Last week, Recession-Proof Recipes discussed the satisfying (but cheap) crépe complete. This week, let's consider the lowly extender.
When I say "extender," I mean: an inexpensive ingredient that stretches out the use of other, more expensive ingredients.
Potatoes, pastas, rice, cassava and cabbage are some of the world's most popular extenders.
With a good amount of filler on hand, a meal can be made with very little meat (or none at all). Spanish paella. French gratin. Cuban black beans and rice. Indian curries. Irish cabbage and potatoes. Ukrainian cabbage soup. Have a glance at any of the world's poverty cuisines, and you'll quickly find extensive, creative uses of the locally available extenders.
Sometimes the use of extenders results in unique and beloved foods that are consumed even after the economic situation improves. Ground chickory root, for example, was once added to coffee as a filler ingredient, but chickory coffee later became a classic Louisiana beverage in its own right. Mmm... beignets and chickory coffee...
Likewise, thrifty Japanese long ago used toasted rice to extend their green tea supply. Genmaicha was the roasty-flavored result. It's actually one of my favorite teas.
As it's composed almost entirely of an inexpensive extender, the classic vegetable fried rice is dead cheap... not to mention extremely simple to pull off. And it's a great use of leftovers.
If you really can't stand the thought of a meal without meat, add some cubed ham. If you want to get all fancy, toss in some sliced mushrooms or bean sprouts or minced ginger or diced tofu.
Veggie Fried Rice (Serves 2)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided in two portions
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups leftover rice
1 clove garlic, minced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen peas (or peas & carrots)
1/2 tsp soy sauce, tamari or shoyu
freshly ground black or white pepper, to taste
1. Heat half the oil over moderately high heat in a wok or a large skillet. Before the oil starts smoking, add the eggs and cook briefly, until soft but beginning to set up. Transfer to a plate.
2. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in wok, then add garlic. Cook for one minute before adding the rice, soy sauce and pepper. Stir-fry until hot and beginning to crisp, about 3-5 minutes.
3. Add scallions and peas and stir-fry briefly.
4. Stir in the egg and warm through.
5. Serve immediately.