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Scrumptious Mother's Day brunch, on a shoestring

Michael Psilakis, has been cooking since his childhood, and was greatly influenced by his parents. His father taught him to roast whole lambs on a spit at a young age, while his mother taught him about traditional Greek flavors.

Michael now serves as executive chef and co-owner of several restaurants including Kefi, Anthos, and Gus & Gabriel. He opened Fishtag in Manhattan last fall, and just opened the doors of MP Taverna in Roslyn, on New York's Long Island.

Michael accepted the special challenge from "The Early Show on Saturday Morning" of making a "Chef on a Shoestring" Mother's Day brunch - meaning, a delicious three-course meal for four on our measly budget of $40.

On the menu of the simple, elegant meal the entire family could help prepare: Tomato & Grilled Onion Salad, Lamb Burgers, and Simple Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting.

Michael brought along his five-year-old son, Gabriel, to help - and continue the family tradition of cooking at a young age.

Every "Shoestring" chef is automatically entered in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition, in which the one with the lowest ingredients cost will be invited back to prepare of year-end holiday feast, spending as much as he or she wants to make the meal of his or her choice!

And viewers have a say in what our "Shoestringers" prepare by voting via mobile phone for the following week's main course. Click here to get the phone numbers and next week's choices.

FOOD FACTS

Feta cheese: This classic Greek cheese is traditionally made of sheep's or goat's milk, though today large commercial producers often make it with cow's milk. Because it's cured and stored in its own salty whey brine, feta is often referred to as pickled cheese . White, crumbly and rindless, feta is usually pressed into square cakes. It has a rich, tangy flavor, contains from 45 to 60 percent milk fat and can range in texture from soft to semidry. Feta makes a zesty addition to salads and many cooked dishes. (Source: Epicurious.com)

Aji amarillo pepper: A variety of chile pepper that is medium-hot in flavor, yellow in color and three to five inches long, maturing to a deep orange color. The Aji Amarillo Chile is thought to have originated in Bolivia or Peru and it is believed to have been domesticated in Peru about 2500 B.C. Also known as Aji Escabeche. (Source: RecipeTips.com)

RECIPES

Tomato & String Bean, Grilled Onion Salad

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup favorite vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 vine-ripe red tomatoes rough cut
  • 2 vine-ripe yellow tomatoes rough cut
  • 1/2 Spanish onion cut into 1/2 inch disks for grilling
  • 1 cup oil cured olives
  • 1 teaspoon dry Greek oregano
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and coarsely cracked black pepper (to taste)

METHOD:

Paint Spanish onions with oil, season with salt and pepper and grill until soft (3 minutes).

In a bowl, combine 1/2 the feta, tomatoes, oregano, red onion, grilled onions (separated into rings) and olives. Toss with favorite dressing and season to taste with salt and pepper. Plate on large plate and cover with remaining feta.

*If you wish, add toasted chunks of day-old bread, brushed with extra-virgin olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and pepper.

To get Michael's lamb burger and dessert recipes, go to Page 2.

Lamb Burger

INGREDIENTS:

  • 28 ounces ground lamb
  • 12 ounces ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
  • 4 Hamburger Buns
  • 3/4 cup Spicy whipped Feta (Htipiti)

METHOD:

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill, ridged cast-iron grill pan, or cast-iron skillet.

In an electric mixer bowl fitted with paddle combine lamb, pork, mustard, coriander, cumin, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix on medium speed until well combined. Divide mixture in half and form hamburgers (use ring mold if available). Refrigerate for a couple of hours to develop flavors.

Brush the burgers lightly with olive oil and season with kosher salt and pepper.

Grill on each side for 3 minutes. Transfer to the bun of your choice and top with a spoonful of Htipiti.

Htipiti:

In a food processor add 1 cup feta, 2 cloves garlic, 1 Aji Amarillo pepper. Pulse until well combined.

Simple Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

For Cupcakes:

  • 1/2 cup sweet butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk

Buttercream Frosting:

  • 2 cups 10x confectioners' sugar sifted
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk

METHOD:

For the Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a separate mixing bowl sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Reserve.

Cream butter and sugar in mixer fitted with whisk attachment until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add vanilla extract and lemon zest and milk . On slow speed add flour in bunches scraping down sides of bowl until fully incorporated.

Distribute batter into muffin pan fitted with cupcake liners. Bake for about 17 - 20. Cool, frost & decorate.

For the Buttercream Frosting:

Cream butter in Mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Add the vanilla extract and beat until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy.

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

His total of $35.56 was good enough to make our Leaders Board!

1.Marco Canora, Hearth

$36.33

2.Michael Psilakis, MP Taverna

$36.56

3. Michael Lomonaco, Porter House

$36.82

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