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Recession gourmet

Could you cook a gourmet meal for four on only $10?

If the answer’s No, don’t feel bad – neither could a round-up of celebrity chefs selected by Time magazine for a feature on eating gourmet meals during economic crunch time.

But, they came in pretty close.

For Time’s featured article, writer Joel Stein visits an LA supermarket with Tom Colicchio of Bravo’s Top Chef. Colicchio’s reaction to current food prices? “Wow, pasta is more expensive than I thought it was.”

The head judge finally settled on a pork loin ($4.49), spaghetti ($1.34) with fennel, eggplant, zucchini, onion and a can of tomatoes ($6.05 collectively). Although he spent only $11.88 on the meal’s main ingredients, Colicchio used some basil, a bit of parmesan cheese and, of course, cooked liberally with olive oil and garlic. The result: Fennel Pork Loin and Pasta Vegetarienne.

If Colicchio’s pork-and-pasta fare isn’t your cup of tea, there are five more recipes to chose from:

*Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Bay Leaves (Tyler Florence)

    *Spaghetti with Pancetta and Chili Flakes (David Myers, Sona restaurant, Los Angeles)

      *Rice and Beans, Green Salad and Banana Flambe (Eric Ripert, Le Bernadin, New York City)

        *Orzo with Pancetta and Goat Cheese (Charlie Palmer, Aureole, New York City)

          *Braised Chicken with Paprika Onions, Cous Cous and Date Relish (Suzanne Goin, Lucques, Los Angeles)

            There’s a clear trend of what was used (pasta, chicken) and what was not (red meat).

            Harry Balzer, who tracks food trends for a market-research firm, told Stein: “We’re seeing less meat and more pizza, sandwiches, Italian pasta and casserole-type dishes. The real change that occurred in the last bout of inflation was that one of the cheapest meats became more popular: chicken.”

            Personally, I’m going for the banana flambe – with fire extinguisher at the ready.

            JACKIE SAUTER, Web Editor