Two Dudes, Three Courses, One Slim Budget

Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are two guys who love food, and happen to be pros at preparing it on a budget.

After years of catering on tiny budgets in makeshift kitchens, they've figured out how to make fabulous food, even if you don't have the tools or resources of a gourmet chef.

And they share their secrets of cooking without a lot of money or fancy tools in their new book, "Two Dudes, One Pan" (Clarkson Potter).

Shook and Dotolo are also known for their catering company and restaurant in L.A., as well as some shows on Food Network.

Their varied, deeply-flavored food won't send you running to the gourmet shop in search of an obscure ingredient. For them, it's all about what you can do with food from the local grocery store.

As The Saturday Early Show's "Chef's on a Shoestring," they tried to prepare a three-course meal for four with a mere $40 to work with.


Watermelon & Arugula Salad
Tilapia with Tarragon Vinaigrette
Whatever Upside-Down Cake


  • For a more substantial salad, add poached shrimp.
  • Any flaky fish works well; substitute flounder, fluke or sole.
  • Always use fruit that is in season: plums in summer, figs in fall.


    Mizuna: Hailing from Japan, this feathery, delicate salad green can be found in farmers' markets and specialty produce markets from spring through summer. It's often found in mesclun, a special salad-green mix. Choose mizuna by its crisp, green leaves, avoiding any wilted or browning specimens.

    Tarragon: Tarragon blends well with other spices. It's used in sauces, especially Bearnaise sauce and tarragon vinegar. In French cuisine, it's an integral part of fine herbs and Dijon mustard. Tarragon has an aromatic, licorice-like flavor and aroma. It's characteristically minty, earthy, and green.

    Tilapia: Tilapia is a white fish, though it's skin is red. Tilapia has a reddish-colored meat. This fish is very low in fat, free of saturated fat, and high in protein. Tilapia, which is a farm-raised fish, can make even the non-fish lover take notice. Tilapia has a mild flavor and lends itself easily to any kind of seasoning you want to add.


    Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Feta

    Dotolo: Make this for your friends and they'll think you're on your game. Even though feta and watermelon make up a classic combo, the sweet-salty pairing is just unusual enough to really impress people. That said, if you're not into the sweet and salty thing, you could do this with chopped ripe tomatoes instead of the watermelon and it would still be great.

    Shook: For a more substantial salad, poach some peeled and de-veined shrimp (four or five medium shrimp per person) in a saucepan with water, some lemon juice, a bay leaf, a few black peppercorns, a sprig of thyme, and a little sea salt until the shrimp are just opaque, for about 2-1/2 minutes.

    3 cups seedless watermelon cubes
    3/4 cup (about 4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
    8 fresh mint leaves, stacked and roughly chopped
    6 fresh basil leaves, stacked and roughly chopped
    Juice of 2 lemons
    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
    2 teaspoons kosher salt
    2 cups arugula or mizuna


    Place the watermelon, all but 2 tablespoons of the feta, the mint, basil, lemon juice, oils, and salt in a large bowl and gently toss together.

    Let the mixture stand for 1 minute, then add the arugula and toss to coat.
    Transfer to a serving bowl or to individual plates, sprinkle with the reserved 2 tablespoons of feta and serve.


    How to cut a watermelon:

    For a small round watermelon, slice off the ends so it stands upright, then slice lengthwise down the melon to trim off the rind (as you would an orange). You'll be left with a cube that you can then chop or dice as you like. For a big zeppelin-shaped melon, cut it in half widthwise, trim off the rounded ends, stand it upright and trim off the rind lengthwise. Then cut up the cube however you like. If the small or large watermelon has seeds, slice the trimmed cube lengthwise into four quarters and slice away the seedbed, then cut up as you like.

    For more recipes, go to Page 2.