash ground cloves
-Dash ground ginger
-1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
-Fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)

Directions: In a large dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Add chopped onion, and cook until tender. While the onion is cooking, heat chicken broth and water in a separate saucepan. You want it warm to hot, but not simmering. When onion is tender, add rice and cook until translucent. At this point, add the garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.

Now, start adding the warm broth to the rice, 1/2 a cup at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid is absorbed. Keep adding broth mixture, 1/2 a cup at a time until rice is al dente. That's very important; you don't want it to get mushy. Once the desired consistency is reached, add pumpkin, add salt, pepper and other spices. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Spoon into bowls, garnish with a tad more Parmesan cheese and fresh sage leaves. (While the sage is optional, it does add a great level of flavor to the dish).

Dessert: Pear Calfouti 

Pear Calfouti 
Yields: 4 servings
From: Heather Zorzini of Suite 101 

-3 eggs
-1 cup milk
-2 teaspoon vanilla
-2/3 cup all-purpose flour
-½ cup granulated sugar
-¼ teaspoon nutmeg
-¼ teaspoon cinnamon
-Pinch of salt
-Butter, to grease baking dish
-3 ripe, but firm, pears
-1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions: Wash pears; peel, seed and chop them. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crack eggs into a bowl; beat until foamy with a hand-mixer. Add milk, vanilla, flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, pinch of salt, and beat until smooth. Pour batter into buttered 9-inch pie pan. Scatter pear pieces over batter. Bake 45-50 minutes until golden on top. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post - local and economical! I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that it is so expensive to eat local!