How to Feed Your family an Excellent Dinner under $15.

Choi, Pork Steak Salad with Kale Chips.

Now that market and CSA season is upon us it’s time to start thinking scientifically.  No, you don’t need beakers or a pristine lab coat.  But you do need to be willing to experiment.

Pay attention to your pork steak on the grill.  Pork from well raised hogs has a higher fat content than 'pork' at the store.  When it begins to drip the fire can climb and burn the steak.

Pay attention to your pork steak on the grill. Pork from well raised hogs has a higher fat content than ‘pork’ at the store. When it begins to drip the fire can climb and burn the steak.

In our house, my wife and I split the dinner duties, each getting three nights (the seventh involves a big, extended family dinner at the grandparents) and Sunday night is one of mine.

Usually, I’m right on the ball.  I enjoy cooking and using the ingredients into which I’ve put a major part of my life.  This evening however, I nearly forgot what day it was.  I was busy in the garden transplanting chard at about 4:15 (we eat at 6) when I had the following series of synapse firings.  It’s Sunday.  Wait, what?  Look at your watch!  4:15.  It’s Sunday.  Wait…Oh… And at just that moment my wife strolled by the garden with a subtle, “You’re making dinner tonight right?”

Time for action and quick thinking.  Run to the freezer in the basement, rifle through for a good cut.  Pork steak!  That will work.

Run upstairs to the kitchen sink and draw some hot water.  Cover so there is about an inch of hot water over the steak.  Then back to the garden for some more work.  No problem.  Now I’ve got till 5:30 to get some more work done.

I usually like to thaw our protein choice well ahead of time so I have time to dry brine with sea salt and whatever other flavor (if any) I desire.  But sea salt being the amazing substance it is, even added to the steak seconds before its thrown on the grill the flavor is still enhanced.


Saute in lard for 5 minutes before boiling in water for 15.


While the steak is grilling it’s time to work on the rest of the meal.  The directions on the organic quinoa in our cupboard say you can improve the flavor by sauteing in olive oil for a few minutes before boiling.  I have no idea if it makes a difference but I saute ours in lard.  This at least adds high quality fat to our menu.


Now, I just ran out to the garden and cut a head of choi and snapped a few kale leaves.  If you’re not fortunate enough to be in that position, no worries.  Remember, market season is finally back!  Head to the market this week and see what sort of fresh greens your local farmers have available.

I usually charge about $2.50 to $3 for a head of choi.  A bunch of kale (twice as much as you need for a cookie sheet of kale chips) is another $3.  I honestly have no idea how much farmers charge for a grassfed pork steak but the one I used tonight was under 1 pound and I only shaved 1/3 of it, leaving 2/3 for left overs.  I used a cup of organic quinoa to make 4 servings.  I’m guessing $15 is a wild over estimate.

I like choi because it adds a sort of crisp, citrus, exotic flavor when cooked properly, which is to say, barely cooked at all.


Once everything is finished cooking it’s a matter of presentation.  I spooned the braised choi onto a bed of quinoa then topped that with hand shaved pork steak.  Sea salted kale chips (a household favorite) out of the oven after five minutes at 400 degrees and voila, dinner is served.  Phew!


Do yourself a favor as you stroll the market aisle this week.  Don’t shy away from the things you don’t know how to cook.  As your farmer for recommendations and recipes.  Many of us eat really well because we’re eating what we produce and therefore have some experience coming up with ideas or searching for them on the internet or our favorite cookbooks.  You can also just live on the edge, buy something cool and then do your own research upon returning home.  The markets are back!  Revel in the return!  Go hog wild. Or at least pork steak wild.  Local Food.  Eat well – be well.


Ryan Parker

About Ryan Parker

Ryan Parker is a farmer, writer, artist and musician. He currently lives in Central Maine with his wife, two children, a golden retriever, some pigs and chickens. He raises pastured and forested animals and grows a diverse range of vegetables without synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or taxpayer subsidies.