Rocco DiSpirito's Burger and Fries

Rocco the rock star.

The ladies love celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito. He recently took part in "Dancing with the Stars." And he's got a new, best-selling cookbook.

Rocco heated up "The Early Show Saturday Edition", accepting our "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge!

He's helping cooks in kitchens all over prepare healthy comfort food. That's right - comfort food that's healthy!

Rocco's most recent cookbook is already topping New York Times sales charts. And he used recipes from "Now Eat This: 150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods, All under 350 Calories" on the show (Click here to see excerpt).

As our "Chef on a Shoestring," he sought to prep a three-course meal for four on our measly $40 budget.

His menu started with a Steakhouse Style Salad with blue cheese and bacon, followed by Charred Beef Burgers with sweet potato french fries and, for dessert, a Peach and Blueberry Cobbler.

Rocco could also claim another bit of notoriety if he wins our "How Low Can You Go?" competition. The "Shoestring" chef with the lowest ingredients costs will be invited back to whip up our year-end holiday feast!

"Early Show" Recipes Galore!

MENU
• Wedge of Lettuce with Bacon and Blue Cheese
• Charred Beef Burgers with Baba Ghanoush
• Sweet Potato Fries
• Peach and Blueberry Cobbler With Ginger And Cinnamon

FOOD FACTS
Baba Ghanoush:
A Middle Eastern puree of eggplant, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. It's garnished with pomegranate seeds, chopped mint or minced pistachios and used as a spread or dip for or Middle Eastern Flat Bread. (Source: Epicurious.com))

Blue Cheese: This genre of cheese has been treated with molds that form blue or green veins throughout and give the cheese its characteristic flavor. Some of the more popular of the blues include dana-blu , gorgonzola, roquefort and stilton. Blue cheeses tend to be strong in flavor and aroma, both of which intensify with aging. (Source: Epicurious.com))

Heirloom seeds (heirloom tomato): The advent of megaagriculture in America has seen the gradual depletion of ancient varieties of native nonhybrid plants. Unfortunately for those who appreciate full-flavored fruits and vegetables, produce-seed conglomerates focus only on those strains that have mass-market appeal - which means they're beautiful and hardy, but not necessarily the best-tasting. Fortunately, about 25 years ago some dedicated individuals began saving what they could of the remaining open-pollinated (without human intervention) seed varieties, which have become known as "heirloom seeds." Among the many heirloom fruits and vegetables grown today are beets, carrots, corn, dried beans, lettuce, potatoes and tomatoes. As the public becomes more aware of these wonderful alternatives, farmers are also becoming more interested. Heirloom produce can be found in some specialty produce markets and farmer's markets. (Source: Epicurious.com))

RECIPES

Wedge of Lettuce With Bacon and Blue Cheese

INGREDIENTS:
1 small head iceberg lettuce
1 small red onion, sliced very thin
1 large heirloom tomato, cut into large dice
3/4 cup of 3-Grams-of-Fat Blue Cheese Dressing or Bolthouse Farms Chunky Blue Cheese Dressing
6 tablespoons crumbled reduced- fat blue cheese, such as Treasure Cove
6 tablespoons real bacon bits, such as Hormel Real Bacon Bits
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD:

Cut the iceberg lettuce into 4 wedges. Place 1 wedge on each of 4 salad plates, and top each wedge with some red onion and tomato. Drizzle each wedge with blue cheese dressing, and top it with crumbled blue cheese and bacon.

Season the salads with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

FOR MORE ROCCO RECIPES, GO TO PAGE 2

Charred Beef Burgers with Baba Ghanoush

INGREDIENTS:
1 medium eggplant
2 tablespoons 5% Greek yogurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole-Grain Flourless Burger Buns
Nonfat cooking spray
12 ounces 90 percent lean ground beef, formed into 4 patties
1/2 cup "Russian Island" Dressing or store bought reduced-fat Russian dressing
4 slices heirloom tomato
4 slices red onion
4 leaves romaine lettuce, broken in half

METHOD:

Char the eggplant over an open flame, rotating it often to cook evenly, about 20 minutes. The skin should be completely blackened and the flesh should be cooked through.

Place the eggplant in a bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap (to steam off the skin), and set it aside for 5 to 10 minutes. Then remove the charred skin with a paper towel, leaving the flesh behind.

Chop the eggplant with a knife until it is a thick and chunky puree. Mix the eggplant and the yogurt together in a bowl, and season it with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat a grill or grill pan over high heat.

Split the buns in half, and spray the split surfaces lightly with cooking spray. Season the burger patties with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the buns, cut sides down, and the burgers on the grill. Allow the buns to char slightly, and then transfer them to a platter. Cook the burgers for about 2-1/2 minutes per side for rare.

To assemble the burgers, spread the bottom buns with some of the eggplant mixture. Place the burgers on top, and then top each burger with some of the Russian dressing. Pile the tomato, onion, and lettuce on the burgers, and set the bun tops in place. Serve.

Sweet Potato Fries

INGREDIENTS:
2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
Salt
Nonstick cooking spray
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Sweet paprika
Cayenne pepper

METHOD:

Slice the sweet potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut the slices into 1/4-inch-wide sticks. Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl and sprinkle generously with salt. Let stand for about 20 minutes to release some of their moisture.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet, and set it aside.

Spread the potatoes out on paper towels to absorb any excess moisture. Then place them in a large bowl, and spray them with cooking spray. Sprinkle with the thyme and salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne to taste. Spread the potatoes out on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the fries until they are golden and tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve immediately.


Peach and Blueberry Cobbler With Ginger and Cinnamon

INGREDIENTS:
Nonstick cooking spray
4 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated Splenda
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Bisquick Heart Smart baking mix
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar, such as Sugar In The Raw

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Spray a 7 X 11-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray, and set it aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the peaches, blueberries, the 1/4 cup Splenda, and the 1 tablespoon baking mix. Pour the fruit mixture into the prepared baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons Splenda, the remaining 3/4 cup Bisquick, and the ginger, cinnamon, and milk. Stir until the mixture forms a soft dough. Drop spoonfuls of the dough evenly over the fruit mixture. Sprinkle the sugar over the dough.

Bake the cobbler until the fruit is tender and the biscuit topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.


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

Steakhouse Salad
iceberg lettuce $1.99
red onion $.80
blue cheese dressing $1.49
blue cheese $2.99
bacon bits $1.99
total $9.26

Beef Burgers & Fries
eggplant $1.69
Greek yogurt $1.33
burger buns $3.19
ground beef $2.49
russian dressing $1.00
heirloom tomato $2.99
red onion $.80
romaine lettuce $1.49
sweet potatoes $1.49
thyme leaves $1.29
total $17.76

Peach & Blueberry Cobbler
peaches $2.24
blueberries $2.50
splenda $3.29
Bisquick baking mix $1.19
ginger $.25
turbinado sugar $2.49
total $11.96

His grand total: $38.98

Our leaders board:

1. Kelly Liken $37.20
Restaurant Kelly Liken

2. Stephen Kalt $37.40
Fornelletto

3. Bethenny Frankel $37.69
"The Skinnygirl Dish"