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Portuguese Fare With Modern Flare

Call it Portugal and Spain taking Manhattan. Or rustic meeting refined.

Spice is a way of life for George Mendes.

He grew up steeped in the flavors of Old World Portugal. Now, he's mixing traditional Portuguese cuisine with influences from Spanish dishes and an ultra-chic twist, as executive chef and owner of Aldea, his trendy new Mediterranean eatery in Manhattan.

On "The Early Show Saturday Edition," Mendes accepted our "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge of prepping a three-course meal on a recession-busting budget of only $35.

And in so doing, he automatically tossed his chef's hat into our "How Low Can You Go?" competition. At years' end, the "Shoestring" chefs with the lowest ingredients totals will be invited back to prep our all-our holiday feasts!


Tomato Bread Salad with Cilantro, Basil and Black Olive
Chicken with Rice, Mussels, Peas and Chorizo
Summer Peaches with Vanilla-Cinnamon Yogurt


Chicken Thighs: Dark meat contains more fat than white meat, therefore the chicken thigh has more fat and cholesterol than the more popular breast meat, BUT that is still less fat than you will find in an equal serving of beef, pork or lamb. Chicken thighs are also the most economical part of the chicken, costing about half of what you would pay for boneless skinless chicken breasts.

Mussels: These mollusks have very thin shells and a slightly-sweet meat that's tougher than the oyster or the clam. When buying, smaller mussels tend to be more tender than large ones. Also, buy mussels with tightly closed shells or those that snap shut when tapped - otherwise they're not alive and fresh. Avoid those with broken shells, that feel heavy (meaning they're full of sand), or that feel light and loose when shaken (signaling that the mussel is dead). Mussels don't take long to cook; you'll know they are done when the shells open up. Discard any mussels that have not opened up after cooking.


Tomato-Bread Salad with Cilantro, Basil & Black Olive

4 tomatoes, ripe
1/2 French baguette
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
8 leaves basil
16 leaves cilantro
20 black olives, pitted
Sea salt to taste
Cracked black pepper to taste


Using a serrated knife, cut baguette into rough dice and toss with ½ cup of the olive oil. Toast until golden brown in a 350°F oven. Remove and place into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Wash tomatoes and cut into 1 inch chunks and place in bowl with toasted baguette. Add the olive oil and vinegar. Wash and roughly cut the basil and cilantro and add to the tomatoes. Add the black olive, salt and pepper and toss well. Let marinate for 15 minutes and then serve in shallow bowls.

Chicken & Rice with Mussels, Peas and Chorizo

8 chicken thighs
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 onion, peeled & minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons paprika
1 bay leaf
2 cups white rice
6 cups chicken stock or water
4 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs parsley
24 mussels, washed & de-bearded
1/2 cup green peas, cooked
1/2 cup chorizo, sliced


Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper on both sides. In an oven proof casserole, sear chicken thighs in the olive oil on both sides until golden brown. Remove from pan. Set aside.

Add the onion and garlic clove and cook over low heat for 2 minutes along with the bay leaf, thyme and parsley. Add the paprika and cook 1 minute further. Place chicken thighs back in and add the stock or water. Let simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Next add the rice. Bring back to a simmer then place in the oven, uncovered. Let cook for 12 minutes, and then add the mussels and chorizo. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until mussels have completely opened.

Remove from the oven and serve.

For more recipes, go to Page 2.

Summer Peaches with Vanilla-Cinnamon Yogurt

2 yellow peaches, sliced
Zest and Juice of ½ lime
3/4 cup non-fat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 inch piece cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract


In a mixing bowl, combine the yogurt with the sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Mix well using whisk. Let sit over night or at least 1 hour before serving.

Place the sliced peaches in a bowl. Add the grated zest and juice of lime and let macerate in refrigerator for minimum of 15 minutes before serving.
Divide the peaches among 4 plates, place a dollop of the yogurt mixture on top and serve.

So, how did George do in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition?

Tomato Bread Salad
Tomatoes $3.00
French bread $1.99
Basil $1.19
Cilantro $.99
Black olives $1.79
Total $8.96

Chicken & Rice
Chicken $4.76
Onion $.74
Garlic $.39
Paprika $.99
Bay leaf $.69
Rice $1.99
Thyme $.99
Parsley $.69
Mussels $2.99
Peas $2.00
Chorizo $3.99
Total $20.22

Summer Peaches
Peaches $1.87
Lime $.25
Yogurt $.60
Lemon $.59
Total $3.31

Grand total: $32.49

George wound up on our leader's board!:

1. Paul Liebrandt $32.35

2. George Mendes $32.49

3. Scott Peacock $32.60
Watershed Restaurant