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Labor Day weekend grilling feast, on a budget

Fall's just around the corner, and we're into Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer, so chef Franklin Becker put together a menu to "fall for" when he accepted the "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge from "The Early Show on Saturday Morning."

Of course, he opted for grilled fare - in this case, grilled chicken.

But he made it his own special way, and added a special salad and dessert for a holiday feast you won't find anywhere else.

The Brooklyn native is executive chef of Abe & Arthur's in Manhattan's meatpacking district, and he'll have that role at the midtown brasserie, Lexington Brass, slated to open soon.

As our Chef on a Shoestring, Franklin tried to prepare a three-course dinner for four on a budget of only $40.

And his chef's hat was automatically entered in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition, in which the "Shoestringer" with the lowest ingredients cost will be invited back to whip up the meal for our year-end holiday extravaganza.

Enjoy all our "Early Show" recipes!


  • Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Shrimp
  • Grilled Chicken with Tuscan Salad
  • Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee



Creme Brulee: The literal translation of this rich dessert is "burnt cream." It describes a chilled, stirred CUSTARD that, just before serving, is sprinkled with brown or granulated sugar. The sugar topping is quickly caramelized under a broiler. The caramelized topping becomes brittle, creating a delicious flavor and textural contrast to the smooth, creamy custard beneath.

Couscous: Cooked, it may be served with milk as porridge, with a dressing as a salad or sweetened and mixed with fruits for dessert. Packaged precooked couscous is available in Middle Eastern markets and large supermarkets. The cooked semolina is heaped onto a platter, with the meats and vegetables placed on top. All diners use chunks of bread to scoop the couscous from this central platter.


Israeli Couscous salad with Grilled Shrimp

  • 16 Shrimp (4 per salad)
  • 1 cup Israeli tri-color couscous
  • 1/4 bunch of mint
  • 2 tablespoons almonds (toasted)
  • 1 shallot chopped
  • 1/2 pound of red grapes
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomato
  • 3 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 1/2 pound arugula
  • 1 cucumber sliced thin


1. Take the cooked Israeli couscous and add raisins, arugula, shallot, mint, grapes, almonds, cherry tomatoes in a bowl. Dress and season

2. Lay your cucumber on the plate, toss in cooked shrimp

3. Lay down your salad on top of the cucumber and wrap the cucumber around the salad.

4. Finish with a little fresh mint and put your shrimps on the plate.

Ginger Honey vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons ginger oil
  • Salt to taste


Place all ingredients in blender and emulsify with oil.

For more of Franklin's recipes, go to Page 2.

Grilled Marinated Chicken Breast with Tuscan Tomato Salad

Chicken Breasts

  • 4 chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 bunch of rosemary
  • 1/4 bunch of thyme
  • 2 shallots
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • salt/pepper to taste

Tomato salad

  • 1 day old Italian bread, diced and toasted with
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chives
  • 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/4 bunch basil
  • 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • salt/pepper to taste


1. Marinate the chicken overnight in oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme and shallots.

2. Remove and drain. Season with Salt and pepper and squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon.

3. Toss the bread with the parmesan cheese, olive oil salt and pepper and herbs to taste.

4. Toast in oven on low heat until crisp. Allow to cool.

5. Toss bread into tomatoes, basil and vinaigrette and serve topped with the warm chicken.

Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee

  • 1-1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 scrapped vanilla bean
  • 2 cups chopped milk chocolate
  • 1-1/2 cups yolk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar


1. Boil the cream, milk and vanilla together. Add chocolate and mix until melted.

2. In a separate bowl whisk sugar and yolks until pale yellow and a bit foamy.

3. Add egg mixture to hot liquid mixture on medium heat. Don't stop whisking with a spatula. Take off flame when back of the spoon gets coated evenly.

4. Cool completely overnight.

5. Next day fill ramekins 3/4 of the way with brûlée. Put them on a deep tray and cover with water until is halfway of the ramekins. Bake at 350 degrees F covered for 35 minutes or until center does not move when tapped on the side.

6. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

So, how did Franklin fare in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition?

His grand total was $39.46.

Our Leaders Board for the year so far:

1.Floyd Cardoz $33.54

North End Grill

2.Fabio Vivani $36.22

Café Firenze

3. Marco Canora $36.33