No time for the Park Slope Co-op and too broke for the Grand Army farmer’s market? For my (rather limited) money, the best trick for defeating the rising cost of groceries is maxing out on curiously affordable, endlessly versatile beans and grains from Goya.
Keeping them on hand can make a huge difference in the decision to throw together something for dinner instead of ordering in Thai for the third time this week. With some onions and garlic, a can of beans can become a nutritious and filling meal that pairs easily with rice, salad or any vegetable you find in your fridge.
My favorite Goya cooking staples (all from the 9th Street Steve’s C-Town) include barley ($1.19), cornmeal ($1.49), dried cannellini beans ($1.59), red lentils ($1.79), green split peas ($.99), yellow split peas ($.99), bulgur ($2.09), 16-bean soup mix ($1.99), quinoa ($2.99), canned chickpeas ($1.69), and canned cannellini beans ($1.69). At my last trip to C-Town, great deals include a 20-lb bag of medium grain white rice for only $16.99, or $.85 a pound. Add that to several dozen cans of black beans, pinto beans (both $1.69) or even refried beans ($1.19) and you have lunch for months.
The cornmeal, for instance, can make enough polenta to last a week. Each night you can dress it up differently — with tomato sauce, diced meat, melted cheese or hot sauce. You can also fry some up with a little olive oil for breakfast. Barley is also an amazingly versatile grain and if you keep some cooked in your fridge, you can mix it with pretty much any vegetable or meat for a quick protein-filled meal. Try cooking it up on a Sunday evening and it will last about a week. Put it in a covered baking dish in the oven with chicken or beef broth, a little salt and pepper, diced mushrooms and onions and you’ll have a delicious casserole that makes a great side dish. Another cheap trick: eggs. Fried or poached eggs make any soup or rice dish a complete meal by adding some additional protein.
While the canned goods are quick starters, the dried legumes are where you’ll save the most money if you have the time and forethought to soak the beans overnight. For example, this below recipe for curried yellow split pea soup costs about $5 or less to make (assuming you have the spices) and serves at least six people. Give it a try along with the following recipe for hominy, an oft-overlooked ingredient that imparts a rich corn flavor to stews and soups. Do you have any Goya recipe favorites?
Curried Split Pea Soup (adapted from Robin Bellinger and Alton Brown)
1 lb yellow split peas (rinsed)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric
Approx 2 tsp total of the following spices, using more or less of whichever you favor: cumin, ginger, garam masala, red pepper flakes or cayenne (depending on how hot you want it)
7-8 cups of water
Put the rinsed split peas into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave the peas to soak for about an hour, until they are softened. Drain water.
Add the olive oil to a large pot and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the chopped onion and carrots and cook for about five minutes, until the onion begins to soften and turn translucent. Add the minced garlic, salt, turmeric and spices, cook on high heat for about 30 seconds. Stir in the yellow split peas and add the water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 40 minutes, until the lentils are soft. Puree with a food processor or immersion blender for a smoother soup.
Another more off-the-beaten path and underrated staple is hominy: canned white hominy is made of dried white corn kernels that have been treated with an alkali solution and simmered until the kernels are soft. Dried hominy is ground and can be used in grits and either are suitable for making an excellent posole, a corn-based stew. Great for leftovers and as a hearty meal, this chicken posole recipe can be adapted to suit your tastes. Experiment as you like by substituting spices, making it vegetarian or even meatier, depending on what you have on hand.
Chicken Posole (adapted from the Kitchn blog weeknight recipes)
makes 6-8 servings
8 cups chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 – 1.5 pounds chicken breast
2 cans hominy
Any (or all!) of the following garnishes:
red or yellow onion, diced
radish, sliced thin
cabbage or lettuce, julienned
In a large pot or dutch oven, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the minced garlic. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the salt, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, and chili powder.
Continue to simmer on the stove top until all the other ingredients are ready. Taste for seasoning. If bitter, add another teaspoon of salt. If too concentrated, add a cup of water to dilute.
To prepare the chicken, pat dry and season both sides generously with salt and pepper. In a frying pan or stove-top grill pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 4 minutes until underside is crispy and golden brown. Flip the chicken and continue cooking until cooked through–another 4-5 minutes. Remove to a cutting board and rest until cool enough to handle. While the chicken is cooking and cooling, prepare the garnishes and put in individual bowls.
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, dice it into bite-sized cubes and add to the broth. Drain the hominy into a strainer and rinse under cold water. Add to the broth. Bring the soup to a boil to bring everything to the same temperature. Serve in soup bowls and allow guests to garnish their soups individually.