REASONS TO EAT IT UP!
Food costs. Throw out your food and you’re throwing out your money. It’s hard to imagine buying new clothes, coming home, and throwing half of them away, yet that’s what many of us do with our food. Maybe not all at once, but a little bit at a time. And it adds up. I sometimes catch myself as I’m about to toss out something that represents a relatively small percentage of my total grocery bill, such as leftover rice. It’s easy to just pitch it, but by doing so I’m getting less for the money.
Half of last night’s rice, a few bites of chicken, a handful of broccoli florets. That amount of food is often discarded without a second thought. But when you stop to look at it, you haven’t just thrown out a bite of this and that. Sauté it up with an onion and maybe some sesame oil and you’ve got dinner. Save those bits and bobs and you haven’t just saved the cost of the leftovers, but the cost of the new meal you didn’t have to make. Eating it up saves it up. After all, no one ever got rich by wasting money ... or food.
We’re busy people with busy lives. Who wouldn’t want an extra slice of time in their week? Using up what you have on hand can mean more efficient trips to the market. Utilizing leftovers from last night’s dinner gives you a running start on tonight’s meal prep. Eat it up and you’ll spend less time buying and cooking it up.
There’s no sustainable kitchen practice that’s worth a fig if it doesn’t lead to a tasty meal. Food is about pleasure, first and foremost. Although there are a lot of reasons to support local agriculture—from environmental to social to economic—I was lured into the Real Food movement by my taste buds. Locally
raised, in-season, fresh-from-the-field grub is the tastiest you will find. When I’m eating up every last bite of the food I have in my kitchen, I’m not thinking, “Oh, clever frugal me.” I’m thinking, “Dang, that looks tasty.”
I can remember my Granny Toni giving the jar of her home-canned tomatoes a swish with a little water and pouring it into whatever sauce she was making. I made some wisecrack about her being such a penny-pincher and she said to me, “It’s not just the money, it’s the flavor. You’ve got to get all the flavor into the pot.” I think of that every time I take the extra effort to get to the dregs of the jam jar, the last bit of pickle juice in the crock. Don’t waste it, taste it!
PRESERVES NATURAL RESOURCES
It takes a lot to grow food. A lot of water, a lot of energy, a lot of fresh air and sunshine. Every step in the process—from planting the seeds to weeding to harvesting and shipping—is quite resource intensive. Machinery needs to be powered. Fields are irrigated. Crops are transported. Even the most sustainably run farm uses natural resources to produce the good food that fills our plates. By enjoying every last bite of the food that comes out of this process, we lower the resource-to-calorie quotient. Eat it up and you’ll be doing your part to use but not waste the air, water, soil, and energy it takes to grow our crops.
HONORS THE FARMERS’ HARD WORK
Accountant, marketer, customer service representative, advertising exec, machinist, weather forecaster, ecologist, community organizer—these are just some of the jobs that a modern farmer needs to be expert at these days. Oh, and having the ability to actually grow food. And not just make it come out of the ground but do it well. That means properly prepping the soil so the carrots grow straight, knowing the exact moment to harvest broccoli before it bolts, curing the sweet potatoes so they don’t rot, understanding the positive effects of frost on parsnips, puzzling out your fields with underplantings and crop rotations that not only maximize the space, but encourage fertility and more. And doing all those things before many of us have even had our first cup of coffee. It’s not just hard work, it’s incredible shape-shifting, mystical, miraclemaking stuff. The best way to honor the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to fill your market basket? Eat it. Every bite of it.
MAXIMIZES FARMLAND PRODUCTIVITY
More people means we need to grow more food, right? Well, how about instead of growing more, we just eat what’s already there. Americans only consume about half of the food that comes off our fields. Simple math, we can have about twice as much food without planting a single acre more, if we just eat what we grow.
Recipe Ideas, Tips and Tricks!
When I was writing the “Put ’Em Up!” trilogy on home food preservation, I got pretty tight with pickles. Developing recipes, testing recipes, tasting recipes, I was quite deep in the brine. As a sideline to coming up with new pickle recipes, I also came across some good uses for pickles and pickle by-products, such as their leftover brine. Whether you make your own or buy your pickles, these recipes will put your “extras” to work. My advice: For best results, use pickles with only ingredients you can pronounce.
PICKLE SPICE MUSTARD
My dear friend Luke Easter turned me onto this trick. Making mustard from the dregs of the pickle jar is an easy way to turn would-be trash into a zippy little spread. Of course, it helps if your brine is studded with mustard seeds, the common spice in many pickle recipes, such as bread-and-butter pickles and dills. You can mix the mustard half and half with mayo for an even creamier spread.
Makes ½ cup mustard
2 tablespoons pickling spice from the
bottom of the pickle jar
2 tablespoons pickling brine
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (optional)
In a small food processor or blender, puree the spices and brine to your desired smoothness. You may have to scrape down the sides a few times to ensure that the seeds hit the blades. Add the olive oil, a little at a time, and puree until incorporated. Add the mayonnaise, if using, and blend again, if desired. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
GREENS AND GOAT CHEESE PIZZA
Call it a nifty shortcut or a sneaky cheat, but using a tortilla as a pizza crust makes this little pie a snap. Whip it up for lunch or a light dinner, or cut it into squares and serve it as an afterschool snack or cocktail nibble. I use sautéed greens and goat cheese as the toppings here, but you can riff on the recipe with any combos that you like: traditional tomato/mozzarella, Swiss/mushroom, fig/blue cheese and on and on. You can also use any size tortilla you have on hand or even rectangular lavash, if that’s what’s in your fridge. You can scale the goat cheese spread up or down, depending on the size of the pizza. It’s all good. Really good.
Makes one 12-inch pizza
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 cups beet or turnip greens, from 1 bunch of beets or turnips, leaves separated from ribs
and leaves chopped, ribs diced and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 ounces goat cheese, softened
1 to 2 teaspoons milk
¼ teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
1 (12-inch) tortilla, lavash, or wrap
Place the oil and garlic in a medium-size sauté pan and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Set over medium heat. The garlic will transfer its flavor to the oil as the pan warms. When the garlic begins to sizzle, but before it browns (2 to 3 minutes), add the diced ribs to the pan and sauté until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the greens to the pan and toss to coat them with the garlic and oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, lower the heat to mediumlow, and sauté until wilted, stirring occasionally. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool slightly.
While the greens cool, combine the cheeses in a medium-size bowl, mashing with a fork to blend. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of milk, as necessary, to thin to a spreadable consistency. Add the thyme, if using, and a pinch of salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Spread one side of the tortilla with the cheese spread. Strew the greens on top. Transfer the topped tortilla to the pan used to sauté the greens and set over medium-low heat. Allow the pizza to cook until the tortilla is toasted and crisp, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the pan, cut into serving pieces, and serve.
ROASTED BRASSICA LEAVES
Kale chips have become the belle of the ball in recent years. I predict the next gourmet chip will be these Roasted Brassica Leaves. Just like kale chips, they’re a kid-friendly—and grown-up friendly—way to crisp up some greens into snackable bites. Serve these up and you, too, can be a hipster food trailblazer.
Makes 2 servings
1 bunch of broccoli or cauliflower leaves (7 to 10),
ribs removed, chopped into 2-inch squares
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rub the leaf squares all over with the oil and arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until crisp and just starting to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.