Day 4 – Eat on $30 – Hump Day and a gorgeous gratin… October 15, 2009

Gratin1As those of you who have been following me on Twitter, I've been a grumpy mess. The lack of caffeine – I'd rather spend money on food this week than coffee – is starting to get to me. I've actually turned to Goody powders to knock out the withdrawal headaches. No sign of a problem there, eh?

Day 4 was another toughy for me. My sweetie has been going to work with lunch and drinking free coffee in the morning so he's been doing good – no more raw pasta doggy bags. I've been at the homestead trying to manage meals and put thought into what food is going where. I'm going to touch on this tomorrow in an emotional purge of a post but…DAMN this takes a lot of work. The path to McDonald's and chicken nuggets is suddenly clearer – the value menu is easier than cooking food with value at home. You have to be PREPARED with time, cooking knowledge and skills to cook healthfully and stretch a budget as far as possible – something many people these days are short on.

Lunch for me was a lemony-rosemary lentil soup – I'll post the recipe tomorrow. We've lucked out (so to speak) in Atlanta that the dreary weather has called for hearty soups and veggies. It was the perfect, filling lunch with a piece of warm bread and butter.

Gratin2 For dinner, well…here's the thing. I always have dinner with my friends Martin and Susy on Wednesdays. We watch Top Chef (go Team ATL!) and cook a communal meal. There is wine and good conversation. We come together over food. This time, I didn't have much in the budget to participate so I threw this gratin together using stuff we got on our initial shopping trip – it's based on a version over at Andrea's Recipes. The total cost of the gratin – including a grating of Parmesan I had in the fridge – was about $3.00…and it was delicious. They made me a piece of fish and I had a little wine. At first, I felt really guilty about it. Then, I realized, we should ALL be doing this more. Communal eating, conversation, spending time with friends – those things don't have to be done over a fancy dinner out. The meal was very simple but it was a joy to be a part of. I hope I get to do this every Wednesday – and I hope you do, too.

Zucchini – Tomato Gratin – based on the original recipe found here at Andrea's Recipes – serves 4 as a small side

  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced into half moon shaped pieces
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium to large (mine were about 6 inches long) zucchini, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 large roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
  •  basil leaves, 3 cut in chiffonade and 3 left whole – these came from my herbs I grow outside!
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

– Preheat your oven to 350°F

– In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil. When shimmering but not TOO hot, add onions. Saute the onions until translucent – 3 to 4 minutes. Add minced garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes – do not let the garlic burn. Take off heat and set aside.

– Drizzle and brush the bottom of an shallow, oven safe ceramic baking dish or tart pan (I used a 9" tart pan) with 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Arrange an initial layer of zucchini in the bottom of pan. Sprinkle chiffonaded basil over initial layer of zucchini. Tuck in slices of tomato and then top with more zucchini slices. You can alternate slices if you have enough to do so – however you think looks best. I salt and peppered in between layers – the veggies can take a little seasoning. Tuck in whole leaves in random places – it just infused it with basil taste and smell

– Spread your onion and garlic mixture evenly across the top – this is rustic so don't be fussy about it. You just want it evenly covered. Grate Parmesan cheese (or sprinkle pre-grated cheese) evenly across the top – this is going to give you a little bit of a "crust". Drizzle with last tbsp. of olive oil.

– Bake for 30-40 minutes. I set a timer for 20 minutes and then baked an extra 10 minutes from there. Cooking time depends on the thickness of your veggie slices and the depth of your baking pan. As Andrea said in her original recipe, it makes its own herby juice/sauce which you can spoon over it if you like when serving.  Allow to rest for 5 or so minutes then serve immediately while it's still warm!

As I've been saying all week, please visit the blogs and Twitter feeds of all the other people participating in Eat on $30. They're doing some great posts and some great budget cooking:


Jon Oct 15, 2009 01:10 pm

Damn…Tami, I have to hand it to you guys. The whole Eat on $30 crew has done a fantastic job of creating some beautiful dishes, and this is yet another example of that. Well done.

tami Oct 15, 2009 02:10 pm

THANK YOU! Part of this challenge was eat as healthfully as you can given your budget – it’s challenging but it CAN be done. I would gladly eat this dish ANY day…not during just Eat on $30.
Thanks for following along and for the support :)
– t*

bettyjoan Oct 15, 2009 02:10 pm

I’m sorry you are coffee-less and grumpy! Take comfort in the fact that you are inspiring me (and many others) to open eyes and change habits. I had the same epiphany as you about fast food–it is SO much more convenient than taking the time to plan and budget and cook and THINK.

hopeless foodie Oct 15, 2009 03:10 pm

That gratin is gorgeous! I’ve been following along with Eat On 30 this week and I’m so impressed with some of the meals that have been created by the participants. I’ve been thinking of recipes all week and plan to do a little “scouting” for ingredients this weekend. I would really like to give this a try within the next few weeks. It is timely!

Paula - bell'alimento Oct 15, 2009 08:10 pm

I would so eat this Gratin! It’s simply gaw-geous. You’re absolutely right, it’s HARD to eat healthy on a budget but not impossible. Just takes a lot of PREP & def knowledge. Soup weather here as well! Made a creamy tomato, basil & garlic soup yesterday! Baci!

Andrea Meyers Oct 18, 2009 01:10 pm

Tami, I’m so glad you like the gratin, it’s one of our summer favorites. And your Wednesday supper date sounds wonderful, something I wish I could do more of.