Unleashing Your Inner (and Thrifty) Gourmet

dinner-assortmentWhy taste one thing when you can taste three?  Or four or five?  Not only are nibbles – or “small plates,” if you want to get fancy about it – usually something quick and simple, if you have enough nibbles on a plate, you have a meal!  So the next time you’re in the mood for a speedy dinner, spend a few minutes rummaging around in your refrigerator and your pantry to see which nibbles might work together.  Don’t forget about the fruit basket, either, since mixing savory and sweet is always a culinary delight.

Most cultures have a well-established tradition of small-plate dining – tapas in Spain, mezze in the Middle East – and you’ll doubtless enjoy keeping that tradition going.  Plus, the bonus side to making meals out of nibbles: you’ll eat what’s on hand rather than letting it sit too long and having to throw it out later.  The average American household throws away $2,000 of food every year.  So if you want to save $$ AND enjoy a great meal, nibble!

For this dinner of nibbles, I included olives, a chilled beet salad, simple greens from my garden tossed with walnut oil,  baba gahanouj (Mediterranean roasted eggplant dip) dusted with sweet paprika, the last of my leftover mushroom-and-leek sautée I had made two nights ago, and Ossau Iraty sheep’s-milk cheese, one of my favorite cheeses in the entire world.  Prep time was about 2 minutes.  (Hot tip for cheese lovers in Detroit: check out R Hirt Jr. Company – on Market Street right by Eastern Market in Detroit – for great prices on a great selection of cheeses.  The list of cheeses they handed me to browse through was probably four pages long.  Single-spaced, small font four pages long.  Organized by country and then alphabetically by cheesemaker.  Highly affordable cheese heaven!)

Bet you have a delightful dinner of nibbles waiting for you in your fridge/pantry/fruit basket, too!

Portabella Mushroom & Leek Sautée

Portabella mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp paper towel and then cut into 1/2″-thick strips
Leeks, cleaned and chopped*
Butter OR ghee (extra-virgin olive oil works, too, but it won’t provide as rich of a flavor as butter/ghee will; ghee is clarified butter)
Balsamic vinegar OR pomegranate molasses OR red wine (you’re going for something tart, fruity, and richly flavored here)
Sea salt to taste

In a large pan over medium heat, sautée mushrooms and leeks with the butter for a good 20 minutes or until leeks are very soft. Reduce heat to medium-low if the sizzling seems a bit too aggressive – you don’t want to burn the leeks, but rather caramelize them a bit with long, slow heat. Stir in a dash of balsamic and cook for another 5 minutes. Salt to taste and serve immediately.

Tip: if you have something else to sautée – a vegetable, maybe a chicken breast or some pork medallions – by all means cook your next dish in the same pan so that you’ll soak up all those wonderful mushroomy/leeky flavors. If you don’t have anything else to sautée, you can add a splash of broth or wine or even water to the pan, scrape the bottom to deglaze it and bring up the cooked-on juices, simmer it on low for a minute or two to thicken your sauce, and then pour it on your Mushroom & Leek Sautée (or anything else you’d like to pour it on).


* To clean a leek, first remove the outermost layer if it looks wilted or torn.  Cut off the bottom few inches from the multiple layers, starting with the exterior layer and trimming the ones underneath, revealing more and trimming more as you go.  (You’ll get jagged ends since the innermost layers are typically more tender and require less trimming than the exterior layers.)  Hold the trimmed leek up, fingers gripping the white head, and carefully poke the tip of a knife through the head an inch or two below your fingers. Pull the knife down through the leek, cutting it in half. Give the leek a quarter-turn and cut it again so that it’s in quarters but is still connected at the very top. Fan out the layers and rinse them well under cold running water, rubbing them with your fingers to get out any remaining grit. (The grit has a sneaky tendency to hide amidst the many layers.) Pat dry with a towel, then remove the still-whole very top of the leek and discard.

Courtesy of Cultured Cook.

You may also like:

More Mushroom Recipes

From Mushrooms to Lobsters and Back Again

Five Ways to Sneak More Vegetables in your Diet

Depression: What’s Eating you?

© Copyright 2011  Allison Stuart Kaplan  www.Askinyourface.com LLC

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  1. What’s up, I check your blogs like every week. Your humoristic style is witty, keep it up!

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