Monday, July 27, 2009

Stuffed Eggplant - Italian Style

The Chef will float your boat using halved and hollowed eggplant shells, filled with ground turkey, sauteed veggies, tomato sauce, and topped with cheese. Riffing on a traditional Italian Eggplant Parmesan, this dish is perfect for all you carbo-phobic dieters (no pasta!). And you don't need to deep-fry slices of eggplant in oil, either. Hey, the Chef has to watch his waistline, too!

This is the ultimate budget recipe -- you only need half a package of ground turkey (or chicken), two eggplants and very little cheese, and it feeds four. I picked up two large eggplants for 99.99 cents at this 99c only Store, and ground turkey is cheap at any grocery. Eggplant should be firm to the touch with no soft spots. Basting the split eggplants with olive oil and then baking for half an hour makes for a tender flesh that you mix into the stuffing -- not wasting anything. You can also use crumbled Italian sausage when it goes on sale. To go vegetarian, substitute cooked rice and sauteed mushrooms for meat.

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 2 large eggplants - halved length-wise
  • 1/2 lb. of ground turkey, chicken or sausage (o.k. to substitute cooked rice and sauteed mushrooms).
  • 1 slice of bread - toasted and crumbled
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (at least) - mozzarella, jack or your favorite.
  • 1/2 bell pepper
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp. of olive oil - one for sauteing turkey/veggies, and three for basting eggplants.
  • 1 tbsp. of chopped garlic - fresh or jar
  • 1 tsp. Italian herbs - fresh or chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce - any type

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice eggplants length-wise and drizzle/brush with olive oil -- all sides. Make a few cuts into white flesh of eggplant to help it cook through - it will also make it easier to remove pulp later. Place on a cookie sheet and bake uncovered for half an hour. Go on to prepare stuffing for eggplants (after half an hour in the oven, remove eggplants and set aside to cool).

In a large pan, saute chopped onion, bell pepper and garlic in a tbsp. of olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes. Add ground turkey, mix well with veggies, and cook until done -- about another 10 minutes. Set aside stuffing to cool. By this time, eggplant should be out of the oven and cooled down enough to remove most of the pulp from each eggplant. Leave about 1/4 of an inch -- don't worry if you break the purple outside skin when removing most of the cooked pulp, it will bake fine when stuffed.


In a large bowl mix the eggplant pulp, cooked turkey and veggies, along with tomato sauce, egg, crumbled toast and half the cheese -- you can make this dish as cheesy as you like by adding more. Salt and pepper to taste and add a tsp. (total) of any Italian herbs you have on hand. Fill each hollowed-out eggplant boat with stuffing -- pile it on, and top with the rest of the cheese. Return stuffed eggplants to the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 45 minutes.

 
*You can make this recipe with a whole one-pound package of ground turkey as well. Just double other ingredients. Form a meatloaf from the left-over stuffing and bake along with the Stuffed Eggplants -- or fill a couple of more hollowed-out eggplants.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jasmine Market & Deli - Video Restaurant Review

After treating his readers to a Beverly Hills happy hour review last month, The 99 Cent Chef returns to reviewing with a restaurant more to his taste and pocketbook. Jasmine Market & Deli in Culver City, featuring cuisine from Burma and India, is the next eatery in the Chef's cheapskate sights.

Jasmine has a couple of Evening/Weekend Specials that are indeed special, including two great soups: Coconut Chicken Soup and Fish Soup. After it was touted in Los Angeles Magazine's May Issue in the article "101 Cheap Eats," and glowingly reviewed by Jonathan Gold for the LA Weekly, The 99 Cent Chef grabbed his camera to get the goods on exotic cuisine served at Jasmine - one can only eat out so many times a month at Chef Marilyn's 99 Cent Soul Food Express !

The cheerful owner, Soe Lwin, is part Indian and Burmese, and the menu recipes his wife Khin has created reflects this. He describes Burmese dishes as milder than typical hot/spicy India ones. He does provide red chile flakes, toasted on-site, for extra heat. Contrasting nicely with the India fare are his wife's unique salads and soups that are "typical of a small Burmese village". Drinks are exotic sodas and tea. Be sure to splurge for fresh-made Naan with garlic or onion -- only $1 over the 99 cent base price.

First up: the Fish Soup is a rich melange of Tilapia fish broth with Burmese spices. The unique textures include a mild, celery-like crescent of banana tree trunk, the tasty crunch of "tempura" fried lentil beans (my favorite ingredient), and a sprinkling of cool fresh cilantro sprigs floating in a warm broth loaded with slippery, silky rice noodles. All this for $3.49 (plus tax) for a large bowlful.

Next up, for the same price: Coconut Chicken Soup with Chinese noodles. This creamy coconut curry broth is heavy with chunks of chicken and slivers of red onion covering yellow Chinese noodles. It's a less-exotic palate pleaser, for those who prefer more familiar flavors.

Another traditional Burmese dish is an enticing Tofu Salad, uniquely made with lentil bean tofu, homemade by the owner's wife. Cut into bright yellow strips, lentil bean tofu is not bland like normal tofu -- you can taste the nut-like lentil source. Studded with clumps of fried garlic, crunchy cabbage and onion, it's more like a pungent warm slaw than a salad. And it comes with the most intense cabbage soup -- flavored with powdered shrimp. It's one heady, aromatic soup and salad. This Chef's wife loved it.

Both soup specials and Burmese salads are served evenings from 5 p.m. to closing, and all hours during the weekend.

One of the best deals is the $4.99 Tandoori Chicken Lunch Special, served 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. It is cooked when ordered; you can have a quarter segment of white or dark meat chicken. Another recipe from Soe's resourceful wife, the flavorful tandoori coating is a familiar favorite available here at half the cost of most India restaurants. This lunch special is served with fluffy fragrant Saffron Rice, Vegetable Curry, a large round of fresh-made warm Naan Bread, and garnished with lettuce, raw onion and a couple of tomato wedges. This generous lunch special had customers walking up to the counter requesting containers for leftovers.

Jasmine Market & Deli is located in a strip of storefronts along Sepulveda Blvd. just south of Washington Blvd., in Culver City. It is easy to miss -- look for the white umbrellas and tables out front. The market inside has more seating, a counter for ordering, and a kitchen which includes a tandoori oven.

The everyday menu offers typical India-style fare at bargain prices. Other lunch specials are available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Monday - they're closed. Dinner prices are still cheap at a couple of dollars more - well below $10 for a complete dinner.
This is a restaurant tab The 99 Cent Chef is happy to pawn off -- or rather, pick up. Jasmine Market & Deli is in a simple setting that draws the locals. Parking out front on Sepulveda Blvd. is metered until 6 p.m., but the service is fast. This is a great deal any day of the week (closed Monday) for a quick drop-in tasty, exotic, meal. Below is my video visit.

Jasmine Market & Deli - Video

Play it here. The video runs 4 minutes, 25 seconds.

Jasmine Market & Deli
4135 Sepulveda Blvd.
Culver City, CA. 90230
Phone: 310) 313-3767
Hours: Tuesday - Thursday 11am to 9pm, and Friday - Sunday 11am to 10pm
Lunch Specials: 11am to 4pm
Map - click here

Typical India fare, along with Burmese soups and salads. No alcohol - tea, juice and soda. Dine in, or to go. Catering is available. Attached is a small grocery store carrying large sacks of rice, curry seasonings, and other Asian goods.

99 thanks to Soe Lwin, his wife, Khin, their son Kaung and everyone behind the counter at Jasmine Market & Deli for putting up with the Chef's questions and allowing him to shoot. And thanks to his wife, Amy, for shooting the Chef stuffing his face!

Click here to embed or view video on youtube.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Egg Beaters - Deal of the Day

It looks like egg, smells like egg, hey, it even taste like egg! This Deal of the Day is close enough to the real thing to almost fool The 99 Cent Chef. If you did not see it poured from its carton -- the end result being a yellow, firm and fluffy plate of eggs before you -- it could pass for fresh scrambled. Don't add salt; this 15 oz. carton of "Cheese & Chive" flavored Egg Beaters has enough. Just add some pepper.

Made with real egg whites and way too many chemicals and additives (just read the ingredients label), this low-fat, low cholesterol, morning protein pleaser tastes fine. It is a quick scramble, but does not easily form into an omelet -- not fluffy enough; yokes are sorely missed. Because it is made with egg whites, you still need to use non-stick pans with a drizzle of oil or oil-spray. The carton carries enough for about four servings -- not bad. I've seen it in a couple of neighborhood 99c only Stores cold deli cases for the last couple of weeks, in Cheese & Chive and Garden Vegetable flavors.




After cooking and plating Cheese & Chive flavored Egg Beaters, I actually felt crunch from biting into a chive! -- although, just a one-time crunch. The most disappointing flavor was cheese. Not much, and certainly not the creamy, melting clots of cheese you get in a real egg and cheese scramble.
The texture and taste of the eggs are surprisingly fresh.





It seems every new scientific "egg study" comes back contradicting the last one. Are eggs good cholesterol or bad? Is it good fat or bad? While Cheese & Chive Egg Beaters is a low-calorie breakfast alternative, this Chef will stick with the real thing.
On a scale from 1 to 9, 9 being best
-- I give it a 6.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Indian Corn with Pork

The Chef was curious about Indian corn in the can, especially a 2 lb. one for 99.99 cents. I went with an old reliable combination of inexpensive meaty country style pork ribs (99 cents a pound this week at Albersons Grocery Store) slow cooked with the corn, and adding a layer of flavor with enchilada sauce. Indian corn is really just another name for hominy - plump cooked corn kernals tasting halfway between sweet corn and grits. It is bland on it's own, like a potato, so it works best combinded with other ingredients like chicken or added into a soup. This hearty dish is simple to make, just load it into a 350 degree oven and come back 3-4 hours later.


  • Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 3-4 lbs. of country style pork ribs or chicken
  • 1 large 29oz. can of Indian corn or hominy - drained
  • 1 15oz. can of enchilada sauce - red or green
  • 1 small onion chopped - optional
  • 2 tbsp. of chopped garlic - fresh or jar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim some of the fat from pork ribs. Drain Indian corn and add to roasting pan with pork ribs. Add enchilada sauce, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook covered 2 hours, then 1 to 2 more hours uncovered until pork is fork tender. When done remove and skim off fat.

For chicken, cook uncovered for about 2 hours. Pierce chicken in thickest part with a knife or fork, and done when juices run clear.

 

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cherry Tomatoes & Sausage with Pasta

Cherry tomatoes pop in your mouth with a more intense flavor than regular full size ones. In April, the Chef featured them in his 2 minute Salad video. Now allow The 99 Cent Chef to liven up a typical boring tomato sauce.

When paired with sausage and pasta, these intense pellets of concentrated tomato essence create a colorful rich texture. The last cooking step -- deglazing the pan with red wine, pasta water and a pat of butter -- creates a rich delectable tomato sauce. My Italian budget entree uses ingredients I picked up at the Hollywood 99c only Store.

You can use any sausage on sale, and a small carton of cherry tomatoes comes cheap. If you have a little onion and bell pepper you need to use up, add these too.

Cherry tomatoes begin to soften after 15 minutes of cooking and become even sweeter. Crush about half of them to thicken sauce, but be careful, because they squirt when squashed. The Chef's cherry tomato sauce is an adaptable addition to your favorite pasta recipes. Use any favorite protein on sale, or just leave out the meat and add seasonal veggies for a lively vegetarian ratatouille-style pasta sauce. All ingredients featured in this recipe are inexpensive at any market, so make a low-priced meal of it!

Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 1 carton cherry tomatoes - about 16 ounces or 2 cups
  • Sausage - your favorite on sale, about 1 lb.
  • 1 small onion and 1/2 bell pepper chopped - for vegetarian, use any seasonal favorites.
  • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic - fresh or jar
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of red or white wine - photos shows red (optional, or use chicken/veggie stock).
  • 1 cup of pasta water - reserved from cooked pasta
  • Slice of butter - thickens sauce (optional)
  • Fresh herbs if you have them - about 1 tablespoon total if dried, including parsley, oregano, sage and basil.
  • Salt and pepper to taste - minimal salt is needed, as sausage is salty enough.
  • 3/4 package of your favorite pasta - cook per package directions


Directions
 

Boil water for pasta and cook per package directions. After draining pasta, reserve 1 cup pasta water to add for sauce. Add olive oil to heating pan and brown sliced sausage for about 5-10 minutes. Add any aromatic veggies, including bell pepper and onion. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Deglaze pan with wine or stock. Add pasta water, butter, tomatoes - salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 15 minutes to reduce sauce by half. Break up about half of the cherry tomatoes with your cooking spoon or spatula as they soften -- but be careful -- they squirt! Finish up by adding herbs you have on hand. Serve over your favorite pasta.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mexi/Turkey Burger

Just in time for the 4th of July weekend this budget burger, based on South-of-the-border ingredients, is one hot summer palate pleaser. Combining ground turkey with Mexican chorizo renders a typical dry flavorless turkey burger into a moist spicy one. Poultry must be cooked well-done, but don't worry because chorizo has a high fat content, so your Mexi/turkey burger will come out moist.

Mexican chorizo is soft ground and uncooked -- unlike Spanish chorizo, which is cured hard like salami. Mexican chorizo has a deep flavored red chile taste -- spiced with paprika, Mexican oregano, garlic powder and a minimal amount of red pepper heat. It is sold on sale at local Latin markets and in the cold deli case of my neighborhood 99c only Store in 10 oz. casings of ground pork or beef. The Chef suggests mixing one part chorizo with 3 parts ground turkey. This will also help firm up typically mushy ground poultry and keep it from drooping through your barbecue grill grate. Top the Chef's Mexi/turkey burger with crumbled queso fresco cheese (still being carried in 99c only Stores) and your favorite 99.99 cent salsa.

Chorizo freezes well, and the rest can be sauteed and then scrambled into eggs for a filling breakfast taco or burrito. This inexpensive pairing of chorizo and ground turkey adds up to a delectable budget barbecue that must be paired with an ice cold cerveza.

Ingredients (makes 4 burgers) 
  • 1 lb. ground turkey (or chicken)
  • 5 ounces of chorizo - 1/2 package
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Burger Fixings
Buns, salsa, avocado, lettuce, tomato and your favorite cheese. Make it your own with any favorite toppings.

Directions
Coat grill with non-stick spray or oil and heat.
Thoroughly mix ground turkey and chorizo. Form into burger patties, season and cook on grill until well-done (cut into burger to check that middle is not raw and soft). I used a gas grill and it took about 15 minutes total. Watch for fire flare-ups as chorizo has a high fat content. Melt your favorite cheese on patty then dress the burger with salsa and any of your favorite toppings. The Chef's Mexi-burger tastes just as good frying-pan sauteed indoors.




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