Mission Possible: Feed Your Family a Slow Meal at Fast-Food Prices

Slow Food USA has thrown down the gauntlet to members across the country: Prepare a healthy, nutritious dinner for the same price as a fast-food meal.

Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA wants us all to take the $5 Challenge on Saturday, Sept. 17, its national day of action. My local South Bay chapter wants to help its members by providing the menus and recipes to do it.

I decided to put my shopping and cooking skills to the test. Could I prepare a home-cooked meal from scratch, using local ingredients in season, for just $5 per person?

In a word: Yes!

I designed a simple menu to feed a family of six: a seasonal summer casserole complemented by a fresh garden salad and refreshing lemonade.

So tune out those TV ads promoting bargain prices on oversized portions of questionable burgers and fries, pizza and fried chicken. Do yourself, your family and your wallet  favor by taking the $5 Challenge yourself!


Italian Summer Squash & Eggplant Casserole
Leafy Green Salad, Heirloom Tomatoes & Olive Oil/Basil Dressing
Homemade Iced Lemonade

Recipes by Peg Champion, board member, Slow Food South Bay. For all recipes, use organic ingredients whenever you can find them.


Prep time: 15 minutes (2 people), Cook time: approximately 2 hours
2 – 3 Sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 Garlic clove, finely chopped
2 – 3 Peppers (red, yellow or orange) cored, seeded and cut into quarters
3/4 Bunch of basil, finely chopped
2½ lb Eggplant, sliced into 1/3” pieces*
1½ lb Zucchini, sliced into 1/3” pieces lengthwise
28 oz Can diced tomatoes (or use 4-5 fresh ripe tomatoes)
1 lb Mozzarella, grated or sliced into rounds
4 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
4 oz Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450°.

Sauté onions in 2 oz. olive oil over medium low heat until softened (do not brown), about 15 minutes.

Add garlic and cook until liquid from onions has evaporated. Add tomatoes in their juice, chopped basil and salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until it becomes a thick sauce. Remove from heat.

Brush two baking sheets with oil. Arrange cut eggplant in one layer on baking sheets. Brush with oil and place pans on racks at top and bottom third of oven.

Cook until golden brown, about 25 minutes, turning pans during baking process to ensure even cooking.

Remove from heat, cool on paper towels and pat dry.

Arrange cut zucchini and peppers in one layer on baking sheets. Repeat cooking process.

Reduce heat to 400° and place a rack in middle of oven. Brush a 14 x 10 baking dish with oil and arrange an even layer of overlapping eggplant pieces. Spread with half of the tomato mixture, then top with half of the two cheeses.

Arrange a second, alternating layer of overlapping zucchini and peppers. Spread with remaining half of the tomato mixture, then top with remaining half of the cheeses.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Loosely cover with foil, and bake in oven about 25 minutes.

Remove foil, and bake for 10 more minutes to brown cheese topping.

Let casserole rest for 10 minutes before serving.

*For Japanese eggplant, slice lengthwise, for Italian, slice into rounds.


1 Head of fresh green lettuce
2 Ripe heirloom tomatoes
2 oz Extra virgin olive oil
½ Lemon, juiced
¼ Bunch of basil
Salt and pepper

Separate and tear lettuce leaves and wash in sink with water to cover. Dry lettuce and place in salad bowl. Wash and cut heirlooms into one-inch chunks and add to salad bowl. Make a chiffonade of basil. In a small mixing bowl, add basil, 2 oz olive oil and juice from ½ lemon, mix with salt and pepper to taste. Dress salad just before eating.


2 ½ Lemons, juiced
2 Tbsp. sugar (or to taste)
Cracked ice

Thoroughly mix lemon and sugar with one cup of water in the bottom of a pitcher. Add one tray of finely cracked ice. Fill pitcher with water and stir.