Sure, the economy may be turning around, but money remains tight for many families. If you’ve been trying to make your food budget last, take heart: Food writer Mark Bittman is sharing smart tricks for feeding a family of four on half a pound of ground meat. Here are his recipes for stir-fried vegetables with ground chicken, pasta with broccoli raab and sweet Italian sausage, and bulgur pilaf with vermicelli and ground beef.
- 2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup chopped scallion, plus more for garnish
- 1 pound Napa or other cabbage, cored and shredded
- 2 large carrots, julienned
- 1 cup shitake mushrooms, washed, stemmed and sliced
- 1/2 pound ground chicken
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock, white wine, or water
- 8 to 12 large lettuce leaves
1. Put a large, deep skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add half the oil, swirl it around, and immediately add half the garlic and ginger. Cook for 15 seconds, stirring, then add the scallion, cabbage, carrots and mushrooms. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften and the cabbage and carrots scorch a little in places and become soft, 5 to 8 minutes, then transfer everything to a plate.2. Turn the heat down to medium, add the remaining oil, let it get hot, and add the remaining garlic and ginger. Stir, then add the chicken. Raise the heat to high, stir the chicken once, then let it sit for 1 minute before stirring again. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken has lost its pink color, 3 to 5 minutes. Don't worry about the chicken cooking through; it will. And don't worry about the chicken bits that stick to the bottom; you'll get them later.3. Turn the heat down to medium, return the vegetables to the pan, and toss once or twice. Add the sugar if you're using it, along with the soy sauce, and toss again. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the liquid. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced and you've scraped up all the bits of chicken. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve with the lettuce leaves for wrapping.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 pound ground beef
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound of any fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 2 medium onions or 1 large onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup vermicelli, broken into 2-inch-long or shorter lengths, or other pasta
- 1 cup coarse-or medium-grind bulgur
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
- 2 1/4 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable stock or water, heated to the boiling point
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
1. Put the oil in a large skillet or saucepan that can later be covered and turn the heat to medium. Add the meat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally to break it up, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and spoon off all but a couple tablespoons of the fat.2. Put the pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and onions; cook, stirring, until everything is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the vermicelli and the bulgur and cook, stirring, until coated with butter or oil. Return the meat to the pan and add all the remaining ingredients. Turn the heat to low, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes.3. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 15 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasoning, fluff with a fork, and serve, garnished with a sprinkling of parsley.
Best-selling cookbook author Mark Bittman is the creator and author of the popular New York Times weekly column "The Minimalist," and one of the country's best-known and most widely admired food writers. His flagship book, "How to Cook Everything" (John Wiley and Sons, 1998), is currently in its 14th printing and has, in its various formats, sold more than a million copies.