Slow Food USA $5 Challenge
Slow Food USA laid down the gauntlet: Prepare a slow food meal from whole foods, for less than $5 per serving. At $5, these meals are less expensive than fast food, and support the ideals and the budget many of us have for feeding our families. I’ve been looking forward to posting a meal for a few weeks now.
Given that the challenge date falls on Saturday, there was no question how I was going to approach my challenge. Saturday is farmers’ market day for our small business, and we would be covering two markets, Western Wake Farmers’ Market and The Saturday Market. Our family MO is we split up to cover these venues, and each of us does a little shopping, with no consultation with the others (except to make sure we don’t duplicate items) – this way everybody gets to have something that they wanted during the upcoming week. Sometimes we have meal ideas when we buy, other times the ingredients just speak to us. I was simply going to work with whatever we brought home today, with no preconceived notion about what to prepare.
Today turned out to be a banner day for fresh food. It’s change of season, so our market bags were overflowing with loot: first-push mustard greens, Sungold cherry tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, pears, whole chicken and chicken livers, fall asparagus, flounder and swordfish, eggs, queso fresco, butter beans, okra, and a few things I’m sure I’ve forgotten. In the end, two things spoke to me: fall asparagus, because I have never before encountered it (the vendor told me that when asparagus plants become very mature, they produce a little in the fall, in addition to the usual spring harvest), and the swordfish steaks, because we don’t really enjoy frozen seafood, so our habit is to eat seafood starting Saturday evening and keep eating it every night until we finish what we bought on Saturday (so weekends are usually fish nights, as is Monday about half the time).
The final dish wound up being Homemade Pappardelle Pasta in Brown Butter Lemon Cream Sauce, with Lemon-Caper Swordfish Steaks and Autumn Asparagus and Sweet Red Peppers.
After a long, raw day at rainy farmers’ markets, we were all in the mood for a more hearty meal than the summer fare we’ve enjoyed till now. My thoughts turned to pasta. While I have no moral objection to boxed pasta, after a long week I needed the kind of therapy that comes from making pasta from scratch. And while I love making pasta dough, I lose patience with tedious preparations on Saturday nights, since I usually don’t start making dinner till after 5 PM. Pappardelle noodles are lazy man’s noodles: rich and delicious, but quick and easy to make: literally 5 minutes to prepare dough, and about 10 minutes to roll and cut after the dough has rested for a half hour.
I also don’t want to fuss with sauce after working all day, so a brown butter sage lemon cream sauce was just what the doctor ordered. It’s a simple, delicious way to dress pasta in no time flat.
Swordfish steaks were a last minute addition to my market basket from Not Lin of Locals Seafood, after I realized the the single whole fish he reserved for me was not going to be enough to feed four people well. We had a quick negotiation about them, a calculus that involves the exchange of market goods and cash in varying amounts each week. I’ve adjusted my meal cost calculations to account for the true street price of the ingredients I used, however, so you can rest assured that you can reproduce my meal for the amounts I quote.
The star of my meal, however, was fall asparagus. Gertrude’s Garden Gems had this unusual offering, and it could not be passed up, or passed over this evening. Asparagus is a spring treat with a short season, and having it in the fall was an extraordinary treat. I decided to pair it with peppers from Redbud Farm.
Here’s the photo blog on how to pull the meal together:
That’s all there is to it. It was about 30 minutes of prep, 30 minutes of waiting for dough to rest, and maybe 10 or 15 minutes active cooking.
Here’s the costing:
|Total Cost||Portions||Cost per Portion|
|Protein||fish||$ 13.50||4||$ 3.38|
|Capers||$ 0.20||4||$ 0.05|
|Pasta||flour||$ 0.52||5||$ 0.10|
|eggs||$ 1.14||5||$ 0.23|
|Sauce||Butter||$ 0.27||5||$ 0.05|
|Lemon||$ 0.33||5||$ 0.07|
|Cream||$ 0.28||5||$ 0.06|
|Veg||Asparagus||$ 1.75||4||$ 0.44|
|Peppers||$ 1.00||4||$ 0.25|
|Marco Polo||EVOO||$ 0.25||5||$ 0.05|
|Salt||$ 0.04||4||$ 0.01|
|Pepper||$ 0.04||4||$ 0.01|
|Total per portion:||$ 4.69|
We achieved the Slow Food criteria pretty easily, and had a luxurious meal for less than the cost of a fast food meal. You can do it, too!
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