I know food lovers who create incredible meals out of what appears to be a chaos of abundant ingredients covering every kitchen surface, coaxing from each ingredient the very best it has to offer and…leaving to rot or get tossed any part that is not the most perfect or succulent portion.
I know other fine home cooks who work meticulously in a neat and orderly kitchen, producing lovely meals from carefully selected ingredients, perfectly measured and diced, following recipes to a tee and getting the results they promise, and…just as meticulously, putting down the disposal any portion not called for in the recipe.
While I am honored to eat the marvelous food from both cooking styles, I invisibly wince at the wasted bits and pieces. Every morsel of food requires energy and resources to produce, and some measure of money to procure. So in my own kitchen over the years I've tried to get a little creative with those bits and pieces.
- Broccoli stems-peel or cut off the tough parts, slice into small chunks and use raw or steamed (or microwaved) in a salad, soup, casserole or stir fry.
- Shrimp shells-freeze them until you have collected a significant amount, then use to make a seafood stock for your favorite chowder or bisque.
- Tortilla chips (the broken bits at the bottom of the bag)-sprinkle over soup or salad like croutons or scramble with eggs to make migas.
- Mustard (the end of the jar)-add extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, shake it up and you have a vinaigrette.
- Mayonnaise (the end of the jar)-add apple cider vinegar, a pinch of sugar and lots of black pepper. Voila! It's cole slaw dressing.
- Fresh herb stems (and unused portions)-freeze for when you make a stock or soup. You can crunch them up into a tea ball or tie up in cheesecloth to drop in the pot.
- Wine (bottom of the bottle)-use for deglazing a pan during cooking or to flavor a stew or sauce.
- Fruit (on the edge of despair)-sauté it and serve over waffles, pancakes, yogurt or in a tortilla.
- Cheese-so many wonderful things to do with bits of cheese that I wrote a whole post about it!
- Butter (actually the paper it's wrapped in)-my paternal grandmother always kept these folded up in the freezer until she needed to grease a pan for baking or a casserole.
Yes, I know, some of these may go too far for you. What's too far for me? I'll never forget my maternal grandmother collecting the little lobster legs during a big family lobster feast. The next day she used a rolling pin to squeeze the little bit of soft meat from them, mixed with mayo and had "lobster salad" on crackers. While I won't do this myself, I always admired her ingenuity.
While I don't always or obsessively do all of the ideas mentioned here, I figure you might find a useful tip that you can easily make a habit or a game of. And I bet you've got a few of your own. Care to share?