Let’s talk about grocery stores!
Last semester, we did a case in business school that looked at ALDI, a global discount grocery store that earned its business case thanks to its uber-efficient operations and interesting strategic growth. So when Bon Appetit reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in participating in ALDI’s blogger challenge to create a meal for $10 using only ALDI ingredients, I was probably more excited than I should be to finally check out this superhuman equivalent of a grocery store.
It was pretty much everything I expected–trim, minimalist, efficient–but also WAY cheaper than I expected. My favorite gourmet trail mix was $5! Organic black beans for under a dollar! Wild-caught salmon fillets for $3.89! I loved that they don’t have any bags in store (you have to bring your own or buy their reusable ones) and that they require you to put in a $0.25 deposit to get a shopping cart. The whole idea behind ALDI is cutting out all extraneous costs to lower consumer prices, so the shopping cart deposit, for example, helps keep costs low by eliminating time spent retrieving carts.
This flatbread was inspired by (1) their organic quinoa (only $3.99!) and (2) this no-bake summer quinoa pizza, except this flatbread is decidedly more fall in its garlic butter mushrooms + zucchini toppings. But you can dress it up however you like–I imagine this could be a really fun family meal if you cooked up individual flatbreads and let everyone add their toppings of choice. Using white quinoa instead of red quinoa (called for in the summer quinoa pizza) makes for a softer, doughier “crust,” which is why I’m calling this a flatbread instead of a pizza. Either way, it’s a delicious, super economical way to get a boatload of nutrients into your meal!
Here’s what I bought at ALDI to make this meal (assuming you have olive oil and spices in your pantry):
Organic quinoa (16 oz): $3.99
Zucchini (pack of 2): $1.59
1 container white mushrooms: $0.69
1 can Great Northern Beans: $0.59
Garlic (bundle of 3 heads): $1.12
Butter (1 lb): $2.99
Total, the ingredients add up to $10.97, but if you only count the portions of each item that you’ll use in the recipe, the total comes out to more like $5.17! For a meal that serves four!! Talk about perfect student budget food.
PS. I’m off to Istanbul this week! Let me know if the comments if you have any suggestions for things to do there. Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia is for sure on the schedule, but other than that, our itinerary is pretty open! Obviously food recs are HIGHLY encouraged as well 🙂
Vegetable Quinoa Flatbread
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- optional: 1/2 teaspoon dried basil 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 can Great Northern Beans
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon butter divided
- 2 whole zucchini squash
- 1 container mushrooms sliced
- Soak quinoa in hot water for at least 20 minutes, or up to overnight.
- While quinoa is soaking, prepare the white bean puree: add the beans and half the minced garlic cloves to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
- Place 1/2 tablespoon butter over medium heat in a skillet. Add the rest of the garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes, until golden. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and let cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. While mushrooms are cooking, use a vegetable peeler to slice the zucchini into thin ribbons. Once mushrooms are done, remove from pan, add another 1/2 tablespoon of butter, and add the zucchini along with a pinch of salt over medium-high heat. Fry for 2-3 minutes until just softened.
- Drain the quinoa, add 2/3 cup of fresh water, salt, pepper, and additional herbs if using to a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth. Batter should be the consistency of thick pancake batter.
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet. Once hot, add enough quinoa batter to cover the bottom of the pan; swirl to coat. Let cook undisturbed until you can easily slide a spatula underneath and flip the flatbread over. Cook for another 3 minutes, until fully cooked.
- To assemble, spread the white bean puree on the flatbread and top with mushrooms and zucchini. Enjoy immediately!
janet @ the taste space
The problem with Aldi is that all the fun has been removed. The joy of shopping was drained after a trip there. I liked some of their prices, too, but their sister TJ’s was by far my preferred place to shop.
Anyways, Turkey is very exciting. Not sure where you are going (and I must admit, I wonder what it is like there now with all the Syrian refugees)… but I am sure you know Cappadocia is quite far away from Istanbul (but totally worth it). I did a west-south-north trip a few years ago and loved it! Cappadocia was definitely a highlight. I wrote a bit about the cooking class I went to in Istanbul and it is totally worth doing if you can spare the time: https://tastespace.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/turkish-spicy-lentil-and-bulgur-soup-with-dried-mint-and-red-pepper-ezogelin-corbasi/
The underground tombs were also crazy excellent in Istanbul. Enjoy! I hope you share about it upon your return.
WHOAAA I didn’t know Trader Joe’s was also owned by ALDI!! They’re SUCH different experiences! I grew up shopping at TJ’s! How funny. I can sort of see some similarities (very efficient store set ups) now that you mention it.
Funny-ish story–I originally wrote this post before going to Turkey but ended up publishing it afterwards and forgot to take out the last line! So we ended up going to Istanbul for most of a week and Cappadocia for 2 days, which was also the highlight of our trip! Hot air ballooning there was so amazing! I’m just sad I didn’t catch your tip about cooking classes there before I went–that sounds like so much fun! Next time. And I will definitely post about it when I have time to gather up all the pics 🙂 Thanks so much for the tips and hope you’re doing well!!
janet @ the taste space
Haha, that is too funny about your trip. Glad you had fun. We did the overnight bus to Cappadocia which was not fun, but waking up to all the fairy chimneys was incredible.
But, yes, Aldi and Trader Joe’s herald from a similar past: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/12/02/aldi_grocery_store_best_in_america_related_to_trader_joe_s.html
Hope all is well!
That looks so freakin’ good. We don’t have ALDI where I live (whaaaat? It’s pretty much taken over the entire WORLD so I think we must be extra special… or just a massive equivalent of a country town. Wait, ALDI probably exists in country towns. ALDI why so absent?!) but I am definitely going to make this with the same ingredients from my local store. That quinoa flatbread sounds divine (I am already imagining ALL OF THE TOPPINGS!). Gorgeous photos too, as always xxx
Oh, and Istanbul? I know nothing about Istanbul. Except that it probably has ALDI. And LOTS of figs *insert heart eyed emoji here* ENJOY, YOU AMAZING THING!
Haha I’m sure they’re coming to you soon!! Our ALDI is relatively new (I think).
Love you and your always supportive, lovely comments so much <333333
You could so blog for ALDI! That post was an ad for them! And the flatbread recipe looks/sounds great. Re: Istanbul, I’m sure you won’t miss the Grand Bazaar, with all the dried spices in gorgeous heaps. If it’s crowded, which it will likely be, keep your purse and wallet close. Loved seeing the Hagia Sophia, peering at the wondrous calligraphy and trying to figure out how the dome was built. We bought area rugs in Turkey: kilims and other short pile wool rugs. Be ready to sit down with the shopkeeper who will offer fresh mint tea (delish!) to haggle over the price. It’s fun! Turkey is a wonderful place.
Thanks Auntie Carol!! Those are GREAT tips!!!