Roasted-tomato topping for pasta, bread or polenta: 39 cents/serving

Apologies for the late post, but I have officially entered into the late stage of pregnancy where standing on my feet, at the counter, for long periods of time has gotten almost unbearably difficult. I’m still cooking, mind you, but it’s more in the vein of throwing things together based on the garden and pantry and hoping they cohere enough to be edible before I have to go sit down. The resulting “recipes,” if I remember them at all, are rarely innovative or tested enough to warrant inclusion on the blog. The last thing I made that would be worth your time and trouble to re-create was this roasted tomato dish, utilizing what appears to have been the last big tomato harvest of the summer. It’s nothing fancy, just a big ol’ pile of heirlooms and a few handfuls of sun golds (or whatever tomatoes you have on hand), roasted in olive oil to concentrate their sweetness and topped with basil-garlic bread crumbs. I served it over pasta, but it would also be great over polenta or on bread as a sort of bruschetta.

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How to make soup out of (just about) anything

Yes—it’s true! It probably took me a good six months into the $35 a Week project to realize this, but most soups don’t require a recipe. In fact, there exists an extremely simple formula that allows for a fabulous soup out of just about anything you’ve got left over in your crisper or pantry. Yes, I made the formula up, but I’ve probably tested it close to 50 times by now, and I can assure you it works. Consider it your ace in the hole for fall, on days where you think there’s nothing in the house to eat when there is, in all likelihood, an entire meal—with leftovers—just waiting to be called into action. All you need is an onion, a few cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of cooking oil, salt, and some broth. See below for the formula and some easy-to-make examples.

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Oat groats with roasted acorn squash, kale & Parmesan: $1.32/serving

Another acorn squash ripened last week, and though it was tempting to roast it and freeze it for baby food or another winter-squash soufflé, I knew I had enough on hand to turn it into a light meal on its own. Any whole grains would work here—barley, farro, rye berries, etc.—but you may need to add a little more liquid, as oat groats are on the quicker end of the whole-grain cooking scale. Likewise, other greens (chard, spinach, et al.) can be substituted for the kale. I’m not a huge fan of acorn squash (yes, yes, I know I’m growing it; it came out of a “harvest variety” packet of squash seeds, so I kind of got blindsided), but this dish really brings out its sweetness, and roasting really improves the texture. In fact, I fully anticipated to be either studiously avoiding or resignedly picking at the squash chunks in my bowl, but they ended up being my favorite part.

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Panzanella: 18 cents/serving

With compliments to the Italians, panzanella is the original budget meal. The O.G. Sui generis. Some stale bread, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and tomatoes and basil from the garden, and you’ve got yourself dinner. Provided you made your own bread or are using a loaf that otherwise would’ve been thrown out (and have tomatoes and basil in your garden), it shouldn’t cost more than 25 cents or so a serving. And it’s still tasty even after it’s sat for a while, making it an excellent side or potluck dish.

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Winter-squash soufflé: 73 cents/serving

Starting our winter squash in the greenhouse this year has paid off—a good bit of it is already ready to harvest. So far we’ve gotten a medium-sized green turk’s turban, a small acorn squash, an enormous hubbard squash, and a small white gourd of indeterminate origin. Given that more are on the way, I felt no compunction in roasting what we had, puréeing it, and freezing it to use as baby food*. I did, however, reserve about a cup’s worth to use in a soufflé, the flavors of which turned out to be a delicious fall preview. In fact, it’s a great catch-all recipe for any winter squash you may have and not know what to do with; no need to worry about texture or flavor, so long as it’s vaguely squashlike.

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Barley-lentil stew with prosciutto & dill: $1.83/serving

As mentioned in previous posts, we were gifted a family-sized CSA box a few weeks ago, and were able to make use of every single item in it…except for half a bunch of dill. (The other half went into two loaves of dill-olive bread.) Dill is pretty far down the list of my favorite herbs. In fact, it may well be at or near the bottom. It’s mostly known for going well with seafood, which I hate, and/or eggs cooked by themselves, which I also hate, leaving few options for use (other than pickles, of course). Luckily I was able to find one. Yes, it’s a stew, which isn’t exactly the most appealing meal in late August, but the yogurt and dill combine to give it a coolness that somehow seems perfectly appropriate.

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Summer-squash muffins: 12 cents each

Odds are, you or someone you know is suffering right now from an overabundance of summer squash. No need to avoid eye contact with neighbors or pretend you’re not home. In fact, I say get your hands on as much as you can—you can grate it, freeze it in 3-cup increments, and use it to make muffins, which can last you months if you let them cool, then individually wrap them and put them in the freezer. That way you can either grab one on the way to work—it will probably be thawed by the time you get there—or zap it in the microwave or toaster oven for a minute or so; it’ll be just like fresh-baked. This recipe works with any kind of thin-skinned summer squash; this time around I used crookneck, pattypan and two different kinds of zucchini. Don’t even bother peeling them; just cut off the stem ends and run them through the grating disc on a food processor (or grate them by hand). Just think—a little elbow grease now could keep you in free squash (and cheap breakfasts/snacks) all the way until spring.

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Mizuna pesto: $2.17/cup

Last week, we were gifted with a CSA (community-supported agriculture) box. One of B’s work colleagues runs the drop-off spot for this particular farm, and an unclaimed share was generously passed on to us under the (exceedingly correct) assumption it would be used and appreciated. As I’m sure comes as no surprise, I’ve never been part of a CSA before, but I can definitely see the appeal. The only downside with this box was that it was one of the “family” shares—intended for households with more than 2 people. Which meant we suddenly had a house full of summer squash, peaches, potatoes (on top of the ones we already have from our garden), dill, mizuna, green beans, wax beans (again, on top of the ones we’re already harvesting), carrots (again, more), and French crisp lettuce. The squash were no problem—immediately grated and frozen in bags for bread and muffins. A little bit of the mizuna went into BMTs—bacon-mizuna-tomato sandwiches, using heirloom tomatoes from our garden—but what do with the rest, other than insert it unceremoniously in a series of salads? Pesto, of course!

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Sweet potato, apple & spinach salad: $1.47/serving

I make a lot of salads. Most of them I don’t bother posting here, as they’re usually just a mishmash of ingredients I happened to have lying around, paired with produce from the garden and tossed with some vinegar and olive oil. Simple, often boring (by food-blog standards, anyway), and not always good enough to bother re-creating. This salad, however, was an exception. It was originally supposed to be black beans and rice with roasted sweet potato and lime, but, as I came to discover at the last minute, I was out of black beans. Time for Plan B. Thanks to some apples from our neighbor’s tree and some spinach in the crisper, I was able to transmute most of the original ingredients into a salad that’s actually worth revisiting.

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Tomato cobbler: 60 cents/serving

Regular readers of this site know I’m a big fan of savory baking. It’s efficient, it’s delicious, and if you happen eat it all, oh well—it’s dinner! I’ve been wanting to make this particular cobbler for a couple of years now, given that it calls for three pounds of cherry tomatoes. I certainly knew I wouldn’t be buying those tomatoes in the store, so I’d have to wait until a year I could grow them myself. As it so happens, this is the year. Our plants have been so fecund that harvesting three pounds of sun golds only took a couple of days. If you yourself have a surplus of cherry tomatoes, or don’t mind going out and buying them, this is perhaps one of the best places for them to end up. Oven roasting brings out a sweet tartness that contrasts with the topping of rich, creamy cheese biscuits, and, provided you grew your own tomatoes, the whole thing costs less than $4 to make.

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