Far be it for me to take advice from unknown sources. However, during this past year of limbo those sources have grown and some of them seemed pretty authoritative, so I’ve adopted some new practices in the kitchen – and they seem to work.
Scallions. How often to you buy a pack or two and forget them in the crisper (vegetable) drawer? What remains are the slimey. whithered remains of once fresh greens and the whites slowly disintegrating. Somewhere*, I read to lengthen the fridge life of scallions cut them in half and store the greens in one container (ziplock bag, in our house) and the whites, root end, in another. It works. They last much longer than the uncut produce. The greens continue to age, but no longer affect the white ends.
Next is celery. took this advice with the proverbial grain of salt and gave it a try. I’m sold! When you bring home a fresh bunch celery, first trim the leaves (aging leaves will affect how long the stalks last). Do not wash or clean in any other way. Then tightly wrap the bunch in aluminum foil. Leave nothing uncovered, from the base to the tops of the stalks. Store this bundle in your vegetable drawer. It can last up to a month. I find the consistency of the stalks change a bit, but it’s still crunchy and good for cooking.
Cooking pasta, finally. How many times do you turn your back on your boiling pot of pasta for it only to -poof – boil over? Even if you’ve lowered the heat? At that great “somewhere” I read or saw, after you’ve stirred your pasta with your wooden spoon, lower the heat and rest the spoon across the pot and it won’t boil over. I think I’ve followed this advice three or four times and it works. Daughter knows pasta; she sold pasta at Seattle’s Pike Place Market for about a year and a half and told me this is a myth. It’s worked for me and I’ll continue doing it. I don’t know if the same trick works for rice, which also tends to boil over in my house.
Vegetable scraps. I used to do this long, long ago, but time passed, and it fell by the wayside. When you clean vegetables in preparation for dinner, gather the trimmings and freeze them. When you are ready to make soup, you can make a delicious vegetable stock. I had been saving leek leaves, peels from carrots and parsnip, celery and zucchini ends, and probably more. Throw these all into your water with some salt first for about an hour. Cool, strain, and voila, an amazingly tasty and nutritious stock. See a great soup I made with this stock below.
Next step, of course, is composting. Unfortunately, Constant Companion is sensitive to all sorts of mold and we are unable to compost.
*Apologies in advance to all the unnamed sources of these tips that are working for me.
One more thing – beet greens. Have you ever noticed at the supermarket that some shoppers take the beets, but leave the greens behind? Actually, where we live (I’ve never seen this elsewhere) shoppers shuck their corn and leave the husks behind! Back to beet greens. I was picking up some items last week and saw the beautiful beet greens. I mentioned to the clerk who was cleaning the display how so many people leave the best part behind. Oh, she said, and went in the back. She returned with a bag of severed leaves for me to take home! Next time at the grocery store, talk to your favorite produce clerk, you might come home with beet greens.
So easy to cook. Cut off the stems and chop. Saute them first with onion and garlic if you like.* This time I chiffonaded the leaves and threw them into the pan. No more than 10 minutes later, ready to eat. This was a first for daughter; she thought they were better than kale.
*I cook my kale and Swiss chard stems the same way.
Lentil, chicken soup with sweet potatoes and escarole, one use for homemade vegetable stock, and to get rid of your Passover bitter herb. Many Jews use horseradish for the symbolic bitter herb on their Passover table. It also livens up any gefilte fish. I use escarole for our seder and there is always left over. This recipe arrived via cyber spice just in time.
The recipe calls for a chicken carcass to make a stock. When I get a rotisserie chicken I freeze and save the bones for such a purpose. This time, the frozen vegetable clippings were transformed into broth (see above). After you make and strain the broth (you should have about 8 cups), add about 2 peeled and cubed sweet potatoes and ¾ cup of rinsed French lentils. Bring to a boil, skim if necessary, and simmer til the lentils are cooked. (Discard the bones if you are using them).
Heat about 2 tbsp of oil in a large skillet. Add 10 stalks of celery cut into ¼” slices (I used only 5), 6 thinly sliced garlic cloves, and cook about 12 minutes. Add the celery/garlic to the soup with 1 ½ cup of cooked shredded chicken and ½ head of escarole cut in bite-sized pieces. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in ½ cup finely chopped dill and 2 tbsp lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
And for desert … a number of years ago at one of the vanity, private museums in our community, the gracious hostess served strawberries. The tops had been cut off and they were arrayed on plates – like I do at home now: