My Ten Dollar Dinner Party

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Healthy, inexpensive, delicious: my recipe trifecta. It has been my quest over the years to find recipes that I can use for entertaining that fit these criteria. Most of what I’ve found capture two of the three, but all three have been outside of my grasp. I had heard about Melissa d’Arabian‘s Ten Dollar Dinners show on the Food Network, but it wasn’t until I found her cookbook by the same name that my interest was piqued.

I invited my four victims…ehem…guests: Alvin, Carlos, Vicki and Jamie. These are the friends that love me no matter what I do, but will also not be shy about giving their honest opinions. I chose a menu of White Bean Tapenade Crostini followed by the Parisian Cafe Salad with Classic Dijon Vinaigrette and the Sole Napoleon with Tomato-Caper Crudo as the main course.

How did it go? D’Arbian focuses on getting the best value on great quality food, and I felt I’d channeled her when I bought a bounty of local produce for half price at my Greenmarket as it was shutting down for the evening. All recipes were easy to follow and easier to prepare.

How was it received? Alvin and Vicki couldn’t stay away from the crostini, and I promised Alvin the recipe as the last bite disappeared. The sole was received with cries of, “It’s beautiful!” and “WOW! It’s plated!” (It sure is…thanks, Melissa!) As for taste, I got, “It tastes so fresh!” and all agreed it was delicious. Was it too healthy tasting? I got a unanimous mouthful of “NO!” It was fresh and delicious, and each clean plate was testament to d’Arabian’s simple, flavorful recipes.

And it was all under $10 per person!

Want to try the sole? Here’s the recipe:

Sole, Zucchini, and Tomato Napoleon with Tomato-Caper Crudo
Serves 4

Ingredients
for the Napoleon
1 large zucchini, trimmed and very thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 4- to 6-ounce sole fillets, halved crosswise (so you have four 2-inch-wide pieces)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
Good-quality olive oil

for the crudo
2 large ripe tomatoes, cored
1 small or 1/2 large shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Fish-buying tip: Unlike beef and chicken, where the best deals are usually prepackaged, the place to find the best deal on fish and seafood is at your supermarket’s fresh fish counter, where on any given day there will be a major deal. See what looks best and is marked down the most to help you decide what to make for dinner. Remember that the fish should be glistening and taut and smell like a fresh ocean, not fishy.

1. To make the napoleon: Place the thinly sliced zucchini rounds in a colander. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and toss to evenly coat, then place in the sink to drain while you prepare the crudo and broil the fish.

2. To make the crudo: Slice the cored tomatoes into 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Set the 4 nicest slices aside for the napoleon and chop the remaining slices into small cubes. Place the chopped tomatoes in a medium bowl and add the shallot, capers, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Stir and set aside.

3. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the broiler to high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the sole fillets on top. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper and broil until fillets spring back to light pressure, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

4. Place 1 tomato slice on each plate and sprinkle with a little of the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Arrange the zucchini slices in an overlapping circle on top of the tomatoes. Set a piece of sole on top of each tomato-zucchini stack. Use a slotted spoon to top each serving with the tomato-caper crudo. Sprinkle with basil, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Recipe reprinted from the book Ten Dollar Dinners by Melissa d’Arabian.
Copyright © 2012 Melissa d’Arabian.
Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.

For more recipes from Ten Dollar Dinners, visit The Recipe Club.


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Ten Dollar Dinners
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