Recession gourmet: Eat well for less

PASADENA, Calif. "So I got this challenge. I've got $10 to go in here do a little shopping for four people," said Chef de Cuisine Craig Strong from Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa in Pasadena, before he sped off to Vons.

Click here to watch more of Chef Craig Strong

Craig is looking for some bargains to feed a family of four.

"$3.99 … that's definitely within my price range," said Craig while browsing the sausage selection. "I think I'm gonna go for some of those. It looks good."

Craig then headed to the produce aisle.

"So we need an onion here, this is going to be the base of my sauce," Craig said about the onions, which were 99 cents per pound.

Craig then headed to the garlic bin, where the price was 50 cents for each head of garlic.

Then, Craig picked up Swiss chard, which was $1.69.

"Maybe get your kids to eat something green every once in a while," said Craig.

The chef also picked up canned tomatoes for the sauce and fresh mint for $2.19.

"For me, I like to have fresh herbs in my garden. Chives, mint, basil, add accents and save you a couple dollars every single time you're cooking," said Craig.

There are some other ways you can keep your dinner for four below the $10 mark.

  • Shop for low-priced, lean protein so you'll have money left over to buy produce.
  • Shop seasonally. Fruits and veggies that are in season are more abundant and less expensive.
  • Rice, beans and pasta add filling carbs to your meal without costing too much.
"At 10 bucks, I'm 33 cents over. I think I can live with that," said Craig about the total bill.

Craig then headed back to the Langham Huntington Hotel, where he oversees "The Dining Room."

"I want to put something together that's quick and easy. It's dinner for four but nobody wants to spend all day in the kitchen -- except maybe me," said Craig.

The first step to his recipe was creating the sauce. Craig diced the onion and sautéed it with a bit of olive oil.

"We're going to cook these until they're sweet and tender. It takes about 10 minutes. And while they're cooking, I'm going to peel the garlic and get that ready to go in," said Craig.

Craig smashed the garlic and said only to use a few cloves, then added them to sautéed onions.

Craig then added one can of diced tomatoes, one can of tomato sauce and stirred. He then moved on to the spoon-dropped pasta dumplings.

Craig's homemade pasta doesn't require any special equipment. All you need is water, flour, two eggs and a pinch of salt.

"Just mix it up with a fork. Once dough is mixed together, it's ready to go. Then just drop it into boiling water," said Craig.

The next step is sautéeing the spicy sausage and adding your sauce.

Finally, add the pasta, Swiss chard and top the dish off with mint.

"It's good stuff. Half an hour, $10. What else can you ask for?" said Craig.

Spicy Italian Sausage, Swiss Chard, Hand-Dropped Pasta, Tomato-Garlic Sauce and Mint

1 Package of 5 sausages removed from casing
1 onion
5 cloves garlic
1 bunch Swiss chard chopped and washed
1 4 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 4 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil

2 eggs
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. butter

30 leaves mint julienne

In 4 qt. sauté pan on medium heat add oil and onion. Cook until tender stirring occasionally. Add garlic and stir in. Add chopped tomato and sauce, reduce heat to low and continue stirring occasionally. Cook 20 minutes.

Sauté sausage meat in 12-inch sauté pan until slightly brown. Add to tomato sauce.

Add Swiss chard and cook 2 minutes.

In mixing bowl add flour and salt, and stir together. Add eggs and water and mix together with fork. In 4 qt. pot bring to boil 8 cups water and one tbsp. salt. Scoop one tablespoon of dough and scrape with butter knife, cutting pieces of dough into boiling water. When they float, remove with slotted spoon (approximately 30 sec.) and put into ice water to stop cooking. Drain well.

In 12-inch Teflon sauté pan add butter and pasta. Sauté until golden brown. Add to tomato and Swiss chard.

Stir in mint.

Finish plating and drizzle extra-virgin olive oil and top with grated parmesan cheese

Click here to watch more of Chef Craig Strong


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