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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Easy Summer Pie

Strawberry-peach pie is an easy, quick, tasty, and almost low-cal way to use abundant summer fruit.

This time of year you might find yourself with too many strawberries, either because you've got a prolific garden or because you bought the super-jumbo 64-ounce package at the food warehouse.

As summer moves along, the supermarkets will be brimming with specials on all kinds of fruit.

Here's a dessert  that's quick, easy, and refreshing, but not too sweet and not too caloric. 

(If you're good at making pie crusts, more power to you. Go for it. We've never mastered the art, and today's supermarkets have frozen crusts that are much closer to homemade, so that's what we tend to use.)

We learned this from our friend Cynthia, who has a peach tree that provides more than enough fruit for her family, her freezer, and her friends.

Fruit Pie

One pie crust
4 cups of raw fruit, cut into large, 1-inch-by-1-inch pieces

1. Preheat the oven, and a baking sheet, to 350 degrees.

2. Thaw the frozen crust for 15 minutes or take out the homemade one and pierce the bottom and sides many times with a fork. Bake the empty crust on the baking sheet for about 15 minutes. Let cool. (By preheating the baking sheet and leaving the crust on it to cool, you'll get a slightly crisper crust.)

3. Meanwhile, put the cut-up fruit in a saucepan and bring to a boil. You want to end up with about 4 cups of filling, so mix enough peaches and strawberries, or strawberries and rhubarb, or anything you like, to give you that amount. The heat will draw liquid out of the fruit, so before it boils, taste it for sweetness. Add sugar, but be stingy. For the strawberry-peach pie in the photo, we used about a third of a cup of sugar. If you're using rhubarb or another tart fruit, you'll need a little more sugar. If your fruit is ripe and sweet, you'll probably only need a quarter cup.

4. As the fruit begins to boil, put in cornstarch. We usually end up putting in about 3 tablespoons, but we like our pies a little bit runny. You can add more cornstarch to thicken the pie, but the more cornstarch you use, the cloudier the pie looks. It won't affect the taste.

5. Let the fruit thicken a bit and make sure that all of the cornstarch is mixed in.
Remove from heat and let cool.

6. When both the fruit and the crust are cool, pour the fruit into the crust and put the pie in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Both whipped cream and ice cream are good with this. So is dessert wine.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bittman on Real Food vs. Junk Food

New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman makes a case in his latest blog that eating real food can not only be healthier than fast food, but also cheaper. The post can be read below. Or, if you want to read it at the source, click here for his blog. The full instructions on how to do this can be found at, where he got the idea. It's worth a look. 
Real Food Can Be Cheaper Than Junk Food
By MARK BITTMAN has a compelling set of instructions for how to shop and cook inexpensively enough to live on food stamps. Well thought out and presented. This is a long and ongoing discussion — worthy of a cookbook, really — but here is a nice start. 

The person who brought this challenge to my attention is Jill Richardson, who runs (fast becoming my favorite) and who argues that people on food stamps may be not only short on cash but without easy transportation to adequate grocery stores. 

Ms. Richardson also maintains that food stamp recipients may not have the cooking equipment and/or skill needed to get the cooking done. She proceeds to quote the often brilliant Adam Drewnowski, thusly: “When you suggest that people buy rice, pasta, and beans, you presuppose that they have resources for capital investment for future meals, a kitchen, pots, pans, utensils, gas, electricity, a refrigerator, a home with rent paid, the time to cook.  Those healthy rice and beans can take hours; another class bias is that poor people’s time is worthless.” 

Part of this is true: If you don’t have a kitchen it is really hard to cook (though, modesty aside, I once lived for six months with nothing more than a hot plate and a microwave and wrote most of my columns without borrowing friends’ kitchens). 

One can argue that we do need to address all these issues: transportation, housing, the urban food deserts, poverty. But meanwhile, many people could probably benefit from the idea that cooking cheaply can be done, and in much healthier fashion than buying chili dogs and donuts at the local convenience store. 

Assuming a kitchen, a stove, running water, etc., cooking is not that time-consuming — it can be done while performing other household chores, or for that matter by using a slow cooker, which takes almost no time at all, since it’s almost entirely unattended. 

No, it’s not automatic. It’s not a true no-brainer. But it’s been done by the most varied assortment of the world’s citizens imaginable, since humans stood upright. You don’t need a capital investment for rice and beans, any more than you do for cheeseburgers and fries. 

You don’t need more than $10 worth of cooking equipment to get started, either. And while it’s true that the ten dollars is hard to come by for some people, the point is this: You can cook less expensively than you can buy fast food, junk food, processed, packaged, and prepared food - and you can get enough sound calories to live better. 

One more myth I’d like to tackle here. The idea that death and destruction lie in the “middle aisles” of supermarkets, and the “real” food is found in the periphery is outdated. In those middle aisles one can find rice, beans, sometime-decent canned foods, sometime-decent frozen vegetables, whole grains and whole grain cereals, and other real food.

Good Fast Food: Guest Recipe

Fast food need not be unhealthy and revolting.

Jen Matlack says,

Once a week, my husband, Chef Jeff, makes us Mexican pizzas. It’s an easy recipe (especially for me, since he makes it) and it's soooo good and healthy—black beans are full of antioxidants.

Cover whole-grain tortillas with black beans, chipotle hot sauce, steamed broccoli, and sharp cheddar cheese. Broil the pizzas to melt the cheese, then add Trader Joe's Salsa Verde, sour cream, or anything else you like. Then enjoy.

It’s that simple.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spanish Reds Are Worth an Extra Look

Spanish red wine is a category that's offering some of the better-tasting bargains available right now. 
Jumillas, Tempranillios, blends. If you talk to your wine merchant about what kind of wine you like, and ask him to recommend some Spanish reds that meet your criteria, you can score some incredible deals.
We're already written about the Garnacha de Fuego and the Panarroz, both of which are under $10 and getting high ratings. 
A friend gave us a bottle of Loxarel Ops 2005 that we uncorked over the weekend to our considerable delight. The wine is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and Tempranillo grapes and is named for the goddess of plenty. 
This might be the only wine that delivers a hint of green pepper in the aroma and overwhelming vanilla and berries in the flavor. It's also a bit spicy, with a little cinnamon coming through after it sits in your mouth for a second or two.
The grapes and the winery are both in the Penedes region of Spain, near the Mediterranean coast, just outside Girona in the northeast.  
We've not seen this wine in our local store, but if you're lucky enough to spot a bottle, you can pick it up for about $10. 
It goes well with Mediterranean dishes, particularly the spicier ones.

"The Cooking Apes, the Creatures of the Flame"

No, that's not a new blog—though it certainly would make a good name for one. It's a quote from the book review in today's New York Times. Dwight Garner reviews Richard Wrangham's Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. The book asserts that our species' evolution was tied to cooking: 

Apes began to morph into humans, and the species Homo erectus emerged some two million years ago, Mr. Wrangham argues, for one fundamental reason: We learned to tame fire and heat our food.

“Cooked food does many familiar things,” he observes. “It makes our food safer, creates rich and delicious tastes and reduces spoilage. Heating can allow us to open, cut or mash tough foods. But none of these advantages is as important as a little-appreciated aspect: cooking increases the amount of energy our bodies obtain from food.”

According to Wrangham, our raw-food-eating ancestors had to devote vast energies to digestion; once cooking was employed, the human brain was able to develop.

This book is sure to be controversial with today's raw-food advocates, but it sounds fascinating.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Frugal Pantry: Wasabi Mayonnaise

We've all been there: too tired to make anything complicated, with just enough energy to grill a piece of fish or roast some vegetables . . .  but craving something just a little more interesting. That's when we reach for our jar of wasabi-spiked mayonnaise.
A dollop of the silky, celadon-green condiment transforms a plain piece of grilled salmon, tuna, or cod—or a pile of roasted potatoes or cauliflower, or a plateful of steamed asparagus. 
We buy our wasabi mayonnaise at Trader Joe's, but it's easy to make your own. Most supermarkets carry wasabi—Japanese horseradish—in their Asian sections, in either paste or powdered form. Mix it with mayonnaise (or, if you avoid eggs, the sublime Vegenaise), adding the spice gradually, as a little can go a long way.
Meanwhile, we've recently learned of a condiment called "Thai mayonnaise," but we've never seen it. Has anybody out there used it? If so, let us know what you think.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Versatile Roasted Potatoes Improve Any Meal

Potatoes roasted with whole fresh sage leaves.

Roasted potatoes have three things going for them: they're always a hit, they're nutritious, and they're easy to prepare. Roasted potatoes are also versatile, in that they can be adapted to any meal from any cuisine.

More often than not, we simply cut the raw spuds into 1-inch pieces, maybe a little bigger. Then we coat them in a little olive oil, add salt and pepper, and put them on a baking sheet in a 400-degree oven for about 45 minutes, turning them with a spatula halfway through the roasting. 

For a lighter meal, these roasted potatoes can serve as the main dish if you add a little something to liven them up: medallions of goat cheese, say, or a dipping sauce made with a teaspoon of adobo sauce mixed with quarter cup of mayonnaise (low-cal works well here) and a  little chopped scallion and cilantro. 

But the great thing about roasted potatoes is that you can make them complement whatever you're serving. 

With a strong main dish, you can do as ehealy suggested and coat them in a mustard sauce before roasting. This coating is very forgiving—when we made her version, we altered it by simply using the vinaigrette dressing we'd already made for a salad. 

The roasted potatoes on the plate above, clockwise from lower left: with sage leaves, mustard-sauce-coated, with herbs de Province, and plain with salt and pepper. An adobo-mayo-cilantro mix is a nice accompanying sauce.

Our friend Ruth Lively has devised a wonderful side dish: line an oiled baking dish with fresh sage leaves, then cover them with halved potatoes, set face down. Sprinkle the whole arrangement generously with salt and roast until the potatoes have turned golden brown and the sage leaves have crisped up.  

With an Indian dish, you can spice the spuds heavily with a fennel-chili dry rub borrowed from Monica Bhide's Roasted Cauliflower recipe. Toss a quarter cup of fennel seeds in a medium-hot dry skillet for one minute, add two whole dried red chiles for five seconds, cool, add a quarter to a half teaspoon of peppercorns of any color, and grind all the spices to a coarse powder in a coffee grinder. (The photo below shows what the potatoes look like preroasted.) 

For a French meal, the mustard potatoes will work nicely, or you can simply coat the raw cubed potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle them with herbs de Province. 

Experiment with whatever spices you have. Coat them heartily if you love spice, or use a lighter hand if you prefer more-delicate flavors. You and your guests will love them.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Favorite Things: Soda Maker

For years and years, we drank Pellegrino. Our Costco membership allowed us to get cases of the mineral water at a good price, and we drank about one big bottle a day.
But those big glass bottles were a problem. They needed to be recycled, and they rapidly piled up. We'd put bags of them in the trunk of the car, planning on taking them to the glass-crushing recycling machine at the store, then we'd get too busy to do that and drive around for a week (or two) listening to the maddening clank of rolling bottles. 
And even though we were recycling the bottles, the waste bothered us.
Then we discovered the soda maker, an updated version of the old seltzer bottle that uses cartridges of CO2 to make cheap, fizzy sparkling water. One cartridge makes about 100 liters.
No more lugging heavy cases of Pellegrino home; no more listening to clanking empties in the trunk.
Just like that, life got a little bit easier.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bargain Wines for a Holiday Gathering: A Blind Trip to the Wine Store

Here's a common situation. You need wine for a medium-size holiday gathering—like Memorial Day—and you stop by the wine store on your way home from the supermarket. No list, no ideas, except that it's summer and you want some white wine to keep everybody happy through the hors d'oeuvres.

You can't afford to serve a dozen people $30 wine, but you need something that's drinkable in the hours before you sit down to dinner. And you can't just pick up any $10 bottle, because you don't want to serve your guests grassy, acidy migraine wine. 

We went to a local store yesterday and looked through the selection of under-$10 whites. We saw lots that we wouldn't buy, but selected three to see if they would pass the happy-wallet, happy-guest test.
  • Pine & Post 2006 Chardonnay (Washington State) $7.99.
  • Thierry & Guy Fat Bastard 2007 Chardonnay (France) $9.99.
  • Alamos 2007 Chardonnay (Argentina) $10.99.
Yes, we broke our under-$10 rule with the Alamos, for two reasons. We figured, somewhat lamely, that the three bottles cost less than $30. Also, we knew that a bottle that sells for $11 in the store can be found online for $10, so we bent the rules—just a bit.

The bottom line is that all three pass the holiday gathering test. Unless you've invited a passel of wine snobs, we doubt they'll complain about any of these:

Pine & Post 2006 Chardonnay. This Washington State wine has some flavor of green apple and a hint of citrus. Its clean finish and lightness reminded us of Sauvignon Blanc. Indeed, it's mostly Chardonnay, but 17% Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Well worth the low price.
Fat Bastard 2007 Chardonnay. This wine from the obscure Languedoc-Rousillon in southwestern Fran
ce uses grapes from a wide geographical area so that the winemakers can blend a balanced wine.
French Chardonnays are not oaky, as California Chards are, so this one also leans toward the Sauvignon Blanc end of the white richness spectrum. Fat Bastard wines are getting good notices, and this one is toasty, fruity, citrusy, and flavorful—perfect for a party. (The winery says there are notes of acacia flower in this Chard, but we'll have to take its word for that.)

Alamos 2007 Chardonnay. This wine from Mendoza in Argentina was the pick of the batch for us, though given its richness, we'd probably save it for the meal portion of the holiday festivities. Much rounder than the other two, it's also clean, crisp, and balanced. You'll smell grapefruit and maybe vanilla, and you'll taste some pear and spice.

We've already reviewed the Rials, the Bogle Chardonnay, and the Estancia Chardonnay, each of which would make a good summer party wine. And if you're willing to spend $13, the Clos du Bois 2007 Russian River Chardonnay is well worth the extra $3! It happens to be our favorite of the season.

As it happens, 2007 was a great year in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, California. If you see one of these wines in your price range, pick it up. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cooking Starts Getting Easy in the Spring

Quote for the season:

"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients."
Julia Child (1912–2004)

There's no better time of the year to start thinking about cooking with fresh ingredients than the spring. Keep it simple. Keep it fresh. Keep it healthy. Even Julia Child, mistress of French cuisine, knew that fresh = simple.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pasta Primavera

We long ago stopped ordering this spring classic in restaurants because too often it meant a blend of tough and mushy ill-matched vegetables covered with gummy goo.
Actually, we’d forgotten all about it until the New York Times Sunday Magazine ran a piece on the dish, complete with a newfangled update. The updated version was rife with the sort of make-work flourishes that make us grumpy, so we stuck with the classic, and we were glad we did.
The resulting mixture of fresh spring flavors and delicate textures was a delight, and we can’t wait to make it again. This is a seasonal dish in which you start with a base of nonseasonal vegetables—onion, carrot, garlic—then add whatever fresh veggies are at the market. 
It’s easy and relatively quick.
Normally, it’s made with fettuccine, but we substituted mini penne and liked that better. The delicate size of the pasta worked well with the small pieces of vegetable.
1 pound mini penne
1 broccoli crown, cut into small florets
1 lb. green beans (or asparagus), cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
2 T. olive oil 
3 T. butter
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 to 4 cloves garlic, sliced
Half of an Italian (not hot) pepper, cut into strips, then 1 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
2 scallions, sliced crosswise into 1/8-inch lengths (if you omit scallions, make sure your onion is large)
1 tomato, diced (or half of a 15 oz. can, drained)
1 cup cream
½ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
large handful basil leaves (or 1 T. dried)

1. Bring six quarts of water to a boil with 2 tablespoons salt.
2. Drop the broccoli and beans into the boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes to blanch. Remove and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
3. Bring the water back to a boil. Add mini penne and cook until al dente, about nine minutes.
4. In a large pan, heat olive Oil and butter. Add onion, carrot, garlic, and pepper. Saute until tender, about five minutes.
5. Add blanched broccoli, green beans or asparagus, scallions, and tomato. Saute until tender.
6. Add cream, and let the sauce simmer until pasta is ready.
7. Add drained pasta, basil, cheese to the pan, then salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve hot.
This dish would be great with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc,  an oaky Chardonnary, or a light-to-medium-bodied red. We enjoyed it with an inexpensive Spanish wine that blended Merlot, Cabernet, and Tempranillo.

Pasta Primavera on Foodista

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Frugal Pantry: Modern Spice

American food generally seems to be underspiced. We noticed this particularly when comparing the Indian food we make at home to the richer, more flavorful dishes we get at Indian restaurants. 

Of course, restaurants worry more about pleasing your palate than watching your weight, so the cooks pour on the butter and cream. But even allowing for that difference, the food at Indian restaurants tasted spicier—not just hotter but deeper. We decided to start adding more spice to our homemade Indian recipes. 

At about that time, we came across a new book, Modern Spice, by Monica Bhide (Simon & Schuster, 2009). The author's No. 1 recommendation for cooking Indian food: make it vibrant and bold by boosting the spices.  

She takes recipes learned from her mother and grandmothers and converts them so that they can be made in modern American kitchens with ingredients that are widely available. 

The spices of Modern Spice are not hard to get, but when we began to try the recipes, we used up our store of fennel seeds in two days. Replacing them reminded us of an earlier tip: even if you're not cooking Indian or other ethnic food, buying spices at ethnic markets can save you a lot of money.

Our old 1.5-ounce bottle of fennel seeds cost about $5. Our replacement bag from an Indian market was more than four times as big at seven ounces and cost only 99 cents. It was worth the small side trip to the Indian market, particularly because we always see other deals when we're there, such as the plump bunch of cilantro we picked up for 99 cents.

There are lots of valuable spice lessons in Ms. Bhide's book. As Mark Bittman says in his foreword, "There is not a cuisine that uses spices with more grace and craft than that of India."

Herb-Roasted Potatoes Enlist in Mustard War

In ehealy's comment on our post "In Defense of Dijon II: Guest Recipe," she gave us another mustard recipe. It's one that she found in the booklet that came with her jar of mustard, and it's become one of her favorites.

5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 pounds red potatoes, 1 1/2-inch chunks
sprig fresh oregano

1. In a small bowl, combine mustard, oil, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Arrange potatoes in lightly greased 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan or on a shallow baking sheet. Pour mustard mixture over potatoes; toss to coat well.
2. Bake at 425 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender and crispy, stirring occasionally. Garnish with oregano.

This sounds like a different take on the kind of mustard-and-vinegar potato salad that some of Tim's German relatives used to make on summer holidays.
This also reminds us of one of our favorite things to do: roasted potatoes, which are so easy and which can be altered slightly to work with whatever else you're serving. We'll soon drop in a post about some of the many things you can do to roasted potatoes. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In Defense of Dijon II: Guest Recipe

David Wray notes, “When it comes to cooking, I've concluded that one can fool most of the people all of the time simply by serving dishes with a sauce of some sort.” To that end, he's invented a simple Dijon-butter sauce that he uses on brussels sprouts: 
For two servings of brussels sprouts, I melt two tablespoons of butter, then add Dijon mustard—either smooth or grainy—using my little whisk to emulsify the butter and mustard. I start with about two teaspoons of mustard and keep whisking in small quantities until the sauce looks right, which is when the butter is thoroughly incorporated. The proportions are roughly one part mustard to one and a half parts butter. Mustard straight out of the refrigerator seems to emulsify more easily. Drizzle sauce over the sprouts and mix to blend.
We think this sauce would work well on all kinds of vegetables, from broccoli to cauliflower to green beans. (Also, we don't want to wait until brussels sprout season to try it.)
If anybody else has a good mustard-related recipe, please send it along. This is one of our favorite flavors.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In Defense of Dijon I

Though we are not about to get into political discussions at Eat Well, Eat Cheap, we were amused and befuddled by right-wing commentators’ recent botched attempts to drag Dijon mustard into the culture wars. Arugula and lattes kind of made sense—even though it’s silly to demonize food, everybody got the allusion. But mustard?

As it happens, Ruth’s mother, a devout nonelitist and an upstanding American, always kept a jar of Grey Poupon in her refrigerator, between the Velveeta and the Miracle Whip, one shelf above the Smucker’s.

We were gratified to see the Dijon “controversy” fall flat. It seems that whether they are on the right or the left, most Americans love the spicy mustard—with good reason. Delivering maximum flavor and zero fat, it adds piquancy to everything from salad dressings to sandwiches to marinades like this one, which has been adapted from James Beard. He used rabbit, but this is wonderful with poultry or pheasant.


Protein of your choice (Beard uses 1 rabbit, cut into serving pieces)
8-ounce jar creamy (not grainy) Dijon mustard 
1 large onion, quartered
red wine

4 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 t. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
salt, fresh-ground pepper to taste

Optional: 2 T. flour mixed with 1 T. butter

1. Smear your protein with mustard. Arrange the pieces in a glass bowl with the onion, then cover with red wine. Marinate for at least 24 hours.

2. Lift the protein pieces out of the marinade. Scrape off the mustard, letting it fall back into the marinade. (If you like things a little less mustardy, you should discard the scraped-off mustard.)

3. Heat butter with oil in large sauté pan. Brown the protein on all sides, then place in a casserole. 

4. Season protein with thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Pour the wine-mustard marinade mixture over the protein, cover, and bake in a 350-degree oven for about an hour.

5. When the protein is done, arrange it on a platter and keep it warm. 

6. Add a cup of red wine to the marinade and reduce the liquid by half. (If you like, you can thicken the sauce with butter and flour, mixed together and added gradually.)

Serve with boiled potatoes or wild rice, to either liberals or conservatives. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bargain Wine of the Week: Arbor Crest Sauvignon Blanc

Here's a brand new tip that we can't vouch for, but it comes from a very good source: Harvey Steiman, who covers the wines of Washington and Oregon for Wine Spectator magazine. When we lived in Wine Country, we listened to the famous restauranteur's cooking show for years on the radio. He knows what he's talking about when it comes to food and wine.
His pick of the week is a snappy white from Washington that meets our single-digit price hurdle.  
"Crisp in texture and spicy in flavor, with toasty caramel overtones to the tangerine and apple flavors, finishing with refreshing acidity," Steiman says. It's drinkable right now. 

Cheap Appetizer: Farinata

We really wrestled with the title for this one, because the English name—chickpea-flour pancake—is so unappetizing. Fortunately, it's called farinata in Italy, and that sounds much, much tastier.
The recipe came from Mark Bittman, who writes the Minimalist column in the New York Times' food section and is one of our kitchen gods. Maybe we're just getting older and crankier, but these days we have little patience for snooty, work-for-work's-sake recipes. (You know the type: "Although we suppose you could use store-bought cornmeal in a pinch, we strongly suggest that you grind your own . . .")
Using just a few ingredients and a few steps, Bittman invents dishes that are reliably good. We slightly adapted his recipe for this pancake, which can serve as either an appetizer on its own or, accompanied by red pepper sauce or ratatouille, as a first course.


1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup chickpea flour*
1 t. salt
1 t. fresh-ground pepper
2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion

1. Pour the water into a mixing bowl; sift in the flour.
2. Whisk in the salt, pepper, and oil; cover with a towel; and set aside. The batter should rest for at least 15 minutes but can sit as long as 12 hours.
3. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a baking pan with parchment paper.**
4. Stir the sliced onion into the batter and pour onto the baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the pancake is golden brown and the edges are set.
5. Cut into squares and serve warm. 

* You may be able to find chickpea flour (also known as garbanzo flour) in the baking section of your supermarket. It's also available at Indian markets, where it's called besan or gram flour. 
** Don't make the mistake we made and try pouring the batter onto a greased nonstick pan; it will stick, horribly. Parchment paper is essential, and we take the extra, possibly neurotic, step of spraying the paper with oil before pouring the batter onto it.  

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bargain Wine(s) of the Week: 28 Wines Rated 90+ for <$10

A month ago we let you in on a little secret for finding highly rated wines priced less than $10. We went to, did an advanced search for wines that had been "rated," then filtered by price and came up with a list of 11 wines that we could take to the local wine store or order from the site.
So, let's do it again at another site, This site gives us 27! wines, rated 90 or higher by experts but with a price tag under $10.
Your wine store is not going to have all of these wines — or even most of them. But they might have one or two. What if the store has none? There are two solutions: 1) filter for ratings between 85 and 90; or 2) splurge and go up to a maximum price of $15.
Here's the list that gave us for 90+ rating and <$10:
  • Bodegas Luzon "Black Label" Jumilla 2007 (Spanish red) $6.95
  • Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut (Spanish champagne) $7.45
  • Vega Sindoa Tempranillo/Merlot 2007 (Spanish red) $7.45
  • Cristalino Brut (Spanish champagne) $7.95
  • Wishing Tree Shiraz 2006 (Australian red) $7.95
  • Panarroz Jumilla 2006 (Spanish red, also on the 4/16 list) $7.95
  • Castano Yecla Monastrell 2007 (Spanish red) $7.95
  • Bonny Doon Framboise half-bottle (CA desert wine) $7.95
  • Trevor Jones "Jonesy" Old Tawny Port (Australian port) $8.95
  • Yalumba Y Series Sangiovese Rose 2007 (Australian rosé) $8.95
  • Domaine LaFage Catalanes Cote Est 2007 (French, Languedoc white) $8.95
  • Tormaresca Neprica 2007 (Italian red) $8.95
  • Bodega Rj Vinedos "Pasion4" Uco Valley Malbec 2007 (Argentine red) $8.95
  • Maipe Malbec 2008 (Argentine red) $8.95
  • Las Rocas de San Alejandro Rosado 2008 (Spanish rosé) $9.45
  • Milbrandt "Traditions" Riesling 2006 (WA white) $9.45
  • Terra Andina "reserve" Chardonnay 2007 (Chilean white) $9.95
  • Chateau St. Jean Fume Blanc 2007 (CA white) $9.95
  • Pillar Box Red 2007 (Australian red) $9.95
  • Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha 2006 (Spanish red) $9.95
  • Bodegas Olivares Monastrell Altos de la Hoya 2007 (Spanish red) $9.95
  • George Duboeuf "Flower Label" Morgon 2005 (French red) $9.95
  • George Duboeuf "Flower Label" Julienas 2005 (French red) $9.95
  • Torremoron Tinto 2006 (Spanish red) $9.95
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle "Mellies Garden" Dry Rosé 2007 (WA rosé) $9.95
  • Falset Marca Garnacha Rosé 2006 (Spanish rosé) $9.95
  • Jacobs Creek "Reserve" Riesling 2008 (Australian white) $9.95
  • Masserie Pisari Negromaro 2006 (Italian red) $9.99
A historical note: we served the Freixenet at our wedding years ago, and we're glad to see that it's even better now.
A geographical note: it's very difficult to find good French wine for less than $10. There are three on this list, including one from Languedoc in the South of France, where bargains are often found. 
Happy wine hunting. Let us know what you find and how you like them.