Dollar. Taco. Tuesday.

Tomorrow is my favorite kind of Tuesday: Taco Tuesday! Here’s the deal: Ken Oringer’s little taqueria, La Verdad, which is across the street from Fenway Park, sells some of their tacos for $1 on Tuesdays when the Red Sox aren’t playing at home. Which means that’s where you’ll find me every Tuesday from November through March.

I’ve found that two is enough, three if I’m feeling very very hungry. And when I say chicken taco, I mean achiote BBQ chicken with pickled red onions and sour orange. The other $1 choices are the pig ones. I can’t vouch for them, but I hear they’re also fantastic.

Please Note: There is a new chef at La Verdad and the tacos have changed. Not to worry, they are still incredibly delicious. Also, to qualify for the dollar taco deal, you now have to eat inside the restaurant.

As of January 25, 2011, Taco Tuesday begins at 5PM.

It's much tastier than it looks. I was still a novice at whipping out my camera in restaurants when this was taken.

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Dinner for Two Becomes Dinner for Five

Shabbos dinner somehow grew from just me and Rich to three guests at our table Friday night. In my fridge I had three beets, a head of cabbage, five mushrooms, and a block of feta. We feasted.

I was very silly and didn’t take photos of our food before we supped, so what I have here are leftovers — hooray for leftovers! I have no shots of the cabbage and mushrooms, which turned out to be the hit of the night. I didn’t do anything special to them — just sauteed up an onion for  a good long time until it began to caramelize, tossed in some garlic, then the mushrooms, then the cabbage.  Right before I took it off the flame I added two sage leaves. All I did was cook the cabbage down until it was too exhausted to put up a fight anymore. Limp, molted green and muddy brown, it probably wouldn’t have made very pretty picture, but it tasted great.

The beets took 25 minutes in the pressure cooker.A very simple dish: I cubed the beets, and half a block of feta, then drizzled balsamic vinegar and sprinkled fresh mint (from my container plants outside) on top.

I used the other half of feta for the quinoa, chickpea, and farmers’ market tomato salad. I cooked the chickpeas in the pressure cooker for 11 minutes with some bay leaves, a teaspoon or so of whole black peppercorns and two cloves of garlic, unpeeled. While that was going on, I cooked the quinoa in my rice cooker — no muss, no fuss. Quinoa is a great pantry staple: protein, carbs, fat, calcium, you can get a pound of it for less than $4 in bulk at Harvest Co-op.

As for feta, here’s a tip: If you go the Market Basket in Somerville — which, by the way, has FANTASTIC produce at the some of the best prices in town — head over to the deli counter. On the right hand side up against the wall is a counter fridge. Inside you’ll likely find huge blocks of really decent feta for about $4.

To dress the quinoa salad, I combined:

6 TBS olive oil

3 TBS red wine vinegar (I like my lips to pucker, so I always go 2 to1 with my dressings, while I think most recipes will say 3 to 1)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon mustard (I’m actually pretty anti-mustard, but it can’t be beat for emulsifying salad dressings)

a pinch of salt

a few grinds of fresh black pepper

2 teaspoons agave nectar (you can do honey, too, but I like the sweetness of agave, and it’s good to have on hand for vegan salad dressings)

2 TBS chopped fresh mint

I put all these together in a glass jar, and shook. That’s all. This is basically the blue print for all my dressings.

Make sure to let the quinoa cool down before you dress it. Otherwise it will soak up everything and you’ll be wondering where all your flavor went. I speak from experience!

Quinoa salad on one of my new plates... thanks Freecycle!

From the Comments

I wanted to share a comment that my husband had made on my original post. He made it at my behest, but he went off on his own tangent, which I think is very worth reading:

Molly asked me to clarify that I actually did end up finding a job. So fear not, I am eating not the bread of idleness.

Nonetheless, Molly’s been planning this blog for a very long time, and I think it’s still relevant because I was amazed at how little we had to change our eating habits during our period of diminished income. Sure, we cut back on eating out almost entirely, except for Molly’s beloved Esperia Grill, the best greek food in Boston. I also scaled back my craft beer habit, but for the most part, our food at home stayed almost entirely the same.

Despite my employment, I think her blog is still relevant because we’re still in a recession. I work in public transportation, and there’s been a marked increase in ridership on the T and the bike paths around the city this year. (Whether the T can afford to keep up with demand is an entirely different matter and what I worry about all day, but I digress.)

But that sort of trend, combined with stories about Americans paying off debt and shopping at thrift stores, makes me wonder whether this recession, tough as it’s been, might actually be pushing us towards a more sustainable, less materialistic lifestyle. If that’s so, I bet a lot of people will be cooking like my wife pretty soon.

Tomato, tomahto

Normally, I’m skeptical of farmers’ markets. True, they are local and sustainable and organic, but they can also be extremely expensive. Last summer I spent $40 on a bag of gorgeous produce only to use it all in one meal. But this is Massachusetts Farmers’ Market Week, so I decided to take a lunchtime bike ride to BU’s on-campus farmers’ market, in hopes of procuring peaches for some ice cream action this weekend.

I had the most lovely visit with the folks from Wards Berry Farm in Sharon. And I scored. Big time. For $6, I biked away with gorgeous tomatoes, peaches and garlic:

All this for $6!

The kind gentleman running the stand noticed my means of transport and noted that the farm is only three miles from the commuter train. A weekend visit to the farm may be in the future…

I’ll get at least two meals out of these tomatoes:

I wanted to gobble these at my computer this afternoon. Hooray willpower!

Like I’ve said, stock a good pantry, and you’re good to go. Tonight I made an easy pasta with the fresh tomatoes and garlic, then tossed in some artichoke hearts and olives.

This reminds me of that Skittles commercial. A rainbow of flavor!

(The husband, who normally hates tomatoes of the grape or cherry varieties, snarfed up dinner so fast that I didn’t get a chance to photograph it.)

I also set some chickpeas up to soak overnight for a quinoa, chickpea and tomato salad for Shabbos dinner tomorrow night.

Chickpeas in a pressure cooker: 11 minutes to perfection.

Friday is my neighborhood farmers’ market. I’m definitely biking by on my way home to see if I can get some fresh basil for my basil-peach ice cream. My plant’s on its last leaves at this point in the summer.

Make me into ice cream, stat!

Come back this weekend for the recap on deliciousness.

How Two Buck Chuck Stays Two Bucks

Interesting read about Trader Joe’s in the latest issue of Fortune magazine. I knew from my work as a prospect researcher that TJ’s was owned by a massive, secretive German corporation, but the article goes into a lot more detail about how the company keeps its prices so low.

I remember I was once at a Christmas party and met a TJ’s crew member. He started talking about how to keep the prices so low, the shop had basically tossed out the book on sustainability. I decided to ignore him and concentrate on my egg nog. La la la, can’t hear you!

Free Burrrrrrito!

Image and burrito borrowed from Qdoba... I don't think they'll mind.

I’m really looking forward to my free burrito for tomorrow’s lunch. And you can have one too! All you have to do is go to Qdoba and play their little game, and poof, you get a coupon for a free burrito. True, it’s with the purchase of a free drink, but we’re talking less than $2.

I’ve done well by Qdoba this year. This past winter they posted a MASH game online (like the one we all played growing up) and at the end, you got a coupon for two items priced for less than $5. My kind of lunch.

Also, make sure you pick up a valued customer savings card. This past year Qdoba offered free chips and salsa every time my Celtics scored 95 points or higher. All I had to do was send my valued customer card number to a web address, and they automatically added the foods to my card. Hooray for free food!

“Sometimes you eat the bar…”

Making lemon curd used to scare me until this recipe.

I grew up in a very conservative town, and my nose ring, pink hair and green Doc Martens cast me as a bit of an outsider. But, that doesn’t mean I was alone. I developed some wonderful friendships in high school, and still carry on those friendships to today.

One terrific friend in particular was Caitlyn Webster. I haven’t seen Caitlyn in years — she’s spent the past five years living in Thailand as a web designer. Thailand is pretty darn far away from Western Mass. where we’re from, so whenever Caitlyn would feel homesick, she’d bake all sorts of wonderful things that she used to bake with her grandmother growing up. Her baking became so popular that she ended up writing a book “American Baking by Cee!” — in both Thai and English on facing pages. It’s full of her adventures baking American treats like chocolate chip cookies and the WORLD’S BEST LEMON BARS.

I guess Caitlyn goes by Cee now.

If you’re interested in getting hold of Caitlyn’s wonderful cookbook, please feel free to contact me. In the meantime, check out her gorgeouswebsite about Thai cooking.

Caitlyn will be moving back stateside in the next year to settle down in Portland, Oregon. I’m really looking forward to having a visit with my dear friend from high school, and do things like, as she said this week, “ride our bicycles, go to farmers’ markets, and hear live music.”  I can’t wait, but in the meantime, I have her lemon bars, and now you can, too.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it’s all stuff you should have in your pantry, and even the perishables are things you should keep on hand in your fridge. Lemons are always at least two for a dollar, anywhere. Eggs are always a good thing to have on hand, except these. I have no preference on a brand of butter. For me, the cheapest works just fine. If you see butter on sale, buy a few boxes and store them in the freezer. It will always thaw beautifully and be good to go for baking things, shmearing things, or frying things in a jiffy.

Lemon Bars

From American Baking by Cee!

Makes 12-16 pieces (one 8×8 pan)

Don’t fret if you don’t have a stand mixer. In fact, Caitlyn uses no machines at all in her entire book. All her baking can be and is done by hand.

Ingredients

Crust

Looks like I'm gonna need more flour after tonight.

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

Curd

3 eggs

1 ½ cups white sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

½ cup fresh lemon juice [I use a whole lemon — MP]

½ cup all purpose flour

Directions

  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350.
  2. To make the crust: cream the butter and sugar until soft. Add the flour and salt and mix. Press evenly into an ungreased pan and cook for 12 – 15 minutes until lightly browned.

This is my most absolute favoritist dough to work with.

While the crust is cooking, whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and flour in a bowl. Pour this over the finished hot crust and continue baking for another 23 – 25 minutes, until set.

Remove from the heat and let cool completely before cutting.Top with sifted powdered sugar just before serving.