Tax Day Recipes, for Richer or for Poorer

By: Michelle Buffardi

The tax man cometh, and he cometh today (or really, April 18th for those of you who really like to procrastinate. Thanks to some fancy governmental footwork, Tax Day 2011 was extended a bit.) But whether you owe Uncle Sam, or he owes you, you still gotta' eat. If you're expecting a big check, hopefully you're planning a fancy feast, but if you're the one writing the big check, don't worry, you won't be stuck eating Fancy Feast; we've got plenty of delectable options for those looking to save and for those who want to splurge.

Surf: When it comes to seafood, lobster is about as extravagant as it gets, so its usually reserved for special occasions, like Valentine's Day, anniversaries, or tax refund day. But monkfish, a decidedly unattractive creature when encountered in the wild, tastes a lot like lobster but is kinder to your wallet.

Turf: Prime rib, the fancy stuff you order at other peoples' weddings and grill up for dad one day out of the year is worth splurging on if you're due a nice refund. But the more budget-conscious needn't suffer; when marinated, skirt steak is just as tender, but doesn't cost nearly as much.

Caviar: Is there a more luxurious ingredient than caviar? Probably not. It's a celebratory indulgence, indeed, but for those without the cash, or the taste for the briny little beads, go for Texas "caviar" and save a bundle, instead.

Save:  Texas Caviar

'Shrooms: Truffles, the exceedingly haute, tremendously flavorful, delightfully earthy and extraordinarily priced edible fungus are cousin to easy-to-find button mushrooms, and both give pizza a gourmet edge. The pizza below calls for truffle oil as well as shaved white truffles and is out-of-this-world in flavor, but likely out-of-budget for most weeknight meals, but the lesser-priced alternative is just as heavenly; it relies on the fresh flavors of onion and basil for an extra boost.

What are your favorite budget-busting ingredients? What secret economical ingredients do you have up your sleeve?
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