Hooray!  It’s $5 dinner week!  Just to recap for those who aren’t in the loop, I’m taking part in the Slow Food USA $5 Challenge this Saturday.  I’ll be making a totally from-scratch, sustainably sourced taco feast for friends and neighbors, all for under $5 a head; they’ll be contributing $5 each to the local Food Bank.  We get a party, I get to blog about this awesome challenge, and our community gets a little help for those in need.  I call that a win all the way around.

However, I also decided to expand upon the challenge for myself by giving you not just the details of the $5-per-head taco night feast, but actually providing you with FIVE dinners that can be made for $5 or less per person (which is a pretty luxe standard, if you ask me; I can’t imagine what my food bills would look like if I spent $5 per person every single night!).  But it’s actually shaping up to be a pretty fun series, because it meant that I could buy some slightly posh ingredients this week that would ordinarily have given me a twinge of guilt, all in the name of making a week’s worth of easy, healthy, real-food meals that anybody can feed to their families for less money than it would cost to get a fast-food meal.  I know, I know — the sacrifices we bloggers make for our readers.

Tonight’s $5-per-person dinner: Potato Pancakes with Smoked Salmon

Potato Pancakes with Smoked Salmon, fresh vegetables, and dill

Smoked Salmon: $13.98
Organic Yukon Gold Potatoes: $2.00
Onion: $0.30
Organic Cucumber: $1.00
Local Tomatoes: $1.20
Organic Greens: $0.90

Grand Total: $19.38

Okay, so I didn’t count the little bits of flour, oil, and egg that went into the dish; but I also could have likely gotten slightly better prices on some of the other items than I did.  The point is, this was a pretty luxe dinner — and not at all hard to make — and I had to really jack up the prices by using a super-expensive item like smoked salmon in order to get up towards the $20 mark for all four of us.  (By the way, there was not a scrap of anything left over.  We love this meal.)

Stay tuned for the rest of the week, when I share four more $5 dinners, and be sure to also come back next week for 4 dinners at $4 per head.  RRG, for the near future, will be talking real food and real money.  It can be done.

Potato Pancakes
These are delicious topped with smoked salmon, poached eggs, or eaten just on their own (my kids like to dip them in ketchup).  You can also substitute sweet potatoes for the Yukon Golds, though they’ll be a little crunchier in the middles; I’ve also enjoyed switching out half of the potato for shredded zucchini.

6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and shredded (I just use a box grater)
1/2 a medium onion, grated
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Canola and olive oils (or another neutral oil and some olive oil), for frying

Place the shredded potatoes in the center of a clean, sturdy dishtowel.  Wringing the towel over a sink, squeeze out any moisture in the potatoes.  Put the dry potato shreds into a large bowl and add the grated onion, flour, eggs, salt, and pepper.  Mix thoroughly with a fork until everything is evenly combined.  In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm a mixture of canola oil and olive oil — just enough to have about 1/4 inch coating on the bottom of the pan.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, it’s time to cook the pancakes.  Form the pancakes with a level 1/4-cup scoop; pat each one down firmly with the back of the measuring cup to spread the pancakes out into 4-inch-diameter rounds.  Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side; drain on paper towels, season again with a little coarse salt, and serve warm.