Service is terrible at the Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks “Family Bistro—” and there’s this free-range cat, tearing up and down the stairs, smacking into walls—but the whole experience is, indeed, cheap—in a good way. The last time we all went out to eat, we ordered one appetizer, two glasses of house wine, a couple of sodas, and one entrée each (three entrées total). The entire bill came to about $186, and we didn’t even order anything fancy like steaks, lobster, or truffles grown in a magical field sprinkled with the dust of unicorn horns.
Oh, the food we ate in the restaurant was good, but it wasn’t good enough for me to shout, “Squatters’ rights!” and threaten to live permanently under the table. So even though prices for food are still pretty high at the grocery store, we can still cook a decent meal at home for sometimes about half the price of a restaurant meal–every once in a while, when we might want to splurge.
One of our favorite kinds of restaurants is the “tapas” style restaurant, but each tapa these days is about $14-$15, so by the time you order a bunch of stuff, you’re looking at a bill that roughly resembles the price of a small Mercedes. Making tapas at home, and spreading the experience out over several hours because you’ve been drinking wine and can’t remember which course you’re supposed to make next, is much more rewarding. Here’s the menu:
–Manchego cheese, good quality green olives, chorizo, and almonds (appetizer)
–Gazpacho soup and crusty French bread. (If you start early enough, you can whip up a batch of homemade bread with a packet of yeast, 1 ½ cups of warm water, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 tsp salt, and 3 cups of flour. Let the water and yeast mixture sit for about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and salt. Add the flour a cup at a time. Knead for about 10 minutes. Let rise for about 10 minutes while the oven heats to 450. Shape into 2 loaves or several rolls and bake—about 15 minutes).
–Gambas al ajillo (Garlic shrimp)
–Oranges and good quality chocolate bars to share for dessert
For the Gazpacho soup, I followed this procedure:
–8-10 medium tomatoes
–1 slice of bread, soaked in milk, and squeezed
–1/4 cup of olive oil
–2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
–salt to taste
–1 tablespoon of tomato juice
–chopped cucumbers (1/4 cup)
–chopped red onion (1/4)
–croutons (1/4 cup) (Toast up some bread with olive oil/garlic and cut it into tiny squares to make croutons.)
–Boil the tomatoes in water, just until the skins split. Rinse them under cold water and Peel them.
–Core the tomatoes and chop them. Pour all of the flesh, seeds, and juice into a blender/food processor.
–Add the soaked bread slice, olive oil, and vinegar.
–Blend until smooth.
–Add salt to taste and the tablespoon of tomato juice. Add more tomato juice if you want.
–Chill for about 2-3 hours. Serve the soup with the chopped cucumbers, onion, and croutons. (Individuals can choose what they want and top their soup with it.) Serve the extra French bread for dipping.
Gambas al Ajillo:
–About 10 uncooked large shrimp, peeled. (Devein if you wish.)
–1/4 cup of olive oil
–3-5 cloves of garlic sliced/crushed—not finely chopped.
–1 Fresno chili pepper, sliced
–Heat the oil, peppers, and garlic in a large saucepan—just until the oil starts to shimmer.
–Add the shrimp and cook just until they turn pink.
–Serve the shrimp with some of the olive oil, peppers, and garlic. Be sure to save some of the French bread for dipping in the extra oil!
–Select slices of boneless pork chops—we did one per family member—three small chops.
–Slice them into 1-inch chunks
–Place them in a baggie with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons of sea salt, and about a tablespoon of cumin. Massage the meat and the spices/oil together in the bag. Let sit in the refrigerator for a few hours, to marinate.
–Nate cooked these on a mesquite grill, until the juices ran clear. They were amazing! You can also cook these up on a grill pan over the stove or inside the oven.
Everything was delicious, but it did take us around 3 hours to prepare and clean up, so dinner was served at a leisurely pace, with plenty of shenanigans between courses. The whole meal was definitely restaurant quality but at the price point of a budget-friendly cruise around the block, with a steak-scented air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror.
Your Turn: What’s your favorite meal to make at home?