In keeping with my theme of branching out, I’ve decided to start actively participating in this World Wide Web thing. I mean, the interwebs and I go way back, but until now it’s been a one-sided relationship; it gives and gives and gives, and I am content to take, but never return the favor. What’s the weather going to be like today? Have any celebrities died recently (too soon for that one?)? What is the airspeed velocity of a coconut-laden swallow?
Well, Internet, in the interests of preserving our relationship, I’m going to start giving back. And what better way to start, than by posting about making cheap food? Michelle over at Thursday Night Smackdown has a genius monthly contest called Hobo Tuesdays, whereby participants try to cook a meal as cheaply as possible (under $5 for 2 people, or under $10 for 4) according to that month’s specified theme. Official rules can be found here. This month’s theme was picnic fare.
As a graduate student on a (very) modest budget, I am all about the cheap food. And with a lot of hungry friends, it pays to be able to find cheap recipes with a few clicks of the mouse. I thought I’d do my part to improve the odds of finding said recipe and submit a cheap-ass recipe to the blogosphere. So for all you grad students out there, this one’s for you:
This is a great summer picnic meal—it’s easy, fast, super cheap, and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. It also makes a metric shit-ton of food—we fed 8 hungry students on this batch, but it could have easily fed several more if they weren’t the kind who stuffed themselves on free food in the hopes of being able to skip the next meal and save some money.
I didn’t really follow a recipe with this one, I just tried to replicate the flavors of tabbouleh salads that I’ve had before. One thing that always really bugs me about using grains, though, is that they are often not seasoned properly. I find that if you cook pasta, couscous, or bulghar with seasoning in the water, it really makes a difference, so I tried it here and it definitely beats your average tabbouleh blandness.
12oz Bulghar Wheat ($3.59 for 18oz = $2.39)
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 Lemon, zest and juice ($0.50)
2 cloves of garlic (pantry staple)
2 large-ish tomatoes ($1.50 at farmer’s market)
2 cucumbers (2/$1 at farmer’s market)
4 Green Onions ($0.75/bunch at farmer’s market)
6-8 Mint leaves (from herb garden = free!)
3-4 sprigs Parsley (from herb garden = free!)
Salt/pepper to taste
Place Bulghar, lemon zest/juice, and chopped garlic into a large bowl (you may also want to sprinkle in a little salt). Add boiling water and stir. Cover and let sit while you chop the rest of the vegetables. Cut the tomatoes and cucumbers into bite-sized cubes, chop the green onions (white and green parts), mint leaves, and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. By now the bulghar should be done—all the water absorbed—and reasonably cool (doesn’t have to be cold, just not boiling hot). Add in the veggies and stir it all up. Adjust the seasoning to taste, and pack it in your picnic basket.
This most certainly benefits from some fridge time, and gets tastier the longer it sits. However, since there’s nothing in it that will spoil, you don’t need to worry about keeping it cold if you actually do take it on a picnic.
Total Cost: $6.14
Cost/person (8 people): $0.76 = WIN
Thanks for playing. Internet, you’re welcome.