I finally picked Poor Girl Gourmet out of my to-read stack. I received a review copy a while ago and had been hearing good things about it. The book is by Amy McCoy, and her blog is also called Poor Girl Gourmet. What we have here is a food lover who had become accustomed to spending a lot on groceries each week. When the economy hit a snag, she needed to scale back her grocery budget but wasn’t willing to compromise on quality. By sticking to a list, not splurging on expensive items, and reducing the amount of meat purchased, McCoy was able to cut her food bill in half. This book includes recipes for dishes that fit her new approach to shopping and cooking, and the good news is that it’s not all boiled bulgur wheat dinners. The book is full of really good, fresh, and flavorful meals that are all under $15 and serve four. In the soups and salads chapter in addition to the salad I’m showing here, there’s a summer romaine and corn salad with chicken and lime corn cream dressing. In entrees, you’ll find kale lasagne with walnut pesto, chicken in cider gravy, and roasted chicken with spicy orange sauce. There are also vegetables and sides, bakery and desserts, and a chapter called splurges for special occasions. There’s a simplicity to the recipes in that fewer ingredients make for less expensive dishes, but that also allows you to appreciate each item that is used. For instance, I decided to make the orzo salad with sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts, and as I read the recipe, I thought about adding basil or a little garlic or maybe some fresh tomatoes too. I think adding any of those things would have muddied the nice balance of what was already there.
To make the salad, orzo was cooked and drained and then transferred to a serving bowl. Olive oil, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, the dry kind not in oil, chopped toasted walnuts, crumbled feta, and chopped fresh oregano were added. I have lots of oregano in my herb garden, so that ingredient was free for me. The pasta salad was to be served on top of a bed of lettuce, but I’ve shown it in a bowl by itself in these photos. In the back of the book, there’s a chapter on wines which includes information about finding value buys in less well-known varietals. I learned about negroamaro, which is from Puglia, and I brought home a bottle of a rose version of it to enjoy with this meal. It was dark as far as roses go, not sweet, and a nice, chilled wine for summer.
Sun-dried tomatoes do their umami magic in this salad, and with the oregano, a happy blend of flavors happens. The crunchy walnuts were just right, and the feta brought some salty bite. This was a great dish, and I’m already eyeing a few more to try from the book. I liked that this book presented how to cook with fresh ingredients in an economical way that wasn’t about giving up on any of what you enjoy most in your meals. It’s about finding an affordable mix of good, basic ingredients, stretching gourmet items, and growing what you can or buying seasonal produce locally. That’s a great plan for any budget.