Batter Licker

May 25, 2012

gabi moskowitz’s brokeass gourmet cookbook and broccoli-kale gratin

I remember first meeting Gabi Moskowitz serendipitously at an Indian food-themed dinner hosted by our mutual friends, Rebecca and Bill Kee. While in the middle of preparing dal (a spicy lentil dish), she paused to introduce herself in a very warm and welcoming manner before putting me to work chopping onions. As I began that task, Bill casually mentioned that Gabi had a food blog too.  Soon I learned that she was not just any other kitchen maven named Gabi, but was The Gabi of Brokeass Gourmet, a recipe site with a monthly readership of over 30,000. I can guarantee the consistency of my onion cuts suffered as a result of being dorkily starstruck.

Thankfully, her fun and sassy demeanor disarmed my intimidation before I did too much damage in the kitchen. And I was happy to have shared a stove and chopping board, albeit briefly, with such an incredibly talented woman.

A few years’ worth of mostly social media exchanges later, I was excited for Gabi when I discovered she had procured a cookbook deal. When her PR rep sent me a complimentary copy of The Brokeass Gourmet Cookbook** to review, I could hardly contain myself upon its arrival. I can neither confirm nor deny whether I Gabi-vangelized the delivery person.

For those unfamiliar with this kindergarten-teacher-turned-cuisinière’s food blog and general background, I highly recommend you hop on over there, even if it’s just for a cursory visit. Once you bounce around her site a bit, you’ll see that Gabi’s cooking philosophy is grounded in accessibility and flavor.

These values carry over into her 116-recipe cookbook, where she starts with advice that will make meal-making much easier to manage no matter your skill level: how to stock a pantry with essentials like flour, olive oil, and salt for merely $50. And if you’re a bit of a lush like me, you’ll appreciate her subsequent input on how to smartly stock a budget bar.

Continuing to flip through the pages, I found that Gabi often takes dishes that might ordinarily be intimidating, such as Pakistani Butter Chicken (pictured above, although I deviated slightly by cooking the chicken thighs whole) or Sun-Dried Tomato Gnocchi, and simplifies the techniques involved without sacrificing flavor. She transforms the seemingly complex recipes such that beginner and immediate cooks alike can appreciate the time, steps and stress she’s saved them. While spending the past few weeks cooking my way through her recipes, Gabi’s easier approaches to dishes I had only ever made using more traditional and (often unnecessarily) complicated techniques reminded me of two things I often have forgotten when I inevitably overwhelm myself in the kitchen once every week or two trying to perfect recipes for this site: hard “authentic” recipes aren’t necessarily better tasting; and good meals don’t necessarily require a complex cooking process.

As the cookbook’s name suggests, the accessibility of her recipes does not end with process and technique, but extends to acknowledge the very real financial considerations behind many what’s-for-dinner decisions, especially during less-than-stellar economic times. Gabi’s approach makes it clear that cooking good food at home can be just as affordable, if not more so, than subsisting entirely on boxes of overpriced undernutritious cereal and junk from Mickey D’s Dollar Menu. She sticks to a strict budget of no more than $20 per recipe, some of which serve 10 people, and most of which cost half (or less!) than that upper limit.

What I truly respect is that she doesn’t try to sweep costs under the rug like some other budget cookbooks do, hiding the true cost of a recipe by only factoring in the proportionate cost of ingredients actually used rather than actually bought (e.g., saying 10 graham crackers cost only 75 cents when, in reality, the only way you could procure those 10 was to buy the entire $2.50 box). Every recipe in the book contains the total price for all ingredients in the recipe, excluding only those basic pantry staples (e.g., salt, olive oil) you should already have on hand per Gabi’s pantry-stocking tips. And even the cookbook itself is budget-friendly, as it is currently being sold for an affordable $11.29 on Amazon.com.

Beyond accessibility, but equally important, recipes in The Brokeass Gourmet Cookbook feature vibrant flavors. Sure, I adjusted a few of the usual suspects to taste (salt, garlic, spices), but I do that even when making my own standby recipes – and you should too. What I appreciate is that Gabi infuses traditional dishes with more interesting and “gourmet” flavors by putting ethnic spins on them (e.g., Chinese Pork Meatballs with Sweet Potatoes and Peanut Sauce, and Lamb-Feta Burgers with Lemon-Dill Yogurt Sauce). As a follower of Gabi’s Brokeass Gourmet website, I already expected that much out of her. I can’t help it; her site sets the bar pretty high. But what did surprise me is that even her more basic, decidedly unethnic recipes (e.g., Garlicky White Bean Dip [pictured above], and Fresh Caesar Salad Dressing) packed taste bud-awakening punch that made them seem almost exotic in their own right.

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However, I most enjoy the dishes that showcase her practical yet whimsical nature. Her Pepperoni Pizza Spirals look like pinwheels but were designed to be a more appetizer-friendly version of stromboli. And her creative development of S’Mores Style Rice Krispies Treats stemmed from the need to resolve a dessert dispute between two children – one who wanted s’mores and the other who wanted rice krispy treats.

Nearest and dearest to my stomach is Gabi’s vegetable-based riff on mac and cheese: a rich and creamy Broccoli-Kale Gratin (pictured above and below; I deviated slightly and made it in a casserole dish because the ramekins I own are quite small and could not adequately accommodate the cheesy vegetables). I could eat this weekly without complaint – and without missing the pasta or the roux typically involved. I served a heap of it alongside her Sriracha Oven-Fried Chicken (pictured below), and the Resident Carnivore couldn’t have been happier.

Broccoli-Kale Gratin (with permission, this is copied in full from The Brokeass Gourmet Cookbook by Gabi Moskowitz)

If you or someone you love (hi, Dad!) has not yet learned to appreciate kale and/or broccoli steamed or sauteed lightly, topped with little more than a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper; this recipe is for you. It’s essentially a classier version of broccoli with cheese sauce.

Or, if you, like me, already appreciate simply-prepared broccoli and/or kale and just really like decadent, mac-and-cheese-esque preparations of vegetables, this dish is also for you.

It’s substantial enough to serve as a vegetarian entree, but would also be good served, in smaller quantities, alongside grilled meat.

Prep Time: 0:20 | Cook Time: 0:35

Ingredients | Total Cost $12
2 medium heads broccoli, florets and stem chopped | $1
3 cups kale leaves, chopped (about 1/3 bunch Tuscan kale or 4 leaves Dino kale) | $1 for a bunch
1 tbsp olive oil | Pantry
2 cloves garlic, chopped | Pantry
1/2 medium onion, chopped | $0.50 for a whole onion
2 cups heavy cream | $2.50 for a pint
few pinches nutmeg | $1.50 for 1 ounce
3/4 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded, plus more for topping | $3.50 for 8 ounces
salt and pepper to taste | Pantry
1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped/crushed | $2 (buy in the bulk section)

Directions | Serves 4

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Bring a large pot of lightly-salted water to a boil and add the kale and broccoli. Cook for 4-5 minutes, so they’re tender-crisp and retain their green color. Drain and rinse under cool water. Set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, until very fragrant. Stir in the cream and nutmeg and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 3-4 minutes. Add the cheese, stir to melt and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

4. Stir the cooked broccoli and kale into the cream sauce and combine well. Divide between 4 ramekins or oven-proof bowls. Top each with a few pinches of cheese and a sprinkle of the almonds.

5. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until golden-brown and bubbly. If desired, place under a broiler set to high for 1-2 minutes to create more of a crusted top.

6. Let cool slightly, then serve.

** This is not a paid post. Yes, I received a free copy of The Brokeass Gourmet Cookbook to review if I so chose, but the content of this post reflects my personal experience with and opinions about the tips and recipes in that book.

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