Simple dishes, easy on the budget

Bonnie S. Benwick / The Washington Post /

Published Mar 12, 2013 at 05:00AM

Making good food that costs less: Most of us can get behind such an effort. Here are recipes that will help you get there.

Although these dishes might set you back more than the touted “pennies per serving,” they compensate by saving you time, using leftovers or small amounts of ingredients you have on hand.

Baked Clams with Rosemary, White Beans and Tomatoes

Makes 2 or 3 servings.

The price of clams has risen in recent years, but this recipe makes economical use of them. Less-expensive mussels can be substituted. It’s a good way to use up a bit of leftover wine; or open a bottle of beer or cider, then drink the rest with dinner. Serve with bread for dunking.

14 oz fresh littleneck clams

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1⁄2 C canned no-salt-added cannellini or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

12 cherry tomatoes, each cut in half

Sprig of rosemary

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1⁄2 C dry white wine, beer or hard cider

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Have a rimmed baking sheet at hand.

Place the clams in a colander; rinse under cool running water, then shake dry.

Lay a large doubled piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper over the baking sheet; it should be big enough to fold over the clam mixture.

Combine the clams, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, beans, tomatoes and rosemary in a heap on one half of the foil or parchment. Drizzle with the oil and pour the wine, beer or cider evenly over the heap. Fold over to create a loose packet, sealing the edges and making sure you leave enough head space for the clams to open as they roast.

Roast (on the baking sheet) for about 12 minutes; the mixture should be wonderfully fragrant. Carefully open the packet, allowing steam to escape. Discard the rosemary sprig, along with any clams that have not opened.

Divide between wide, shallow bowls, including any juices. Serve right away.

— Adapted from “Full of Flavour,” by Maria Elia (Kyle, 2013)

Smoky-Sweet Glazed Carrots

Makes 4 or 5 servings

If your pantry contains Spanish smoked paprika, maple syrup and either broth or a bouillon cube, this savory side dish will set you back only the cost of a bag of carrots.

1 lb carrots (not baby-cut)

1 TBS unsalted butter

1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil

2 TBS vegetable broth (may substitute chicken broth)

2 TBS pure maple syrup

2 tsp sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton; may substitute 1 tsp dark chili powder)

Kosher salt

Trim the carrots, then cut them crosswise into 21⁄2-inch pieces. Cut each of those pieces lengthwise into 1⁄4-inch sticks.

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and stir to coat; cook for 2 minutes, reducing the heat as needed to keep the carrots from burning. Add the broth, syrup and smoked paprika; cook for about 10 minutes, tossing the carrots a few times, until they are tender and lightly browned and the liquid has reduced to a glaze.

Season with salt to taste; serve hot.

— Adapted from “The Clean Plates Cookbook: Sustainable, Delicious, and Healthier Eating for Every Body,” by Jared Koch with Jill Silverman Koch (Running Press, 2013)

Sherley’s Parmesan Puffs

Makes 12 to 24 hors d’oeuvres.

The original recipe appeared in “The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook” by Marian Burros and Lois Levine (Simon and Schuster, 1997). The version in the more recent “101 Classic Cookbooks” did not provide ingredient amounts, and now that we’ve eaten our share of these retro bites, we understand why. You could exert great self-control and make a few, or you could make a lot. They are addictive — and, as the original recipe touted, “they disappear like soap bubbles.”

4 to 6 slices soft white bread

1 or 2 tsp finely minced sweet onion, such as Vidalia

1⁄4 C regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)

1⁄4 C freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiling element; preheat the broiler. Have a large baking sheet at hand.

Cut off the bread crusts, reserving them for another use if desired. Use a 1- or 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut rounds of the bread (3 or 4 per slice), arranging them on the baking sheet spaced an inch or so apart. Place a little of the onion at the center of each one.

Stir together the mayonnaise and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a medium bowl. Completely cover each round of bread and onion with the mayo mixture. Broil for about 3 minutes, until puffed and browned. Serve right away.

— As reprinted in “101 Classic Cookbooks: 501 Classic Recipes,” edited by Marvin J. Taylor and Clark Wolf (Rizzoli, 2012)

Beggar’s Soup

Makes 41⁄2 to 5 cups (4 servings).

The Persian tradition behind this dish, a type of porridgelike stew known to Iranians as “ash,” is that long ago, someone in need would leave an empty soup pot by the road. Passersby would toss in coins so the pot’s owner could buy ingredients. Here, a little bit of meat is used for flavoring a rich, spiced mixture of budget-conscious beans, legumes and rice. Chuck roast is an inexpensive cut; next time you buy it, get one that weighs an extra quarter-pound and use the excess to make this soup.

6 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

3 lg cloves garlic, crushed

4 oz boneless chuck roast

1 lg onion, chopped

1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

6 C water

1⁄4 C dried brown lentils

3 TBS dried red kidney beans

2 TBS dried chickpeas

2 TBS dried mung beans (optional)

2 TBS raw long-grain white or brown rice

1⁄4 C chopped spinach leaves

2 TBS finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 TBS finely chopped fresh dill

2 TBS chopped scallions, white and light-green parts

Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until the garlic is golden but not burned. Transfer the garlic to small plate; use a fork to separate it into bits.

Add the remaining 4 teaspoons of oil; once it’s hot, add the boneless chuck and the onion, stirring to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes; once the beef has lost its raw look, stir in the turmeric, salt and the pepper to taste, then add the water, lentils, red kidney beans, chickpeas and the mung beans, if using. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring once or twice.

Add the rice, then cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add the spinach, parsley, dill and 1 tablespoon of the scallions. Cover and cook for 40 minutes; the soup should be quite thick.

Taste to make sure everything is cooked through; if it isn’t, cover and cook as needed.

Divide among individual bowls. Garnish with some of the reserved garlic and the remaining tablespoon of scallions. Serve hot.

— Adapted from “One-Pot Wonders,” by Clifford A. Wright (Wiley and Sons, 2013)

Braised Turkey Legs

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Make ahead: The braised turkey meat, sauce and vegetables taste even better after a day’s refrigeration; the sauced meat freezes well.

Olive oil

4 lbs skin-on turkey legs and thighs

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 C finely chopped yellow onion

1 C finely chopped celery (from 2 or 3 large ribs)

1 to 2 C water, plus more as needed (may sub no-salt-added turkey or chicken broth, or dry white wine, or a mix)

Potatoes, peeled and quartered (optional)

Turnips or rutabagas, peeled and quartered (optional)

1 tsp cornstarch

Ground cayenne pepper (may substitute hot pepper sauce)

Fresh lemon juice (optional)

1⁄4 C chopped parsley, for garnish

Coat the bottom of a large Dutch oven with oil and heat over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.

Season the turkey pieces all over with salt and pepper. Add to the pot and cook just long enough to brown the pieces on both sides. Transfer to a plate and add the onion and celery to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes or until softened, then return the turkey pieces to the pot, arranging them on top of the vegetables.

Add water to a depth of 1 inch. Once it begins to bubble at the edges, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low, cover and cook for 11⁄2 hours or until the meat is tender and falls easily away from the bone. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and discard the skin and bones, leaving the dark meat in chunks and shreds as you see fit.

At this point, you can use the liquid remaining in the pot to cook the optional vegetables. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are easily pierced with a fork. Transfer them to a bowl, then increase the heat to medium-high and reduce the remaining liquid in the pan to intensify its flavor.

Whisk the cornstarch into 1⁄2 cup of water to form a slurry. Reduce the heat to medium and gradually add the slurry to the pot, stirring until slightly thickened. Season with the cayenne and the lemon juice, if using; taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. Return the turkey meat and cooked vegetables, if using, to the pan and stir to coat and heat through. Remove from the heat and add the parsley.

Serve right away; or cool completely, transfer to a container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

— Adapted from www.simplyrecipes.com