AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Inspiration without Waste DATE: 5/27/2008 03:15:00 PM ----- BODY:
Reducing the Compost Pile, Part 2

This past week, like most, involved a trip to my favorite food market: Russo’s. The produce selection is awesome (and I mean this in a traditional sense of the word, not a 15-year old sense) – as an example, they carry at least 8 varieties of eggplant (traditional American, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, white and rosetta) and mushrooms (button, American shiitake, Chinese shiitake, crimini, oyster, king oyster, hedge hogs, portobellas). If you want inspiration, this is the place to roam. They have Asian vegetables: Chinese Broccoli, Rambatans, Banana Flowers, Garlic Chives, Bud Chives, Yellow Chives, along with the usual suspects of bok choy and snow peas. They stock a deli case with 3 kinds of prosciutto crudo, and also pancetta, sopressetto and salami. They manage to cater to the Armenian, Asian, Italian and Jewish populations… giving the market a sense of being an ethnic market, when in fact they are really a green grocer.

I arrive at the market with no clear plan, which is great if one is seeking inspiration, but not as much so if you’re trying to reduce food waste. I tried to bring the two notions together as I thought about the week’s agenda: a Memorial Day get-together with a few friends, many dinners out, but lots of lunches at home. I leave with visions of culinary greatness: a strawberry-rhubarb pie; home-made cannolis with home-made ricotta; minty spring vegetables (English peas, favas and asparagus) to accompany lamb and mango chutney. For my lunches: chicken, avocado and blue cheese – to make cobb salad with the first cutting of arugula from the garden. I buy chicken thighs to brine and smoke… and even though I don’t have a specific plan for them, smoked chicken will never go to waste in this house! And, of course, more bacon and scallions for another batch of scones.

In the process of all this cooking, I discovered mozzarella curd in the freezer that had been there for at least 2 years. I figured – I might as well cook it up, if the cheese is bad, I throw it away, if not – one point in the “no waste” column. Also, I remember the beets I had roasted earlier in the week, and stumble across basil that I froze at the end of last summer’s harvest – add them to a dish, and that’s one more point! The cannoli shells flopped (minus ½ point). I had already made the ricotta, though, so I’m now left with two kinds of cheese.

The mozzarella and ricotta come together with a basil pesto and smoked chicken atop a grilled pizza. This will be the appetizer for the Memorial Day dinner.

Speaking of which, the guest count for the Memorial Day fete swelled slightly so the single mango and two lamb tenders in the freezer will no longer suffice. But I still have two chicken breasts left from my cobb salad lunch. The potatoes I bought a few weeks ago are still firm and unblemished. To stretch the minty-spring vegetables, I add in a fresh arugula salad seasoned simply with olive oil and lemon juice. While I won’t have enough of any dish for everyone to make a meal, I do have enough food to feed everyone. So rather than return to the market to buy more lamb and spring vegetables, I opt for a medley, and hope my friends excuse the lack of focus. I think this is another point in the “no-waste” column.

Grilled “Green” Pizza with Ricotta, Mozzarella and Smoked Chicken
Lamb Tenders and Chicken Breasts with Mango Chutney
Minty Spring Vegetables and Roasted Beets with Bacon
Garlic Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes with Lemon Zest
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Total: 2 ½ points in the no-waste column.

For the rhubarb pie, I made them in individual ramekins. This has the double benefit of being easier to assemble and creating a more elegant presentation.

Mango Chutney
4 mangoes, peeled and chopped (or 2 cups chopped apples or strawberries)
2 cups sugar, brown or white
1 small onion, diced
2 1/2 cups vinegar, red, white or balsamic
2 in. piece of fresh ginger, peeled and choped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 - 2 tsp. chili powder
1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup raisins

Put sugar and vinegar in sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add mangoes and remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat until chutney is reduced and thick, stirring occasionally, about ½ hour.

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