Take the ALDI Challenge: Lunch for Four Guests Under $50

ALDI is one of the fastest growing grocery chains in the world with over 9,000 stores in 18 countries. It was founded in 1946 by brothers, Karl and Theo Albrecht in Essen, Germany. By 2018, there are plans to open more than 600 stores in the U.S. market.

According to CEO, Jason Hart, the last 500 stores opened in middle-and-upper-income neighborhoods across America and they are performing great.  Although well over 95 of the 1,300 products sold in ALDI are private labeled goods, many of these products are of gourmet quality, certified organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, and locally grown produce. It is not uncommon to browse the isles of an ALDI store and spot premium made products such as a bottle of Italian imported juniper berry and bay leaf infused olive oil or a beautiful pan of French imported marble chocolate brioche. Annually, the chain pays homage to its roots by showcasing and promoting a selection of German-made specialty products. 

When ALDI first launched, their targeted customers were consumers with limited income who had a great need to save money. Today, their customers are savvy shoppers who want great quality products and know how to spot deals.  Gourmet cooks, chefs and well-educated foodies are usually not brand loyal – they want the best quality and price to match. This approach leaves the doors open for  ALDI to continue producing more high-quality products such as a Strawberry & Balsamic Glaze Vinegar of Modena, an imported jar of  Italian Alla Genovese Pesto (made to perfection – only cooked pasta is needed), and their delicious mango peach salsa.  It’s highly recommended to snatch up these products when you see them because they are in high demand and always fly off the shelves quickly.

GOURMET LUNCH UNDER $50 MENU

I love entertaining and a good challenge.  Enjoy this menu and recipes that are made with ingredients purchased exclusively at ALDI.  Be sure to leave a comment below after you take the challenge to let me know how you did.

Wine (Paired with appetizer and first course)
Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore

Appetizer
Charcuterie of Dry-Cured Sopressata Salama, Soft Ripened Brie Cheese, Greek Imported Pitted Kalamata Olives, Semi-Soften Pepperoni Marinara Artisan Cheese, Prosciutto Panino, Raisins, Pistachios with Drizzled Honey, Tandoor Baked Naan Flatbread

First Course
Chilled Zucchini Parmesan Soup

Second Course
Burlwood Cellars 2013 Pinot Noir, California Private Reserve
French Bistro Steak with Sautéed Arugula

Third Course
Apple Parfait 

CHILLED ZUCCHINI PARMESAN SOUP

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 pound zucchini (about 2 medium sizes), peeled and diced
2 ½ cups Reggano mushroom pasta sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons Reggiano grated Parmesan cheese

PREPARATION

1.  Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add onions and garlic and cook 3 minutes or until onions soften, stirring constantly.

2.  Add the remaining ingredients (except the Parmesan cheese), cover and cook about 20 minutes or until zucchini softens. Stir in parmesan cheese and cook 5 minutes longer, uncover.

3.  Remove from heat and let soup cool to room temperature. Pour in blender or food processor and mix until the texture becomes smooth.

4.  Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Note – For a less thick soup, add about ½ cup of vegetable broth or water.

FRENCH BISTRO STEAK

INGREDIENTS

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive
2 8-ounces New York Strip steaks
salt and pepper
2 cups white button mushrooms, sliced
½ cup dry red wine

PREPARATION

1.  Heat a heavy bottom skillet (cast iron recommended) or grill pan about 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Rub olive oil on both sides of steaks and season to taste with salt and pepper.

2.  Cook steaks about 3 to 5 minutes on both sides. Remove from heat and let rest about 10 minutes. Remove steaks, reserve juice and bits. Reheat skillet, add mushrooms and cook about 3 to 5 minute or until they turn soft, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove skillet from heat.

3.  Cut steaks into ½-inch slices and place in the skillet on top of the mushrooms. Add the wine and cook over medium-high heat until most of the liquid is gone, about 2 to 3 minutes.

4.  Serve steaks and mushroom on a platter.

SAUTÉED ARUGULA

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 5-ounce containers of triple washed organic baby arugula
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon zest, for garnishing

PREPARATION

1.  Remove arugula from containers, coarsely chop and set aside. Heat olive oil in large saucepan about 2 minutes or until it turns hot over low heat.

2.  Add arugula, garlic and water. Cover and cook about 10 minutes or until the arugula turns soft, constantly stirring. Add more water if needed.

3.  Garnish with lemon zest.

 

APPLE PARFAIT

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup chopped pecans
2 large gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
French vanilla ice cream

PREPARATION

1.  Preheat oven 400F.

2.  Place pecans in a shallow baking pan and toast in oven about 5 to 7 minutes, shaking occasionally. Remove from oven and pan to let cool.

3.  Place the remaining ingredients in a medium-size saucepan and cook over medium-low heat about 10 to 12 minutes or until apples turn slightly soft, stirring constantly.

4.  Scoop ice cream in parfait dishes, top with cooked apples and garnish with toasted pecans.

Recipes by Wilbert Jones.  Photo credit: Antoinette Simpson

Share this article

Wilbert Jones is the president of The Wilbert Jones Company – a food product development and marketing company founded in 1993. He has authored three award winning cookbooks and was the host of the PBS television series, “Healthy Heritage Kitchen” in 2008. thewilbertjonescompany.com