Living on a budget might be new (and shocking) for some of us, but we could all take notes from Brooklyn-based cookbook author Emily Farris. She's made a career out of scrimping by focusing on that value warhorse, the casserole.
Farris, 26, began her casserole education out of necessity, as a broke college student. Once she got the formula right—starch, fat, protein, a binding agent and crunchy topping—she started experimenting. When she served an adaptation of her sister's mac-and-corn casserole at a party in 2004, her food-snob friends' enthusiastic response inspired her to write her new cookbook, Casserole Crazy: Hot Stuff for Your Oven! The book compiles recipes from restaurants, such as a poblano gratin from Brooklyn's Paloma, as well as Farris's own spins on the classics.
She's also turned her passion into an annual cook-off called The Casserole Party (this year's event will take place November 10; for more information, see casserolecrazy.com). But Farris is determined not to be known simply as the "crazy casserole lady." For her next project, tentatively titled Dinner with John, she'll chronicle her experiences cooking dinner for a different man named John once a week for a year. Keep up with her progress at dinnerwithjohn.com.