Melissa's Season 4 Top Tips
Deviled eggs are a really filling, downright cheap appetizer — perfect for entertaining. Eggs are a great protein to serve when you’re having a crowd because they’re so inexpensive. You can get them as cheap as 8 cents an egg. Even if they’re not on sale and you’re getting the fancier, more expensive eggs, they’re still about 15 cents. So you’re getting a lot of protein for not a lot of money.
Melissa’s sauteed cannellini beans are inspired by a dish at one of her favorite Italian restaurants back in high school and college. She and her mom would dine there for special occasions, and they served a sauteed cannellini bean appetizer that Melissa loved.
Beans are a great go-to ingredient for entertaining. They're full of fiber and protein, they’re tasty, they're inexpensive and they fill guests up. You can buy beans canned, but dried are 80 percent less expensive. Melissa saves time by cooking up a large batch of beans, portioning them out for her recipe needs and freezing them. One cup of cooked beans costs only about 22 cents!
RESTAURANT PRICE BUSTER
Melissa loves the polenta at Scott Conant’s restaurant, Scarpetta, in New York City. Scott gave her a few tips on making perfectly creamy polenta. First, you need to have a 1:7 polenta-to-liquid ratio. Second, you must cook polenta for a long time (several hours) to reach the desired texture. Melissa came up with an ingenious way to make polenta, perfect for the busy mom who doesn’t have time to nurse it on the stovetop for hours: She cooks it in her slow cooker. It's a fairly inexpensive piece of equipment that doesn’t need babysitting. She only needs to stir the polenta once every 30 minutes or so. The slow-cooker is great for making soups, slow braises and summertime dishes because it doesn’t heat up the house as the oven would.
To keep meals interesting while on a strict budget, Melissa constantly finds inventive ways to breathe new life into everyday ingredients. A lot simply has to do with changing the presentation. These breadsticks, which Melissa serves with her French Onion Soup, are a perfect example. She serves baguettes at meals frequently, but by cutting them into long shapes and toasting them with flavored oil, they suddenly become breadsticks.