The $50-and-under dinner for six
Provide friends or family with a delicious feast that only tastes like you spent a fortune on it.
Wed Jun 4 2008
Photograph: Dan Eckstein
Red and white wines
Okay, so the label ain’t gorgeous. But the smooth Charles Shaw cabernet sauvignon and the superfruity sauvignon blanc from Trader Joe’s Wine Shop (138 E 14th St between Third Ave and Irving Pl, 212-529-6326) are as wallet-friendly as it gets ($2.99 each). Put them in decanters and no one will be the wiser.
Soup and dumplings
A bag of 50 frozen pelmeni (Ukrainian dumplings) is $5 at Café Glechik (3159 Coney Island Ave at Brighton Beach Ave, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn; 718- 616-0766). Choose chicken, veal, cheese, potato or sour-cherry fillings, and serve them with cups of borscht from M&I International (249 Brighton Beach Ave between Brighton 2nd St and Brighton 1st Pl, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn; 718-615-1011), where two 32-ounce containers cost $8.
Spirali with sausage, broccoli rabe, spring garlic and olive oil; salad
Cheap doesn’t have to mean “mass-produced”: The 103-year-old artisan-pasta shop Raffetto’s (144 W Houston St at MacDougal St, 212-777-1261) sells homemade spirali for $1.50 per pound—cheaper than Gristedes. While you’re there, pick up a pound of thick sweet sausage ($3.25) and a bottle of imported olive oil ($10-$12).
Hit the Union Square Greenmarket (Union Sq West between 14th and 17th Sts; Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat 8am–6pm) for S&SO Produce Farms’ arugula ($1.75), mesclun greens ($2 for a quarter pound is the best deal you’ll get—other stands charge $6 for the same) and three-foot-long spring garlic ($2). Then find the Migliorelli Farm stand and fork over $3 for a bunch of succulent, spicy broccoli rabe of the legendary strain that Ken Migliorelli’s grandfather brought with him from Italy in 1933.
News Bar (107 University Pl between 12th and 13th Sts, 212-353-1246) halves prices on desserts (and sandwiches) after 7pm. Get there at 6:45pm—customers in the know start lining up—for pastries priced between $1.25 and $4.50 each. On weekdays, Au Bon Pain holds 50-percent-off bake sales one hour before shuttering (closing times vary, visit aubonpain.com). Don’t tell them we told you, but Rheon Café (210 Spring St between Sullivan and Thompson Sts, 212-966-7040) has a habit of giving away its chocolate croissants and cinnamon buns (which are made by special Japanese pastry robots—no joke) at closing time (Mon–Fri 8pm, Sat 9pm, Sun 6pm). Go in “for a sandwich” at 7:58, and you’ll leave with an armful of sweets. (Until they read this and start donating to City Harvest instead.) Even if they're not feeling generous, baked goods are 25% off after 5pm.
COOKING TIPS FOR THRIFTY CHEFS
• After browning the sausage, leave a tablespoon of grease in the pan for cooking the garlic and greens. Sauté the spring-garlic bulbs for the pasta and save the green tops for the salad.
• Simmer the garlic, rabe and sausage in one cup of the pasta water (after boiling the spirali). The starchy liquid adds a flavorful glaze once you mix it all together.
• Slice the green tops off the spring garlic (they’re tender until early summer) and add them to a salad of lettuce and arugula for a pungent kick. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper.