That $2 box of sugar in your pantry is worth its weight in gold. Few other ingredients can transform quite like it. Burnt to a deep amber, it becomes a simple sweet-smoky caramel sauce you can spoon over juicy seasonal citrus and serve with a scoop of ice cream. The result tastes (and looks) restaurant quality, but for a fraction of the price. Take the caramel as far as you dare—dark as leather, with a few tendrils of smoke emanating from the pan, is just right. Too pale and the end result will be cloyingly sweet.
For more highly craveable recipes that’ll help save you some $$$ along the way, check out Shilpa’s monthly column, What a Steal.