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October 14, 2010. Some things just bring out the best in so many other things. Take soffrito. Or salsa verde. I did. Every day for a week.

You can use these Better Cheaper sauces for time-saving meal planning. Or to let you eat really well with no planning at all. Make a batch on Saturday or Sunday – use it to make complete, flavorful meals for the rest of the week.

Meals that are Better Cheaper all year. Because you make soffrito and salsa verde from simple ingredients that are always available, always cheap.

Soffrito week
I made the big batch on Sunday. Thirty minutes; $3 worth of ingredients. Most of it went into the fridge; a little bit stayed in the pot. Where it turned two kinds of cauliflower into an earthy vegetable stew.

Monday, I used it with eggs (and a little feta cheese) to make a fragrant, satisfying omelet. A 10-minute meal in a pan that makes you think how do they get this flavor when you stumble into a little trattoria in Italy. Tuesday it was amazing (along with fresh mozzarella) on top of one of my 34-cent pizza crusts. Wednesday: it greatly expanded the flavor horizon of sweet, nutty seasonal squash (Delicata and butternut).

Thursday: cook some meatballs in this stuff – really great. Friday: sautee chicken. Saturday lunch: warm on toasted crusty bread. After lunch, I prepared for …

Salsa verde week
Twenty minutes and $3.40 to make a batch of this stuff, as spicy or mild as you like. Saturday night: grilled swordfish served on top of this salsa, you’re on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Sunday brunch: chilaquiles.

Monday: simmered with leftover shredded chicken. Tuesday: wow, does this stuff liven up seasonal squash and chard. Wednesday: huevos rancheros on a whole wheat pizza crust instead of a tortilla. A shockingly successful experiment. Thursday: to be honest, I’m thinking about doing the pizza again. But we just got some beautiful cauliflower and spinach in our farm share, so …

Take 20 or 30 minutes this weekend to make some soffrito or salsa verde of your own. It’ll make for really cheap, easy, delicious meals all week.

Cost-Benefit Analysis
Ingredient cost for a big batch of deeply delicious soffrito: less than $3. Make it in 30 minutes. Use it for the next five days with eggs, vegetables, pizza, pasta, chicken, meat. A week’s worth of superior dinners for $10/person.

Ingredient cost for a week of spicy, smoky salsa verde: $3.40. Make it in 20 minutes. Make a huevos rancheros pizza. The liveliest winter squash you’ve ever tasted. A killer salsa for grilled swordfish. Chilaquiles. And a simmered shredded chicken casserole. A week’s worth of Better Cheaper dinners.

Every Thing Is Everything
All this flavor comes from a bunch of vegetables and a little olive oil. Everything you should eat; nothing you shouldn’t. Rich flavor; few calories.

Let’s Do The Math
When you add a tablespoon of soffrito to anything, you add 23 calories. That’s less than 7 minutes of dancing. Not enough to make it all the way through Bowie’s Let’s Dance. A tablespoon of salsa verde: 9 calories, less than 3 minutes of dancing. Less than Sly & The Family Stone’s Dance To The Music.

Cost Comparison
Soffrito: 8 cents per ounce. Salsa verde: 17 cents per ounce. Heinz ketchup: 18 cents per ounce (High Fructose Corn Syrup is the third ingredient). A1 Steak Sauce: 57 cents per ounce (Corn Syrup is the third ingredient). Again and again: Better is Cheaper.

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