Monday, 15 December 2008

Gourmet Food at Home - Not the Prerogative of the Wealthy

"All these ingredients cost money", I have been told, with raised eyebrows, by people who I have to assume don't cook at home very often. The implication being that cooking good meals at home is for the wealthy. Now how did we get to that?
It is true that I have spent time developing a good stock pantry, as well as fridge and freezer, in my years. I keep a list on the fridge, and when I run low or out of something, I write it on the list - to be purchased at the next grocery shopping date.
Essentials get back-ups, like olive oil, or dish detergent. This doesn't seem like a chore to me, I like the organization of it.
Most food that we eat I make at home. Breakfasts, lunches, breads, desserts, gourmet meals and pizza dinners. My investment is more in time than money, cooking at home is not expensive, especially if you pay attention to the sales and seasonal items.
This is not to say that we don't occasionally eat fast food. I do have teenagers. When my oldest son finishes a play we take him out to McDonald's - his choice. I am not a snob - I couldn't eat there all the time but I don't mind going once every couple of months with the kids. But this is where we go back to the money part. Dinner for 4, all combos, none super-sized, plus one shake - cost me almost $30. That is a little under 1/3rd of my grocery budget for a week.
Later in the week I made this meal - Roasted Pork Loin with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette (1/2 recipe) on a bed of Seasoned Spaghetti Squash with Olive, Herb and Parmesan Breadsticks. I got 5 servings out of it and it cost me less than half of what our trip to McDonald's cost.
Heck, throw in the bottle of wine and we still came out ahead!
Roasted Pork Loin with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette - Giada De Laurentiis, Giada's Kitchen. (I used a 2.4lb pork loin - so just about half - and got 5 generous servings)
I really liked this dish, Giada has been coming up with some real winners for me lately.

Roasted Garlic:
2 heads garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pork Loin:
1 (3 1/2 to 4 1/2-pound) boneless pork loin
Freshly ground black pepper
Roasted garlic, recipe follows
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons water
(I loved this vinaigrette, but found that the balsamic was the dominant flavour. If you want more garlic, cut the vinegar back a little)

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

For the Roasted Garlic: Cut the bulbs of garlic in half crosswise into a top and bottom. Place the garlic halves on a sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Fold the foil up and around the garlic halves, making sure they stay flat. Seal the foil into an airtight package. Roast until golden and soft, about 60 minutes. Keep the garlic in the foil and let cool slightly.

For the Pork: Place the pork loin in a medium, heavy roasting pan. Season all sides with salt and pepper. Place the pork in the oven 30 minutes after the garlic has started roasting. Roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 140 to 145 degrees F, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, tent the pork loin with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes.
For the Vinaigrette: Remove the garlic from the foil. Remove the cloves by squeezing the base of the garlic. Place the garlic, parsley, and balsamic vinegar in a blender. Pulse the machine until blended. Drizzle the oil into the blender while the machine is running. Add the sugar, salt, pepper, and water and blend until incorporated.

To serve: Slice the pork into 3/4-inch thick slices and transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle some of the vinaigrette over the pork and pass the remaining vinaigrette alongside the pork in a small dish.

Seasoned Spaghetti Squash: Preheat oven to 375f. Stab squash with a thin knife all over - about 10 times. This is necessary so your squash does not explode.
Bake on sheet until tender, about one hour. Let rest for a few minutes. Cut in half and remove seeds. Take fork and scoop out insides which will be like thin noodles, yet still slightly crunchy.
Toss with Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, olive oil and black pepper. Mine is served on a handful of scattered baby spinach leaves - which I love to throw into just about everything for a little extra colour and nutrition.
For the bread sticks, a small batch of white dough that has been resting for an hour is spread out and covered in chopped Kalamata olives, Parmesan cheese and Herbes de Provence. It is folded up like an envelope, sealed and divided into 10 pieces. Each piece is rolled and twisted in cornmeal and laid out on a foil lined baking tray. Cover and rest for 45 minutes and bake at 475f for 10-12 minutes. Cool on baking racks.
From Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread by Richard Bertinet