Here's another lesson for eating locally on a budget: Zing up a humble, inexpensive dish with a dab of pow.
The *pow* we are talking about in this case was a hunk of Point Reyes Farmstead blue cheese worth $1.50. A mere one and five-eighths ounce (an odd measure, yes, because I cook by feel, and then had to weigh the chunk in order to know how much it cost).
And what did it *pow* up? A humble potato soup.
I can't even remember how I came up with the idea for this meal; maybe Cranky thought it up. What I do remember is that a week or two earlier I had been having dinner with friends at a restaurant when the server described that evening's soup. She said it had cream added to it. "Not a cream soup," she clarified, "but as a liaison."
How elegant. Not a cream soup! A cream soup is too rich (and too expensive), but a frugal binder of cream? I could do that. One-quarter cup cost only 50 cents. And that's when the idea of some blue cheese materialized.
You may recall that the chicken stock was practically free, but I charged myself 17 cents for 2 cups of it. The Kennebec (russet-style) potatoes, which made up the bulk of the soup, were only $1.30 (for a wacko 10-3/8 oz., but really, I couldn't coax those cute little taters to come in at a rounder number... I used three small-to-medium ones and that's just what they happened to weigh). There was also a little salt.
This meal for two, which in my daily notes I called "ethereal" and "restaurant quality," cost a total of $3.47.
Other ideas for letting more-expensive, more-flavorful items do the zing work, while letting cheap starches bulk out the meal, include using tiny dabs of bacon (in a chicken hash; that story is still to come) or moderate amounts of some awesome braised beef in an otherwise vegetabley, potatoey cottage pie. I topped a salad of baby romaine with some toasted walnuts; yummy, nutritious, and maybe just a teensy bit well-priced. And the homemade mayonnaise for our lunch of artichokes was so intensely flavored that even though the oil and eggs were spendy, we didn't eat much of the mayo.
Cranky said it's like eating from the food pyramid. Good for your health. And when the tiny bits of expensive protein and oils are so flavorful, they really do a lot of the work for next to nothing.
Technique: Cook peeled, cut-up potatoes in boiling, salted water until just tender. Drain and allow to cool a bit. Place in blender with stock. Blend until smooth. Return mixture to pot and stir in cheese, over medium heat, until cheese is melted. Stir in cream and heat to desired temperature. Taste, and add salt if needed.