Sara Moulton's Recipes to Save Big

Rising food prices have forced consumers to become creative when it comes to making meals. But increased food costs don't mean you have to compromise on healthy meals.

Chef Sara Moulton has five truly creative ways to save on your food budget, and the right recipes to make it happen.

Tip: Less Protein, More Profit

Recipe: Skirt Steak Fajitas With Lime and Black Pepper
Serves 6
Active Time: 40 min.
Start to Finish: 40 min



2 large onions, peeled and cut lengthwise into 6 wedges, leaving root ends intact
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 lb. skirt steak, halved crosswise
2 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
18 flour tortillas
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 red bell pepper, sliced into ½" strips
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into ½" strips
2 small zucchinis, sliced into ¼" rounds


Prepare grill for cooking.

Thread onions onto skewers (or put in grill basket), then brush with 1/2 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper. When fire is medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 3 to 4 seconds), grill onions, turning occasionally, until tender, 16 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. When just cool enough to handle, cut onions into 1-inch pieces and toss with vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

While onions are grilling, stir together lime juice and remaining teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons oil in a shallow dish, then add steak and marinate at room temperature, turning once, 10 minutes.

Pat steak dry, then rub with pepper. Grill steak on lightly oiled grill rack, turning once, 6 to 10 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer to cutting board, then let stand 5 minutes before cutting diagonally into thin slices.

While steak is standing, toast tortillas directly on grill rack, turning once, until puffed slightly and browned in spots, about 1 minute total. Serve steak, onions, cilantro, and salsa all wrapped in tortillas.

Cooks' notes: If you aren't able to grill, onions (no need to skewer) and steak can be cooked in a lightly oiled well-seasoned ridged grill pan over moderately high heat and tortillas can be toasted over gas (hold with tongs) or directly on top of electric burners. Cut skirt steak into pieces to fit in grill pan and grill in batches without crowding.

Accompaniment: Tomato salsa; lime wedges; sour cream.

Recipe courtesy of Melissa Roberts, "The Gourmet Cookbook"; Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.

Go to next page for more recipes.

Tip: Don't Diss Canned Fish

Recipe: Sara's Killer Salmon Burgers
Makes 4 Servings
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total preparation time: 25 minutes

This is a quick "from the pantry" meal. Canned salmon has come a long way in terms of quality, and when combined with chiles, crushed tortilla chips, and cumin, moistened with mayonnaise, and topped with corn salsa, you almost wouldn't know that it was canned.

I have long been a fan of frozen corn, at least when fresh was out of season. As soon as you pick corn, its sugar begins to turn to starch and it is not as tasty. (The same goes for peas.) Frozen corn is picked when ripe and then immediately blanched and frozen at the height of its tastiness, which is why it is a good idea to keep a stash in the freezer for the off season. One could argue that you should never eat vegetables out of season, but when you have a son who eats only about five vegetables, you can't be all that seasonal.


3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
One 7 ½-ounce can red salmon, drained
One 4 ½-ounce can chopped mild green chiles, drained
½ C. crumbled tortilla chips
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ C. Wondra flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
One 10-ounce package frozen corn kernels
Kosher salt
1 C. bottled salsa


Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium skillet over high heat until hot. Reduce the heat to medium; add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer the onion to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon; set the skillet aside.

Add the salmon, chiles, tortilla chips, mayonnaise, and cumin to the onion in the bowl and stir until combined. Form the mixture into four 1/2-inch-thick cakes (or patties). Coat the cakes lightly in flour on all sides. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and heat over high heat until hot; reduce the heat to medium and add the salmon cakes. Sauté until well browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, cook the corn in water following package directions. Drain well and return to the saucepan. Add the salsa and heat just until hot. Serve the salmon burgers topped with corn salsa.

Recipe courtesy of Sara Moulton from her book "Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals"; Broadway Books, 2005.

Recipe: Spaghetti with White Beans and Tuna
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 stalks celery finely chopped, plus leaves for garnish
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups canned white beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 large can oil-packed tuna, drained, rinsed, and broken up
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti


Bring a large pot of water on to boil. Heat the oil in a large skillet over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the red pepper, celery, and garlic and cook for 3 minutes more. Stir in the white beans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer, mashing the beans slightly with the back of a spoon for 5 minutes. Add the hot pepper flakes and tuna, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer until heated through. Keep warm while you cook the pasta.

Salt the boiling water and add the pasta. Cook until al dente following the instructions on the back of the package. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Toss with the sauce and serve, garnishing each portion with some of the celery leaves.

Recipe courtesy of Sara Moulton.

Go to next page for more recipes.

Tip: Multi-Tasking Meals, What a Deal!

Recipe: Cuban-Style Roast Pork
Makes 8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus overnight marinating
Cook Time: 4 to 5 hours


One 8-pound bone-in fresh pork shoulder with skin (preferably a Boston butt or blade roast)
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
6 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 Tbsp)
1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp dried oregano
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp adobo-style seasoning


Using a small knife, make 1-inch-long incisions in the skin of the pork shoulder about 2 inches apart. Combine 3 Tbsp of the lime juice, the garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano. Rub the mixture into the slashes and along the underside of the pork. Combine the remaining lime juice, the vinegar, grapefruit juice, orange juice, and adobo seasoning in a bowl large enough to hold the meat. Add the pork, skin side up. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.

To cook, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Transfer the pork and its marinade to a roasting pan. Cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil and roast until very tender, about 5-6 hours. Let cool slightly in the liquid, then transfer to a cutting board and discard the skin and excess fat. Slice and serve.

Bonus Leftover Meal: Cuban Sandwiches

You can make Cuban sandwiches with the leftovers by combining the sliced pork with sliced ham, Swiss cheese, sliced pickles and mustard on bread. Either grill the sandwich with a weight on it or cook it in a Panini press.

Recipe courtesy of Sara Moulton from her book "Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals"; Broadway Books, 2005.

Sara's Quick Fried Rice
Serves 4

This is not at all a traditional recipe for fried rice. I just made it up one night after opening the fridge and spying a leftover carton of take-out Chinese rice. The kids loved it, especially since I made a point of sautéing the rice until it was crispy.

Consider this recipe a blueprint for leftovers. In fact, whenever you boil rice, make a double recipe to guarantee leftovers. That way, you have an exciting side dish or the base for dinner a few nights later. This recipe calls for peppers, bacon, eggs, and peas. You could substitute broccoli, ham, and Cheddar cheese -- whatever you have kicking around in the fridge. Almost anything tastes good cooked in fried rice.


6 thin slice bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
½ yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cups cooked rice (can be leftovers from night before)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
2 teaspoons soy sauce or to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Thinly sliced scallions for garnish


Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning often, until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Crumble into small pieces.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onion and peppers. Cook, stirring often, over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Add the rice to the skillet, turn up the heat to medium-high, and stir until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the eggs, onion mixture, bacon, and peas. Cook stirring, until the eggs are cooked, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Turn out into a warmed serving bowl and garnish with the sliced scallions.

Recipe courtesy of Sara Moulton from her book "Sara Moulton Cooks at Home"; Broadway Books, 2002.

Go to next page for more recipes.

Tip: Keep the Butcher at Bay

Recipe: Jean Anderson's Crispy Baked Chicken


One 3 1/2 pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces (or all thighs, wings, or breasts if desired)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups bread crumbs
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter and garlic. Heat over medium-high heat until the butter has melted. Pour into a large bowl and cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl mix the bread crumbs, cheese, salt and pepper. Dip each chicken piece, one at a time, into the melted garlic butter. Transfer to the bread crumb mixture and turn until coated on all sides.

Arrange the chicken in one flat layer on a large baking sheet. Drizzle on any of the remaining melting butter.

Bake until lightly browned and just cooked through, 50 to 60 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Sara Moulton from her book "Sara Moulton Cooks at Home"; Broadway Books, 2002

Go to next page for more recipes.

Tip: Veg Out! Go Vegetarian at Least One Night a Week

Recipe: Black Bean, Spinach and Mushroom Burritos
Serves 4


1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 bunch spinach (about 1 pound), coarse stems discarded, washed well and spun dry
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup water
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed well and drained
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 scallions, finely chopped
3/4 cup coarsely grated pepper Jack cheese (about 5 ounces)
1/2 cup canned mild enchilada sauce
2 (10-inch) or 4 (8-inch) flour tortillas

Accompaniment: Sour cream


In a heavy skillet, cook onion and mushrooms in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until golden. Add spinach and garlic and cook, stirring, until spinach is wilted, about 30 seconds. Stir in water, beans, lemon juice, scallions, pepper Jack, salt, to taste, and cook stirring, until cheese is melted.

In a small saucepan, heat enchilada sauce.

Heat a dry skillet (large enough to hold 1 tortilla) over moderately high heat until hot. In skillet heat tortillas, 1 at a time, turning frequently, 30 seconds, or until softened, and transfer to a work surface. Divide filling between tortillas and roll up burritos.

Spoon sauce over burritos and serve with sour cream.

Recipe courtesy of Gourmet Magazine.