I hear three complaints about real food that drive me nuts:
1. It’s not affordable
2. It takes too long to prepare
3. You need to be a good cook to make it appealing
So while pulling together dinner tonight, a regular Monday night with work and kid activities, it occurred to me that the meal we wound up with defied all the myths above, so I thought I would share what we did in hopes that you are inspired to visit your local farmers’ market this weekend.
Admittedly we had a start-ahead advantage tonight, but it’s one that you could have, too. On Saturday I made salmon cakes, and that took about 40 minutes, but I made enough for leftovers. Here’s how we did those:
Pan sear a salmon fillet (call it a pound, or two medium sized fillets) till it’s medium, not cooked quite all the way through. I actually used steelhead trout. Peel the skin after cooking and chop it up for the dogs. if you don’t have dogs, give it to somebody who does, don’t waste it. Worst case, bury it under a couple inches of soil in the garden. Crumble the cooked fish into a bowl. To the fish, add an egg and something to bind it – I used wheat germ because I happened to have it around, but bread crumbs would work fine. Use about the same volume as the fish. Add a big pinch of fresh minced herbs, whatever you have and like, I used parsley and chives. Feed any substandard parsley to the guinea pigs, or compost it. Squeeze a little lemon juice into it, and maybe a tablespoon of dijon mustard if you have it around. You could spice it if desired with Old Bay, or cayenne pepper. Mix well by hand, form into patties like a hamburger, and pan fry in a little oil and butter till crisp on outside and cooked through. So that takes all of thirty or forty minutes and you can make enough for about three four-person meals easily. They will refrigerate for a few days, or freeze for weeks.
Tonight Tim’s tomatoes were talking to me. So I sliced them up, along with some smoked mozzarella cheese, and chopped some basil leaves. I arranged them in an overlapping fashion, and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Some cracked pepper on mine, rest of the family without pepper. That took 5 minutes or less.
I had some left over foccacia from Capri Flavor, so I sliced it up sandwich-style, brushed it with olive oil and spinkled some sea salt on it and stuck it under the broiler for a minute till toasted. Literally. I topped it with Lloyd and Barb’s red leaf romaine lettuce and chopped up a couple of their spring onions. Place the patty, which I reheated in a couple minutes under the broiler, on the bun. now we’re up to three minutes. While the patties were reheating, I whipped up a sauce to top it: spoonful of mayo, spoonful of catchup, spoonful of capers, dash of cayenne. Dish is assembled in five to eight minutes, tops. So here’s our ten minute dinner:
Not bad looking, huh? But what about cost? Here’a a rough accounting, plus/minus 20%:
The fish was about $8, and made eight individual portions, four of which we ate Saturday. Add $2 for egg, binder (bread crumbs), lemon juice and Marco Polo ingredients. So about $10 for eight portions, $1.25 per portion. The tomatoes were about a buck apiece (which I heard today that somebody thought was expensive. For a guy I know to grow on his multi-generation family farm in Nash County, North by God Carolina. What a sad sentiment. I guess maybe I could have gotten them less tasty and a little cheaper trucked up from Mexico to the Super Target, oh well.) I used two, so $2 for four portions or $0.50 each. The cheese I bought from Titina was $8 for a nice hunk and I used half, so $4 for four portions or $1 each. Figure another buck for Marco Polo – oil, vinegar, basil, pepper, etc., or $0.25 each. The lettuce was a few dollars and I used a third of a head, so $1 or $0.25 each. the bread was $4 and we ate half on Saturday, half tonight, so that was $2 tonight or $0.50 each.
That sums to a whopping $3.75 per portion. Granted, the glass of Yadkin wine in the top picture probably adds a three bucks to my portion while supporting the transition of the land from tobacco to grapes (for the record, I personally have nothing against tobacco, the important point is that the land stays agricultural in the face of a changing market). Can somebody please tell me how you can feed your family and support your local food community better than this on $3.75 per person?? Seems to me that’s less than a Happy Meal, about which there is absolutely nothing happy. And you couldn’t even do it in less time, really.
All this, chased by an espresso I pulled as I roasted up some Smithfarms Kona for a great customer who appreciates how good it is and that it’s a damn bargain at less that fifty cents per cup, fully loaded, considering it comes from two fine people we call friends on the Big Island in the USA and roasted with love by yours truly in little old Morrisville, North Carolina.