When I started my new job a few months ago, everyone told me, “Oh, you’re not going to be poor anymore!” or “Now you’ll be able to go out for drinks (or concerts, or plays, etc.) on the weekends!”
Being a realist and knowing exactly how dire my financial situation was, I knew none of that would be true for a long time. And you know what? That’s okay. Because life after unemployment is a perpetual game of catch up, I’m nowhere near being out of debt or even having enough money for a bit of retail therapy. But I’ve gotta say it feels incredible to be able to do things like send in my rent payment. On time. In full.
Of course, being able to do that means I’m left with very little money until my next payday. So once again I find myself in Scary Week: that week right before your non-rent paycheck when you’re left with about $6 and need to figure out how to make those precious dollars last. Way better than unemployment, but scary nonetheless.
“OMG, six dollars? Are you okay? How are you going to live? What will you eat???“ I was asked recently.
I food shop from my cupboards & fridge, of course.
Granted, the cupboards are currently stocked way better than the fridge because I loaded up on some bare bones staples at the Co-op the last time I was there. But because New Apartment’s fridge is so much tinier than the one downstairs (its one tragic flaw), I can’t keep too much in it. Which means I have to shop more often. IF I can afford to. Since I can’t do so right now, I use what I have and make the best of it.
Here’s what I had at my disposal: a bag of frozen pineapple chunks from TJ’s, a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts, half a loaf of whole wheat bread, and some ice packs for my neck & back. In the fridge I had one giant block of tofu, assorted condiments, Neufchatel cheese, portabella mushroom caps, eggs, a couple of broccoli crowns, a bag of kumquats (mmm… kumquats…), and a rather large amount of scallions. Not the best line up of food, but there were some serious possibilities; especially with all those scallions (a.k.a. green onions, a.k.a. spring onions, a.k.a. mouthwatering…).
My first instinct was to make a hefty batch of pique, a Colombian scallion sauce that is used pretty much the same way chimichurri is used in Argentina. Alas, pique requires a generous amount of cilantro and white vinegar, neither of which are in my kitchen right now. So I regrouped and decided to try my hand at making some pesto out of my scallions instead.
Making this was as much fun for me as my foray into cilantro-pistachio pesto-making last year. The result was just fabulous! Rather than the crisp coolness that basil lends to traditional pesto, the scallions made this version slightly more savory & piquant. The almonds added a subtle nutty sweetness that helped to round out the overall flavor of the pesto.
The “creamy” factor doesn’t come from added cream or butter; it comes from the white parts of the scallions, which even out the vibrant greens of the onions’ tops. This pesto is perfect on pasta, over steamed veggies, mixed into other grains like couscous or quinoa; the possibilities are truly endless.
But the best part of this little concoction wasn’t the beauty of its pale spring green hues, nor its enticing aroma; it was its teeny, tiny little price tag. Because scallions & almonds are generally less expensive than the standard basil & pine nuts (unless you’re growing your own basil, of course), making this versatile sauce is much more affordable.
Poor Girl Tip: Got a garden? Harvest your own scallions & the price tag goes even further! If not, no worries; you can always get them at the store. But to get the most bang for your buck, avoid major chain grocery stores and head to your local farmer’s, Latin or Asian foods markets instead. You’ll find some lovely beauties for a fraction of what you’ll pay at places like Safeway or SaveMart, and they’ll be far more flavorful to boot.
Linguine with Creamy Scallion Pesto (makes 4 servings; total cost per serving: $1)
2 bunches scallions, rinsed & coarsely chopped (about 15-20 stalks)
1/2 c almonds, coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves
1/4 c olive oil
3 T parmesan cheese
2 T lemon juice
1/2 T sea salt
1/4 t ground black pepper
Extra olive oil for drizzling
Cook the linguine according to package instructions. Drain & drizzle with a bit of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking. Set aside.
In a food processor (or hand blender cup), combine the chopped scallions, almonds, garlic, olive oil, cheese, lemon juice and seasonings, and purée until almost smooth. Check for seasoning and adjust according to taste.
Gently fold about 1 cup of pesto into the linguine and stir until well-coated. Serve as a side or entrée with a couple sprinkles of extra parmesan cheese, and enjoy!