Saturday, June 28, 2008

LOK/CWA Challenge

This isn't due until Monday, June 30th, and I am not allowed to submit anything, but I did take up this challenge on myself and wanted to share what I did for inspiration in case anyone needs it.

This month's challenge was based on one that Chef Eric Ripert also faced. You can read about his challenge HERE, but I'll sum it up for you. Unlike the challenge that we've put up, his challenge was to make meals using food from a 99 cent store that sold more than dry goods. The store happened to be Jack's 99-Cent Store where one can evidently purchase things like cheese tortelloni, gumball-size mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, frozen crab cakes, canned coconut milk, jasmine rice and salmon filets.

My local Dollar Tree doesn't have a refrigerated or frozen section, so my choices were severely limited. Meat, for instance, was a toss up of potted meat, Vienna sausages, chicken salad or Treet, Armour's version of Spam.

There was quite a bit of pasta to choose from, but I swore that I wouldn't take the "easy way out" with this and cook up spaghetti. Although the challenge doesn't state this, I was determined not to use any pantry items. I always have Balsamic vinegar on hand, but I wanted it for this challenge, so I bought it instead of using my own. I also really wanted Parmesan cheese for the entree, but because it wasn't sold at my particular store, I went without.

Here are the 15 ingredients I did purchase:

Left to right:

Roasted red peppers, California ripe olives, green olives stuffed with pimiento, marinated mushrooms, chicken bouillon, white rice, Balsamic vinegar, Mandarin oranges, Treet (2 cans), collard greens (2 cans), chocolate stars, raspberry preserves and pear halves.

Not a lot to work with, but I figured it out as I went and hoped for the best.

Here's what I made:

My appetizer was Roasted Red Peppers with Marinated Mushrooms and Olives. I drained the liquid from the olives and peppers and tossed everything with the mushrooms and their liquid (which had some nice chunks of garlic in it) and baked it for half an hour. This is a spin-off of an appetizer I make often where I toss several types of olives together with olive oil, garlic and herbs and then wrap in foil and bake. This was close, but not nearly as good. It was OK, but I won't be making it again.

My entree was Treet canned "ham" marinated in mandarin oranges and balsamic vinegar and then baked. I made a "risotto" from the chicken bouillon and rice. Keep in mind, this is risotto in method only; the ingredients are nothing like what is necessary for really good risotto. I also served collard greens. I was so intrigued by the fact that these were there in a can that I couldn't let it go and gave in and bought them. Collards and ham or bacon go very well together, so I figured with the "ham" they wouldn't be too bad. This whole plate was rather yucky. The rice took on the traditional creaminess of risotto, but powdered bouillon made it so salty that it was hard to eat. The "ham" was mushy so I sliced it and then pan fried it to add a bit of a crust to it and that helped a little. The collard greens? Well, they're canned and I like my collard with a little crunch left, so these weren't good to me at all. The flavor was a bit bland as well.

Dessert! Well, this may be my one redeeming dish. I baked the pears in their liquid and then melted the chocolate stars, warmed the raspberry preserves and topped off the pears. Not only was it pretty, it wasn't half bad tasting!

So, this was my foray into a completely non-fresh meal and I'm thankful it's over! The total for 4 meals was $15. The june CWA/LOK Cooking Challenge can be found HERE.


Anonymous said...

That's some challenge. Now I have to go by our local dollar store and see what I can do.


Anonymous said...

What fun! I bought the 99cent store cookbook and I love it, but like you, my dollar store doesn't have produce or meats except for the canned stuff. Great job!

Anonymous said...

really cool challenge . I love this blog.

Anonymous said...

Nice job! Looks like a tough challenge.

Anonymous said...

seriously this is some great challenge . Keep it up .