Food is cheaper in NYC than it was in California.
You can stop laughing and/or release your frozen rictus of shock now.
We went to multiple diners, one on Roosevelt Island and one in Astoria, and got grilled cheese sandwiches for $3.50. If you're so lucky as to find a diner in Silicon Valley, the grilled cheese costs $6 or $7.
We ordered takeout Chinese food and got 1 whole order, two half orders, rice, and spring rolls for $19 and change. In Silicon Valley an order like that would cost $35.
We went to Trade Fair in Astoria and got four bags of groceries for under $50. We went to Chelsea Market, to the Manhattan Fruit Exchange, and bought an armful of produce for $17. Everything was cheaper per pound there than in California. The only remotely comparable price was for high-end mushrooms, and I still got a hunk of maitake for $.61. Even the heirloom tomatoes at Whole Foods cost less per pound.
Then we took everything home and cooked on the gas stove.
Pasta with tomato-wine sauce and fresh basil
a quart and a half of grape tomatoes
at least a cup of bad red wine
Heat up some olive oil in a sauté pan on medium-low. Smash, peel, and chop a big handful of garlic cloves, then throw them into the oil. Let them soften while you halve all your tomatoes. We used yellow grape tomatoes; any fresh tomatoes you have should be fine. Just chop them up more.
Throw the tomatoes in with the garlic, add a big slug of wine, and let them reduce slowly. Add more wine or water if the mixture gets too dry.
We had to use up a terrible bottle of red wine, so that's what we used here. Otherwise some dry vermouth would be good. You could also use a number of other things, like vodka or strong broth: whatever you have lying around should work. When the business it fully reduces and saucy, it should look like this:
While the tomatoes are reducing, do two things. 1. Cook the pasta. 2. Wash, stem, and chop as much fresh basil as you can stand. We had a huge bunch, roots still on, and totally encrusted with dirt. The washing took a while. If you don't have basil, a bunch of parsley, fresh spinach, or other soft greens would work too.
When the sauce is fully reduced, salt, pepper, and throw in the basil and drained pasta. Mix it all up, then let it sit for a minute to wilt the greens slightly. Then shovel as much as you can stand into bowls, add any cheese or toasty nuts you might want, and eat.