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We are excited to take part in the Slow Food $5 Challenge, Saturday September 17, 2011.  So why are we taking part in this challenge?  We didn't know if we could do it.  We are more concerned with eating well than with eating cheap.  In this world of the Costco cheaper-by-the-ton mentality, how could we compete with that.  We typically buy small amounts for our weekly consumption; what's in season and what we like, irrespective of the "cost."  Sometimes organic, often "local" (and local is wide for us as we bi-locate), always what we like.

Our $4.91 Lunch

We shop at our regular farmer's markets in Templeton, Torrance and Redondo Beach, with trips to Nature's Touch in Templeton and Whole Foods in Torrance and Redondo Beach to fill in the staples.  Then, of course, there are the occassional visits to specialty markets for our ethnic fix.

So what to do for our "value meal."  Well it had to be something we would normally eat and it had to made the way we'd normally make it.  No cheater trips to a big box store, no off brands and no made in who-knows-where items.  Oh and it had to include our beverage of choice, wine.  Wow, could we do it?

So not being big on the "how much does that cost" for our food items, I had some research to do for the week leading up to the challenge.  For instance, we cannot live without our Pasolivo Olive Oil.  At $25.50 for our club price for the 500mls, what does that break down to?  $0.51 a tablespoon as it turns out.

Here is our $5 Value Meal:

Chickpea Burgers with Tahini Dressing and fixins', a green salad, glass of Spain Viura wine and almond macaroon.  Our actual cost per serving, $4.91.  It was bacon or the glass of wine and wine won out.

Menu Details and Photos after the jump.

On a beautiful Saturday August 21, 2010, bright and early in the morning, a small group of wine enthusiasts gathered to enjoy the first educational seminar at Denner Vineyards. While it was still a bit overcast in Templeton, it was a clear and crisp morning in this unusually pleasant Summer we have been having in Paso.

We met everyone at the back of the large 120+ acre vineyard at a large barn. There was a small group of wine enthusiasts there including a few friends.  Faith from Hospice du Rhône, William from the Simple Hedonisms Blog, and Matt and Annie from Hoot 'n Annie's Blog along with a few others.


We have ten olive trees on our property that I have planted over the past five years.  The oldest of which is a California Mission tree with a mixed variety of Italian, French, and Spanish trees for the rest.  Last year, we harvested around 2 gallons of fruit which we decided to use a dry salt cure on.  They were quite good and made the wrinkled black and leathery style.  This year, however, we decided to use a lye cure for green ripe olives as described by local farmer Bill Spencer in the book California Rancho Cooking.

We started out by harvesting the olives.  Luckily the cat was there with us to watch for ground squirrels.

One of our favorite regions of food is New Mexican.  This is really distinctive from Mexican as anyone who has been there knows.  However, it is surprisingly hard to find good restaurants in California that serve New Mexican food.  There is the classic Anita's in Fullerton and the not quite as good Zia Cafe in Santa Barbara.  But that is about all I know of.  And neither are as good as you can get at the small Duran's pharmacy lunch counter in Albuquerque.

This year, we bought and roasted 25 lbs or so of New Mexican green chilis (which we can luckily get now in bulk in season in CA) and made green sauce.  That has been great.  But it got me in the mood for a red sauce as well.  The sauce is really easy.  I buy a bag of New Mexican dried red chilis at the local carniceria. You can mix and match the dried chilis if you want.  But I just use a dozen or so of these.

1. I toast the chilis on a cast iron skillet until I have peppersprayed myself into a coughing fit, then put let them cool.  Then cut them open and remove seeds and cut the dried out meat into strips.  These go into a small pot with boiling water.  Once all the chilis are in, I add enough water to cover and let simmer 15 minutes.

2. This all goes into a blender.  Careful, because the liquid is hot in temperature and chili heat.  Blend until it is all broken up and liquid (3 minutes or so).

3. Pour this into a strainer and press all the liquid through into a bowl.  There will be some skin and solids left in a paste that you discard.

4. Next, saute a small onion and clove of garlic in a small pot.  Once soft, add the chili water.

5. Add 1 tsp Cumin, 1 tsp salt, and simmer a bit.

6. Take out 1/4 cup of the liquid and add 2 tbsp flour and make a paste.  Add that back into sauce to thicken.

7. Cool and store in the fridge and use for great enchilada sauce or for my other favorite... Chile con Carne.

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