From Chef Jose Andres, A Family Favorite For $10
For NPR's "How Low Can You Go" family supper challenge, some of the nation's best cooks have each agreed to come up with a budget-conscious, delicious meal for a family of four. The hitch? The meal must cost less than $10 — and the cheaper the better.
Celebrity chef Jose Andres presides over a culinary realm that includes a collection of acclaimed restaurants in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, the Made in Spain PBS cooking show and several popular cookbooks.
For his meal, Andres suggested that he cook at DC Central Kitchen instead of doing a show-and-tell at one of his posh restaurants. He's a frequent volunteer at the community kitchen, which feeds the hungry while providing job training in the food-service industry.
Andres decided to prepare a favorite family recipe — a dish that his wife, Patricia, made for him soon after they were married. It's a Moorish-style chickpea and spinach stew, or, in Spanish, garbanzos con espinacas.
"This is probably one of the most expensive dishes that she made for me ever, not because of the ingredients, but because I think she called her mother, and I think she was on the phone almost through the entire process of making these chickpeas with spinach," Andres tells NPR's Michele Norris. "I remember how good it was, how affordable it was. But the telephone bill is something I will remember forever."
The dish is the kind of simple one-pot meal that reminds Andres of his own childhood in Spain.
"I remember that at the beginning of the month, the kind of menus my mom and father would prepare for us would have fish, chicken. But at the end of the month — because my father would be waiting for paycheck — the refrigerator would get empty," he says. "I remember that without a lot of food left, some of the best meals happened right there."
An empty refrigerator led to an abundance of creativity.
The main ingredient of Andreas' meal, chickpeas, can be found in a can, but the chef suggests using dried chickpeas. They're less expensive, and they have less salt and none of that goopy liquid you find in the can. They take more work, though. They're like little pieces of gravel until you soak them overnight in water and a pinch of baking soda.
After that, rinse the softened chickpeas and boil them for about an hour in a heavy pot with just enough water to cover the ingredients.
How do you know when they're done? Andres says you just have to listen.
"You're going to look at them, talk to them," he says. "What if you're not fluent? I'm talking to them, touching them, and with a little pressure in your fingers, you see they are very soft thing. The chickpeas is telling me, 'I am ready.' I'm sorry you can't hear them yet, but by the end of the day, you will be fluent."
Talking to the food is just as important as tasting it — and the taste should be punctuated with a little kick, Andreas says.
As for the bill, how low did he really go? By his calculation, Andres says he spent a total of $9.71 on all the ingredients.
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