Anyone Can Cook

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

NYC food writers Kate McDonough, editor of, and Zora O'Neill, the Roving Gastronome share ideas for New Yorkers getting reacquainted with their kitchens. "Cooking on a Budget" at

Do you have a recipe to share for an economical meal at home? Post it below:


Kate McDonough and Zora O’Neill

Comments [25]

Kate McDonough from The City Cook

What's great about home cooking is all the options we have. Using my suggestion for home made pizza (a great way to use up leftovers-as-toppings), I can make my own dough, or get it frozen at the grocers, or buy it ready-to-use on my way home from work -- $2 gets me enough raw dough at my neighborhood shop for 2 big pizzas. Same thing for roasting your own chicken or buying one already cooked: we have choices.

I love both Peter from Flatbush's chicken cutlet dish and Tanya's brown rice recipe because both are value-priced, big-flavored, nutritious and do-able in a small kitchen without a lot of fancy tools.

To Peter again -- two excellent NYC sources for cookware are The Broadway Panhandler on East 8th Street in Manhattan and A Cook's Companion on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights. There are also several restaurant supply stores on The Bowery that can be very good values. Our merchant database on has a whole section on cookware merchants that may be helpful.

Finally, I think it is worthwhile to remember that especially for people who every day work a long day and maybe need to feed a family, but who have been using take-out and restaurant food for its convenience, there's no one route to making easy, affordable, tasty and appealing meals at home. With a few strategies, the basic tools, a stocked pantry and some planning, even a novice can have happy success in the kitchen.

Dec. 18 2008 02:07 PM
Zora O'Neill from Astoria, Queens

grossedouton73rdstreet: I can't vouch for your local halal folks, but Tamara and buy our halal meat from the live-kill place in Astoria. You go in, you pick your chicken (or your lamb), and it's taken care of. That's service. And the animals are in good shape, and come from an organic farm in Pennsylvania.

I think if more people knew what meat looked like to start with (er, actual whole animals), they wouldn't be so disturbed when they see carcasses being unloaded from a truck. Meat isn't meant to be in little shrink-wrapped packages.

Dec. 17 2008 01:15 PM
tanya from washington heights

In the morning on Mondays I start a pot of water, salt, a little oil and a little butter, set it up to boil, then add a cup of brown rice, cover and reduce to simmer. I set a timer for 45 minutes, meanwhile, I chop some red onion, add hot water to puff up dried cranberries, and chop some tomatoes and parsley. When the rice is done, I mix it together, and add some red wine vinegar and tasty olive oil. This is enough for me as a side or main dish during the week.
Other options I've used: prunes, raisins, sauteed zucchini or yellow squash... the possibilities are endless...

Dec. 17 2008 01:11 PM
Emily Farris from Brooklyn (soon to be Kansas City)

I called in to, I admit, shamelessly promote my contemporary casserole cookbook: "Casserole Crazy: Hot Stuff for Your Oven." It's full of cheap and simple recipes, that are made with fresh, whole ingredients. Check it out at

Dec. 17 2008 12:30 PM
grossedouton 73rdstreet from jackson heights


if you'd ever seen halal meat being delivered, you would never buy it again.

Dec. 17 2008 12:12 PM
Zora ONeill from Astoria, Queens

Quick answer to Peter (comment #1), and to the cast-iron doubters: I recommend cast iron because it's cheap (a pre-seasoned skillet from Lodge costs only $20), sturdy and essentially non-stick. I have a few skillets, and I do notice that they heat differently--but not so they ever cause serious damage to whatever I'm cooking.

I actually used to use a big, deep nonstick skillet for everything, and heartily advised this to my students (didn't mention on the show, but I used to teach a day-long class--and might revive it). But then I got a little creeped out by the chemicals. So--really, your call.

Oh, and it helps immensely if you can find a lid to fit whatever skillet you buy--then you can do little stovetop braises and things like that.

After that, like I said, you need a good knife, a cutting board and a big pot for boiling water. The most expensive thing would be the knife, but even that you can start out cheap, and upgrade when you get more confident.

This story in the NY Times last year, by Mark Bittman, was a pretty good run-down on cheap kitchen gear:

Dec. 17 2008 12:09 PM
grnpt from Brooklyn

I think its great if you have the skills to prepare a rotisserie chicken in 7 minutes, but it would definitely take me longer, maybe not too much longer, but longer nonetheless.(I'm not the most confident cook) I've bought a $5 rotisserie chicken, eaten some for dinner and then made chicken fried rice or chicken salad with the rest. I don't think it's a bad idea when you're flat out exhausted and starving after work.

Dec. 17 2008 11:41 AM
Tamara from Mighty Astoria

I disagree with Kate on the Rotisserie Chicken tip. I know, a cooked chicken can be obtained for 5 or 6 bucks in your local store. But a raw one can be bought for as little as $3. If you want organic but cannot afford the higher price tag, split the difference and buy kosher or (if you are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood that stocks it) halal. Take it home, give it a rinse, pat it dry, salt and pepper it inside and out, stuff a cut up lemon and or herbs inside if you have them, if not-- fine! Give it a rub with some olive oil if you have it, and pop it in the oven on 375 for 45 min to an hour, depending on size. Sit down! Read a book! Take a shower! Go for a run! Pick up your laundry!!!! This will take all of 7 minutes of active time, you will know where your chicken came from and what went into it, and you will have made it yourself. I promise you, the pride will overwhelm you. And the taste is soooo much better..... try it.

Dec. 17 2008 11:29 AM
Mina from Manhattan

I've been a fan of The City Cook for a while. She gives great advice on cooking techniques, what is in season, and where to buy ingredients. Quite honestly I haven't tried out too many of her recipes because I am lazy, but I've got my eye on many of them. Oh, actually I made a couple of her Thanksgiving side dishes and they turned out wonderfully.

Anyway, I was glad to hear her on WNYC.

Dec. 17 2008 11:29 AM
hjs from 11211

i love my cast iron skillet, it's chemical free cooking (no teflon poison) and i never had "uneven heat distribution"problems

Dec. 17 2008 11:24 AM
Tom from Toronto

I made Hamburger Helper last night, with some good extra lean beef, but it turned out horrible. The noodles were mushy, and the powder ended up congealing into dozens of little clumps.


I vowed, never again. Seriously.

Dec. 17 2008 11:05 AM
Daniel from NYC

As a young person, I'm blogging my way into cooking for myself at

My favorite recipe, so far, is a chicken dish

Thank you!

Dec. 17 2008 10:58 AM
downtown from downtown

I shop at the dollar store, scored some "fresh" tortellini and ravioli...made batches of pesto tortellini with pesto sauce from TJs, fresh mushrooms and frozen spinach (layered into plastic containers and froze). Popped those out two days later and sealed them in double ziplock bags and then I made some mushroom ravioli with frozen spinach and fresh mushrooms...packed in containers, into the freezer...Presto, many many homemade meals in my freezer ready to microwave (slowly on low power) and they are delicious.

Dec. 17 2008 10:57 AM
Joyce from Brooklyn, NY

We have use a pizza stone, and my boyfriend's regular oven works just fine.

Dec. 17 2008 10:56 AM
Kelly from Manhattan

I'm a little concerned that you are encouraging people to buy a cast iron skillet as their one skillet in the kitchen. Cast iron is heavy, gets very hot, and has notoriously uneven heat distribution. For a beginning cook or someone who wants to have a simple set of cookware, I would definitely not suggest cast iron.

Dec. 17 2008 10:55 AM
Sarah Van Driesche from Rockefeller University

my wife and i are both students and are out of the house 13 hours a day. we want to cook fresh vegetables in the evening but are too tired at the end of the day. i found that i can clean and wash vegetables like spinach or green beans on the weekend, put them in ziplock bags and they are very fresh and ready to go all through the week.

Dec. 17 2008 10:55 AM
Joyce from Brooklyn, NY

You can also find pizza dough at Trader Joe's. My boyfriend perfect our homemade pizza as much as we can. It is better. Yum.

Dec. 17 2008 10:54 AM
Zak from Washington Heights

I disagree with the home pizza tip. One of the problems with rental kitchens is they have lousy ovens that don't maintain heat. One of the secrets of good pizza making is having a really hot oven and most home ovens, especially crappy "HotPoint" brand rental unit ovens, don't get hot enough.

Dec. 17 2008 10:54 AM
Robert from NYC

Oh c'mon, pizza dough is so easy to make why even pay for that, they'll probably charge as much for the dough as they do for the pizza. I make my own pizza all the time, easiest thing in the world.

Dec. 17 2008 10:53 AM
James from Astoria

Go, Zora, Go! Best cook I know!

Dec. 17 2008 10:53 AM
Lonnie from Brooklyn!!!!!

Now this show has shown it's Manhattan Only focus!!!
So start simple. Maybe you should have your guest reacquaint your Central Boro listeners how to Boil Water. . . in a POT.
Manhattanites DO know what a POT is, do they?

Dec. 17 2008 10:50 AM
Peter from Flatbush, Brooklyn

Frozen chicken cutlets! I buy cutlets in bulk and brek them into serving size freezer bags. When im going to defrost the cutets (the night before)I open the bag and cover the cicken in beer, throw in a tea spoon of mustard per cutlet, garlic powder (or whole cloves). If you like spicy use Red Rooster "Sriracha" sauce insted of mustard.

I pan cook or grill the chicken and serve as a sandwich, in a salad or as a protien with some rice and beans.

Dec. 17 2008 10:28 AM
Jennifer Iserloh from Hoboken, NJ

With the growing cost of groceries, many families are concerned that feeding their family healthy meals can be a balancing game between choosing nutritious food and maintaining their budget. So why not cook your comfort favorites the skinny way and save on grocery bills in the process?

Here are three healthy budget meal recipes:

PASTA BOLOGNESE -- Everyone loves Italian and here’s an inexpensive way to feed the whole family- make it whole grain pasta and turkey for a lighter meal that still has a rich taste.

TACOS -- Make your taco meat ground turkey and add grated carrot and tomato for extra flavor and nutrition.

MAC AND CHEESE WITH CHICKEN -- Mac and Cheese doesn’t have to be dripping in fat. My secret ingredient is skim milk and reduced fat cheese - both add plenty of protein without a racking up the fat.

Dec. 17 2008 10:09 AM
BL Producer

The Simplest Omelet (a version of this will be published in Zora O’Neill’s and Tamara Reynolds's cookbook, F***ing Delicious! How to Put the Party Back in Dinner Party, coming from Penguin in fall 2009)

Finely grate a good handful of whatever cheese you like. If you have chives, or scallions, or other herbs, chop a bit of them up. Set a small skillet (cast-iron or nonstick) on the stove over high heat, and toss in 1 tablespoon or so of butter. Crack 3 eggs in a bowl and whisk with a fork--gently, and just enough to loosely combine them. Add a pinch of salt, and a little pepper if you like. When the butter in the skillet has foamed up, quickly pour in the eggs and turn the heat down to medium-high. Tilt the eggs to cover the bottom of the pan and let sit for about 5 seconds just so the bottom layer of egg sets up. With a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, quickly start jostling the eggs around--as if you're making scrambled eggs, but don't scrape all the way down to the bottom of the pan. If you do, tilt the pan to let the uncooked eggs run in to fill the hole. When the eggs are about two-thirds set (this will take less than 1 minute, even as little as 30 seconds), with just a layer of liquid on the top, take the pan off the heat and sprinkle on the cheese (and herbs, if you have) and fold the omelet in half. (You could put a lid on the pan briefly, to encourage the cheese to melt.) If you're suave, you can then tip the finished omelet straight out of the pan onto a plate; otherwise, use a spatula. Serve with your simple salad, and call it dinner.

Dec. 17 2008 10:03 AM
Peter from Flatbush, Brooklyn

What basic & cost-effective equipment should every kitchen have? If I had $150-$200 to stock my kitchen equipment, what should i get and where should i look?

Dec. 17 2008 09:53 AM

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